Monday, June 29, 2015

Anxiety, Failed Methods, Helpful Methods, and ACT

(this is cross-posted from Renaissance Wife)

Hello there random reader-person,

My name is Melody, though everyone calls me Mel. I'm a wife, a stay-at-home mom (what a misleading term), and a professional assistant. I'm a writer, a geek, a baker, and a lover of pretty shoes and designer lingerie.

I'm also anxious as all hell, practically all the time. And I'm going to do something that pegs my anxiety to an incredible degree, all the way to the red zone.

I'm going to write about anxiety.

My experience with anxiety

I'm not a doctor. I don't have initials behind my name.

... but if you're anything like me, you're sick of dealing with doctors, and counselors, and psychologists and psychiatrists anyway.

What I am is a long-time sufferer of anxiety who spent much of her life undiagnosed and misunderstood. I've tried many methods, watched many methods fail, spent thousands of dollars on therapy, spent hundreds on self-help books, and finally figured out some stuff that actually worked.

The technical list of psychiatric ailments I've been diagnosed with (in order of diagnosis and age):

Depression (15)
Bi-polar Disorder (17)
PMDD (psychiatric symptoms are part of the disorder) (26)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (26)
Social Anxiety Disorder (26)
Panic Disorder (26)
ADHD (30)

Only one of those diagnoses is inaccurate (Bi-polar Disorder). The rest were incomplete without the full list.

I've seen a lot of psychiatrists and counselors and taken a lot of different combinations of medications.

As for when the anxiety started, it took my now-husband watching me go into a panic attack before anyone figured out that's what my "tantrums" were. Watching my then 3-year-old daughter suffer through a panic attack, my mother remarked "oh, we just thought those were tantrums".

In other words anxiety and panic attacks became my companions at a very early age and, evidently, have a genetic component.

Why am I laying this out on the table like this?

I dealt with enough psychiatrists and counselors and well-meaning people who just DID. NOT. UNDERSTAND. Frankly, if you've never experienced a panic attack then you don't know how it feels, how out of control you feel, how ashamed you feel, how crazy you feel.

That leads to getting several "helpful" suggestions that are anything but.

So when I say I've found some methods just don't work, and some methods actually do, I've personally tested everything listed. When I say I've managed to significantly reduce the suffering that comes with my anxiety and the impact anxiety has on my life, that also means something.

Well maybe your anxiety is mild, and that's why it's so manageable...

My life went from being a "normal" amount of anxiety-inducing events to a raging flood of doom in September 2010, when my ex-husband tricked a judge into letting him take my daughters out of the country.

In January 2011 my husband's brother died suddenly. In February 2011, while we were at the memorial service, the IRS started auditing my husband due to lost records and seized all of the funds in our bank account. Also in February 2011 we found the cancer that caused my husband's health issues. In May 2011 we found out my husband's job of 6 years would be disappearing due to workforce reduction. In October 2011 the job officially ended. Contract work would be sporadic after that, and still is. February 2012 my husband's mother died AND the IRS seized our bank accounts, again. In August 2012 my husband went in for cancer surgery 2 days after we found out I was pregnant. We found out a few weeks later that he'd been close to dying. September 2012 saw radiation treatment and the repossession of one of our vehicles. Between September 2012 and February 2014 my husband's health fluctuated so badly that he came close to dying multiple times. In March 2013 our son was born. In August 2013 we were so financially strapped we had to leave a place we loved and move in with my father. In November 2013 we moved across the country for a job that ended up lasting only a few months. In January 2014 we ended up back at my father's while my husband struggled with health issues that almost killed him. In May 2014 we moved across the country again to live with a friend.

It is now June 2015. Work has still been sporadic. We've lost another vehicle. My husband's health is finally somewhat under control. I'm handling a hyperactive hyperintelligent 2-year-old on a daily basis. We're broke, we're almost out of food, income is another month away, our car is currently undriveable, and yet THIS IS THE BEST WE'VE BEEN DOING IN YEARS.

I know about anxiety and stress y'all. The very fact that I'm not hiding in bed 24/7 is an indication of how far I've come in managing my anxiety.

10 years ago this level of stress and anxiety would have had me popping Xanax like mad in order to not be a completely non-functional shaking mass of human hiding from the world.

I know of what I speak.

Methods I've tried and discontinued for various reasons

Counselors
Life coaches
Psychiatrists
Talk therapy
"Parenting myself"
Several antidepressants
Xanax
"Working through it"
... all forms of navel-gazing


Seriously, if it involves "tell me about your mother" I've done it. Identify the causes. Figure out the past. Find out why I am the way I am. Try to fix my brain. Try to undo the damage. Blame other people. Blame myself.

None of it worked, and I was on a timeline.

What actually started working

My mother's anxiety kept me socially isolated and therefore badly socialized.

I wanted better for my kids.

So despite the fact that social interaction caused me varying levels of anxiety ranging between "get me the hell out of here" and "full-blown panic attack" I did what I needed to give my kids the socialization they needed.

I interacted with the other mothers at school on a daily basis. I talked to the teachers. I volunteered at the school. I took the kids to after school activities, playdates, and birthday parties.

I started to notice something.

Every time got a little bit easier. Not no anxiety, just less anxiety. Like a person with a phobia going through aversion therapy, my anxiety became more and more manageable.

Not gone, just manageable. Like my threshold increased.

The panic attacks started to diminish in number and intensity, but still plagued me.


Aversion therapy was not enough

Aversion therapy didn't get me all the way there. We moved during this time, and leaving behind old patterns and habits helped. Continuing the aversion therapy through social interaction helped, as long as I kept pushing my limits. Knowing my limits and not pushing too far past them helped. Self-care and proper nutrition and rest helped. Self compassion helped as well.

The anxiety still plagued me. I still wanted to be rid of the anxiety and panic attacks forever. I wanted to be "normal", to not be "sick", to be "healthy".

So while I reduced my anxiety, life circumstances never let up and I was always one more major problem away from rolling panic attacks. I'd made tremendous progress but life seemed intent on throwing even more anxiety and panic inducing circumstances my way.

While my ability to deal with the anxiety increased, the physical symptoms of the anxiety also increased and made me utterly miserable.

Sometimes you just need to ask the right person

In this case the right person ended up being a friend who is a doctor who told me to look into an alternate therapy concept called ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

ACT ended up being extremely helpful, and while I still end up in occasional panic attacks (low food supplies mixed with lack of cash mixed with changing life circumstances outside of my control is my panic-causing kryptonite) the panic attacks have gone from controlling me to being annoying. If one more major life stress is resolved I expect the panic attacks to leave me be until something else potentially life-ending occurs.

But isn't the goal to get rid of the panic attacks and anxiety?

That's an awesome, noble goal. I've spent years of my life chasing that particular goal.

I've got next to nothing to show for it, other than an empty bank account and a huge stack of self-help books that didn't help at all.

Learning to live with the anxiety and manage how it affects my life, well, that's actually improving my life.

That's the goal of ACT: learning to live, function, and pursue your goals despite the anxiety

Remember when you thought figuring out why you were the way you were would suddenly resolve the issue and make you a healthy person without insane levels of anxiety?

How well did that work?

It doesn't. That kind of navel-gazing makes the assumption that your anxiety somehow responds to logic and conscious attempts to change.

That's a faulty assumption.

Don't get me wrong. Understanding the "why" is useful, in that it helps you practice the self-compassion you'll need to manage your anxiety. It's just not the end.

The fundamental assumption of ACT: your brain is a dirty, dirty liar that isn't interested in your happiness, only in avoiding pain

This makes sense. Happiness isn't a survival strategy, Avoiding pain is an awesome survival strategy, if your life isn't complex.

Panic attacks are often associated with the "fight or flight" instinct and tend to happen in situations in which you don't pick either option. Your brain has associated the anxiety-causing situation with pain or fear and therefore tries to get you to get the hell away because it might kill you.

Useful reaction, if the situation is coming across a mama bear in the wild. Detrimental reaction if it's your first day at a new job and your brain is balking at the concept of the unknown. "What are you doing?!?!?!?!?!" your brain screams "we've never been there before and there might be a predator hiding in there!"

Congratulations! Your insanely low anxiety threshold would have made you more likely to survive and have children who survived... when we were still in caves.

Our brains haven't exactly caught up to our new world order.

Even better, our brains can "learn" to identify more situations as dangerous because they cause us emotional pain. Ever been heckled on stage? Stage fright for you from now on. Been bullied? Let's avoid other people, because they cause us pain. Cheated on? Have a freak out every time your new man is out of sight, courtesy of your brain learning that situation causes pain.

There's nothing conscious about this. Your brain would just rather avoid the pain. It's not smart enough to reason through the fact that no risks means no change, and no possible increase in happiness.

In order to convince you that you're better off avoiding those situations, your brain plays a dirty trick on you: it lets you think it's right and that your emotions are right and based on reality. In other words it lies to you and lets you think that your thoughts and emotions are truthful and real.

Thoughts and emotions do not necessarily reflect reality

How much conscious control do you have over your thoughts and emotions?

Try not to think of the pink elephant.

That's how much control you have over your thoughts, next to none.

Ever watch a movie and burst into tears?

That's how much control you have over your emotions, so little that someone who doesn't even know you can manipulate your emotions.

ACT is about recognizing that your thoughts and emotions aren't you and don't necessarily reflect reality.

This is a radical departure from therapies that you may have tried before because...

ACT isn't an attempt to "fix" your brain, it's an attempt to learn to live with your brain

What happens if you accept that your thoughts and emotions aren't necessarily real or truthful and your brain manufactures anxiety based on unconscious assumptions that you don't control?

You stop trying to control it. You accept the way your brain works. You accept that the thoughts and emotions exist but don't necessarily mean anything.

That's the A in ACT. Acceptance. Your brain, your thoughts, your emotions are not "you" and not fully under your control.

Try not to think of the pink elephant. Try to keep the image out of your mind.

Now think of the pink elephant and let your attention go somewhere else.

What took less energy and ended the thoughts fastest? Struggling with them and trying to control them, or noticing and letting them go?

