Classy disagreement

After all my efforts to foster constructive dialogue that can promote understanding on issues here on my blog, some of the most thoughtful people still respond via e-mail. Here’s an example of someone I’ve corresponded with since Sunday on my abortion column.

If that subject can’t generate incivility, what can? So it is that I deeply appreciate someone who can disagree with someone so completely, and yet so reasonably:

From: Kathryn Braun Fenner
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 5:07 PM
Dear Mr. Warthen:
    I have yet again been touched by the thoughtfulness of your writing about the proposed ultrasound viewing requirements for those seeking abortions. I would like to suggest you consider two additional concerns you did not acknowledge: one, everyone does not believe life in the sense of a human being, rather than a clump of living cells with the potential to be a whole human being when and if born, begins at conception. I believe that fetal cells are living only insofar as cancer cells are or the healthy tissue excised along with the cancer cells. None of these cells can live independent of the host body. I truly respect your views, though, especially as they are consistent — if a fetus is a life, no rape and incest exceptions–even if a family member of someone powerful is involved. Many of our legislators and anti-abortionists waffle on this point, implying that they do not truly equate the fetal cells with a fully born human, such as their wife or daughter. Kudos to you also for pointing out the lack of legislative concern for the afterborn lives!
    Two, I do not know that an ultrasound is medically necessary or advisable, especially in the first trimester. If it is, giving the patient the option to view it is fine, but requiring it — I was not required to view the results of my prehysterectomy ultrasound, nor did I desire to do so….If it is not medically advisable, we should not require anyone to pay for it — there is enough life being wasted because of inadequate medical funding, don’t you think?

Kathryn Braun Fenner
Columbia, SC

From: Warthen, Brad – External Email
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2007 2:27 PM
    Well, as I said, I don’t feel strongly about it one way or the other.
    As for the medical advisability — I just had sinus surgery last month, which only involved going about two inches up my nose, and didn’t even involve cutting anything, just widening the passage with a balloon. Yet I had to have multiple CT scans, and I made sure to see them, to help me decide whether I thought the procedure is worth doing.
    And I deeply appreciate the kindness of your note, especially since we obviously view this very differently. You don’t see the fetus and a person, and I can’t imagine how anyone could see anything else. I certainly can’t see a logical analogy to cancer cells. Cancer is a serious dysfunction in which cells grow wildly in a manner that will kill the individual if not stopped. Pregnancy, from the very beginning, is not only a healthy, normal process, but one that is essential to life’s very existence.
    I was present each time my wife gave birth to our five children. Six years ago, she developed breast cancer that spread to her liver before being discovered. Only the most aggressive attacks on the tumors that were trying to kill her have kept her alive.
    What I’m saying is that I can tell you without any doubt that there is an enormous, night-and-day difference between a baby and a tumor. Our children, when they were growing inside her for nine months, were not the moral equivalent of tumors.
    One other point, take that term, "baby." Under our current system, we give one person — the mother — absolute godlike power to determine whether what is inside her is a "baby." If she wants it, it’s a baby. She and her family will speak constantly of "the baby" — when the baby will come, how the baby’s room is coming along, the baby shower, baby names, etc.
    If she doesn’t want it, it’s "just a fetus," and can indeed be treated legally as a tumor.
    That makes no sense in the world. It’s either a baby or it isn’t. Its existence does NOT depend upon the attitude of anybody toward it. It is or it isn’t. That’s the nature of reality.
    Well, you got me started. What I mean to say is, thank you for your kind note, and for the opportunity for dialogue.

