Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Presidential Debates: "Feelings" vs Logic

The other evening in Montreal, my friend Russ (an American) and I watched the second of the US Presidential Debates. If there was any doubt about which was the candidate to avoid, this debate made the matter clear for me. I would no more vote for John Kerry than mate with a goat. Here is why.

If there is one thing that the contemporary age has done that deserves our deepest contempt it is this - - to try and accord “respect” to someone else’s “feelings.”

Years ago on the trendy left coast Island my family and I then inhabited, my wife shocked an assembly of mothers by telling one of our small-fry, who had come to her crying about some playground unfairness and complaining about somebody “hurting my feelings”, by saying “I don’t care about your feelings alone ……what happened?”

My wife, being well educated (in Scotland) was taught how to think about such things as “feelings” and they did not count beside such things as “facts.” Unfortunately, in the contemporary argot, “feelings” are, all too often, a stand-in for thought and so we can distance ourselves from substantive propositions by raising the flag of feelings up our personal identity flag posts. My wife and I have refused to be co-opted into this horrific form of unreality speak. It is not so, unfortunately, in the culture - - in our Western cultures as a whole. That is where Kerry comes in.

Twice during the debate, Senator Kerry was asked questions that came from what could be called a “pro-life” perspective (those who fear such language might substitute the meaningless language of “choice” and say such people were “anti-choice” if it makes them feel better). On both occasions Kerry responded with what his “handlers” had well scripted him to do: he said “First, let me say how much I respect the FEELINGS of the questioner…” then he went on to offer some ridiculous non-answer to the point being made.

My concern is not with the non-answer as such (though that is also a bad thing) but with the supposed “respect for feelings.” How can someone respect the “feelings” of a person who believes that an unborn human being should be accorded the sanctity of life and then use law and politics to kill the innocent? What has such a disagreement to do with “feelings” at all? Kerry and those who discuss like this have not got past the playground “wah, wah, wah “ of human disagreements.

To focus on “feelings” and ignore the debate itself is what Kerry and his kind are doing. I’d rather they hurt my feelings on such matters but dealt with the arguments. Nowadays it is the failure to deal with the arguments that poses the greatest threat to the most important subjects of the day (whether it be abortion or the nature of marriage). Is someone who uses the “feelings” arguments to avoid the real arguments a person we should trust with the most powerful political office in the world? If you say you “respect my feelings” then murder my mother, I can call you a liar and a bad man. On this reading Kerry is a bad man.

If you say you “respect my feelings” and then dash the heads of my children against rocks, you have both a strange conception of feelings and children. Kerry is such a person. In all his Frankensteinian (he can’t blame his looks but, my goodness, the man only lacks neck bolts to make him the perfect nightmare) smoothness, Kerry is a chilling representative of the false logic of the day.

None of this, it should be noted, means that I like the alternative either - - I hold no brief for “W” but I must say, that on the questions he did not stoop to “respecting feelings” whilst trashing the logic of argument. It is a tough choice the Americans face but for my money I would never vote for a Feelingstein like Kerry.

Now where is that goat?

Iain T. Benson ©