Emotions are much the same. Ever try *not* to be angry at someone? How well did that work? What about just admitting you're angry, accepting it, and moving on to something else?

How much did your anxiety level just drop?

One of the theories behind ACT is that the act of trying to control the anxiety, the thoughts, and the emotions is actually more painful and damaging than just letting the anxiety, thoughts, and emotions happen.

You notice the anxiety, you notice the symptoms, you notice the thoughts, you notice the emotions, you accept that they exist, you let them go (there's several techniques for this that can be found in any book outlining ACT), and you go act in accordance with your values and goals without regard to the anxiety.

ACT isn't about how you think or feel, it's about what you do

What would you do if you didn't have anxiety? Finally finish that book? Get a degree? Ask that person out on a date?

ACT is about learning to do what you want and need to do despite the anxiety, thoughts, or emotions that plague you.

That's what the C stands for: commitment. Commitment to your values and goals.

Is a clean house important to you? Do you go into a panic attack any time you start to clean because of past trauma (I do)?

The goal of ACT is learning to clean the house despite the panic it will induce. Or talking to a stranger, Or being on the stage.

The goal is to act in accordance with your values and goals. The side effect is a reduction in anxiety,

Think about it. Doing things despite your anxiety is just another form of aversion therapy. Every time you do what causes you anxiety and you don't suffer harm, you brain (as stupid as it is) believes in the supposed danger of the situation a little bit less.

Do it enough, and the brain barely puts up a protest anymore.

Keep avoiding it however, and the brain continues to think the situation is horribly dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. The more you think about it, the more anxiety you feel, the more your brain interprets the anxiety as pain and danger, the more powerful the anxiety becomes.

Learn how to push forward despite the anxiety, and the anxiety starts dropping.

Counterintuitive, huh?

ACT is about learning methods for letting go of the thoughts and emotions so you can do what you want to do. There's mindfulness techniques, relaxation techniques, techniques for resolving panic attacks, the whole deal. More techniques than I can list here.

Eventually you get practiced enough that you don't need the crutch in the form of the techniques. You just accept what's going through your head and go on your merry way doing whatever it is you need or want to do.

So why did I spend so much time going over ACT?

Frankly, it's a new way of thinking about therapy, and... well...

Okay fine, Psychologists seem to only speak two languages: jargon, and "woo".

I understand jargon to a certain extent. I hate hate hate "woo".

Jargon makes them sound smart and gives specific words for specific purposes. Woo sells self-help books.

I should know. I have an entire stack of them.

For example:

Developed within a coherent theoretical and philosophical framework, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.
I can't tell if that's a mission statement or a description of a new religion, or both.

I love the book I picked up on the subject, The Happiness Trap, but it even has a sprinkling of the woo, enough that sometimes it sounds like the psychological equivalent of healing crystals.

It's not, it's actually very useful, the techniques outlined are very useful, the ways of looking at things are very useful.

If you're expecting anyone writing a self-help book based on clinical therapy techniques to somehow translate into layman properly, you're expecting too much.

That's why I was asked to write something up from the patient's perspective, and why I encourage you to look into ACT and aversion therapy as techniques for dealing with anxiety. They actually do work, and while my anxiety is not gone with a combination of the techniques I'm improving my life despite the panic.

Rather than wait to be perfectly healthy, I'm doing what I need and want to do the way I am, at this moment.

I'd rather be happier now than keep trying for a perfect that will never happen.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wounds, and Scars, and Battle Flags



Ok... Here's a fun one... Explaining people who support flying the confederate flag, but who AREN'T actually themselves racists... and why it's actually important to understand them.

Yup, this is going to piss EVERYONE off... Which is OK, because hard to hear but important stuff does that.

Stay with me here... Don't just turn your outrage on and your brain off... Actually read and think about what I'm writing here OK?

"Both sides" of this issue, please, just read all the way through,  don't just react... because I'm going to piss EVERYONE off on this one... and I really mean that... Black, white, southern, northern, liberal, conservative... whatever... This post is probably going to piss you off at some point.
... Also, I am putting this note at the beginning so that certain folks don't just stop reading and dismiss everything I say here based on a language choice I've made...
For my readers with formalist, philosophy, racial studies, psychology, sociology, ethnography and other similar backgrounds... 
For most of this piece I am going to use informal and colloquial definitions of "racist" and "not racist", based on direct, personal racism, with racist intent. 
I will do this because even though this is an inaccurate and imprecise basis, it is how the terms are understood by most people not formally trained in the subject, and there is shared meaning and context for it.
I am aware of, and am not dismissing or ignoring that racism and other forms of bias, are not that narrow, nor that simple.
I WILL, further down in the piece, more formally define and clarify "racist" and "not racist" in the context of this discussion, as well as make a distinction between personal and direct racism, and impersonal and indirect racism. 
I will also try, without expanding an already overlong post too much, to give those without formal background, some understanding and appreciation of, and context for, the broader and more complex conception of racism that they are likely unfamiliar with. 
I am not doing so for most of the piece, because it will just confuse the issue even more than it already is, and create more misunderstanding and division. I am including the more detailed clarification and distinction later on, because to not do so, may be considered irresponsible or at least incomplete, given that all of these context are actually important to the issue as a whole.

*****Just to be clear on my personal opinions and background before the meat of it*****

I am a white, northeastern born and raised, overeducated by "elite institutions", white collar professional.

I am neither conservative, nor liberal, I am a libertarian.

That said, I have also lived more than half of my life in the south, or parts of the west that might as well be. I'm a veteran, I shoot, I hunt, I fish, I occasionally blow stuff up, I ride motorcycles and atvs, and drive 4x4s... and my wife listens to country... and I listen with her when she's driving or working around the house (I don't like most modern country).

I think flying the confederate flag (which isn't even actually the confederate flag but most people think it is) is stupid and wrong.

I don't hate the south or southerners, I don't think they are racist (or moreso than anyone else... in fact in my experience the south is LESS racist than the northeast)... even most people who do fly the flag or support it... It's still stupid and wrong.

NOW LETS START PISSING PEOPLE OFF

First, let's piss off the pro flag people... Don't worry, once you get through this part, we piss off the anti-flag people... and really, it's worth the wait.

****FLYING THE CONFEDERATE FLAG IS STUPID AND WRONG****

At the very beginning, It's important to acknowledge that while most are not, SOME people who fl\y that flag, or support flying the "confederate flag" ARE racist... Openly or otherwise.

It's also important to acknowledge that flag in particular, is an important symbol for those racists, and is used almost universally among them, as a symbol for their racism... Openly or otherwise.

No, that's not anti-southern propaganda, and no, that doesn't make everyone who flies the flag or supports flying it, racist... it's just the truth. The truth sucks. Live with it.

If you can't acknowledge that... You're hopeless anyway.

Now... Whatever your thoughts about whether it is a colloquial symbol for "southern heritage", "southern pride" etc...

... It's ACTUALLY an OFFICIAL symbol for a violent and bloody civil war directly killing hundreds of thousands of Americans and indirectly killing many more; conducted by a government that is utterly antithetical to the American ideal (and if you think otherwise, you are either ignorant, or deluded).

Certainly, in whole or in part, the confederate naval jack, or Tennessee or Virginia battle flag (what most think of as the confederate flag), or ANY CSA flag; should not be flown by any official or agency, or at any facility, of any government in these United States.

NOT EVER, FOR ANY REASON

The government, laws, and constitution, of the Confederate States of America, should NOT be honored by any agent, official, or government, within or of the United States, in any way.

NOT EVER, FOR ANY REASON

No, that does NOT mean "North pure good, South pure evil"... Don't be stupid. I'm not, and I'd have to be to believe so. You'd have to be, to think I meant so.

... and this is where I piss off the anti-flag people some as well, but they need to listen...

It doesn't mean that we should not respect those men who died fighting for their homes, fulfilling their duty, as they felt their honor required of them; though they were led by misguided or evil  pseudo-aristocrats and politicians, in service of an evil government.

This may be hard to understand for those who hold the simplistic, and false, view of the civil war (which is probably most Americans outside the south, as it's largely what is taught in our schools and in popular culture); that the north was fully good, the south was fully bad, it was only about slavery, and everyone in the south was equally culpable for slavery and the war.

It's also necessary to understand that most people at the time had a very different concept of our nation. Before the civil war, most thought of themselves as citizens of their state first, and the nation second. The average citizen had no contact whatsoever with the federal government, except for a tax stamp on their liquor and imported goods, and voting for their local representative to congress every other year (senators were not elected by the people directly until 1914, and there were no direct personal federal taxes until that year as well... which is not a coincidence).  In the decades following the civil war, this changed to our modern concept of national citizenship first, as the federal government grew and intruded on peoples lives more and more.

It really is very difficult for modern Americans to grasp this and internalize it, but in 1860, a man would feel as deeply committed to being a Virginian, and to serving his state, and defending it; as any service member today is committed to our nation, to serving it, and defending it.

To these men, they were not defending slavery, or even the confederacy. They were defending their homes, which were being invaded.

Robert E. Lee fought for a government he did not believe in, in a war he did not want, because he believed his duty to his state required it of him. He was not an evil man... In fact, he is rightly held up today, as an exemplar for not just his military skill, but his honor, and devotion to duty.

... Absolutely none of which justifies or excuses the war, or slavery, or racism, or the CSA...

... and back to pissing off the pro-flag people...

It DOES mean that the constitution, government, laws, leaders, and many of the actions of the CSA are entirely incompatible with America as she is today, or as she was...

...Well, ever really...

....but certainly after February 4th 1861.

Though many virtuous and honorable men lived in them, and served them; the Confederate States of America were NOT an honorable and virtuous institution, fit to be recognized and honored by our government today.

Get over it.

*****SORRY NO, THE CSA WASNT ABOUT RESISTING TYRANNY*****

While we're here, and since I just said something that's guaranteed to get these people screaming... lets just get the confederate apologists out of the way right now...

Some people have this ridiculously idealized notion about the confederacy being a valid example of resistance to federal overreach and tyranny...

