There are times when listening to people in the public arena that I feel like I’m back on the playground at Bostonia elementary school in the 1960s.
Case in point: the “Reverend” Al Sharpton decides to take a swipe at Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney by saying,
“as for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don’t worry about that, that’s a temporary situation.”
A dumb comment? Absolutely. But what does Romney do? Well, he retorts by saying Sharpton is “extraordinarily bigoted.” Good grief. What’s next, grown men shouting back and forth, “I know you are, but what am I”?
Is there no longer any respect for the English language in our society? Please tell me there are others out there that are also getting tired (and perhaps bored) with the overuse of the words hate and bigot? All this excessive use does is cheapen words that at one time not so long ago, had real meaning. Now they have become mere synonyms for disagreement by people too lazy to respond with sound reasoning.
Sharpton’s comment leans more towards being extraordinarily ignorant rather than bigoted. Romney should have been the better man and soundly rebutted Sharpton’s statement by simply explaining that Mormons definitely do believe in God. (For heaven’s sake, Mormons believe in the potential existence of millions of Gods!). But, rather than do so, Romney responded with a flame word. Sharpton has since apologized.
As disappointing as the Sharpton/Romney exchange was, I guess it shows they are good pupils of 21st century American culture. Accuse someone of hatred or bigotry and there is no need for an intellectual response. Intimidation by ad hominem, after all, seems to work much better than a sound rebuttal. Call someone a name and you can return to your corner with arms raised like Muhammad Ali after throwing a left hook. The difference is Ali’s punches had real meaning if you were on the receiving end.
For example, just yesterday I was reading some responses to an article in a Michigan paper that was critical of Mormonism. One upset Latter-day Saints responded by saying in part:
Many people like you, that rage against the Mormon Church, are scared weasels puking anti mormon crap that you picked up at some anti mormon convention or from one of your “let’s hate the Mormons”, prayer meetings. You are the KKK of our time, veiled in the anonymous cloke of the internet. You are afraid of truth, to seek it and to understand it. You are blinded by your fear and hate.
Does this sound like a convincing argument to you? What can any of us possibly learn from a rant like that?
I fear that if this pattern of name calling keeps up, intellectual discussion in our great nation will be a thing of the past. I’m already convinced that people who must resort to such tactics tend to prove they have no viable answers (the person I quoted above certainly didn’t). If they did, ad hominem wouldn’t be necessary. If you can attack the issues, you have no need to attack the man.