— Brad Warthen

From: Kathryn Braun Fenner
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2007 2:50 PM

    I am so sorry about your wife’s illness. My thoughts and prayers are with her and your family. Please forgive my apparent trivializing of the pain of cancer by comparing a tumor to a fetus–although as you acknowledged in your piece, to some, a fetus may be a death threat.
    I am glad you have five welcome children. People like you and your wife should have enormous love-filled families. I have done a lot of work with juvenile offenders and with DSS "clients." I do believe abstinence is the best option for those who are not going to have loved, two-parent children. The Supreme Court notwithstanding, everyone does not have a fundamental right to sex, or to have children; it is a privilege at least as worthy of respect and control as driving! I bemoan our sexualized society. However, it is what it is, though courageous journalists like you are certainly speaking up to try to change this. Given our culture, and the many generations of "lost children" from DSS-land, can we at least agree that maybe teaching and making available alternatives to abortion that are more likely to avoid pregnancy than abstinence is advisable, the Pope notwithstanding.
    BTW, pregnancy is not always a healthy normal process. Ectopic pregnancy is one obvious example. Is that a baby, absolutely not a baby or something in between?
— Kathryn Fenner

From: Warthen, Brad – External Email
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2007 5:06 PM
    Well, you exceeded my vocabulary on that one. I had to look it up to learn that "ectopic" referred to what I think of as "tubal."
    Indeed, given the complexity of life, particularly in the higher animals, many things can go wrong with otherwise healthy processes. For instance, it’s a good thing to have a strong immune system. But if it becomes TOO reactive, you end up like me, spending thousands a year treating allergies.
    I see the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control as something to be embraced by the faithful, NOT to be imposed on a pluralistic society. I would not, for instance, seek to have civil law ban the eating of meat on Fridays in Lent.
    But life or death, once the process of life has begun — that’s a different matter. The state has a legitimate interest there; it just depends upon how we decide to define that role. Unfortunately, Roe forbids us even to discuss it, placing the issue of life and death absolutely in the hands of the most interested, least impartial party. That’s not a standard we would apply in any other area of the law where the stakes are so great.
    Thank you again for the kind exchange. Do you mind if I post it on my blog?
— Brad Warthen

From: Kathryn Braun Fenner
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2007 5:59 PM
    I exceeded your vocabulary? Wow!
    Process of life….What about fertilized in vitro eggs? When is something "living" –in the independent "life" sense (rather than the "my fingertip is living but my fingernail tips are dead" sense) as opposed to merely potentially able to live on its own?
    Roe does not forbid US or anyone else from discussing abortion (God bless America–freedom of speech is what makes this country great) I’m not planning on being arrested for this e-mail exchange, are you? We can even publish it (post it on your blog, if you must–I’m not keen on being identified to the nut-jobs like Fetus Man–does he really think he will change anyone’s mind with baby dolls pinned to his jacket?–, but I will stand behind what I say–though my brother, the copy editor, would surely fix up the language!).
    Roe says, basically "Congress shall make no law" impeding on an adult woman’s right (with her doctor), during the first trimester, and possibly the second, to decide when the cells in her are a fetus and when they are a baby. (BTW–why do we have a good old word "fetus" but no "old" word for "post-birth baby" as opposed to just "baby." Historically, I believe we have been ambivalent at best about when an independent life begins.)
    Absolutely I agree that IF abortion is murder, if a fetus is a baby is a fully protectable legal person–indeed far more so than a corporation, say– then the State has an interest, indeed an imperative, in outlawing abortion. I do not believe that a fetus is the same as baby. You do, and as I said, I applaud the strength with which you stand for that. I truly respect that. I believe that, God forbid, if one of your loved ones were raped, you would protect that fetus with the same fervor as the child of a lawful marriage.  Many "pro-life" advocates would not, which makes me think they are a lot about punishment and enforcing morality on a wayward woman, rather than protecting a potential life…and as you say, they pro-life movement is not overly concerned about the welfare of the "afterborn"….
    Oh and the Legislature, backed by at least one court, won’t let us outlaw cigarette smoking in the workplace, —which is proven to kill lives-in-being–and as you have written, prevent the allergic/asthmatic among us from fully participating in public life. There are 
other "no go " zones besides abortion….but that is a discussion for another day.


Peace, indeed. I think I’ll leave it there with her having the last word. No, I’ll let Stephen Wright have the last word. I love this postscript Kathryn tagged onto her last message:

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.

