I am not against debate and discussion of different viewpoints. In fact, I like nothing better than for someone who believes differently on a particular issue to explain their thought processes behind why they have come to the belief that they hold.
But what I do not enjoy is a person explaining their beliefs using hatred and cliched stereotypes as the "facts" of their beliefs.
In other words, I am all in favor of thoughtful discussion of all sides of an issue with the ultimate goal being a greater understanding of all viewpoints. For me, the goal of a debate isn't to convert someone to "my way" of thinking, but to understand them and hopefully, have them understand me.
We don't have to agree, merely respect each other's right to have a different opinion. And many times discover that there isn't really that much difference in our opinions at all.
And for this reason, I am very sad to find myself in a quandary. The local newspaper, the Post-Courier, has an on-line version, Charleston.net. Recently, they added a comments section to the news stories they printed on-line.
Sounded great. Discussion of local and national stories by the public.
But as is all too common in on-line and anonymous discussion, it has devolved into a morass of ugliness and ignorance.
Here, for an example, is a comment that was made on a story about low income housing:
Posted by NN on August 12, 2007 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)
ooooooo lordy, shirley! go puts da pig feet, cornbread and chitlens in da bean pot fo suppa! we gots us a new house!
Okay, I see the little button for "suggest removal" and I'm pretty sure that the powers to be at Charleston.net will remove this little gem as soon as possible.
But here is the question I have. Would this person have made this comment in those words if, like letters to the editor, he or she had to post them under their real name? I think not. I think he or she would have thought up a less inflammatory way to say that he or she does not support tax payer assistance for low income housing.
As a Charlestonian, I am embarrassed for my community that this is allowed to stand for even a moment in a public forum. Not only a local public forum, but one in which anyone anywhere with a computer can access.
My quandary? This blog is listed on the Lowcountryblogs, which is a part of the Charleston.net. I have written a letter to the Public Editor, expressing my concerns about the anonymous practice of comments. I am sure I am not the only person who is concerned about the tone the comments sections have taken.
I hope I will hear something positive back from the editor.