Not Up For Debate- The Arguments I Won’t Get Into.

I spend hours engaged in online discussion, but there are certain topics I avoid. Here’s why.

There are few things in this world I enjoy more than rigorous discussion of the many topics that interest me. As an Aspie, I’m fascinated by a range of topics; anything from true crime to politics, from history to science and when something catches my attention I’ll often spend many hours lost in research and boring my family to death with lengthy monologues. Like many others on the autism spectrum, I struggle socially but I come alive on the Internet. I’m the member of a ton of Facebook groups and have met amazing people from all around the globe with whom I spend many happy hours setting the world to rights.

That being said, I think it’s fair to note that the Internet and rational debate do not always go hand in hand. Even a conversation about the most innocuous of subjects can quickly descend into scathing personal attacks and the discussion of weightier matters frequently descends into outright abuse. If, in a moment of tedium (which many of us are experiencing regularly in the present circumstances) one ventures into the comment section of any news article posted on social media, you’re likely to find numerous misspelled rants peppered with four letter words that demonstrate the commenter’s tenuous grasp on reality. Unedifying of course, but entertaining nonetheless.

I like to think of myself as a good debater. I can articulate my thoughts and feelings with skill, and I can always support any argument I make with credible sources. However, there are certain topics I simply will not entertain. I have strong feelings regarding these topics, and my views have solidified over the years. I’ve heard the arguments of my opponents many, many times and frankly have no desire to hear them again. Below, I shall outline my views on two of those topics, and some of my frustrations with the other side.

ABORTION
I am vehemently pro-choice. Without bodily autonomy, people assigned female at birth (AFAB) cannot be considered free. Reproductive rights are human rights, end of. But not according to the ‘pro-life’ brigade, who I simply refer to as ‘forced birthers.’ This is because, despite their protests to the contrary, these people do not really care about life. They care about controlling women’s bodies and wish to punish those whose sexual behaviour they disapprove of by forcing them to carry and give birth to unwanted babies. Such people will wave placards smeared with fake blood outside abortion clinics and scream ‘murderer’ in the face of innocent women who are simply exercising their right to access healthcare. They have welcomed Jake Eakin into their folds with open arms; a man who at the age of twelve brutally murdered a disabled thirteen year old named Craig Sorger. Here lies the hypocrisy of forced-birthers, some of whom call for women who have abortions to be executed. They are often virulently rightwing, opposing things such as the welfare state, universal healthcare and a living wage. Obviously without such support systems, the children they so desperately want to be born are frequently condemned to live in poverty but apparently that is of no concern to them. To conclude; fuck misogynistic, hypocritical, logically-impaired forced birthers.

THE CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN
There are absolutely no excuses for hitting children. It is morally repugnant to strike a person who is much smaller and weaker than you, and is reliant on you for their every need. There is a wealth of research on the effects corporal punishment has on children, and the scientific consensus is that such punishment is both psychologically damaging and ultimately ineffective. That should be enough for any parent to commit to raising their child without violence. Please note I’m a parent myself, I have a wonderful four year old son. He’s boisterous and cheeky, as all children are, and naturally he’s a handful at times. I’ve never raised a hand to him, in fact the mere idea of doing so horrifies me. There is nothing that distresses me more than seeing my little boy experience pain or fear, and the thought of causing him to feel either of those things myself is completely alien to me. Yet even now, in 2020, parents hit their children. They insist that without violence, children grow into wild, ungovernable reprobates and that they themselves were hit as children with no ill effects. Personally I’d argue being ideologically welded to striking vulnerable humans is hardly indicative of a healthy psyche, but that’s just me. However, I firmly believe they must recognise, at least at some level, that they’re wrong simply because of their reaction to the word ‘hit.’ Ask them why they believe hitting children is acceptable, and they will respond with utter outrage. They will tell you that they do not hit their children, they simply ‘smack,’ ‘spank’ or ‘pop’ them and that these actions are completely different to ‘hitting.’ They are deluding themselves, their child’s brain registers the same hurt and fear regardless of what word is used, and quibbling over semantics is a mere sop to the parent’s conscious. We use euphemisms for a reason, and if you find it necessary to employ one in order to justify your treatment of your child you’re doing something wrong.