Those people are either ignorant, or deluded.

Again, not "North all good and right, south all bad and evil", that would be stupid, I'm not, don't be stupid by thinking I am saying so...

...but this fairytale notion of the CSA being about freedom, and liberty, and federalism, free from an oppressive central government, is at best a very bad and sick joke.

It's a completely ahistoric revisionist fantasy... But it isn't actually racist in an of itself.

Confederate apologists are mostly ignorant or deluded... But most actually aren't racists.

Hell, most of them aren't even southern. Some of them even think they are libertarians.

Wait... What? Really? How...???

I realize to many people that concept is impossible to fathom... How could someone idealize the confederacy and NOT be racist?

It does indeed boggle the mind... Unless you spend a lot more time and effort studying history, warfare, and economics, than most people will ever bother with.

... and even then, how they can just handwave away the racism and slavery aspect of things is still beyond me, but they do...

There are a lot of "jacksonian" types, who have idealized the notion of federalism, states rights and resistance to "federal tyranny" (and for that matter, a ridiculously idealized notion of Andrew Jackson)... and so they say things like:

"Yes, slavery was wrong, no-one disagree with that. but the civil war wasn't really about slavery, and the actions of the federal government were not justified, and slavery would have ended on its own soon anyway because the economics of it were inefficient and unsustainable".

While there is an actual reasonable argument to be had about all three of those latter points... As a historical question... It's not relevant to the question of the confederate flag.

For some reason, these apologists think that since everyone knows racism and slavery are wrong, they can simply dismiss that factor... like canceling out variables on both sides of an equation...

...but NO, you just CAN NOT do that...

Mostly this thinking... Especially among those who self identify as libertarians... Begins with studying history a bit deeper than the cover sheet, and suddenly realizing that Lincoln wasn't exactly the unblemished superhero that grade school history teaches.

*****THE NORTH WAS NOT ALL GOOD, THE SOUTH WAS NOT ALL BAD*****

There's good reason why many libertarians and some conservatives, or self identified "constitutionalists", have mixed feelings about Abraham Lincoln.

First thing being he didn't really free the slaves... While he was personally anti-slavery, it was not an overriding passion or priority.  He didn't really care whether the slaves were freed or not, if it preserved the union. He didn't free the slaves in the slave states that were not in active revolt, nor those still held in slavery in free states (thank the supreme court for that), and his proclamation didn't have any force in the states not under union control.

If you want to thank anyone for "freeing the slaves" (other than the generals of the Union armies, who freed the slaves at their own discretion in territories they controlled) it's James Mitchell Ashley, and James Wilson, congressmen from Ohio and Iowa respectively. They're the ones that got the 13th Amendment "passed" (the scarequotes are necessary, because how the wartime amendments were passed was largely unconstitutional, however after the war the requisite states ratified them).

Second being Lincoln completely shredded and ignored the constitution as and when he saw fit. He ordered detentions without warrants, screwed with congress and the supreme court as he saw fit (worse than anything FDR or LBJ ever even thought of), took whatever authority he thought he needed to do anything he thought he should do, and then maybe bothered to get it rubber stamped later, if he remembered.

If you think Obama, Bush, Nixon, LBJ, FDR, or Woodrow Wilson, abused the constitution... In comparison to Lincoln, they were utter paragons of righteous virtue.

In today's world, we wouldn't tolerate the kind of abuses Lincoln committed on a daily basis... Even in wartime. Even though it was to preserve the union. Even though it ended slavery.

It's just the same as the notion we hold today, that we are supposed to be above torture, no matter how important the cause... because that is not who we MUST be, if America means anything.

Well, we're not supposed to ignore, shred, abuse, and flatly and flagrantly violate the constitution... Even if it's to keep the union together. Even if it's to end slavery.

Moving beyond Lincoln...

There's congress... and corruption, and deliberate economic warfare against the south prior to the war (and during, and after).

No, it's not just confederate apologism or propaganda, the south really was being deliberately attacked politically and economically; by both abolitionists, and opportunists.

Yes, federal trade policy and tariffs were in fact being corruptly manipulated by northern merchants. Congress, the executive branch, the civil service, and both regulation and legislation... Even international treaties... Were to a great extent, being bought, sold, and apportioned, to the great detriment of the south economically, and politically (One of the precipitating triggers of the civil war was the 1860 census; as southerners believed... Correctly... that reapportionment was going to substantially disadvantage them politically come 1864 or so. They also believed that it would be corruptly manipulated to disadvantage them further... also likely true. If you think congress is corrupt now, you really have no idea what it was like in the mid to late 19th century).

We won't even get into "Reconstruction", and the utterly unconstitutional abuses, corruption, and bare thievery of what little southern resources and wealth remained (to all but the truly wealthy elites who were smart enough to hedge against the CSA, and bribe the reconstruction governments properly... They made out very well indeed, not only preserving much of their own wealth, but scooping up much of what was left or taken from others. In fact some are still among the wealthiest families in the south... and the nation... today)... Except to say that the administrations and congresses of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant are largely considered the most corrupt and abusive in the history of the United States. Far beyond what any congressman could imagine in their wildest dreams today.

Finally, there's the fact that the vast majority of those fighting for the confederacy, really weren't fighting for the CSA. They were not slave holders, most were not even landowners (they WERE racist, but so was almost everyone, north or south), and they didn't want the way anymore than anyone in the north did. But they were convinced by their leaders, that the north was waging war on them, to take their land, and make them nothing but colonies to be exploited for the wealth of northern merchants (which was in fact what much of the north tried to do during reconstruction, and what some were trying to do before the war).

Most whites in the south were both heavily propagandized, and nearly or completely disenfranchised; as, if they were even allowed to vote (most were not due to various regulations designed to restrict the franchise to the wealthy and educated landowning elite), their choices were basically decided for them by the parties (controlled by those same wealthy elites) before any ballots were cast.

Most were also almost completely dependent on, beholden to, or at the mercy of, the large landowners, even if they had their own small farms or shops; because the large landowners controlled the local economies and governments.

When I said pseudo-aristocratic and semi-feudal, I was not using hyperbole or invective. It sounds almost like socialist propaganda against the European nobility... But it's the truth. Get very far outside a major city, and the local large landowners really ran the counties as near fiefdoms.

Those working men of the south weren't fighting to protect slavery... whether they supported it or not... They were fighting to protect their homes, which were being invaded, and for their states, to whom they owed their loyalty and their duty. And they fought, and they starved, and they died and they lost...

...and those left returned home to utter destruction, poverty, abuse, and even more disenfranchisement, this time at the hands of the utterly corrupt federal government and their appointed masters.

Some may say that they deserved all of these things for rebelling... But most of those who feel that way, are probably also those who say... Rightly... that no matter the circumstances we must live up to who we claim to be, and what our constitution says.

This is not some Confederate Apologist fantasy... It's history. And it's history that most in the north never bother to learn, and that our schools never bother to teach...

Most in the south don't really know it either. They just know the mythology of it, passed from grandfathers and uncles and friends, and the popular culture around them, that they then idealize.

Sometimes, they idealize it to the point where somehow, they remember the good and honorable parts, and take pride in them... but dismiss the evil, as if it didn't matter anymore; because they themselves are not evil, and their grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and great great grandfathers were not evil... Or at least they want to believe so...

*****"NOT ALL BAD" DOESN'T MEAN GOOD, OR JUSTIFIED*****

So yes, there absolutely was federal overreach, and yes Lincoln completely shredded the constitution, and no the war wasn't entirely or even mostly about slavery as much as it was about economics in general (as most wars are) INCLUDING slavery, which the CSA saw as an issue of economics and property rights; and yes the war basically eliminated the concepts of federalism and states rights as meaningful things and set off the huge growth in reach and scope of the federal government...

...and all of those are certainly bad things, that should not have happened... and we should recognize and appreciate them and NOT dismiss them as meaningless, or minor.

... And no, not everyone who fought for the confederacy was evil, most were not, and many were honorable men doing their duty as the believed their honor required of them...

... AND NONE OF THAT excuses the fact that the Confederate States of America was based on an evil foundation of pseudo-aristocratic, semi-feudal, agrarian landholding wealth; lorded over, and built on, the backs of an effectively disenfranchised population of near serfs, and the lives of black slaves, WHO WERE PEOPLE HELD AS PROPERTY.

There is NOTHING that can, or could ever, justify it. Not then, not now, not ever.

It doesn't matter that there were other factors and causes, and that most were not slaveholders; because yes, the CSA saw human lives as a matter of PROPERTY and economics; and yes, the government of the CSA was fighting to preserve their property rights... OVER OTHER PEOPLE.

That was EVIL. It was against everything America is supposed to be, and everything we should be as human beings.

There is no way you can deny, excuse, or justify it, and you shouldn't try.

If you can't recognize that evil for what it was... You're hopeless anyway.

*****SOME MORE HARD TRUTH*****

Even  though most of the people flying the flag, or supporting it, are not racist, and don't intend the flag to be racist; they need to recognize it IS racist regardless of their intent.

Flying that flag is hurtful and offensive to millions of people (not just black people, but especially so), and doing so is harmful to race relations, and to our nation as a people.

It is also incredibly damaging to the south, to southerners, and to America as a whole. Because as long as people fly that flag, and support it. it damages the south in the nations eyes, and damages the nation in the worlds eyes. It gives people the excuse to dismiss, denigrate, and hate the south, and southerners. It feeds anti-american sentiment and propaganda all over the world.

So long as that flag is flown, it IS in fact a continuous reminder to everyone, of the evils of slavery, racism, and segregation; and the unhealed racial wounds in this country.

*****IT'S RACIST WHETHER YOU THINK IT IS OR NOT*****

No matter what supporters of that flag see it as, most black people, and most other people outside the south as well as many in it, see it as a symbol of racism and oppression, FOR GOOD REASON.

IT'S SEEN AS A SYMBOL OF RACISM BECAUSE IT IS ONE

Yes, it is one, and you have to deal with that fact.

