How to debate with decorum … and why profane, vulgar arguments reveal weak arguments & minds


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Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

TIME OF DANGEROUS DIALOGUE?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, Frank Bruni, who writes for The New York Times recently opined that, “We are in a dangerous place when it comes to how we view, treat and talk about people we disagree with. Madonna fantasizes about blowing up the White House, Kathy Griffin displays a likeness of Donald Trump’s severed head and so-called protests at Berkley, Evergreen State and Mulberry College erupt into violence and property destruction.” What’s interesting about these comments is Frank Bruni is a self-described gay liberal.

Harry, we see over and over again, civility and decorum are disappearing.

PUBLIC SQUARES STILL NEED TRUTH AND DECORUM

DR. REEDER: In its place: profanity and vulgarity-laced declarations and shouts, invectives and the loss of any civil discourse in the public square. Tom, as I mentioned in a previous program, I was invited to a forum concerning an ordinance that is being considered in a rather small southern town. One of the key aspects of the town is a university that’s there and I was told, of course, that the students were going to come and, likely, be protests and that there were plans to shout down the forum speakers.

I, literally, received a number of emails asking me to, “Consider whether you ought to come or not.” “Well, I’m going to come and I’m going to talk and I’m going to try to approach this in an appropriate way that honors the decorum that a nation that honors free speech ought to embrace.”

And so, I came and, let me say that, yes, there were a few hecklers but, by and large, it was well-done and the students were well-behaved but the fact that the shadow loomed over it… Trying to think back to my college days, whenever we would have discussions about matters of morality, ethics, and religion, there was, basically, the rules of decorum and public discourse in terms of how things are handled.

WHY THE EXTREME ZEALOTRY AND PROFANITY?

The shouting down, the yelling, the profanity, the marginalization – now, why is that there? Well, No. 1, you need to understand that there is a religious zealotry to the secular humanist position and the ruling out of any claims of divinity over life.

It comes back to, “We will not have God to rule over us and every man wants to do what’s right in his own eyes.” This becomes a zealous movement in which you want no competition – you want to rid the public square of any claims of divine majesty, divine sovereignty, divine authority over our lives – and that is a passionate commitment to remove that.

Therefore, anyone who comes as an ambassador of Jesus Christ or who comes with just general claims of religion is automatically dismissed. The fact that people are “incurably religious” is seen as a defect to eradicate in the world instead of a freedom to protect and, therefore, you want to clean out any references to religion in society.

And then this life that is lived out from under the claims of God, secular humanism – man is the measure of all things – that becomes something that is a passionate commitment and its success is the eradication of any competition of communication in terms of how we ought to be living and any notion that there is a “how we ought to live.” There is no “how we ought to live” – the only thing that ought to rule is, “I can do what I want to in life.”

Now, that’s nonsensical, it’s chaotic, it’s destructive but that position is so insensible and so irrational of secular humanism that it not only wants to eradicate any competitive ideas, it cannot stand the competition of ideas.

My father, early on, taught me something: The evidence of profanity is either the result of a weak mind or a weak argument. I would say that there may be an exception to that, but that is a generally factual observation. A weak mind – “I don’t have the ability to talk with you and so I’m going to verbally assault you” – or the argument is so weak – “I have no ability to win the argument so I want to remove the person that I’m talking with.”

ARE TRADITIONAL DEBATES DEAD ON CAMPUS?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  To that end, Harry, Steve Salerno of The Wall Street Journal tells of a formal academic debate final at Towsend University back in 2014 in which students ignored the resolution on foreign policy to instead give a profanity-laden rant about racism in American society and they won the debate.

DR. REEDER: And, amazingly, that was given the first place prize. Tom, once again, let me just make the point: Either the person is incapable of the meaningful conversation, therefore, you resort to profanity and vulgarity and volume to shout people down, to marginalize them, to set them aside, to embarrass them and that’s the only way that you can win it.

