Opinion Rings

Opinion Rings

I have so many opinions on things. I think we all do (he opines), and there is this part of us that wants to share those opinions with others, in the hopes we find like-minded people who reinforce our own worldview while making it possible for us to bond as a group.
Unless it’s something I consider to be hard fact, I usually don’t attempt to force a position on points of view. Sure, I’ll say whether I think you’re right or you’re wrong when it comes to things like “the Earth revolves around the Sun,” and “ingesting bleach is a bad idea,” but when it comes to personal taste, or comments on how the world should approach things, that falls under a debatable opinion, and unless you’re being a dick, I’m not going to push too hard on the issue.
Over the past several days, I’ve been having a discussion with a few people on a forum about whether or not killing someone who is “bad” is justifiable. The position of the majority in that discussion was that it was sometimes a necessary evil to kill someone.
As some of you know, I hold the opposite position. It is my firmly held belief that killing someone, outside of a hospice scenario or terminal illness situation requested by the patient, is wrong. I insist upon the intent because accidents happen, and I believe when accidental death occurs, for whatever reason, compassion and mercy should be extended to the person who committed the act. Any accidental death is a tragedy in its own right, and doesn’t need hard judgment in addition to the massive guilt and pain now sitting on the person responsible. That’s not to say there doesn’t need to be compensation, or remediation, of course.
This should presume the fact that I am anti-war, and anti-death penalty. I am also against “Stand Your Ground” laws because they allow people to be shot for merely stepping onto someone’s property.
I believe this for a number of reasons. The primary reason is because I believe as human beings we are not arbiters of life and death for other human beings. We should not have a legal system built around the idea that the State has the power to take your life from you if it believes it has sufficient reason. That kind of power is obscene, and outside the purview of human beings, all in my opinion of course.
A second reason, and just as important, is that we lack the ability to return someone to the state of living should we kill them. I believe that the death penalty is murder. So if a man is given the death penalty, and it is discovered that, after he has been murdered in the name of the State, he was innocent of that crime, well then the State committed blatant murder, but what happens to the people who were involved? Well, they get a little egg on their face, and maybe change jobs. Doesn’t do anything for the dead man who had committed no crime.
So, yes, these are my opinions, and I consider them sacrosanct in that life is something to be cherished, not tossed aside at a whim because we feel it is something we have the right to control.
I say this because during that discussion, a poster called me out and said I was wrong. Not only that I was wrong, but that killing a “bad” person is okay because the laws humans created allow for it. Of course, when I asked them to define what is and isn’t “bad,” and to not use extreme positions, the first thing they shot for was Hitler, because of course they did.
So I asked for less extreme of an example, and it was simply this: whatever society deemed a life of no value was a valid reason to kill, because that life created a negative, a deficit, and to benefit everyone else it needed to be eliminated.
See, there’s a reason why I often talk about a hammer in search of a nail, and why it’s not wise to tie legality and morality together. This person was willing to say that any human being who didn’t fall within the confines of the law, who was a negative to society, deserved to be killed. “Murdered” was the word I used, but that’s just me.
I responded that legality and morality were not the same thing, and that the law can be used to justify horrific acts, and that no person had the right to say who was and was not worth keeping alive. This is where I was once again told that I was wrong, that society had every right to do it because we made the rules.
I won’t stay too long on the line of discussion there because it kept going back and forth like that for a while. By the end of the discussion some two or three pages later, I explained that we had reached the end, and that all we were doing was rehashing it over and over again, and that there was no point to it.
I was told that we didn’t have a discussion. I was told that while he laid down facts and sources (no sources were given, no actual facts were stated), all I did was offer an emotional opinion, and that I had lost (which is amazing, since I didn’t realize we were keeping score).
Opinion is a funny thing. I do my best to keep it as what it is: my personal point of view shaped over years of experience and observation, and then processed through my own filters of logic, bias, and emotion. The end result is how I see the world.
Get 100 people in the room, ask them their thoughts on something, and you’ll have 200 different opinions before you’ve finished the question. We love to voice our opinions, for good or ill, in the hopes of making that connection. Sometimes we do it because we want someone to look at us in awe and reply “that’s brilliant!”
I’m not immune to a little ego stroking now and then. We like to be told we’re right, even if we’re wrong. The best in us does its damnedest to keep fact and opinion separated, and while we want to be right, most of us have the good grace to admit when we’re wrong.
Unless it’s the internet, of course. Even as I type this, the poster I mentioned earlier is trying to restart the discussion with me, even though I said I wasn’t going to rehash it, that it was a waste of our time and that we differed too much to meet any point halfway. I figure at some point he will claim some kind of moral victory, but it doesn’t concern me.
I just thought it was interesting how so convinced we can become of the *rightness* in our opinions. That we can equate them with fact and are flabbergasted (your word of the day, kids) when others don’t find them mind-shatteringly brilliant.
