I guarantee there is at least one social or political issue on which we disagree. One issue—at least one—where we view it from completely different angles and you think “I am right and she is wrong about this.”
Naturally, I would like to debate this topic with you. That’s what this Internet/comment board/blog business is all about, right? The lofty give and take of ideas. So here’s my opening argument:
You are a self-important jackass who misses the point so well you could be a professional knife-thrower’s target. Remember that one thing your mom did when you were a kid that you’re still pissed off about? She did it because you were such a loathsome and ugly little child. Also: your parents never loved you.
* * *
I’m kidding, of course. I don’t mean a word of that last paragraph there. Besides, if we really were debating some topic, I wouldn’t think pointless insults might persuade you to see things my way.
But suppose I did? What do you think should happen? Well, I’d certainly deserve to lose all my friends. And the debate, too. Possibly my job if I said it there. But should I face legal consequences? Are my insults so bad that I should go to jail? And should the Constitution be amended to cover that?
Yes, yes, and yes, according to some of the nation’s top Senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter. He thinks the Constitution should be amended in regards to my statement because, as he said:
"It is designed to hurt. It is not designed to persuade."
Point taken. In all the history of world debate, there has never been a situation where someone thought “Gee, now that my opponent has called me a jackass and said something rude about my mother, I see that she was right and will shift my worldview to be in line with hers.” No, not persuasive at all. And quite hurtful, too. Read it again: “your parents never loved you.” Ouch.
So I think that—oh. Wait a minute. Whoops. After re-reading the article I see it’s actually flag-burning that Specter and company think should be outlawed for its hurtful non-persuasiveness.
The problem with symbols is that people tend to confuse them for what they symbolize. I remember the first proposed flag-burning amendment, when Bush the Elder was in office. A guy I knew at the time supported the amendment because “our Marines fought and died to plant that flag on Iwo Jima!”
“No, they didn’t,” I said. “They fought and died to take Iwo Jima away from the Japanese. If all they wanted to do was plant the flag then I’m sure Roosevelt and Tojo could’ve reached some agreement where the Japanese got to keep the island as long as they let six guys and a Life magazine photographer take a picture first.”
I was going to tell you that anecdote and then use it to illustrate some point about how the flag-burning amendment undermines the very ideals it claims to protect, but I’m having trouble taking this seriously because whenever I think of lawmakers who talk about Constitutional amendments to safeguard the sanctity of fabric and American freedom my mind fills with images of self-important jackasses who miss the point so well they could be professional knife-thrower’s targets. And I really mean it this time.