That is also rooted in what we call the ad hominem attack – that is, you can’t deal with the concepts that are being talked about and you can’t deal with the arguments, so you attack the person. And, if you attack the person, you think you’ve won the day when, in reality, you haven’t won anything – you’ve just attacked someone verbally, but we have already noticed that verbal attacks eventually lead to the physical attacks upon people because they cannot enter into the discourse.

HOW TO DEBATE

On the other hand, communities and nations are blessed when there is decorum in the conversation. What keeps a boxing match from becoming a brawl? Well, it’s called “Lord Queensbury’s Rules.” Well, we ought to have rules for conversation as well.

Here’s what the Bible says to us: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from out of your mouth, but only such a word that is good for edification according to the need of the moment.” It certainly can be a word with passion. It certainly can be a word of contradiction to what the other person is saying in a discussion, but it’s ultimately for edification, coming to a conclusion, dealing with the ideas and attempting to expose ideas to the sunshine of a conversation with decorum and clarity.

We need to remember the people we talk to are made in the image of God and, therefore, ought to be treated with dignity and respect – that’s the way we ought to do it – so we need to become models of that. As our society descends into this loss of public discourse, we need to become both the models of public discourse, where our language and our communication – our volume, our tone – and everything that we say, right words in the right way at the right time for the right reason – that we need to become models of this.

“Well-chosen words are like apples of gold and settings of silver,” so we need to be those whose language is attractive, does communicate, “Yes, it’s not wrong to win the idea, but you want to win the idea in a way that you win people, even the person with whom you disagree.” I believe that such an approach to conversation in the public square over a period of time actually becomes winsome.

THERE CAN BE CIVILITY AND COMMUNITY-BUILDING

The forum that I was in this last week in which the warnings came, and because of the way the moderator handled it and the, by and large, because everybody – both pro and con on the ordinance that was being discussed and debated in the forum – as all of that was taking place, when people left, I have received many, many emails and comments – I love to hear this word – “It was a constructive time and we want to thank those who participated. Not simply the four speakers on the forum – we want to thank those who participated in the audience and in the after program of Q&A and discussions that went on as well.”

And people went away, some with the debate having changed their perspectives or added to it, but it was so good that people went away with a sense of accomplishment. We had a forum with decorum – that is the way we ought to live our lives day by day in conversation after conversation.

Tom, what a glorious privilege it is to win souls, not only with the words, but the way the words are spoken. And I do pray that God would allow that kind of discourse to be returned to our society.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

9 hours ago

UA System chancellor featured at White House Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools

University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John IV continues to be one of America’s foremost leaders on safely and responsibly getting the nation’s students back in classrooms this upcoming academic year.

As reported previously by Yellowhammer News, St. John is part of an exclusive national group of education leaders who have consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, leader of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, and other key administration officials on an all-of-America approach to respond to COVID-19 and drive a phased national economic revival.

St. John’s status was elevated even further this week, as he was chosen to represent all of the nation’s public four-year university systems and flagships at the administration’s Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools.

Held at the White House on Tuesday, the summit focused on “reopening America’s schools in safe ways that respect the holistic health and learning needs of America’s students,” an email from the administration said.

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The summit was live-streamed, featuring expert insight and best practices from state, health and education officials from across the country.

Trump administration officials such as White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Education Secretary DeVos participated in the summit, which included panel discussions on “the ABCs of reopening schools safely and implementing safe school reopenings.”

The summit concluded with a roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, VP Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and top stakeholders from K-12 and higher education institutions, including St. John.

The UA System is comprised of the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), UAB Health System and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

St. John delivered a statement approximately three minutes in length during the roundtable.

He highlighted the four pillars of the UA System’s return-to-campus plan: testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment. St. John also thanked the president and the administration for their support of federal COVID-19 relief programs made available to higher education and health care institutions nationwide.

“Our students are yearning to come back to campus,” St. John noted. “[The pandemic] has reaffirmed the value of on-campus instruction at our institutions of higher learning.”

The chancellor explained that expert medical input and research went into the system’s return plan, emphasizing that the board of trustees has already committed to in-person instruction being available at all three campuses to begin the fall semester. The goal of this plan, as the system previously announced, is for its three campuses to be the safest universities in America when on-campus instruction resumes.