Steven Wright


19 thoughts on “Classy disagreement

  1. Herb Brasher

    Yes, that was refreshing, even if I have to side strongly with Brad to the point of not understanding why others cannot see this. Is it because extreme cases are allowed to undermine respect for human life?
    Be that as it may, it is a rarity in modern culture to be able to disagree with one another respectfully, and this is what made this dialog refreshing. Most of the time opponents on this blog seem to be convinced that the other person is the devil incarnate, and it is their job to destroy the devil. Or, to put it another way, the evil is always out there somewhere (not on me, because I am perfect), and my position is always right. Whether on the right or the left, this attitude reminds one of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time.

  2. Michael Gass

    The problems associated with the abortion issue are many; money, status, ability to care for a child, the right of women to lord over their own bodies vs the right of the father to have his child born, religious teachings, scientific knowledge of “life”, and whether the pregnancy was through an act of violence like rape, or incest. These are the few I can think of off the top of my head.
    Colin Powell opined on Iraq that “we broke it, so, we own it”, meaning that it was our actions that caused Iraq to be in the state it has become, thus, we have an obligation to Iraq. It is a variation of the “cradle to grave” concept. In the abortion debate, the “pro-life” group seems to be all for forcing women to carry unwanted children through legislation, yet, are against the “welfare state” that is necessary to support these mothers who didn’t want the child. Under the Colin Powell theory, if you force women to have children who are not able to financially care for the child, you are then obligated, as a state or community, to help provide the funds for the care of that mother and child. But, whatever the percentages, you’ll find those “pro-lifers” who are against a welfare state. Women must have children, but, after they have it they, and the child, are on their own. The “pro-lifers” forced the issue, but, they don’t have to own it.
    For most, the debate comes down to simply; when does life become life? We know that even a single cell, the ameoba, is alive. But, is it “life”? If life begins at conception, then, destroying cells that are vital to conception must also be considered bad. If ovaries and semen are destroyed, whatever the methods used to do so, and they are vital to bringing conception, then why are these people not advocating making the vasectomy illegal? You see, it isn’t about “when is it life”. It is about “how far down do you want to take it”?
    The real problem is that all aspects must be evaluated objectively. You cannot toss out one part of the issue simply because it “doesn’t fit” into your views while supporting other aspects that do.
    If you think life starts at conception, then you must be willing to not only support the “welfare state”, but expand it greatly.
    If you believe that the unborn child has “rights”, you must also believe that the mother and father have rights as well.
    If you believe and support that people’s opinion can be ruled by religious beliefs, you must also believe and support that people’s opinion can be ruled by religious beliefs that differ from yours.
    If you believe a woman must carry a child to term, no matter the circumstance of the conception, you must also be willing to accept that your wife, or your daughter, may be raped one night in a parking lot, impregnated, and that you too will be forced to raise the child, forced to see the result of that violation everyday, as you wish to force others to do.
    If you feel that even the most basic of cells are the foundations of life and should be protected, then you should be lobbying against medical procedures performed daily around our country that destroys them.
    Too many cling to one or two aspects of the issue of abortion without objectively looking at the others. They are happy in this behavior because it is simpler for them. They, simply, cannot or will not, be forced to think outside of the box they have built around themselves.
    Until people consider all aspects objectively, the abortion issue will continue to be what it has become; a political tool to energize voters to the poll instead of the humanitarian and legal issue it should rightly be.

  3. Claudia

    I agree, Herb… at least about the tone of the exchange between Brad and Kathryn, and also about your Pharisees comment (an analogy I have often used when discussing today’s so-called “Christian right”).
    I very much admire Kathryn’s graciousness in disagreeing with Brad. I try very hard to strike that same chord when discussing this subject with someone who believes, as I do not, that “personhood” or “humanity” begins at conception and abortion should be illegal. I have found that is it easy to remain respectful when the other person does the same. But when, as usually happens, a discussion about abortion turns into an assault by one party upon the other, it becomes impossible to hold a civil and reasoned discourse.
    Perhaps it is because abortion is legal and constitutionally protected that it seems, at least in my experience, that it is the individual who is opposed to abortion that usually does the attacking. And the ammunition is almost always the same – an assault on the woman’s sexual and personal morality. And, for those people, from the moment a woman becomes pregnant her human rights take a backseat to the rights of the fetus/child/baby she carries inside her uterus. It makes no difference how she became pregnant… for the next nine months she matters less than the one inside. Many believe this even if the pregnancy places her life in danger.
    The law says that it is a woman’s decision whether or not to allow the living group of cells in her uterus to continue to grow and form a person. I believe that it is not only my legal right, but my human right to make that decision.

