Let me begin this by posing a question. What two subjects should you avoid discussing in polite company? The answer? Politics and Religion.
In general, I hate hate HATE discussing the two of them. Why? Because it overlaps strongly with personal beliefs and cultural values and people get STRONGLY emotionally invested in their discussions. Why wouldn't they? They are essentially expressing who they are and subjecting their own personal beliefs to the judgment of others who may or may not express their same values. It takes NOTHING for one person to send (or get) the wrong message and then it degenerates into a mudslinging festival with articles flying galore. And don't make the mistake of playing devil's advocate, otherwise you magically find that others have married you to the argument... or made personal judgments about you because you don't agree with them or share their perspective.
When we are looking at a topic such as Israel and Palestine where politics and religion are deeply intertwined to where you can't separate it, then there are people who are going to feel strongly. VERY strongly. And you know what? That's okay... but you have to keep your cool and you have to make your points WITHOUT slamming the character or perspective of the other person. In a sense... you HAVE to stay polite about it. If you don't agree, then put simply, just agree to disagree and be done with it. Don't assign ulterior motives. Don't make assumptions about other people. Chances are that you don't know that other person nearly as well as you think. And for heaven's sake, don't allow this to travel into other forums or even other topics. The number one rule of hanging out in the Vox Populi board should be that IT SHOULD STAY THERE.
I won't mince words. I requested the General discussion forum. I did not want to touch this forum with a ten foot pole. I don't want to read through the topics and I don't want to read through the articles and place my mind inside the minds of different people. It's not that I can't do it. It's that I generally don't wish to do it. And then people just generally skirt the line of a flame. It's not just one person but a number of people. I DON'T want this thread to become a mudslinging fest or a case of "He said, she said." I'm not looking at yet another discussion of the Middle east or international politics. I'm looking at what we - and I am talking about EVERYBODY - can do to make this a somewhat more civil place to hang out. A few thoughts first...
1.) We are not all the same... and that is a good thing.
There are those of us with differing or even opposing religious beliefs, cultural values, political leanings, personal experiences, etc. that we bring to the table. If we all believed the same way and made similar interpretations, then what NEED would there be to debate anything? Why would we have to "test" our notions, if everyone else believes the same way? And at the same time that allows us to be exposed to information that either supports (or negates) our opinions to help "fill in" our beliefs.
We shouldn't ALL be Black, Democrat, Protestant, middle-class males, all who grew up the same way. And at the same time, we should be sure that while we uphold our own beliefs, we should not alienate those who believe differently or come from different backgrounds.
2.) You aren't going to change anyone else's opinion or change who they are.
Kami and Mike are Republicans, for instance. They have their own reasons for voting and believing the way they do. It is NOT your (or my) right to make personal assumptions against them because they prefer red over blue. We should accept their reasons as THEIR reasons and leave it as that. It is not anyone's charge to convert another to your personal belief or them to ours.
Did Jesus walk into a village with a gaggle of armed disciples, shooting beams from his eyes, and say "All right you all, bow down and worship me or Daddy's going to ship all your asses to the basement for some tough tanning"? (No offense meant to those who don't believe that way. I'm just using this as an example.) If he had, do you think people would have accepted his argument for the right reason? The delivery of the argument is more important than the argument itself.
3.) Attack the argument, not the person. Don't overgeneralize.
The two are not the same. What if someone is playing devil's advocate? What if someone just completely disagrees with you on that one subject area. Keep it all in context. The debate is won by logic, not the person who hits the hardest and lowest. This is a debate forum, not a "Yo' momma" contest.
What does it mean when someone sympathizes/agrees with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Simple. It means that person thinks Israel's force is justified in that conflict. It does not mean he/she is anti-Arab, pro-U.S., anti-Muslim, practices voodoo, or anything else. It does not mean he/she approved of the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. You cannot make an assumption that a person who believes one way about a specific subject will in turn believe this way about another subject altogether. That's like saying that because I'm a Black male, I believe all police are racist pigs out to lynch me. There is a tendency to generalize opinions, but you cannot extend that to people.
4.) He's DEAD, Jim.
If the debate is not going anywhere, then for heaven's sake STOP. You need to look at what the PURPOSE of the argument is. If you aren't bringing new facts to light or responding (civilly) to arguments expressed by others, then what the hell are you doing? You're just trying to see whose is bigger. When it gets to this point, HANG IT UP. Walk away from it and DON'T GO BACK. Simple as that. No person can argue with himself.
And when the argument is pronounced dead, KEEP IT DEAD. Don't pick up a dead argument about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a thread about Pam Grier. If the horse is beaten to death, then all that's going to happen next is that you are going to have smelly blood and dead flesh all over your shoes. LET IT GO.
5.) The moment you insult your audience, you lose ALL credibility.
For real. Why the hell would I want to listen to you when you've called me a moron? You have already established that you have no respect for me or my opinion. So, why should I take anything you say seriously?
Now, I'd like to open up this particular thread for discussion. What are some things that we members as a whole can do while participating to keep a positive atmosphere here?
NO venting about other people. NO insulting. NO hijacking the thread, unless it's by Sam Wilson with pictures of a beautiful scantily-clad women and even THEN, every picture must be accompanied by something relative to the topic at hand. What are some things that WE AS A WHOLE can keep in mind while participating in discussion here?