On Tuesday, St. John advised that “keeping” campuses open after reopening them will be “the hardest part.”

“I want to thank you and the vice president for the assistance that we’ve received through these federal programs,” he told Trump. “Without those, it would have been difficult for our medical center to continue [and] for our campuses to make it through these difficult times.”

The chancellor further noted these federal programs afforded them the ability to test every single student for COVID-19 before they return to campus.

“We promise to do our best to provide this essential service to our students and our citizens, and we greatly appreciate the assistance you’ve given us,” St. John concluded.

Trump then responded to the chancellor.

“Thank you very much,” the president said. “It’s a great place, a great state. And you’re right about one thing [especially], there’s nothing like a campus.”

Trump continued to extol the benefits of utilizing traditional in-person instruction versus solely remote instruction.

“That’s great, great statement actually,” Trump concluded to St. John.

Watch:

At a different point during the roundtable, the topic of college football also came up. Trump again turned to St. John for his input.

The president asked if the Crimson Tide will be playing football this year.

“Mr. President, that’s not the first time we’ve heard that question, I can promise you,” St. John quipped, drawing a round of laughter from the room.

“We are planning to play the season at the University of Alabama,” he added, with the president interjecting, “Good.”

St. John then continued to acknowledge “great difficulties and complexities” involved with playing the season.

“[W]e are hoping for [the season to be played],” he said. “It’s important to a lot of people, but we’re doing our best on that one, too.”

Trump responded, “Say hello to the coach, great coach.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: Our common defense

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee, which I’m proud to be a member of, passed and sent to the full House the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. This is the 60th year in a row that we have passed this act out of Committee, and since we passed it unanimously, we are optimistic it will pass the full House later this month. This year’s version is named after a longtime member of the Committee and former Chairman, Mac Thornberry of Texas. Mac led the charge to increase defense funding when President Trump took over. He is also a personal friend of mine and a true friend to the people of Southwest Alabama.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “provide for the common defense … of the United States,” “declare war,” “raise and support armies,” and “provide and maintain a Navy.” It’s our most important power, and the hard work of exercising that power is carried out by our Committee. We pass only one bill each year, but in my judgment, it, along with the bills appropriating money for operating the government, comprise the biggest legislative job of Congress each year.

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The NDAA authorizes the defense of the country and the operations of the Department of Defense and the respective service branches. It’s one of the few bills that enjoys broad bipartisan support year after year because our Committee’s members are committed to bipartisan support for the men and women who wear the uniform and defend the nation. We hold numerous hearings, classified and unclassified, before the bill is written. Our subcommittees do the same for their respective parts of the bill. And we really legislate, that is we work through differences and address the nitty gritty details with the seriousness they deserve. The bill is hundreds of pages long and takes an enormous amount of work.

This is my seventh and last year to participate in the process and I am proud of the work the Committee has done even though there are some parts I personally would have done differently. For example, I don’t agree with the topline spending we authorized because I think we have shortchanged some important defense endeavors like shipbuilding. But, I understand that the number was negotiated last year by President Trump and Congressional leadership as part of a two-year spending plan. Our Committee had no choice but to honor that agreement, but I know it’s too low.

We also had a protracted debate on military bases named after former Confederate generals. We Republicans backed an amendment to require the service secretaries responsible for those bases to review the use of those names going forward but did not want to dictate to them what their decision should be. The Democrats on the Committee wanted to require them to change the names but didn’t dictate what the new names would be. I couldn’t support the Democrats on this point because I don’t like usurping the service secretaries’ authority on operational details and I also wanted stronger input from the local communities where the bases are located. As they form the majority on the Committee, the Democrats’ version prevailed.

