The Christmas season means multiple gatherings with family and friends, filled with holiday cheer. This weekend will be the culmination, as many people cart off to multiple destinations to have wonderful festive meals and enjoy lively conversations with loved ones. But there is one thing that can turn any holiday gathering into a disaster; and given the heightened political awareness over the coming election, it may be hard to avoid.
Some of you may already be thinking about that one holiday destination that you wish you could avoid. Maybe you have a devastatingly liberal in-law; or you’re going to see a relative who was once a bright kid, now home from college for the holidays with a head stuffed full of ideas from left-leaning professors; or maybe you will see the loved one with whom you always end up entangled in a political argument. Whatever the case, getting into a heated political discussion wherein everyone wants the last word can put a damper on the festivities.
For many of us who are liberty-minded or who live according to our conservative principles, sitting idly by as one of our relatives — whom we will affectionately call Joe Liberal — spouts off his most recent ideas about the fundamental importance of addressing global warming, re-electing Barack Obama or continuing the OWS protests is hardly an option. But how are we to approach Joe in such a way that doesn’t send the conversation spiraling out of control into a full-fledged Christmas-dinner argument? That may be the oldest question in political discussion.
If you are interested in getting your point across — and maybe winning a few hearts and minds along the way — as you tell your wayward friend or relative of the importance of the Constitution, conservative values and being prepared, you may be able to do so with some basic philosophy and tactics of debate.
The first and probably most important thing to do when discussing a sensitive issue is to be wary of your emotions. Nothing can make a person look ill-informed like an emotional outburst, so stick to what you know and discuss your side of the issue calmly and with reason. If you avoid emotional outbursts, you will also make it easier to avoid the death knell of many debaters: logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is, to put it broadly, an error in reason while trying to convince another person to take your position in a discussion. There is a very long list of fallacies that pertain to philosophical debate, but being able to avoid just the most common ones can make you a very effective communicator.
A list of five logical fallacies to avoid and examples of some your liberal relative may commit:
Slippery Slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, eventually through a series of small steps (B,C,D…), Z will happen, too. So if we don’t want Z to occur, we must avoid A. Example:
If Ron Paul is elected, he will take us back to the 18th century and bring back slavery.
Hasty Generalization: Is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. Example:
Some OWS protesters showed up because they lost their jobs, so they must have suffered injustice because of a system stacked against them.
Begging The Claim: Making a claim that is not validated. Example:
Coal is filthy and it pollutes the Earth and we can do everything we do with it by using green energy, so we should ban coal.
Ad Populum: An emotional appeal to a positive (such as patriotism, religion, democracy) or negative (such as terrorism or fascism) concept rather than the real issue at hand. Example:
The government passed the Defense Authorization Act, which allows Americans to be detained indefinitely, because some Americans are terrorists linked to al-Qaida. If you loved America, you’d support the act.
Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issue, usually by dodging opposing arguments rather than addressing them. Example:
We need tighter gun-control laws, because if we had them, the Justice Department would have never needed to implement Operation Fast and Furious to track illegal guns.
This list of fallacies to avoid is by no means exhaustive, but chances are you will hear and recognize one of these in a holiday conversation if there is any political discussion. Imagine young Joe Liberal’s surprise when all of his professor’s talk about how conservatives are anti-intellectual is shattered as you point out his ad populum, and therefore invalid, argument when he tries to explain to you that not supporting OWS means not being a patriot in support of the 1st Amendment.
Also very important to avoiding argument and possibly winning over a few liberal minds is sticking to what you know. Simply saying something is right or wrong “just because” will infuriate; but being able to provide examples of why, using the vast knowledge acquired over a lifetime, can change the tune.
Sticking with what you know goes hand in hand with allowing the person with whom you are speaking to use what they know to reach a conclusion that is in line with your point. This is similar — albeit a simplified description — of the method of teaching created by the classic Greek philosopher Socrates. Using the Socratic Method, you present each of your points as a question rather than a command and build upon each of the other person’s answers with another question until they have reached your point for you. If you use this method and are able to avoid fallacious questions, you will have built a solid argument and possibly learn things even you didn’t know about the point you sought to make.
If you are at all able to avoid talking politics at holiday gatherings, do so. This is the time of year that should be set aside for loved ones and joy, a time that should be difficult to be fouled up even by incompetent lawmakers, a woefully inept Presidential Administration and an election season that is heating up. You do, however, need to be prepared. The liberals are.
Planned Parenthood recently posted an article on their website titled “Talking Turkey: 8 Easy Steps for Discussing Reproductive Health and Justice at the Holiday Table” in an effort to bring words like contraceptive, abortion and rape to your holiday table and help your liberal relative convince you why you should support abortion. The article, before giving ideas about winning the debate, begins:
The holidays are upon us! Going home or getting together with relatives for the holidays is always a stressful time, but if your family members are the type who regularly protest outside the local Planned Parenthood, you know that this holiday is going to be a doozy.
And if you thought Barack Obama was going to allow you to escape during the holidays from the reality that he will be running for President again in 2012, you were wrong. Last week, his campaign announced that it was a perfect time to donate to the cause of destroying America in the name of a conservative as a Christmas gift. Obama supporters were also told to threaten to donate $3 to Obama’s campaign every time their conservative loved ones “say something outrageous” about the President during holiday gatherings. Fortunately, it should be quite easy to make logical arguments against Obama at this point and avoiding fallacies makes any argument decidedly not “outrageous.”
Merry Christmas and good luck! We at Personal Liberty Digest™ hope you are able to bring all of your liberal family and friends to the cause of freedom, liberty and Constitutionally guaranteed rights during the holidays. We may need them in the coming elections.