  4. Brad Warthen

    I like the Colin Powell analogy. But you don’t have to reach so far. If you want a consistent ethic, womb to tomb, Columbia native Cardinal Joseph Bernardin articulated one that covers my beliefs in this quite completely.

    It’s called the "Seamless Garment," or Consistent Ethic of Life. It means opposing abortion, capital punishment, racism, economic injustice, euthanasia and unjust war. Some take it a bit far on that last point, to outright pacifism. I do not. A person who stands by and allows a tyrant to stand by and kill or oppress others when he has the physical power to stop it fails in his moral duty.

    I was disappointed, Michael, that you started out being quite evenhanded, but ended up with standard arguments of one side, ignoring the counter-arguments. You were quite right when you said,

    Too many cling to one or two aspects of the issue of abortion without
    objectively looking at the others. They are happy in this behavior
    because it is simpler for them.

    … and it’s wrong to do that in either direction. People who would ban abortion but would resist helping the mother raise the child are not pro-life want ease and convenience for themselves; so do those who want to know they will always have the "out" of an abortion if things get tough.

    The moral position in such situations is not the easy one, and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken.

  5. Paul DeMarco

    I appreciate your willingness to discuss this issue. It is truly difficult to have honest dialogue about abortion because it is such a “gut” issue.
    How would you respond to Brad’s point that if the child is wanted it’s a baby, but if it’s not, it’s just a fetus or a clump of cells?
    Why does the perspective of the mother determine whether the child is truly alive?
    “A clump of cells” strikes me as a euphemism. At 4 weeks the fetus appears on ultrasound as an organized being-like a cute little peanut. At 5-6 weeks, the heart flicker can be noted on ultrasound. At 8-10 weeks the fetus is clearly human with mobile limbs.
    The idea that all that’s being destroyed is a clump of cells strikes me as a fiction meant to minimize a woman’s understanding of what is actually happening. As a physician, I understand the desire to protect my pregnant patient from emotional harm, but in this case I believe we are shading the truth to do so.
    But let’s say we accept the supposition that the fetus spends some of its life as a sub-human clump of cells. What rational basis is there to then later declare it fully alive?
    The clump of cells is disparaged as being parasitic and dependent on the mother for life. But a newborn infant is no less dependent on its mother for life-it can’t feed or protect itself. Why is it any more deserving of protection than the clump of cells?
    Thank you for your gentle but cogent arguments. You also make the same distinction between ““living” in the independent life sense” and “merely potentially able to live on its own.” that I reference above. When does that transition occur during pregnancy? A new born infant strikes me as belonging more to the latter category than the former. It is no more able to supply its own nutrition after the umbilical cord is cut than before. Therefore, by your standard it would be morally acceptable to terminate its life.

  6. Michael Gass

    Mr. Warthen,
    I am a bit confused as to why you would be disappointed. At no time did I state to which side I belonged in the debate, or even, if I was a part of the debate at all. The part you cite could extend to either side, “pro-life” or “pro-choice”. Both sides, more times then not, fail to consider all the aspects necessary to make an informed decision, much less a good one. As you note:
    – “People who would ban abortion but would resist helping the mother raise the child are not pro-life want ease and convenience for themselves; so do those who want to know they will always have the “out” of an abortion if things get tough.”
    While I understand the premise of the “seamless garment”, I must respectfully disagree. I am far from a pacifist, and I am even pro-death penalty. But, I do believe in a just response to an action of hostility, whether it is diplomacy or war. The act decides the response, and a person who murders numerous people in cold blood deserves to be removed from society in response, in my opinion. However, the capture of Israeli soldiers for prisoner exchange (an act that is millenia old), did not justify bombing Lebanon into the stone age. Racism *is* wrong, as is bigotry. But all of these issues must be taken as stand-alone items, as each have their own set of sub-issues and circumstance truly dictates the position.
    My point is that a person cannot oppose abortion merely for religious reasons and ignore the rest of the issues, neither can a person be pro-abortion simply because it is the “women’s right to her own body” and ignore the wishes of the father among other issues. Yet, people do just that. Because they do it, abortion as an issue has been reduced to a political bludgeon instead of seriously being debated on the merits both sides have on the issues surrounding it and it will continue to be until all of the issues are debated fully.