There are other subjects I avoid, but I decided I’d rather cover two in depth than write a few lines about several. As an aside, I don’t believe that you should shy away from debate with people who hold different views. The civilised exchange of ideas and opinions is natural and healthy; indeed it is how we progress as a society. Yet there are only so many times I can both hear and repeat the same arguments around certain topics without losing my mind and when I reach that point I struggle to remain civil. I don’t have to be part of every conversation and I can think of more pleasant diversions than pointless arguing with strangers when neither side is likely to change their mind. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but we’re not always oblige to exchange them.

CORONAVIRUS AND POLITICS-A CALL FOR KINDNESS

In the face of an unprecedented crisis, it’s easy for the Left to say ‘we told you so.’ But compassion must come first.

Recently, as I sat chatting with my mum over coffee, the conversation inevitably turned to the current COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, we discussed the response of our government to the crisis. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, we are an ardent anti-Tory family. As a student in the 1980s, my mum protested against the Conservative government of the day. My grandma would only tolerate profanity in her house when Margaret Thatcher appeared on the TV. One of my clearest childhood memories is of my father coming into my bedroom the morning following Tony Blair’s 1997 election victory and gleefully informing my bemused 6 year old self that ‘we’ve smashed the Tories into the ground!’ During my own time as a student, I voted for the first time in the 2010 election; like many of my peers I was (naively) seduced by Nick Clegg’s promises of free tuition and a brave new liberal Britain. It was a brutal lesson in the duplicitous nature of politicians and I can still remember, nearly a decade on, the sinking feelings of fury and betrayal as I watched Clegg shake the hand of David Cameron the day the formation of the coalition was announced. As an autistic single mother reliant on benefits, I have suffered personally as a result of that same government callously slashing the public sector, and have shed tears for the millions of my compatriots who have faced far greater hardships than I. And I will always despise the selfish hubris of Cameron, a man who tore the country apart attempting to consolidate his power by appeasing the radical Eurosceptics in his party with the 2016 EU refurendum. In case it wasn’t entirely clear, I’d rather shag a cactus than vote Tory.

Yet, as I sat with my mum watching my beloved 4 year old son play on the floor, we could not bring ourselves to partake in the cheering pastime of bashing the government. We agreed that it is hard to imagine how Boris Johnson could have handled the situation much better. I have no doubt that the response to coronavirus is imperfect, but given the unprecedented suddeness and seriousness of the crisis, I do not believe anyone else would have done much better. We also both expressed our belief that now is not the time to become embroiled in politics. As families struggle to survive and many are mourning their loved ones, the thought of using this titanic tragedy for political capital feels distasteful to the point of obscenity.

And make no mistake, it would be easy to score points, and a few of my fellow lefties are doing just that. Don’t get me wrong, the arguments are perfectly valid. The economy is being kept afloat by massive government spending, and many of us have said for the past 10 years that yo cannot cut your way to economic growth. We have argued that the economy is best served by investment. It also proves that despite protests to the contrary, the Exchequer can fund public services, house the homeless and provide the unemployed with sufficient resources to live above the poverty line. Many members of the middle class have, for the first time, been exposed to the harsh realities of attempting to navigate a punitive and cruel benefits system and the crippling anxiety of desperately trying to feed their children when food is scarce. The NHS is under enormous strain, made far worse by ten years of spending cuts. Ironically, after a decade of politics edging ever further towards the right, it is the rapid implementation of socialist policies that is preventing the UK from collapsing.

All of this is true, and when we emerge from this bizarre, apocalyptic world into calmer times, the people will remember it. I firmly believe there will be clamour for change and a fairer, kinder society in which the vulnerable are protected and public services receive the respect and funding they so richly deserve. But this is not the conversation we can, or should, be attempting to start now. Now is the time for asking each other ‘what can I do for you?’ and ‘how can I help?’ We rarely convert people to our way of thinking by telling them ‘I told you so’ and the anxious and grieving deserve compassion and kindness. The time for reckoning will come, but that time is not now. Let us be gracious, and value our shared humanity over our political convictions.