Image: Provided to public domain by William Adams via Pixabay.
It’s addicting. It’s stressful. It’s petty. It’s pointless. Or is it?
Born again Christians speak of a phenomenon that occurs when one gets “saved.” It’s like once it happens, you are able to see the entire world through a new lens. Old pals suddenly look like the cinder-blocks used to neutralize the buoyancy of corpses. And the pests who wouldn’t shut up about the gospel of Christ suddenly have wings and halos. Thus, the church I grew up going to used to say that it’s not possible for a Christian to convert a non-believer. All a Christian can do is be a Christian and keep speaking their truth, and when God decides it is time, the non-believer will come to see the truth and the Christians in their life will be lionized.
Even though we like to inoculate ourselves by condemning people from the past who were on the “wrong” side of history, there have been people on the “right” side of history in every major humanitarian blunder for all of time. Never has an atrocity (nor a victory) had unanimous support of the informed population. There were always those who knew better. In fact, it is usually the few who are committing the atrocities while the majority fight over the correctness of the atrocity, and only a few who take action to directly oppose the atrocity.
I left the church, but I stole their conversion tactic. I don’t care if I change your mind about anything. Only you can change your own mind. I just want you to either, A–witness me changing my mind on something about which I was wrong and then growing from it, or B–look back and see that I was on the right side of history all along.
Yes, this is virtue signaling, plain and simple. And it is for totally selfish reasons. It’s a win-win for me, as long as I maintain a level head and don’t stoop to brashness. And it means that I am part of the bickering majority rather than the few who are effecting change. If I really cared about the things which I argue, I would use my time and effort to… bla, bla, bla.
I’m a writer. I’m learning how to be a historian. Arguing is what I do, and I think more people should do it, albeit in a more methodic, informed way than I see online. We have the internet, a fantastic, singular place to conduct research and discourse. It’s the ultimate tool for the rhetorician. And yet the way I see people wielding this tool, even in my limited experience of research and writing, makes it look like a jackhammer in the hand of a toddler.
I still think people should keep trying. I do believe that when confronted often enough with someone who has done the research and has done the hard thinking, eventually they will have to stop and check the nooks of their own rhetoric for weaknesses. And it’s that little piece of progress that I hope can be made thousands of times every day across the world here on the internet.