  7. bud

    Micheal your points are well thought out. The various arguments Michael brings up ONLY come into play when we bring government control in. Brad that’s not ignoring the other side of the argument that’s just reality. These complexities must be addressed if we go down the pro-life path on this issue. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go pro-life but rather it’s an acknowledgment of the fundemantel quandry the pro-life position creates.
    On the other hand, if we go pro-choice the government’s roll and all the complications that necessarily follow are left out. What is crystal clear about the abortion issue is that if we decide as a society that the government should play a roll in whether abortion is EVER illegal the issues Michael brings up come into play. If we decide that the mother is the ultimate decision maker IN ALL CASES these issues are decided by one person. Hence society’s roll is greatly simplified.
    No matter how it’s worded we still have only 2 basic options on this issue (1) mother decides (2) government decides.

  8. Claudia

    On the baby/fetus/clump of cells question and Brad’s point about the terminology, I can only speak from my own personal belief. Brad, I think, feels that someone will use the term “fetus” to distance themselves from the situation and use the colder language to build a wall between themselves and either their own emotions or the opinions of others. “Baby”, on the other hand, connotes a relationship or warmth of feeling. I don’t disagree with this, if I am correct in my interpretation of what Brad means. I just think it is a matter of different words to say the same thing. Just as a physician uses the language of science in order to be precise and maintain a certain objectivity in his or her practice of medicine, I use the term “fetus” instead of “baby” in discussions about abortion. It doesn’t change what the entity inside the womb is, but it allows for some distance, which I believe is necessary in any discussion about abortion.
    I’m not sure what you’re asking me with your question of why it is the perspective of the mother that determines whether or not the child is truly alive. If you’re saying why does the mother get to say when the cells inside her uterus become a person, I can only say that I don’t think that is correct. “Truly alive” is an abstraction that science cannot yet determine, so I think that it remains a matter of belief. Some believe that “life” or “personhood” begins at conception; some believe that it begins after viability. Either way, I don’t see how anyone gets to decide when life truly begins… they just get to believe something.
    Your argument about using the euphemism “clump of cells” to minimize a woman’s understanding of the abortion procedure has some merit. I have a chronic seizure disorder and have dealt with neurologists for years. Not to offend, but my experience tells me that the medical profession in general takes a rather paternalistic attitude with patients and doctors prefer to simplify all complex conditions and procedures. Perhaps some abortion proponents have borrowed this posture. If so, I strongly believe that this is an enormous disservice to the women in question. But I also believe that most women have an intelligent understanding of the life inside their womb, whether they can couch it in scientific terminology or not.
    As to whether or not it is rational to declare that a sub-human clump of cells later develops into a fully alive entity, I can only go back to the matter of belief. As there is so much about belief that is irrational, then I don’t see how believing this is any more bizarre than many other convictions people hold. It is in fact what I believe. Finally, I don’t think that the term “parasitic” is quite right… and in this context is one of those inflammatory words that both extreme sides like to use.
    Paul, I hope that I’ve responded adequately to your questions. The issue is so huge and the passions so intense that it feels like any short discussion leaves so much out that it’s almost useless to have one… but the alternative is what’s really useless.

