Dr. Tom: Civil discourse …

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I began to write this column because I learned that one-third of U.S. citizens didn’t realize that the Affordable Care Act was the same as Obamacare, so I thought there was a need for enlightenment about healthcare in our country. It was my intention to base my comments on facts, but also to encourage readers to think, to come up with rational arguments if they disagreed with me and with rational ideas if they agreed with me.

Because I missed the columns by Hector and Conor, I hoped to fill the void with some science, some controversy. Perhaps because of my middle-European heritage, I am used to heated discussions, most often with close relatives, that left one angry, exhausted, frustrated, but never hateful. I miss those times.

I know this is not the low point of the history of our country. We have experienced fist fights in Congress, a Civil War, impeachments and other disturbances in our democracy. But this is the worst I have seen in my short life of 68 years. We seem incapable of respectful discussions with those whom we disagree. It is not enough to attack someone’s ideas, we must attack that person.

Which reminds me of a logical fallacy: ad hominem attacks. Logic is a valuable area of study that helps us construct rational arguments rather than nonsensical attacks. Ad hominem is Latin for something like “to the person,” meaning that we attack the person rather than the idea. It means that “if Hitler said it, it must be wrong.” Of course, Hitler had a lot of crazy ideas, but some of them must have been correct; the point is that we should evaluate each on its own merit.

This gets confusing, as pointed out in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” we all remember from our childhood, but it is worth remembering whether we are “the Boy” or the reader of the tale. No one is all right or all wrong, all good or all evil.

Here’s another thought; how do we convince someone to agree with us? Belittle? Threaten? If all else fails, kill? My best, or worst, example: Imagine you are a government agent having to negotiate with someone who believes in “honor killings.” For example, his daughter was raped so she must be killed to protect the honor of the family. Is there any more despicable human behavior? Not that I can think of.

However, this is a cultural phenomenon, deeply engrained from childhood. So how can it be eliminated? It is clearly not possible to kill everyone who believes that way, even if that could be rationalized on a moral basis (hard to imagine, as tempting as it might be) it would not be practical, it just wouldn’t work. Thank heaven for diplomats!

I believe it is important, in spite of the old saw, to discuss religion, politics and all kinds of other important things with rational people whom we respect, without the threat of violence or hatred or ad hominem attacks. To learn from each other. Hey, it could happen!

Dr. Kluzak, an Idyllwild resident, is board certified in Anatomic Pathology, Obstetrics and Gynecology. He also is a freelance photographer for the Town Crier.

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