We also had a long discussion regarding the Insurrection Act. Passed in 1807, and amended twice, in 1861 and 1871, the Insurrection Act empowers a president to use active and national guard personnel under very exceptional circumstances, such as an armed uprising. It was last used in 1992 to quell riots in Los Angeles. President Trump talked about using the Insurrection Act when the protests around the country turned violent in late May and June, and that set off the national news media and the Democrats who wanted to limit his authority to do so. As it turned out, President Trump did not invoke the law at all, but that didn’t stop the Democrats from offering an amendment that would have substantially limited a president’s authority. I took the lead for the Republicans on the Committee as we didn’t want to limit that authority any more than it is already limited by the Posse Comitatus Act. Fortunately, we won the debate, and the amendment to limit a president’s authority was defeated.

Most importantly for our area, the Committee added an Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship at my request and with the blessing of the Navy. The EPF is an aluminum-hulled catamaran capable of transporting 600 short tons of cargo 1200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in Sea State 3. It has a roll on/roll off capability for things like the Abrams Main Battle Tank, and a helicopter flight deck. Its shallow draft dramatically expands the ports and waterways it can operate in. It’s made at Austal USA in Mobile, and I’m very proud of the work the great shipbuilders there do. I predict you will be hearing more about varied uses for the EPF in the future.

The American people deserve the peace of mind a strong national defense brings. The men and women who wear our uniform and provide that defense deserve the Congressional authority to carry out their important jobs. I have not hesitated to be critical of Congress when we have all too often failed to do our job in the past year and a half. But, this time we did our job and passed a bill out of Committee which, while not perfect, fulfills Congress’s responsibility to provide for the common defense of our country.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

10 hours ago

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian undergoes successful heart surgery

Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian underwent a “successful” heart procedure in recent days, according to a statement released by the University of Alabama Athletics Department on Tuesday afternoon.

The statement outlined that Bama’s football coaching staff participates in an annual executive physical.

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“During Coach Sarkisian’s physical last week, it was determined that he needed a procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular anomaly before it became an issue,” the statement explained. “Coach Sarkisian underwent a successful procedure this past Thursday (July 2) in Birmingham. He is back home in Tuscaloosa and is expected to make a full recovery.”

Sarkisian, 46, was hired as the Tide’s offensive coordinator in January 2019, following a stint with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Before that, his coaching experience included serving as an offensive analyst for Alabama during the 2016 season, culminating in Sarkisian being interim offensive coordinator in the National Championship game against Clemson. He was previously the head coach at the University of Washington and the University of Southern California (USC).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Battle officially qualifies for reelection as Huntsville mayor

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle officially filed for reelection on Tuesday, just five minutes after qualifying opened.

First elected in 2008, Battle is seeking his fourth term as mayor of Alabama’s fastest-growing big city.

The Huntsville mayoral election will be held on August 25.

Candidates do not run as a member of any political party; though Battle is known across the state as a Republican after seeking that party’s nomination during the 2018 gubernatorial election.

In an email to supporters, Battle said that in the last 12 years, “Huntsville has grown into the shining star of Alabama. Our teamwork with Huntsville’s city council and our partners across Madison County and North Alabama has resulted in nearly 30,000 jobs, more efficient infrastructure, excellent quality of life amenities, and fiscal responsibility.”

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Battle was joined for the signing of the official papers by his wife, Eula, a former teacher who runs a lauded charity called Free2Teach that gives classroom supplies to public school teachers so they do not have to pay out of their own pocket.

“We are living in unprecedented times. There is no playbook for the current crisis. But because of solid leadership, we will move forward together,” Battle said with regards to his case for reelection.

“I am running for reelection because proven leadership is important in times like these,” he added.

The mayor is expected by most observers to receive only token opposition; he won his two most recent municipal campaigns with 80% of the vote.

According to census estimates, Huntsville’s population grew from around 180,000 in 2010 to around 200,000 in 2020. The Rocket City became the state’s second-largest in that time period and is expected to pass Birmingham before the year 2025.

The mayor often says he is very proud of his city’s growth, but is quick to also point out the infrastructure improvements he has championed to keep the city’s average commute time under 20 minutes.

Battle counts among his successes the recruitment of tens of thousands of jobs to the area, including the massive Mazda-Toyota manufacturing plant currently under construction in the westernmost portion of the city.