  9. Paul DeMarco

    The question of when life begins will be hotly debated forever. I agree with you that there is no way to prove when life begins (and therefore deserves protection). However, the question is so important that it must be dealt with in a coherent way. This is an issue that will not abide sloppy thinking. I’ve struggled with this issue for years and certainly am not expert, but here are some of the constructs that govern my thought:
    1) Although human beings can’t prove when life begins, there is an Ultimate Truth, however you name it, and some positions are closer to that Truth than others. So I pray that God will help me discern His will on this matter. I want my view to be as close as possible to God’s reality. If you don’t believe in God, you obviously have a different perspective. I believe life without God amounts to a cruel cosmic joke (but that’s a discussion for another day). Bottom line: there is a Right Answer to this question even if we can’t know it for sure.
    2) Fertilization of the egg by a sperm is a seminal (!) event in the reproductive process. Something unmistakably different and energetic occurs with that fusion. It seems a logical place to mark as the beginning of a life and it seems incumbent on those who don’t believe it represents anything significant to say why not. Empirically, it is a new chapter, a new beginning; you can’t study embryology without being struck by the fireworks that begin after sperm meets egg. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I just don’t see it that way.”
    The same people who are passionate about endangered species and know with certainty that the snail darter or some other diminutive species deserves protection by the full weight of the federal government suddenly are mute about protecting a diminutive human.
    Why is it that folks who know so many other things with certainty go all fuzzy when faced with the question of when life begins?
    3) It’s important to try to develop a consistent belief and have explored its ramifications. I have already mentioned in my previous posts one of the major deficiencies of the “life in eye of the beholder” position. A logical conclusion of that argument is that a new-born infant could be killed. If your definition of life depends on independence or consciousness then you have no basis to defend a newborn from extermination.
    The life-at-conception argument is not without problems as the stem cell debate has demonstrated. I understand the frustration of those who scoff at “wasting” frozen embryos that could be used for stem-cell research. But if embryos truly are alive, then although it is frustrating, it is right. I would certainly rather defend that position than the “eye-of-the beholder” one.
    So my position is informed by my faith, my study of embryology and a desire to have a consistent and defensible position. Still, I am troubled by it. My underlying arguments are closer to the “pro-life” side. But my conclusion is ultimately “pro-choice” because of my belief that the life and health of the mother trumps that of her unborn child and that while convenience abortions are wrong, banning all abortions would prevent too many physically or emotionally vulnerable women from undergoing abortions that are acceptable in a lesser of two evils way. It’s just too complex and difficult an area to legislate.
    My unease with my abortion stand helps me understand why abortion supporters and opponents cling to such rigid positions. It’s much easier than allowing for any ambiguity or viewing the other side as decent and thoughtful.

  10. Claudia

    I do appreciate the analytical nature of your thought process… it makes your posts very interesting. And I respect the role that your belief in God plays in forming your belief on when life begins. While I am not religious in the sense that you and many others who post on this blog may be, I do have beliefs that form my own spirituality and my sense of a Greater Reality, as I think of it. Our beliefs may differ, but I suspect that our perspective is very similar. I agree – there is a Right Answer. (I also believe that is one of the questions we find answers to after death… but as you say, that’s a discussion for another day – but one I would enjoy!).
    I don’t think it can be disputed that a force is unleashed at the joining of egg with sperm (an “ovuminal outcome”, let’s say!). The fact that there is growth means that there is life. What I do question, however, is whether the life that exists at that point is the same as the life that exists nine months (or four or three or sixty years) later. This is where I think personal beliefs in matters of the spirit or soul come into play. The mystery is does “personhood”, or that indefinable thing that creates humanity, begin at conception? I realize that saying this makes me one of those people that “go all fuzzy” about when life begins, but let me quantify that by saying also that I don’t know too many “other things with certainty”… I seem to be one of those people that constantly question most things, even the ones I thought I was certain of.
    All this being said, I want to clearly state that I do not in any way believe in abortion as some kind of offhand birth control. It is an agonizing, racking experience that only a spiritually deadened person could take casually. But even more chilling to me is the idea of a woman not having the option of legally terminating a pregnancy. Perhaps my position is a rigid one, but I view it as more of a case of lashing myself to the mast in the midst of a hurricane.

