Years ago, I was informed and educated about ad hominem attacks in class during my college seminary days. In such an attack, the person himself or herself would be ridiculed or demoralized, instead of focusing on the person’s position or argument. The issue would get pushed aside in favor of trashing the person.
Let me tell you I love a good debate. I can also become extremely passionate about my point of view. However, what is happening too often today is a shutting out of opinions (and even sometimes hiding or distorting facts) with which a person or group of people may disagree. It happens on social media frequently. Sometimes a person may be defriended or doxed as a result of a controversial or politically unpopular point of view. A “cancel culture” has resurfaced in our society where, according to the New York Post we find “the phenomenon of promoting the ‘canceling’ of people, brands and even shows and movies due to what some consider to be offensive or problematic remarks or ideologies.”
Unfortunately, people can sometimes be unwilling to listen to each other and to hear each other’s opinions or thoughts. In general, people deserve a hearing. Everyone needs some time and attention at some point. In doing so, however, we should be respectful of appropriate times, places and topics of conversation. Sadly, I have found some people also may have hidden agendas, ulterior motives or even sinister intentions.
While I may disagree with another person or persons, I do believe people generally have a right to be heard. Wanting people to be completely silenced, censored or cancelled is as dangerous as letting free speech go unchecked, go unchallenged or to morph into violence and looting. In the entire process, there needs to be some checks and balances. We need both mutual respect and law and order in a civilized society.
Obviously, God gave us two qualities that have us resemble Him: intelligence and free will. We can think and reflect or we can rush to judgment. We can react and confront immediately or we can walk away. We can choose to listen or can turn someone off. How we act or react will always be our choice. No matter the choice, it needs to be done civilly and respectfully.
With the election season upon us once again, sadly I suspect that there will be more polarization within our society. Ad hominem attacks will come out. Some people will shout others down. Protests of some sort will inevitably occur. Some may stir up civil unrest. I cannot wait! . . . Not!
May I suggest that we all take a good look at traditional Church teaching, party platforms, a candidate’s past performance (usually a good indicator of future possibilities) and remain civil towards one another.
Here is something else to consider:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Mt. 5: 43-45)
Fr. Ed Namiotka