Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Praise of Debate: I Miss Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is dead and I am sad.

I never took debate in high school. I regret it. I would have been a go-getter debater. I might have actually bothered showing up to school if I had an activity to participate in as interesting as debate. Instead at school I stewed and at home I argued with my dad. Got myself kicked out of the house when I was eighteen. I wonder where I would be today if I had taken the opportunity to hone my skills for good by joining a debate team rather than for bad by yelling at my dad.

I love to argue but I hate to fight. My problem is I want everyone to like me. I've wisened up a bit as my life has evolved. At forty-one I know it's impossible to please all people. So I've decided to still try to get everyone to like me but not by pleasing them. I want them to like me even when they disagree with me.

Wow. Looking at me you wouldn't suspect I'm the type of person who is very hard on herself. My elastic waist Mom pants and my Ugg boots that are really slippers with a hard sole make me look like someone who enjoys comfort and ease. Not like someone who sets herself up for perfect failure when it comes to something as tricky as interpersonal relationships.

I was recently invited to join a secret group on Facebook. I had been invited to another secret group, which I nearly got myself kicked out of for being so argumentative, but it was easy to figure out why I was invited to that group. It's a parenting advice group and anyone within earshot of me has a pretty good idea I like to talk about my kid and what the heck I'm exactly supposed to DO with her. So that makes sense.

This other group, it took me a minute to figure it out. Lots of bickering. Lots of histrionics. Lots of polticial extremism. I see. One of my friends thinks I'm a loudmouth.

I couldn't have felt more pride. Really? Someone thinks I'm a loudmouth? I'd always admired people like Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, Matt Taibbi. Smart, funny people who are more interested in telling the truth than making you feel comfortable. I don't always agree with any of them. Which is true with everyone. I've never known someone I always agree with. But that doesn't mean I don't want to be around them. I've learned so much and strengthened my own opinions by arguing with other passionate loudmouths.

So here's to polemicists like Christopher Hitchens. I'm sad to see him go. We need more good debaters like him. I'm evidently not the only one who thinks so.