It's not a fact because I'm telling you it is... It's not a fact because I say so.. It's a fact, because REALITY SAYS SO.

You can have your own feelings and your opinion, but when it comes down to your feelings and opinions versus reality, REALITY ALWAYS WINS.

You may not want it to be. You may not intend it to be. It doesn't matter, because it is.

Intending it to be something else doesn't make it something else... If that worked you could "intend" your wife to be a supermodel and wake up in bed with Giselle Bundchen. Sadly it doesn't, so no Giselle for you.

***YOU DONT GET TO DECIDE IT ISN'T RACIST, BECAUSE HISTORY SAYS IT IS***

For thousands of years, the broken cross, or the sun wheel, or tetragrammadion etc... were symbols of good luck, prosperity, the cycle of life, and many other positive things.

For just 20 years, it was adopted as a symbol by one of the most evil organizations of all time.

Unfortunately, the thousands of years of goodness doesn't matter one bit, because now, and forever, in the western world, swastikas are a symbol of NAZI-ism.

That's reality... You can't change it by willing it so. 

You can't "take the swastika back", or say it's a "symbol of German culture, and German pride"... And everybody knows that. Nobody is pretending otherwise or trying to do so.

That means you can't make the confederate navy jack mean southern pride, and heritage, and history; because history has already decided what it means.

Not northerners telling you what to do, or outsiders, or oversensitive whiners, or anyone else... History itself. Continuing to ignore or deny that is just harming you, and everyone else.

No, that's not a false equivalence argument. I'm not saying southerners are NAZIs. I'm saying that symbology and meaning are not neutral, or self defined, for such things. You can't take a stop sign and say "well, for me, it doesn't mean stop, it means go", because the rest of the world says it means "stop".
... Or rather, you can try, but if you do, someone is going to get hurt...

And that's what that flag does... It hurts people. People you don't intend to hurt. And the only way to stop hurting them, is to stop doing it.

Flying the "confederate flag" IS anti-american, and wrong.. And no-one should do it, no matter what their reasons*

It IS a racist symbol even if you don't intend it to be, and you shouldn't display or support a racist symbol, if you aren't actually a racist.

(* there is one exception, detailed further down in the piece)
*****FIND A DIFFERENT SYMBOL THAT ISN'T RACIST*****

That's what it comes down to...You can have any symbol for southern pride, southern heritage, southern tradition, that you want... So long as it isn't a confederate or racist symbol.

Knock yourself out... There's plenty to choose from... Just nothing from the confederacy and nothing racist...

No, not everyone who lived in or fought for the confederacy was bad and wrong. Most weren't.

And no, that doesn't mean the north was wonderful pure and good and altruistic. Far from it.

But you're just going to have to get over the fact that the confederacy WAS in fact racist and oppressive, and therefore it's symbols are symbols of racism and oppression. You cannot reclaim them from that.

HOWEVER

Just because the confederate flag is racist, and the confederacy was racist; does NOT mean that the south, southerners, southern history and heritage, southern tradition and pride... Are ALSO bad, wrong, and racist.

Or that you or anyone else ARE racist for flying the flag, when you honestly believe it is not a racist symbol, and it IS a symbol of heritage, pride etc... and there is no racial animus, or ill will, or otherwise racist intent on your part.

... However, you are contributing to racism by doing so... And while you don't intend any racism, there is race based harm being done by it.

Because you're wrong, it is a racist symbol, not one of heritage and pride.

It doesn't make you racist for thinking it was a symbol of pride and not racism. Just wrong. Very very wrong. In many different ways.

... The very first of which, is that the flag actually represents the south as a whole, or southern pride, or heritage, or history, in any way... or ever did....

*****THE MYTH OF THE BATTLE FLAG BEING ABOUT SOUTHERN HERITAGE*****

Seriously... this is the huge con job that even many southerners honestly believe... but that's all it is; a not particularly good... rather half ass actually... cover lie.

Because in the first place, that flag isn't even a traditional symbol of "the south", southern pride, or southern heritage..  It never actually was.

It was a flag used by two armies (every state had their own armies, sometimes several), and part of the navy, and parts of two states of the CSA, for a grand total of 3 years (and with some variation several other smaller units, again for about 3 years total or less), part of the design was incorporated into part of the 2nd and third national flags for a little over a year.

The most famous of those armies, the army of Northern Virginia, didn't even use it for two years. When Robert E. Lee took command of that army, he hated that flag, and changed their battle flag to one matching the CSA flag but with the stars arranged in a different pattern.

Then for a little over a year, the second version of navy flag, was used as the second and third national flags of the confederacy... But really, they never caught on, most places keeping their earlier flags, for the few months before the CSA ceased to exist.

Then through reconstruction, use of confederate symbology for most purposes was banned.

Then from the 1890s through early 1920s, it was sometimes used in conjunction with the song Dixie, as an element of stereotypical and parodic caricature to represent "the south", in skits put on by traveling minstrel shows, early vaudeville, and in early motion pictures; at which time it was often referred to as "the dixie flag".

It was also sometimes seen in romantic style battle paintings of the period, but mostly those were later (one of the ways experts and appraisers spot fakes from actual contemporary civil war pieces, is their inappropriate use of the navy jack or battle flag designs, which were not actually that widely spread or adopted).

And it still, for most of that time generally wasn't actually used widely by most southern states or the military, or widely associated with southern pride or heritage, or even the south as a whole... excepting when it was used to MOCK the south.

Several southern states, beginning in 1885 or thereabout did adopt flags that were similar to or contained elements from either their confederate state flag, the CSA flag, or a famous battle flag from that state. Seven of them are still around today... but only one of them used the navy jack/battle flag design, Mississippi, which adopted their flag in 1894. That design is basically the second naval ensign, with red white and blue bars in the pattern of the CSA flag.

... Still not actually the full battle flag, or the full naval jack however.

At the same time, most likely prompted by said minstrel shows et al...a few army and marine units from the south... or actually more often in the north, but having a southern heritage or history; started using it as part of their symbology... But none particularly famous or well known.

It was during the resurgence of the Klan in the teens and early 20s, that the Klan also started using it, explicitly as a symbol of racism, and recognition between other klan members (something they still do today. There are also references some Klan groups having used it in the initial growth period of the Klan in the late 1860s to early 1870s but they may just be myth).

For some reason in the late 20s it's used died down, except by the then greatly weakened Klan...

...And once again in Missisppi, as the University of Mississippi athletics program adopted the navy jack as their flag, and the Rebels as their name, re-popularizing the flag in Mississippi... though as an actual symbol of local pride and tradition (by 1996, students were refusing to enroll in Ole Miss, they couldn't recruit black students, often students from other teams would refuse to play games at their stadim, all because of the confederate symbology. They banned the flags in 1997 and adopted a new non confederate mascot, and by 1998 their problems were turning around).

It didn't make a broader resurgence until 1946; when it became widely used as a symbol, not for the south as a whole or southern pride, but for racism, segregation, white supremacy, and resistance to forced federal desegregation (as well as resistance to taxation, smuggling and moonshing running etc...). In '46 it was adopted as one of the semi-official symbols of the third Klan.

THIS IS WHERE IT GETS WEIRD

Around that time, it started to become common to hear certain people state that battle flag, or the navy jack, were symbols of "southern pride", "southern heritage", "southern tradition", and "southern history"..

...Though they had not widely been thought of as such before, except in Mississippi (other confederate battle flags had been seen as symbols of pride and heritage in native their states, which is why 6 other states still have designs derived from them, most adopted as mentioned above, between 1885 and 1925)

As it happens, those phrases were also part of the Klans resurgence. Because they were "protecting the south from"... well, you know... northerners, blacks, miscegenation, catholics, jews, tempting white women with lustful dancing and music etc... etc...

Notably, the Klan specifically called out among their core mission, upholding the traditions of "southern pride"... which meant pure white pride... "southern heritage"... meaning a pure white race, and "protecting" the women from black men (by killing the black men), "southern tradition", meaning racism, segregation, and the klan; and "southern history", meaning that the south was going to rise up against the north and the blacks in a race war, and become resurgent.

Yeah... I know... It sounds crazy. It sounds like anti-southern propaganda... And I wish it was... But it's not. This idiocy not only was actually taken seriously... But for about 25 years was WILDLY successful.

At it's most influential, the third Klan counted as members many congressmen, senators, governors, and possibly a majority of state legislators in the southern states. Being a local Klan leader, was a great way to get yourself elected mayor, or sherrif, or state legislator, or congressman.

And again, this is not some crazy conspiracy theory, or anti-southern propaganda... (I wish it was)... it's all documented history.

For example, one of those Klansmen, was none other than the man who was at the time jr. Congressman, and would eventually become the longest serving senator, from the great state of West Virginia...Exalted Cyclops and Democratic Senator for 51 years: Robert C. Byrd...

He's the guy that basically every public building, bridge, and highway in West Virginia was named after (and a bunch of other federal and state stuff). He was in congress from 1953 (-1959 in the house from '59 in the senate) until his death in 2010.

All of this was published many years ago, when a number of journalists infiltrated the klan, and published some of their official documents, and many accounts of their training, their meetings etc...

It was in this same time period, that the same flag which was being used by the Klan... but which had not been used by those particular states before, or if it had it had only been in sporadic and limited use... Started being seen more often in connection with state officials, official functions, etc...

Over a period of about 15 years, the navy jack/naval ensign/battle flag design was added to the flags of, and flown at the capitols, or state houses, or national guard armories, of several segregationist states; beginning in about 1951 I believe, with more new states adopting it through about 1965.

Often this was claimed to be in honor of the civil war, but as the trend started long before the 100th anniversary of the war,  and that particular flag had very little to do with the war, and in fact the states that were actually directly associated with it, Virginia and Tennessee, specifically chose NOT to do so... it was rather transparently NOT actually about honoring the war.

In several cases, there were official proclamations of the flag or designs, honoring and celebrating "southern pride", "southern heritage", "southern tradition", and "southern history".

All of the states that did were segregationist. All of the states that did had their own battle flags and different flags from the civil war that would have been more appropriate. And all of the states that did it had very large and prominent Klan populations, with major influence over their legislatures.

