Do I Respect Your Opinions? …Maybe Not So Much

08Oct08

I received a delightful comment on my last post from another of Rep. Hoogendyk’s constituents *waves*, which made the following points.  Regardless of what I think of his policies, our fine representative:
 
1.)  Stands up for what he believes in, unlike the rest of the “cowards” in
Washington and Lansing; and
2.)  Is at least respectful of other people’s opinions, even if they differ from his own.
 
The first point got little more than some pre-coffee flip, but in retrospect, that’s really all I have – what else does one say to a comment that writes off several hundred public servants as “cowards” and upholds the fine heroism of just one?  (Also, Alan Cropsey is pouting.)  Though, to be fair, I support the standing up for what one believes in, so I give Rep. Hoogendyk whatever props he’s got coming for that one.
 
The second point, though, had me musing all the way through my morning commute (when I was not trying to figure out what those tiny yellow flowers that kinda resemble snapdragons are.  It’s rare I’m stumped by a Michigan wildflower, but these I’ve never seen before).  After all, I like to think of myself as “respectful of other people’s opinions, even if they differ from [my] own,” but the comment has a (imagined?) undercurrent of “unlike you….”

I was trying to decide whether, if I were told “you don’t respect other people’s opinions,” this news would bother me.  I have come to the following conclusions.
 
1.)  I define “respectful of other people’s opinions, even if they differ from my own,” as “I disagree with what you say, sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
 
2.)  Hearing “you don’t respect other people’s opinions” does bother me, but not for the reason most people would want it to bother me if they said it.  It bothers me because it conflates the person with his/her opinion, thus implying that by not respecting someone’s opinion, I’m not respecting the person.
 
3.)  I am not, however, bothered by the plain notion that I don’t respect other people’s opinions.  Opinions are simply ideas, and ideas, as far as I’m concerned, are fair game.  Individuals are sacrosanct – you lose an argument instantly and HARD as soon as you pull out “well, you’re a moron!” – but ideas are up for grabs.  This is because ideas *have* merits and difficulties.  Ideas can be useful or pointless, beautiful or horrid, clever or moronic.  And there’s nothing wrong – in fact, there’s a lot to be lost – by not pointing that out.

4.)  That said, I absolutely do not condone disrespecting someone’s opinions as a conduit for disrespecting the person.  It’s one thing to say “X is a horrible idea because Y.”  It’s another, far more personal, damaging, and HARDCORE FAIL one, to say “only a horrible person would think X.”  Do I think your ideas are worthy of respect?  Not always.  Do I respect your right to have and to share those ideas?  Abso-fucking-lutely, and I will defend to the death your right to share them – no matter how full of bullshit crap they are.

Such is my opinion.  Feel free to disrespect it.

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