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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Battle Patriotism - Challenger - First Rebuttal

I wish I could say I wasn't disappointed: there's not much fun in imagining the hot girl-on-girl action of a Lady Blogger Brawl when one of us is tsk-ing like a priggish schoolmarm. But I'm disappointed nonetheless, and I won't stifle that just for you horndog spectators.

I feel that the Iron Blogger Republican's preferred strategy of minimal Opening Argument is a defensive tack: sit back, let the opponent do all the work in generating substantive blog content, and then tear that content down with red-herring rebuttals. Despite being aware of the strategy, I knew I'd be bringing my own A game, and therefore I hoped to receive the same via an OA from the IB with some meat on its bones... that actually, you know, said something about the topic at hand. I just don't subscribe to the common Iron Blog justification that the "blind" style of the Opening Argument makes it too difficult to launch a debate with something solid. Then again, being a Democrat, it's nice to see the Republican playing defense, for a change. ;-)

To be fair, the Iron Blogger does technically say "something" about the topic at hand. Here are the somethings, in a nutshell:

Patriotism = good. Freedom = good. Hitler = bad. Socialists = bad. Mothers of dead soldiers = good. Enemy = bad. Soldiers = good.

But unless she's changing her moniker to Iron Blogger MOTO, those somethings aren't enough, and we've got to actually examine patriotism -- not through Rose-colored glasses but with a critical eye.

For example, my opponent begins her post with flowery talk about liberty and freedom. Those are unquestionably American concepts -- as red, white and blue as the flag over my house today -- but they have nothing to do with patriotism. Liberty and freedom are synonymous; they are states of being. A person is free or he is not. It is a condition, a quality of existence.

Patriotism is an emotion, a value, a belief. It simply cannot be quantified. There is no scientific binary control that determines whether a person is patriotic or not. All the florid prose and Bush-Hitler comparisons in the whole world won't change that.

My opponent would prefer you to forget everything we know about human psychology and cognition, though, and play along with her idea that the question of "Whether or not you love the President, do you agree with our goal?" can be asked -- and that the answer would determine whether or not a person was patriotic.

And it certainly might -- to her mind. But that is still just an individual opinion, which can no more be measurably quantified in society than patriotism... or familial love... or fear of failure... or whether in fact your breakup with Terry Hodges in the 8th grade was anywhere approaching "mutual." Further, since the Iron Blogger wants to use her own opinion-based mores to define "traitor" and "treason", those definitions become fruit of the poisonous tree as well, and must be disregarded.

Now, let's call a spade a bloody shovel, already: there's nothing wrong with opinion. We aren't arguing for a man's life in front of a jury of his peers -- we are blogging, and there would be no blogging without opinion. But other than a couple of dictionary definitions, her own opinion is all Rosemary has here, which would be fine... if this weren't the Iron Blog and she weren't the Iron Blogger. "Because I personally think so" all by itself might be enough over at Free "Now with more noise, and even less signal!" Republic -- but if it flies here, then the integrity of the very venue itself has been undermined.

Are you as confused as I am about my opponent's actual case? I don't see anything close to a prima facie argument. The Iron Blogger compares Rebecca the Socialist Teenager to Sue the Mother of the Dead American Soldier. Which is the patriot?

Is it Rebecca, who opposes Kerry but also the Iraqi occupation? No... IB calls Rebecca "treasonous," so I guess it can't be her.

Is it Sue Niederer, the real-life example offered for Rosemary's assertion that "supporting the Commander In Chief is what patriotism demands in the middle of a major war"? The same Sue, who says in the interview at IB's own link:
"Get your blinders off, open your eyes and come out and realize what Mr. Bush is. I can't even call him President, because as far as I'm concerned, he is the most dishonorable, disrespectful, outrageous, disgusting person you could possibly ask for."

"We're not for the war, we're not for Bush, and we're not for the lies, and we're not for the deception of what our government is throwing at us."

If that's "supporting the Commander-in-Chief", I guess we'd better have Battle Support next, and debate that definition and figure out what the definition of "is" is, because refusing to acknowledge Bush as the president doesn't seem like anything approximating the Iron Blogger's definition of patriotism.

But, wait, hold on -- the author of the Sue Niederer interview at the IB's link closes with:
"Also, though it's clear that I don't agree with Ms. Niederer's position on the war, and my position is obviously removed from the pain of losing a child, I have to give her great credit for one thing: of all of the people that I've listened to or interviewed at one of these protests, she presents the most morally consistent argument."

Hmmm. That helped me a little bit, because it's so close to the exact words of the Iron Blogger's thoughts on Sue Niederer. So, though I still don't know what my opponent's case is, at least I'm pretty sure that she thinks that Sue the Soldier's Mom (who opposes the war and finds President Bush dishonorable and disgusting), is the patriot of the two, and that one can insult the President, disavow his leadership, and decry the war while remaining a patriot as long as one is "morally consistent" about it.

My opponent finishes with something that could be extrapolated to a "position": civil dissent equals patriotism. It's certainly a concept with lots of... qualities. It will be quite interesting to watch whether she is able to add some substantive theory and sourcing to flesh that idea out (I mean, I disagree with that position regardless, but I don't have to do much other than disagree, till the Iron Blogger provides something to actually rebut).

The Iron Blogger Republican set her tone with a true-blue quote from Patrick Henry's most famous speech. If only she'd read the whole oration, she would have seen that on the same day, he also said:
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.

The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I am too, Mr. Henry, but I fear that my opponent is not. I hope she proves me wrong in the days to come.

~ PG
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