*****NO REALLY, IT'S PROVABLY ABOUT SEGREGATION NOT HERITAGE*****

Hell, a couple of states didn't even bother to pretend it was anything other than about resisting desegregation.

When Georgia adopted the navy jack design as part of its new flag in 1956, they were quite open about it being specifically about segregation and defying the federal government over desegregation, in response to Brown v. Board of Education (decided in 1954), and Griffin v. School board (1955).

So, in actuality, it had nothing to do with honoring the civil war, or southern heritage, or southern history... but it did have a little to do with southern pride.

Because the real reason for it, was explicitly, to visibly and symbolically defy the federal government, over forced desegregation, which began on U.S. military bases in 1949 and 1950, and then accelerated with the school desegregation supreme court decisions in 1954 and 1955.

It's also why new states didn't choose to adopt the practice after 1965... Because by then it was clear, forcible resistance to desegregation was done, because they would send federal troops in otherwise.

...But those states kept the symbols in place, and the flags flying.

Now... I'm all for defying the federal government when it's wrong which is most of the time... And I'm all for telling outsiders who try to tell you how to run your own life to shove it...

MOST OF THE TIME...

But this was SPECIFICALLY, directly, and only, defying the federal government so that these states could officially continue being spectacularly racist and abusive to black people.

Which means it wasn't, in any way, a good thing.

...And by 2005 almost all the states that had changed their flag, or flew that particular flag in any official capacity, recognized this and changed their designs and their flag practices.

Only Mississippi has it as part of their flag anymore... Though they at least actually have a legitimate claim to saying it was about heritage and tradition, since they didn't adopt it during the desegregation period but in 1894 (and they explicitly chose the design to reflect their confederate heritage).


*****IT'S NOT ANTI-SOUTHERN... IT'S JUST THE TRUTH*****

None of this, is anti-southern. Knowing the truth isn't anti-southern. It's not anti-southern culture, or anti-southern history, or anti-southern pride.

It's just debunking the lie, that unfortunately many southerners believed.

... It's anti-stupid, and anti-falsehood, and anti-foolishness, and a bunch of other good things...

...NOT ONE OF WHICH IS ANTI SOUTHERN.

*****AND IT'S NOT ABOUT DEFYING FEDERAL OVERREACH*****

If those states had  wanted to symbolically defy the federal government, they could easily have used the Gadsden flag... Designed by a native son of South Carolina... Says "Dont Tread On Me" right on it, and it doesn't have that nasty racist baggage

Instead, they chose an explicitly confederate symbol, and an explicitly racist symbol, and chose to specifically and explicitly makecommon cause with racists, segregationists, and eliminationists.

... And most states, recognizing this wrong, changed their flags, and ended the practice long ago....

Some people may have thought of it as a symbol of "the south" resisting doing what they were told by the north... But even if that were so (and it's not), what they were being told was to stop killing and abusing black people, so RESISTING THAT WAS NOT A GOOD THING ...

(and no, don't try to give me some bull about it being about resisting federal overreach... I'm a libertarian, not an idiot, and we went over all that above).

No matter what you think of it or what it means to you personally, that flag IS permanently a symbol of racism, slavery, and oppression.

It's not a symbol of southern heritage, southern tradition, southern pride... Even it you think it is, it isn't. 

That was a lie you were taught as a kid, because they couldn't very well teach you in school that your state deliberately chose a racist symbol because they wanted to resist desegregation; and which has been perpetuated by prideful, stubborn, and contrary southerners ever since. 

So find a different symbol, because...

NO-ONE SHOULD EVER FLY ANY CONFEDERATE FLAG*

*Outside of historical re-enactors. It's still a racist symbol, but it's historically accurate and appropriate for what re-enacting is, and is not intended or understood to be promoting racism, segregation, slavery, or the confederacy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: No one should ban individuals and private organizations flying it either. Any individual who wants to fly that flag should be able to... Just know that it IS a symbol of racism and oppression, and that people will judge that accordingly.

We shouldn't make it illegal for private individuals and entities to fly it, but we should not ever allow any government or government sponsored, funded, run, or associated entities or officers to fly it.

NO-ONE SHOULD WANT TO FLY THOSE FLAGS

NO-ONE SHOULD WANT ANY GOVERNMENT TO FLY THOSE FLAGS

Knowing the truth... Knowing that it isn't and wasn't what you thought it was, and that you were deliberately lied to, and that it really is a horrible symbol of racism and oppression...

Why would you want to keep flying one of those flags?

You know the truth... Why keep denying it?

What exactly do you think you're defending? Against who? Against what attack? Why?

... Because no-one here is attacking the south, or southern culture, or southerners.

I'm just trying to tear down that big lie.


****NOW IT'S TIME TO PISS OFF THE ANTI-FLAG PEOPLE*****

note: A lot of this is for sanctimonious white liberals... Much of it doesn't apply to black folks, unless you find yourself falling into the same traps that those sanctimonious white liberals do. No idea why, but most of the time black folks... northern, southern, or otherwise... just don't approach this issue that way.

Much of it doesn't apply to you, regardless of your race, or ideology, or any other thing; if you are already engaging the flag wavers reasonably and respectfully, in good faith, and without condescension, self righteousness, or hate.

No matter what, it may still be of value to you, if you want to understand the flag wavers better... 


So, that out of the way, it's time for the anti-flag people to get down off their high horse, wipe the self satisfied smirks off their faces, and prepare to get pissed off... (oh and there's definitely some more to piss off pro flag people too).

The first thing, is that people other than you, and those you agree with, are not stupid... They know that for many of you this has nothing to do with the flag, that you honestly couldn't give a damn about...

...And that's whether they support flying the confederate flag or not... Because most white southerners don't either, but they for damn sure aren't going to help you paint all white southerners as stupid or evil.

For those sanctimonious hypocrites, it's about calling all white southerners, and most Republicans, racist, without actually having to say so publicly where you can be called out on it, or proved wrong; or worst of all, where your own racial hypocrisy might be called out (or at least you might be forced to think about it, and make yourself feel guilty and uncomfortable).

Yes, it is... Not for all of you, but many of you. Otherwise this wouldn't be an issue just right now, it would always have been a major issue, continuously, for decades, until it was resolved.

For those people, right now, it's about scoring cheap points, and feeling morally superior.

If it's not, for you personally.. PROVE IT... Read on, and then act on what you read.

*****Now... for everyone else, who in fact really does care about this*****

EVERYONE needs to understand, no matter their identity or their position... people are not going to stop flying or supporting the confederate flag, when you treat them as if they are evil or stupid.

If you don't STOP just dismissing these people, insulting them, calling them racists, and telling them that that they HAVE to do what YOU want them to, because YOU said so, and you are BETTER and SMARTER and MORALLY SUPERIOR to them... Then they are certainly NOT going to bother listening to you.

...Most especially they are not going to listen to you, when you keep calling them racist, stupid, and evil...

Because mostly they aren't racist, they aren't flying the flag with racist intent, and they don't believe the flag to be a racist symbol.

They're WRONG... But mostly, they aren't actually directly or personally racist.

....Now is when some peoples heads explode... they're not going to listen anyway... Oh well...

*****MOST WHO FLY THE CONFEDERATE FLAG ARE NOT RACIST*****

Most of them aren't even confederate apologists (though some are).

I realize that seems crazy to many people who grew up outside of the south, but it's actually true...

No...Really, most of the people who fly the confederate flag or support flying it, are not racist. Some are, but most aren't.

And they will passionately, vehemently, and sincerely deny that the flag is a symbol of racism, BECAUSE TO THEM IT ISN'T.

They aren't lying... They just don't feel that way.

They don't feel personally racist, and they support that symbol, therefore, they believe it isn't racist.

Again, they're wrong... Not that they are in fact racist, but the flag is... But most of these people honestly don't believe it's racist.

They really do believe it's about honoring their great grandparents, and southern culture, and southern pride... and more than all of that, it's very much about NOT BEING NORTHERNERS.

... If you cannot accept this, then there is no way you are ever going to get anywhere arguing about it.

It doesn't mean they are right about the flag, but that IS how they honestly feel.

*****DO YOU WANT TO MORALIZE OR DO YOU WANT TO FIX IT*****

Refusing to listen to this, refusing to understand, and treating these people like they are evil, or stupid, is not going to get you anywhere.

If you care about changing peoples mind, please listen to this and understand it.

If all you care about is outrage, or "being right"... Don't bother reading the rest... And don't bother commenting, I'm just going delete and ban you anyway.

You have to deal with the fact that for the most part they are not racist, and they don't believe flag is racist. If you can't... don't engage, you're just going to get angry and start screaming, and probably piss them off too. And now instead of just a disagreement, you have an enemy, who is less likely to change their mind, and more likely to harden against doing so, or even double down.

If you approach things from the perspective that they are racist, and that when they say they are not racist they are lying or deliberately deluding themselves, or that they are stupid... you will actually make things MUCH worse.

*****SO WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MEAN TO THEM THEN?*****

This part is even harder to believe for some than the last, but it is 100% true...

Mostly, southerners just REALLY hate being told what to do.

Now, everyone hates being told what to do... And Americans as a whole hate it more than just about any other nation...

But southerners hate it a LOT more than most Americans... Like a couple dozen times more at least. Maybe a couple hundred times more.

And many have a GIGANTIC CHIP on their shoulder about it... Particularly about non-southerners or "outsiders" telling them what to do... And particularly about identifying themselves as southerners, and differentiating themselves from northerners.

... And those are mostly the people who fly the flag, or support flying it.

If you want way more detail and explanation, and want to put this into historical, psychological, and sociological context, read something like "Born Fighting" by Jim Webb. Because it isn't just me saying it, it's a well studied and well understood sociological fact.

You're talking about a place where multi-generational shooting wars have gone on, over one person telling someone what to do, and the other person not wanting to.

And those people look at that flag, as a symbol for who THEY are, and who they are NOT, and for not being told what to do.