  11. Paul DeMarco

    I feel a great tension between my sense there is a Right Answer (what I would call God’s will) and the position that personhood is “indefinable.” I believe that personhood has already been defined. The question is when, and you and I differ there. I hold on to conception as that time because it seems sensible but also because without that anchor then the personhood of newborns, the profoundly retarded, the drug-addicted/HIV-infected/illiterate homeless person, the demented nursing home resident, etc. all seem at risk.
    Despite tensions like that, I can respect your point of view and suspect if we put most people who identify themselves as pro-choice or pro-life in the same room just to talk that 90% would leave the table with respect for those on the other side.
    I’m not much for just talking about an issue, but in the case of abortion, there is so little thoughtful dialogue that just the act of sitting down with someone of the opposing view is a significant step forward.
    It’s a little puzzling to me that this thread hasn’t generated any more interest since abortion is usually such a lightning rod.
    Well, it appears that you and I agree that abortion should be permitted. We come at it from different angles, and therein lies the power of blogging; we can be privy to another’s thoughts and insights, for better or worse (in this case, much the better). Thanks.

  12. Claudia

    One of the things that I really enjoy about this blogging thing is that writing out my arguments forces me to analyze why I think a particular way about something and helps me avoid an overemotional reaction. And reading the arguments of others rather than hearing them spoken gives me time to consider them, rather than going for the snappy comeback. I enjoyed our exchange, Paul… while we may continue to disagree about certain ideas, thank you for giving me things to mull over.

  13. Brad Warthen

    You’re absolutely right, Claudia. I’ve frequently had the experience of setting out to write a certain thing and, after seeing that it simply doesn’t work, deciding to say something completely different.
    I’ve noticed something beyond that. I’ve realized that all those years I was in news, what attitudes I had (and kept to myself, that being to code of that priesthood), were shallow, because they were unexpressed and unchallenged. In the years that I’ve been writing and editing opinion full-time (13 years now), I’ve had occasion to turn everything inside out, and go deeper, on a lot of things.
    Anyway, I’m glad to hear you say what you said, because sometimes you can despair of anyone actually THINKING in the blogosphere. People come in shouting, and keep shouting, and it’s really discouraging.

  14. Claudia

    You know, we live in a time when emotions are so raw and real fear is a part of everyone’s life… it’s really not surprising that people tend to divide everything into piles of good and evil and then try to scream away the opposition. Or, in other cases, blister it away with pure contempt. That kind of reaction can be very satisfying – “THERE… guess I told THEM!” – at least temporarily. But of course the comfort it provides doesn’t last and just adds to the sound and fury. Running a blog – and trying to manage the shouting – has got to be a frustrating experience. As a participant, I can choose to ignore the screamers and the contemptuous ones… or just walk away, but Brad doesn’t really have that choice. I hope he doesn’t get so fed up that he washes his hands of all of us!

  15. Herb Brasher

    Hmm, Claudia. I was going to leave myself, but then there are exchanges like this thread. Think I’ll stick around.
    My whole problem is that it takes a lot of time to really post something worthwhile, and when I try and do it on the run, well, even the learning curve for myself is then too low.
    We could probably all take some lessons from you and Paul in posting less, but posting more intelligently.

  16. bud

    So if you pretend that we’re not locked in a struggle that fits together in a pattern repeated again and again — medieval Islamic totalitarianism/nihilism vs. the liberal West, which is what this is — then magically, everything becomes neat little discrete, manageable problems.
    Brad –
    In the years that I’ve been writing and editing opinion full-time (13 years now), I’ve had occasion to turn everything inside out, and go deeper, on a lot of things.
    Now you’ve really got my dander up. Your utterly shallow, simplistic, narrow-minded, hard-headed spin on the Iraq war runs completely counter to any suggestion of “deeper” analysis of the conflict. We are simply not locked in the kind of struggle in the way you characterize it. What we’re doing in Iraq justifies the irrational diatribes of a handful of very extremist persons. And that brings new recruits to that extremist cause. Why can’t you make that connection Mr. Deep Thinker?

  17. NFL Jerseys

    Hmm, Claudia. I was going to leave myself, but then there are exchanges like this thread. Think I’ll stick around.
    My whole problem is that it takes a lot of time to really post something worthwhile, and when I try and do it on the run, well, even the learning curve for myself is then too low.
    We could probably all take some lessons from you and Paul in posting less, but posting more intelligently.
    Read more:


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