Wednesday, March 1

Are You Listening to Me?!?!

Some have described me as opinionated: ask me a question and I will have an immediate response. Normally we are not talking about an Ann Coulter or Al Franken response, one typically tilted viciously in one direction or another (though it has been known to happen before). Occasionally, my opinion is merely indifference or zealous moderation. I loathe the politicos on Capitol Hill; puppets whose opinions rarely oppose the party line with little regard to their constituencies or the welfare of the country. I also struggle to understand right-wing evangelicals and leftist quacks clinging so tightly to their special interests they convince themselves of the righteousness of their own opinions and the illegitimacy of any who disagree. Progressive? Following the path of Christ? Open-minded? Should I answer any of these questions or simply respond with nauseating sarcasm or perhaps with the irony of everything I have just said.

I spent the past weekend skiing in Northern Michigan, which up until a week ago had no snow and fifty degree weather. Now a pleasant two feet of soft powder covers the slopes, perfect for skiing. And great skiing it was. On the first day I practiced my own techniques since two rookies had traveled with the group. I showed them the ropes along with tips on how to avoid killing themselves, an experience far removed and gentler than the first time I ever went tumbling down a snowy mountain in Canada. Getting even further off my main point, I borrowed my brother’s snowboarding helmet for the first time and, amazingly, there was a dramatic transformation in my attitude. Normally I have been a little hesitant of the more difficult slopes (black diamonds), but now I was rocketing down every hill I could find, never passing up the opportunity to ski glades and terrain parks. It felt good to see a significant improvement in my skiing.

The second night we were there, the group played a game titled Hear Me Out! The premise of this game is to move your piece across a board by trying to guess what other people are thinking or by giving your opinion on Rorschach pictures and hypothetical situations. At first I thought this game would be a riot and a great incentive to consume alcohol. I quickly realized this game was most certainly not created for people like me. When you give an opinion on a hypothetical situation or try to interpret a picture, the remaining players are required to give you the thumbs up or down on your interpretation. Now unfortunately, it is not a requirement to provide a justification for which thumb you gave. And when I got booed, I started to get a tad bit frustrated.

I think this frustration was caused by two primary factors: my over-the-top competitive spirit (I cannot stand losing to people in general, but especially those I feel are not as qualified or up to my level of skill…I am not inferring my friends are worse than I, in fact, the opposite is more likely), and having to be subjected to opinions without competent justification.

During my tenure in D.C., I was unwillingly forced into a disagreement with one of my co-workers on a political issue. According to my co-worker, I was unable to present a valid argument because I was on the “wrong” side of the issue. When I tried to get a word in, he would cut me off while making whining noises like a child. I finally told him to bugger off and left the room in a fit of rage. I love engaging in meaningful discourse, but why must people resort to ignorant name-calling and petty insults as a means of defending their point of view? If you cannot support your opinion in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, then shut the hell up (or in the case of many television pundits, get louder and more belligerent).

I feel as though I am just ending my thought in an awkward place yet I have nothing meaningful to add as a conclusion to this piece. Instead I will end with this excuse not to write further.


  1. Martin Luther King said "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and consciencious stupidity."
    Normally I don't like to use other people's ideas to express my own, but I feel that Dr. King had more wisdom than I will ever possess. I think your idea that your friends were "not at your level" isn't something you should be ashamed of saying. No one is ever at "the same level." If they were, our government would work a lot differently. Personally, I have people I look up to because of their "level" but if there is one thing I can't stand it's someone who is narrow-minded and has no way to support how they feel. The only way to gain wisdom is to get past our own ignorance.

  2. I find that when someone resorts to useless babbling, they realize they have either "lost" the argument or they just have nothing else worthwhile to add to the conversation. Not to toot my own horn, but I think that I often come up with very witty things to say that the other person cannot even begin to respond to... without useless babbling :)

    However, I think that I myself may sometimes resort to the useless babbling. I don't think it's because I've "lost"; usually it's because I'm just sick of arguing and sadly, I can live with the other person being able to receive some satisfaction that they've "beaten" me. Of course I usually like to "win" the argument, but sometimes there are things that I could really care less about.

    Nevertheless, I would say that the majority of the time that one resorts to useless babbling is because of the first reason- nothing else useful to say.