That all may sound a little crazy, and a little childish, if you grew up as a middle class white anglosaxon protestant in the northeast, upper midwest, or west...

...(if you're black, irish, italian, hispanic or latino, or grew up in Boston, non-rich parts of New York City, or Chicago, it probably just sounds familiar)...

...It's not. It's deadly serious.

You do NOT try to take away someones pride, or their sense of identity. They WILL react badly if you do. And when you dismiss them, and dismiss their heritage and their pride, and call them stupid or evil,  that's what you're doing to these people.... You're trying to take away their identity and their pride.

You have to understand what it means to THEM, and deal with it from that perspective. Respecting them as individuals, and working to help them understand why that symbol isn't what they think it is, and why they should choose another symbol... Not because you told them to, but because they want to on their own.

*****BEING ARROGANT AND SELF RIGHTEOUS DOESN'T HELP****

When outsiders say they hate the confederate flag and that it's racist, what many southerners hear, is that you hate them, and they are racist. That you think you're better than them, and that they're stupid and evil.

...Which in fact is true a lot of the time... a lot of those outsiders DO think they're better than white southerners, and that white southerners are racist, stupid, and evil. Don't believe me, just look around social media. Or maybe your own subconscious assumptions.

In addition to hating being told what to do, most Southerners also hate being told that they are bad, and wrong, and collectively guilty for stuff that happened before they were born, or while they were children.

And they REALLY don't like, the mostly white, mostly liberal, sanctimonious, arrogant, self righteous hypocrites; who are screaming at them that they are racists, and their history and heritage are nothing but evil...

....And who would be screaming at them confederate flag or not, because said white liberal sanctimonious hypocrites think white southerners are racist redneck idiots no matter what.

And yeah, that's what it sounds like to them... And frankly, that's what a lot of it is. Again, just look around social media...

You may not be one of those people... In fact if you've read this far, you probably aren't... But what are your own assumptions? What language are you using? What do you really think about these people? How are you attempting to engage them?

The notion that the North was wholly virtuous, and the south wholly evil.. Is just stupid... But it seems that most people in the north still hold it (note, this is not an apologia for the Evil of the confederacy... just acknowledging the stupidity of the notion). That they do isn't really their fault, because it's mostly what the schoools teach, and the culture reinforces... But if someone is going to be active in social issues,they have a responsibility to know better.

...Most don't bother questioning their ignorance, never mind their own moral superiority.

And when it comes to the confederate flag, many seem glad to to gleefully assert their ignorant false moral superiority over every white southerner (confederate flag supporter or not).

Because they're not really saying they don't like the flag... they're saying they don't like the south, and that all white southerners are racist and bad, unless they prove otherwise to the outsiders own satisfaction.

It's the presumption of collective moral guilt, without evidence or justification except for prejudice and preconception; where no standard of proof of innocence exists outside of complete agreement with the accuser.

Whether that's true of you, or of any specific anti-flag person or not, that's what a lot of white southerners hear.

... And actually, for a lot of people, it IS true. They do think that. And many don't bother trying to hide it. Many also think that southerners are stupid, uncultured, filthy, cousin humping rednecks, and a bunch of other nasty stereotypes... and again, they don't bother to hide it. Hell, they make movies and TV shows about it.

Anti-southern bigotry is perfectly acceptable in most of the country... And a lot of southerners REALLY don't like that.

... and before black peoples heads explode on that one...

Just because there is far more racist bigotry against blacks, and that its impact is far worse, and that it was socially acceptable generally in the past, and still is in some specific places or to some people today... Doesn't mean that other forms of bigotry don't exist, or that they are meaningless, or that it's OK to be that kind of bigot. It may sound simplistic and childish, but it's the truth... Two wrongs don't make a right.

... And really, I shouldn't have to say that... In fact I shouldn't have to say most of this, nor to repeat much of it over and over again... But I do. Because otherwise, it doesn't get through the reactionary outrage and into the conscious brain.

*****TELLING GOOD BUT WRONG PEOPLE THEY ARE EVIL DOESN'T HELP*****

Southerners really don't like when these arrogant, self righteous, condescending outsiders, insist that everything to do with southern history, heritage, and culture, is unremittingly and unmitigatedly evil, because of slavery and segregation; and that every white southerner is permanently collectively guilty because of it... as if nothing else exists or matters about the south, or southerners, or ever will.

Well.. Except barbecue... Outsiders don't hate barbecue... that's not evil... but everything else is.

Again, whether people are actually saying that or not, that's what it sounds like to many southerners.

And again, yes, I have watched MANY people argue both those anti-southern positions in threads here on Facebook just in the last couple days... Sometimes only half serious, but the second anyone starts looking like a confederate apologist or a flag supporter... or if they think no-one who will disagree with them is paying attention, or that they have the mobs support against the evil southerner... they go full on anti-southern bigot.

What many southerners hear is self righteous northern liberal hypocrites, telling southern white people that not only they should not take pride in their history, heritage, and traditions... and therefore themselves... but that they should be entirely ashamed of those things.... and thus, themselves... and that all southerners are all guilty forever. That nothing any white person in the south ever did was ever good, or honorable, or worthy... or if it was, it didn't matter, because of slavery and segregation.

All of which is nothing but the false collectivist principle, of collective inter-generational guilt. We are individuals, responsible only for our own decisions and actions (and our passive inaction, and out unintended consequences), and not those of others, or of our ancestors.

*****HOW DO WE KNOW THIS IS HOW SOUTHERNERS FEEL?*****

We know that's how these southerners feel, BECAUSE THEY'VE SAID SO about a million times.

... Actually, pretty much every time one of the screamers screams "racist" at them.

But for some reason, instead of actually listening, the self righteous screamers just say "Oh no, they're lying, it's just racism".

Because of course, they KNOW that all white southerners are racist, or at least all that fly that flag or support it are... and all that don't vocally denounce it, and denounce those who support it and fly it are racist too; and all of those whose denunciation isn't loud enough or public enough, or vicious enough; ...and there can be no other possible reason or explanation, and no-one could possibly disagree with them... anyone who does must be evil or stupid.

... And that's not hyperbole, I actually watched several very intelligent people make that argument over the last few days.

So whether these people actually hate southerners or not, whether they actually think white southerners are all racist or not, whether they think all southerners should always be ashamed of themselves or not...

...That's what the flag wavers, and their supporters (and many who aren't), hear... and it's what they feel...

Because mostly, they aren't racist... and screaming at them that they are not only racist, but liars, isn't helping, it's making it worse.

*****Do you get it now?*****

The flag wavers are wrong, it IS a racist symbol, but they don't believe it is, and it's NOT because they are racist, or because they are stupid.

...And no-one is going to convince them otherwise by insulting and disrespecting them, everyone they know and love, and their entire ancestry going back hundreds of years; trying to strip them of their identity, their dignity, and their pride.

When they say "It's not a symbol of racism" they actually mean it.

They're WRONG... But they mean it. They're not just tying to hide their true racism.

... And again, before black folks heads explode... Yes, I absolutely do appreciate that stripping you of your identity, dignity, and pride, is exactly what the racists who flew that flag did to black people, and are still doing to black people. That doesn't make all people who fly that flag collectively guilty, because they don't see themselves as connected to those racists through the flag.

They're wrong to do so, and being outraged over it is a reasonable response on your part...

...But if you want to change things, you're going to have to deal with these people, who are badly mistaken, but actually mean no harm, with the understanding that they mean no harm.

It doesn't mean you have to just passively accept them flying that flag... But you do need to engage with them in a reasonable manner, that doesn't make them feel the same way about you, that you feel when presented with that flag.

****HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY THINK IT'S NOT RACIST*****

If you're not one of those people who grew up believing the confederate flag was a symbol of southern pride and heritage... It may seem hard... maybe impossible,..to understand how they could possibly NOT see it as racist.

It just seems so obvious, and clear, and wrong... How could they not understand that?

You might even think that they have to be lying, because there's no way anyone could possibly NOT see it as racist.

But honestly, it really is true, most of them don't believe the flag is a racist symbol, and most of them are not racist...

....or at least no more racist than anyone else who grew up in the time and place they did, and lived through the cultural changes they did.

Most are not actively racist, and bear no animus against,  ill will towards, or conscious negative bias towards, black people. Certainly they are not supporters of racism, slavery, segregation, and oppression of black people.

In fact, and this one boggles the mind of just about anyone not from the south...

There are actually a lot of black folks in that group of flag wavers and flag supporters. Not by any stretch most, but in some areas it's not rare either. Especially when it's a symbol for a local high school or college.

...Because, as you might have noticed, southerners tend to be pretty passionate about local and state sports, whether they're black or white. When you grow up somewhere that flag means "go team", you don't see it as racist... You see it as boosterism.

So when one of these folks says that they aren't racist, and that the flag isn't racist... they aren't lying, they actually believe it.

They themselves are not racist, and they see the flag as something else entirely, so therefore to them, it isn't racist.

*****OKAY SO WHAT DO I MEAN BY "Not Racist"?*****

Actually, let's get this one out of the way now, before it causes even more confusion, misunderstanding, anger, and harm.

For one thing, I absolutely know that some of the folks reading this are getting more and more irritated every time I say "not racist", because there's no such thing (more below).

This is important... possibly the most important thing I'm going to write in this whole piece...

Racism may be blatant, obvious, and unmistakable animus or bias... That could be called "objectively racist".

It may also be highly subjective and contextual. Racism can be conscious or unconscious. Active or passive. Deliberate, or unwitting. It can be both direct and indirect. It can be personal, or impersonal.

This is where things can get really confusing. It's where good and honest people, with no malice or ill will, can... and do, frequently... have such bad misunderstandings that their interactions degenerate into enmity, or even violence.

So, to clarify some terms... When I say "not racist" in this context, what I mean is that the individuals in question are not actively, intentionally, or consciously racist, in that they bear no animus, ill will, malice, or other conscious bias towards black people. Further, that any subconscious or passive racism, is either unnoticed or not understood by the individual to be racism; and that the individual would feel regret and remorse, or even be ashamed of themselves, if they understood they had been or were being racist, and would attempt to correct it (and they do so if and when such racism is made understood to them).

