I had an interesting night.
I went to a party with friends I've. It seen in a long time. Mostly writers and artists, people I'm fond of, who despite being old enough to be my parents (or grandparents) I feel I've forged a real friendships with. I was the youngest person there by over a decade and yet I never felt out of place. It was great catching up with these people who, despite their opinions often opposing my own, are intelligent and mature enough to have a casual debate and remain calm and, well...civil.
However (there's always a "however" or else there'd be little point to this post) there was one dude who sort of ruined it at the end. He just HAD to debate at every fucking point, and many of his opinions are what a good leftist, feminist and anti-racist dude like myself would find objectionable. A lot of anti-woman stuff, a lot of stupid religious stuff, and at the end, some racist stuff about the Attiwapiskat scandal that's rocking Canada (blaming them, at one point calling them "worthless"). He stayed until the end, barely spoke except to argue, did not listen to what was said, and used blatantly factually inaccurate and logically indefensible arguments. For example, he claimed the government gave $80 million to Attiwapiskat to fix their houses (they claimed to have given $700,000) and said prayer works because he knows some christians who have succeeded in their goals due to prayer (I pointed out that every study on prayer has shown it to be useless, and another person pointed out that the large "church family" works to help each other in every thing, and we all pointed out that those people work towards their goals as well as praying about them, thus it's just as likely the work they did that got them what they want. He just kept repeating his point with no counter)
This eventually devolved to a shouting match. There were four of us left, and I started a side discussion with the host after 2 or 3 subject changes were insufficient to prevent him from moving to some controversial subject that he was wrong on. Eventually, it got to the point where I had to leave, so I excused myself...and then he blamed the Attiwapiskat for their predicament and called them worthless. I had to lay into the bastard. After a quick couple of sentences, I realized there was no point. I went to the bathroom and the host eventually kicked the guy out. By some sort of coincidence, he was thrown out just before I left and he continued ranting and complaining in the hallway, no doubt for my benefit. He told me "you can't debate with a broad."
I never want to be like that bastard. At all. I've been told I'm an opinionated and argumentative person, and that's not necessarily bad...but I want to never be so opinionated that I'm incapable of seeing other points of view, nor so argumentative that that is all I can do. I definitely have to work on that.
It's interesting that this happened so soon after the death of someone I'd like to think of as the person I'd most like to emulate in my debating: Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens was strong in his opinion, but proved that he was capable of changing his mind after new evidence came to him (famously changing his mind on waterboarding and more famously going from Marxist to neocon to a sort-of mainline socialist) and he was always personable and civil in debates, even when he loathed his opponents. But more importantly: he was more than the sum of his opinions. He could (and often did) have interviews that had little to nothing to do with any of his pet issues, and every person I know who met him spoke of his friendliness. There is a time and a place and a way to argue, and he knew all these things.
We're much poorer without Christopher Hitchens. Until the general populace becomes more like Hitchens and less like the ignorant, bull-headed twat from last night, we will need to keep up the good fight. Educate people, encourage critical thinking, and think for yourself. If you can't do it for yourself, do it for Hitch.