Message boards are notorious for this kind of behavior, and it is something that irks me from time to time. You can’t just say “we’ll have to agree to disagree” because there’s this belief that having an opinion is a zero sum game. You are either right or wrong, and you have to admit it to the opposite faction, and that is just absurd.
I would like to add something here, for those who might have the thought creep up in their mind: what do you think of opinions that are seen as controversial, like racism? That’s a fair question. While I personally find racism distasteful, okay I find it grotesque, if someone believes they’re somehow superior to another person because of their skin color, their eye color, their nation of birth, okay, yeah, it’s shallow and ignorant, but they’re allowed to have that opinion, as long as no one is being harmed by it.
Yes, usually opinions lead to hard beliefs, which lead to people doing stupid, stupid things, but while it’s still in the opinion phase, they’re free to have it, just as you and I are free to call them out on it, and try to break through that ignorance.
I think what would help us, regardless of how we were raised, or where we’re from, what we were taught, would be to apply better manners to our lives. I’m not saying smile and nod when someone says something truly awful like a racial epithet, just that if someone says something ignorant, we shouldn’t jump down their throats right away. I think we lack consideration. It’s one of those niceties that keeps society running a little more smoothly.
Our first reaction to an ignorant comment (especially one out of innocence) shouldn’t be a raging diatribe filled with fricatives and indictments upon that person’s lineage. I believe it shows a level of emotional ignorance to treat people that way. Of course we’re not perfect, and in an age where ignorance gets spread around like so much mayonnaise on toast, I understand the short fuses we all have, but I believe we need to learn how to stop, think, and then speak.
There is a Bible verse, Proverbs 15:1, that reads, “a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
Sometimes, we’re so damned determined to be right, so hell-bent on proclaiming our thoughts as being on the right side of history, that we’re willing to rip another human being apart. Sometimes, the person spouting ignorance should know better, but good Goddess, harshly reprimanding someone for not understanding some new form of netiquette, or verbally accosting a person who isn’t aware of the latest all-inclusive term is just silliness.
Opinions. Opinions. We all have them, and we walk around with them everywhere we go. We stew on them, we refine them, and we spout them with little to no provocation. It goes back to one of my posts (way back, but I am currently too lazy to look it up) where I lamented that we seem to be angry all of the time now. We want to overcompensate, we want to not just correct someone but we wish to PUNISH them for daring to be wrong, for not being on the knife’s edge of all there is to know about the new cause.
I get flack, sometimes, for the things I say and feel. That’s fine, I’m used to that. I expect that my opinion won’t always be popular, or accepted, by whole groups of people. I do strive for honesty, though, always honesty, and I try to make it clear that this is what I think, how I feel, and doesn’t mean what you think or feel is horribly wrong or invalid.
Often, though, that is not enough, and I think that is why some of the things I think and say seem so out of line with the current trends, because I simply can’t step up and push against other people so hard that they cry. I find no satisfaction in mockery. When I was younger, there was a definite sense of superiority. When you grow up and are told you’re right as many times as I was (in school, of course), you start to build this idea that you’re always going to be right, that you’ll always stay on top of everything, that people will not catch you unguarded, and that simply isn’t so.
There will come a point where you will no longer find yourself on the bleeding edge, not without putting far more effort into it than it is worth. It was when I realized loving people, accepting them for their flaws, and being willing to listen simply wasn’t enough anymore, that was when I knew I was lagging behind. It’s when I knew that being the ardent defender of words and thought simply was not something I was cut out to be any longer.
It bothered me for a little while, but then I realized that it didn’t change the core part of me: the part of me that would rather have a hug than a discussion, a giggle fest instead of a debate. I returned to my roots, as I have been doing for some time now, and knew that as long as I could connect with people, smile with them, laugh with them, cry with them, and just love them for their truly flawed, imperfect, wonderful selves, then I was going to do just fine.
I’m going to do just fine, and I do love you all.
Just my two cents, of course. 😉

2 thoughts on “Opinion Rings

  1. I’m assuming I know which board you’re talking about. I don’t go there anymore because among the fun stuff there are far too many intolerant egos who just can’t walk away from an argument. I’ve done my time with toddlers, and don’t want to be around adults who act like them. By the way, I completely agree with you that there is never and excuse for the death penalty. Ever.

    1. While I did encounter much of that attitude at the board of which you refer, I’m on a different board with a more thorough mix of liberals, conservatives, and moderates, so debate is lively, but it also means I get to see the more extreme reactions of those who sit on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of violence and death. That being said, yes, I did leave the board in question because the shouting down of any opinion different from what was being accepted as “correct” had become too much. Too many shouting matches too close together too many times, and I’d had enough. It was too toxic for me to stay, mostly due to the dearth of nails available for the roving hammers, and it was clear that I was beginning to look like a nail in need of correction far too often.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.