That's about as close to "not racist" as you can get, without actively and continuously seeking out passive and unconscious racism in yourself, and rigorously attempting to eliminate or mitigate it; and continuously and actively monitoring yourself for any thought or action that may be racist, so you can actively prevent or correct it...

... And if you actually live like that, how do you have time for anything else whatsoever, including any other thoughts?

It's important for this definition, to recognize that our own understandings of what thoughts, language, and behaviors are racist and what are not, are fluid. They change over time, and are shaped by those around us, our culture and subculture, popular culture around us, our language, dialect, and idiom, our peer group, when and where we grew up etc...

What one may understand to be racist, another may simply see as local idiom, and both would be right in their own context; and it's possible neither would be right in a larger context. 10 years earlier or later, the meanings could change entirely. A few hundred miles away, they could change entirely.
 
This of course doesn't excuse blatant or obvious racism, or harm done to any because of racial animus or bias, obvious or not. It's simply recognizing, that often, if it's not direct and obvious, or clearly intentional, it's not actually conscious racism. Sometimes even what seems like blatant and direct racism is not, or at least not consciously. It may be subconscious racism, or it may be simply that what one perceives as a racist act, may not be, because the other person has an entirely different cultural context, without any racist intent.

Personal and direct racism is in the intent, conscious or subconscious (indirect and impersonal racism does not necessarily require intent, and actions with racist implications in a particular context, even if not intended as racist, may contribute to indirect and impersonal racism).

That said, it is incumbent on people to understand as well as they reasonably can, the cultural context of people they interact with, and the people whose lives they impact; in order to avoid such misunderstanding, and any harm that may arise from it.

I have to clarify this for a couple reasons...

First, because everyone is a least a little bit racist, no matter what race you are, or how enlightened you think you are... Humans are instinctive xenophobes,and even when it's trained out of us, and we have an instinctive bias towards things that look like us, or we feel are like us, and against things that look unlike us, or feel unlike us. Most of us train most of it out of ourselves, but there's always a little bit there at a subconscious and instinctive level no matter what.

Image preference bias studies, and brain response studies, have proven this true for all racial groups, all ethnicities, all nationalities, all education levels, all political ideologies, and all religions.

Second, because "not racist" in this context, and in fact this piece as a whole, is speaking specifically to personal racism, not implicit, structural, institutional, or systemic racism, or racial bias driven disparities of opportunity or outcome; except in that confederate symbology and the idealization of the old south, without the acknowledgement of, or especially with the dismissal or apologia for the racism of the CSA; contribute to these other categories of indirect or impersonal racism.

Is that semi-clear... as much as it can be given how complex and subjective this is?

So now, hopefully, we can proceed on that basis; knowing that when I say "not racist", I am not saying that there is no racism in these people at all, or that they may not have some subconscious racism. Because everyone has some racism in them, no matter who they are; and even if someone isn't actively or consciously racist, this can still contribute to indirect and impersonal racism, like institutional and systemic racism, structural racism etc...

... Because as I have mentioned several times in this piece, flying the confederate flag, even without racist intent, is one of those actions which harms others, and contributes to institutional and structural racism.

This institutional and structural racism is many times worse, if such an act is by any government official, or in any kind of official context, or at any kind of government facility;  because it is the active use of a powerful symbol of racism and oppression, directly by the government.

... and now back to the rest of the story....

*****AND HERE'S THE REALLY BIG ONE*****

Sure, heritage and tradition, and football, and all that... But really, the most important  thing to most of the people who fly the confederate flag?

It's a giant FUCK YOU to self righteous outsiders who try to tell them what to do.

It's a giant FUCK YOU to everyone who hates the south, and hates white southerners, and thinks they are better, smarter, or morally superior; just because of the opinions they hold, where they came from, their education, or how much money they have.

It's not about race at all to them, it's a giant middle finger to the outsiders and the busybodies and the screamers, and the hypocrites.

It's Andrew Jackson saying "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

And it's a giant "FUCK YOU I'M SOUTHERN AND PROUD, AND YOUR'E NOT" to everyone else.

And so the approach of trying even harder, louder, more insulting, more shaming... It's actually just going to make them do it more, and gather more support, and harden their position.


*****NOW JUST AS A PRACTICAL MATTER*****

You may disagree with me entirely, and think that no matter what, everyone who flies the confederate flag is racist. Or that they don't know they are, but they really are racist, and they need to be shamed because of it... Or they need it pointed out to them, and proved to them no matter how they deny it...

Or that it doesn't matter whether they are or not, because it's a racist symbol, and they need to be shamed because of it.

You might even feel that anyone who flies the flag doesn't deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, treated with civility and respect, and engaged in open and honest discussion. That they deserve to be yelled at and called racist.

Which is fine, you can feel that way.

But let me ask you something... Is what you're doing working?

Is it helping?

It might make YOU feel better to get all screamy and self righteous and morally superior... But does it actually help advance the cause of reducing racism, and healing racial wounds?

Or does it just make you feel superior?

You might have noted, and I mentioned it above... no-one likes being told that they're bad and wrong, and that they have to do what "you" tell them to because "you" are good and right... and southerners especially don't like that.

Being told what to do by self righteous and arrogant northern elitists... or any outsiders... whjile being told they are bad and wrong and stupid and evil... Even if what they're being told to do is the right thing... Not something they're going to react well to.

You wouldn't react well to it, would you?

Why would you expect anyone else to?

In fact, even those who would otherwise support removing those flags,  or have been advocating doing so on their own... Some of them might have a problem with that too... actually, a lot of them do...

Now instead of an ally, or someone whose mind can be changed.. you have at best a bystander, at worst an enemy.

So... Maybe you can TRY not being an anti-southern bigot, or acting like one, or sounding like one...

Maybe you can actually treat people you disagree with, with courtesy, consideration, and respect talk with people, honestly and openly,

...Because that Is the point right? Changing people minds and making things better?

Or is it just to yell at people and feel superior?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Arguments, Experts, and Evidence

So.. Im about to spew forth that long rant, that most genuine experts, and scientists, and engineers, and doctors, and lawyers and people with decades of experience in their fields, and anyone with formal traing, or skill and experience, in argument and debate; have at least yelled out out in their heads, if not actually to others faces, or in writing or electronic media... When faced with people who really have no basis basis or rationale to claim... whatever it is they are claiming, or dispute whatever it is they are disputing... and aren't even doing so in a coherent manner.

So, basically, most of the internet...

I'm increasingly weary of those who reflexively disagree with conclusions or data that don't fit their social, moral, or ideological preferences (left, right, doesn't matter, people from all sides do it).

I can live with this though, if they can admit their position is not based on supported arguments or data (it may be based on emotion, or differing first principles, morals, ethics, or other primarily or purely subjective opinions or assumptions; not necessarily provable with logic, argument, or data)

...Or if they don't try to argue a subject they don't know well enough to intelligently and usefully argue about (or even to explain their own position properly).

...Or if they can at least accept these things, after they are shown that they are so, if they didnt know this beforehand (which is unfortunately frequent... and sadly many people CAN'T, or at least won't).

I'm more than happy to honestly, intelligently, and usefully, argue or debate just about anything, with just about anyone. In fact I love it, and I actively seek it out. Its fun, its interesting, its amusing, it can even be exhillerating. On top of all that, it's the best way I know of, to actually make everyone smarter, with better ideas, and better arguments for them.

I would rather argue and be proven wrong, than continue to believe (and act on the mistaken belief) that I was right, when I wasnt... I don't find that embarrassing or humiliating (well...unless I made an obvious and stupid error... and then I deserve it)... I find it useful, and helpful. Otherwise, how else do we fix problems, correct errors, and prevent misunderstandings and misconceptions from turning into disasters?

I really hate being wrong. I hate it so much, that I'm happy to be corrected, and I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong... once you've proven it (or if I trust your knowledge in the subject over mine).

If it's something I'm confident in though, you'd better be prepared to do the work, and argue your position properly, with proper support (and I generally won't write seriously about something, unless I am confident in it, otherwise I'll say so, and generally ask for confirmation or correction from readers).

If you want to engage in that way, I've got all the time in the world for it.

What I simply no longer have the energy or patience for, are the disingenuous, the incompetent, and the lazy.

Those who do not wish to honestly, legitimately, and usefully argue, but pretend to do so anyway.

Those who wish to argue, but don't know how to argue properly, or don't know the subject well enough to do so... and either can't admit, or are ignorant of, the fact that they dont (and won't accept it when shown).

Those who argue vehemently, but can't be bothered to do the work necessary to understand, articulate, and support their own arguments and position properly; never mind bothering to read, understand, and evaluate my position, arguments, and supporting data.

Those who in theory, are attempting to use valid data, logic, and arguments, to question or clarify those things they disagree with; but who are in fact just playing "gotcha" games, in order to discredit and dismiss, anything which might challenge their preferences and preconceptions, without real consideration.

... The saddest part being, many honestly believe that those ARE valid strategies and tecchniques for argument and debate; often because they have never been taught otherwise...

...And because very often those invalid strategies and techniques work, and they "win" arguments with them... against those who don't know any better, or who simply don't care...

These people seem to love "challenging" me to explain... or often, to re-explain for the third or fourth time... everything, in depth, with additional sources and citations; which they don't actually care about, won't bother reading, and wouldn't pay attention to or believe if they did. Often they do this in multiple consecutive threads on the same topic, "challenging" me to re-prove the same things over and over, and to deal with the same false and invalid "gotchas", assertions, assumptions, and non-refutations.

Because, of course, they don't want to debate, understand, or learn; and aren't open to challenging, never mind changing, their ideas and positions... They just want to protect their preexisting notions and preferences.

So, I'm just not bothering with most of them anymore. I'll give it one shot, and if they prove to be one of the time and energy wasters, unless I really like and respect them personally... I'm done.