“It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and there is still much to be done,” Battle continued in his remarks on Tuesday.

“Let’s continue to improve Huntsville. I’m ready to keep working for you,” he concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

11 hours ago

Either put the mask on for America, or donate to my GoFundMe and we’ll test the constitutionality of these mandatory mask rules

I oppose mandatory mask orders and ordinances, but there is no question that we are going to see more of them.

They can’t be enforced in any real way, but they will lead to more people masking up.

They will work.

Are they illegal? No. Bear with me here.

People will gripe, but most will begrudgingly mask up.

People should begrudgingly mask up on their own, whether it be for our nation’s health, for the economy to recover, for President Donald Trump’s reelection, so we don’t get U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and so the next Supreme Court justice is more like Brett Kavanaugh and less like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Those are the stakes.

The latest order in Alabama comes from the health department of Madison County.

But they can’t do that! They did. If you don’t like it, keep reading.

This will not be the last order in the state. Governor Kay Ivey will probably get in on the action at some point, and many will be infuriated by it.

Much of the response to almost any order by the government in this regard is being met with two responses: “Yay! Government!” or, “How dare they? This is a violation of my rights.”

Both responses are wrong.

It is odd to ask the government to implement these rules that will be almost impossible to enforce. The enforcement tasks retail employees with being forced to ask customers to mask up or leave.

And, imagine if the government did send in the police to enforce these rules. These same people think cops are killing African-Americans for sport.

So, what are these cops to do when someone refuses and becomes belligerent? Arrest them? Use force?

One of the hot takes right now is that people shouldn’t call the cops on black people at all because it could be a death sentence.

Should the stores call the police on people who refuse? Because 80-year-old Mabel greeting customers at Walmart isn’t going to stop a rampaging herd of women who won’t mask up.

We will not see that.

The correct answer is the same answer we have had for months. More people should mask up on their own, and those who oppose it should stop and think about what they are doing by running their mouths online.

The more you go off about how your freedoms are under assault, the more restrictions we are seeing. It seems counter-productive.

If you want a more normal society, put on a stupid mask.

Even Donald Trump agrees.

But if you really believe this is an affront to your very freedoms, do something about it.

I will even provide you the venue to do so.

Let’s fight one of these ordinances and get it knocked down.

Donate to my GoFundMe campaign that will help me fund a lawsuit against the tyrannical government of Madison County. I will hire lawyers to fight this battle in court and if we win, the orders shall crumble before our feet as we ride to freedom mask-less.

The Madison County Health Department has taken a step many people have informed me is unconstitutional, they are mandating that citizens wear masks in public.

If this is so unacceptable, let’s put our money where our mouth is and hire a legal team to take down this tyrannical local government.

Donate now and I will hire attorneys and fight this fight for you.

Or, you can comment on social media and tell everyone how in 1930 they found masks don’t stop the flu or how the government said masks were not needed in February.

This stuff is foolish and gets us nowhere. Recent studies show that face coverings do not stop anything 100%, but it is better than nothing.

I have already explained that your social media griping has not worked, so try something else.

https://business.facebook.com/TheDaleJackson/posts/10157590173486270

But understand this: there will be no “herd immunity,” there will be no “let it burn through the population,” and we will not “just learn to live with it.”

If you push those narratives, you have lost embarrassingly.

The battle is over. Your “no mask” position is a fringe position.

Keep this up and it will impact the 2020 presidential election.

The worst this coronavirus pandemic is, the less-likely Trump wins the election.

He knows it, they know it.

You can incorrectly believe the data is fake. You can share obvious fake stories about your neighbor’s friend’s cousin’s gardener who waited in line for a test but never got one and how they got positive results if you need to (yes, I read this all over the internet last week and heard this on my radio show today).

Or you can help us take whatever precautions we can that will help us get back to normal, get the economy going again and work to “Keep America Great.”

You cannot do both.

The only path to normal at this point is that we stop the numbers from going up. We need to do what we can to make that happen.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.