I mentioned earlier my foray into the lion's den by arguing about gun control on Rachel Lucas' blog. Even as I speak, other posters on the blog are busy archly agreeing with each other that I am 'dishonest' and comparing notes about exactly what point in the discussion they had first realised I wasn't 'arguing in good faith'. One of the posters even noted Ms Lucas' patience for allowing the discussion to go on - the implication being that my 'behaviour' was so beyond the pale that she had been extremely generous in even permitting me to have my voice heard. Since I was, in fact, being very honest and arguing from deeply-held principles throughout this is obviously rather hard to swallow, but this time I'm going to resist the temptation to respond because I've finally realised what a monumental waste of time it is. There just seems to be something in the mindset of many right-wing Americans that refuses to acknowledge legitimate philosophical or ideological disagreement - as you can see from the relative tolerance shown at the start of the discussion, you're fine as long as you're a good boy or girl and argue within certain acceptable bounds (bounds which of course they and they alone are permitted to define), but once you step over a certain mark what you say just 'does not compute' and you are automatically transferred to the 'liar'/'bad faith'/'troll' zone. At one stage I tried to introduce an alternative concept of personal liberty (one, which as it happens, I genuinely and passionately believe in) that doesn't define itself so narrowly as being entirely dependent on the capacity to defend yourself with a gun - that, it was immediately pointed out to me, was a "bridge too far".
Anyway, winding down from what I now realise was an utterly pointless discussion, a couple of reflections -
1) The sometimes bemused, sometimes angry 'does not compute' reaction I stirred up was so intense that I began to realise that the posters on that blog simply have very little exposure to the type of arguments I was - for the most part in a fairly restrained manner - putting forward, even though millions of people in their own country (let alone beyond their shores) would broadly agree with me. And, when I think about it, that actually makes perfect sense. If you look at the average American political blog, it's either conservatives talking to other conservatives or liberals talking to other liberals, and never the twain shall meet. It's little wonder the cultural divide in the US is so sharp - left-wingers and right-wingers in this country may disagree and may sometimes even take a dislike to each other but at least they can bear to engage in some kind of dialogue (or should that be perpetual slanging match?).
2) What is it about arguing with right-wing Americans that temporarily transforms me into George Foulkes? No-one who's read this blog can doubt my nationalist credentials, but over the last few days I veritably started waving the Union Jack at them! At one point I even referred to the UK as "my country". AM2 would be proud of me...