For one thing, I already write several thousand word posts on complex subjects, and those are nowhere near in depth enough to even skim the surface of these issues... but they are generally as comprehensive, well argued, and well supported as this format allows (unless I'm just annoyed or being snarky... but those USUALLY aren't the long complicated ones).

And I'm happy to usefully engage in comments, including giving background and context for those unfamiliar with the issue, or more fully explaining or supporting points and positions.

...TO A POINT...

It's not my job to fully educate someone on a subject. If they are attempting to engage in argument with someone who clearly IS knowledgeable about a subject, and has just spent several hundred or several thousand words writing intelligently about it; it's a prerequisite that they have the background, put in the effort, and do the work, to do so intelligently.

Often, their questions and comments clearly show they didn't read, or didn't understand, what I wrote in the first place... Or they skimmed, or cherrypicked, or read to the point where they thought they hit a "gotcha", before indignantly commenting.

Or worst of all,  they've just decided to argue against a position they assumed I would take, or one completely separate, or even irrelevant to the issue; rather than actually addressing the position, argument, theories, or data presented. 

Straw men, false dilemmas, false dichotomy, splitting, moving the goalposts, reframing the issue to overbroaden or overnarrow it, and attempts to force pivots and redirects abound, as do appeals to motive, and other ad hominem. Then there's everyone's favorite,  argumentum ad nauseum. Because if you simply make the same a priori assertions and invalid or disproven non-arguments over and over again, YOU WIN... right!

And of course, any data or citations provided which might challenge their position, no matter how many and how reputable the sources, would be "biased" and "cherrypicking" or inadequate, or suspect or... Meanwhile, their attempts at refutation, generally come in the from of transparently biased and ideological media puff pieces, on transparently ideological web sites which care nothing for truth or fact; or simply making a priori assertions, unsupported appeals to authority, appeals to motive, ad hominem and tu quoque, and more argumentative games.

...Which of course they then simply positively assert to be unquestionably valid, sufficient, true and correct... and declare their own unquestionable victory, having never actually engaged in argument to begin with.

This is the basic textbook of bad argument technique; whether they have never been taught how to properly argue and support a position... Which, sadly, applies to most people... Or whether it's deliberate in order to shutdown argument or dissent without giving other positions a hearing.

I've just grown tired of it, particularly when most (though certainly not all) don't even have the background necessary to understand the issues in question, or to recognize invalid assumptions or arguments, or to detect when they are being lied to by their sources... Or even to evaluate the quality and reliability of their sources at all. 

....Most especially when it's patently obvious that they don't, and  they are  just parrotting what other people they agree with ideologically tell them... Or worse, what "feels right"...

Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse... When they know they dont have the necessary background but keep arguing anyway... Or when they think they do, and that they have actually made good arguments, or even "won".

When I say they dont have the background, I dont mean that they are unintelligent or poorly educated. If that's what I meant, that's what I would have said.

What I'm saying, is that they dont have sufficient depth and breadth, of knowledge and understanding of the subject matter (and the disparate or  broader subject matters, which it impacts, impacts it, or which it depends on), to properly understand, evaluate, support, or argue, ANY position... at least with any degree of authority or confidence.

Also, and importantly, most people are simply not skilled and experienced in rhetoric, debate, analysis, logic; and the basic modes and methods of legal, philosophical, and scientific inquiry and argument (the basis of most formal argument).

Most don't have the logical, analytical, and critical thinking skills and experience; necessary to frame, articulate, and properly support strong arguments; to detect fallacies and weak arguments; or to independently evaluate and weight the reliability and validity of data, assertions, arguments, and sources.

At one time, most people in this country, with at least a high school education, did have these skills... Or at least they were taught and reinforced; so that people were equipped with the tools, if they put in the effort. Certainly this was true for most college graduates in most fields of study, at most colleges and universities... At least, until the late 1960s anyway (and it still is true for the hard sciences, at least within the sphere of their subject matter).

... Not so much anymore unfortunately... Most people don't even know what these things are anymore (if they even know they exist), never mind having any skill or experience in them.

Because this is so, most people, most of the time, depend mostly on "common sense" (which is frequently wrong), basic assumptions which feel right or "make sense" (but frequently are not, and do not), and appeals to authority (which may or may not be valid, but they don't have the ability to evaluate that validity, so they just pick whatever authority agrees with their preconceived notions, what their friends, teachers, or the media told them, or their "gut feeling").

That is not a good argument... It isn't really even an argument at all.

Presuming you have sufficient intelligence, a decent fundamental education, and aptitude for learning (and have been taught or learned those critical skills in logic, reasoning, research etc...); on many subjects, you can get the background you need for an intelligent and useful argument, through research, self education, seeking out good sources and data you can validate and analyze properly, and finding experts you can learn from and question (not simply blindly accept data, argument, conclusion, or position from... that's just another appeal to authority).

This is not to say expert opinions are without value... just that they should not simply be accepted blindly, without validating their expertise, position, arguments, and data.

Experts need more than just credentials, education, and experience. They need to clearly and properly support their opinions and positions, with strong arguments, and good data which properly support their arguments.

Further, they must properly account for or resolve any exceptions, conflicts, exclusions, variances, and discrepancies; with any pre-existing positions observed to be valid, with any credible and supported new positions which arise, and with observable reality.

If a position is well supported, aligned with observable reality, doesn't have major unresolved issues, and doesn't require require major changes if true or accepted... only then is it generally acceptable to adopt or at least consider that position valid.

However, if any of those conditionals are unsatisfied, that position must be much more stringently validated.

Once the expert has presented their position, arguments, and data (along with resolving issues noted in this process), the hard work is yours. You have to do your best to validate or invalidate their position, arguments, and data; and if at all possible to independently test, and prove or disprove their position.

These must be validated not just in their own context and in the scope of their own arguments and data, in isolation. They must be validated for consistency or contradiction with outside fields and systems, scope, and data.

Anything, in any field, area, or scope, could potentially invalidate or raise a discrepancy in an experts position.

If their position is dependent on certain assumptions being true, and within their own field and scope these assumptions appear true, it is tempting to accept them. However, in an entirely different field or scope, observational data could prove that those assumptions are in variance, are conditional, or are plain false.

Also, any position must be generally validated, against logic, physics, mathematics, the basic science or other basic parameters of the field, and all known provably or observably true theories, laws, and hard data

This is called the "reality test". Any valid position must not be in conflict with, excluded by, or contradicted by observed or provably true or correct "reality" in any way that cannot be properly accounted for.

Nor can there be substantial or significant unresolved variances or discrepancies between the provably true or observed data, and in those things which must be true for their position to be true, or in any major element, assumption, condition, or dependency of their position, or in those things which are predicted or implied by their position, and the observed data.

***with the notable exception of certain esoteric areas of math and physics, where the scientists are certain there ARE laws... They just don't know what they are yet, or how they a work, or why, or why the normal laws don't work the same, or at all... Which they currently explain by saying "the laws work everywhere except here, which is different, because... things" ***

Once raised, any conflicts, exclusions, contradictions, or significant variances or discrepancies, must be resolved; or the position must be considered invalidated, or at best incomplete and unproven with significant unknown factors, and high potential error.

...and guess what?

THAT, is how you analyze and validate (or invalidate) ANY argument or position, no matter whose it is.

THAT, is the difference between a well supported position, and an unsupported position.

... and people used to understand that...

...But for some reason, don't seem to anymore...

Almost anyone can do these things... you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

If you're not.. It just takes way too much time and energy, to bother doing all the extra work, for people who wouldn't change their minds no matter what evidence or argument was presented to them.

I don't write these things for them.

I write for me, because Im amused, or angered, or irritated, or frustrated, or fascinated... Or to think out loud... Or just to get stuff out of my head.

I write for those who don't know the details, or the background, or the supporting arguments, or the basic principles; of the positions they assume are true (or false), and who want to learn them. Because a bad argument, or a badly supported good argument, actually HARMS your own position.

If you can't fully explain your own position, and why and how you came to it (with supporting data where applicable)... AND fully understand, explain, and refute, (with supporting data where applicable), those positions opposed to your own...  Then you don't really know your own position.

...You certainly don't know it well enough to make a good argument for it, and you should do your best to never make anything but good arguments, lest you actually harm your position.

Finally, I write for the people who actually DO want to, and are capable of, having an intelligent and useful argument. Because as I said above, that's what makes us all smarter and better.

So, I've taken to stating a position, with arguments and supporting data, as completely and clearly as I can in the space and time available; then leaving breadcrumbs and pointers.

If someone then chooses to engage... or at least those people who I care to bother spending the time and energy on... I tell them two things:

First...

"Please do me the courtesy of presuming that I am not stupid, evil, or insane, until an unless I prove otherwise. I will do the same for you, until and unless you prove otherwise.

Either of us may be mistaken in whole or in part, and we may disagree on details and methods, but we want the same things. Both of us want people to be better off, and for the world to be a better place. Neither of us want people to be worse off or for the world to be a worse place. If you cant do that, there is nothing for us to talk about".

... unfortunately, many people CAN'T actually make that emotional and intellectual leap, but that's another issue...

And second...

"I pointed you in a direction, now you do your own research. You wont believe what I tell you, or the sources I cite anyway, and even if you did, I want you to find your own, so I am not unduly biasing your research.

Don't start from your preferred conclusion and work back just far enough to justify it. Start from the beginning, and do your own research.

Actually educate yourself about the issue, in order to come to YOUR OWN position, not just one told to you by others. You can only do that after understanding and evaluating all the data and the arguments, and all of the background. Educate yourself about my position, and your position, well enough to have a meaningful conversation about it.

When you actually understand the issue, and the arguments and positions, come back and we'll talk about where there are  reasonable disagreements about details, data, conclusions, or where there are fundamental differences in approach or assumptions or principles.

I did it, you can too. I NEVER seriously argue a position without knowing as much as I can about an issue, and coming to my own conclusions.

If I'm bothering to say this to you, it's because I have enough respect for you that I'm sure you can do it as well, and will be worth talking to on the subject when you do.

Again, if you can't be bothered to do that, we have nothing to talk about".

If someone is worth talking to, they will. Otherwise I know I can ignore them.