Every Thanksgiving, someone writes a post about how to argue with your crazy uncle. Sometimes the uncle is characterized as angry, or deplorable, or some other unpleasant word, but there are two components that never change. It’s always an “uncle,” because not even the woke want to argue with daddy, who pays for their iPhone and Cheetos, and it’s always the brilliant, reasonable and completely righteous youngster informing their idiot elder of how he’s destroying the universe.
While this is a daily occurrence for many of us, as I am deluged with law students and baby lawyers informing me how wrong I am about everything because they’re all the best and brightest Lake Wobegon has to offer, it takes on a special meaning for Thanksgiving, when young people are compelled by the evil forces of family to spend time with relatives they despise. They may attack an Old like me out of choice, but they are forced to sit next to their uncle who doesn’t even use Axe Body Wash or manscape.
The crux of the “conversation” is invariably how the smart and correct young person is to restrain her outrage at the ignorance and wrongness of her elder so as to make clear to him that he’s completely wrong, she’s completely right, and he should morph by the time sweet potatoes are served into a woke volunteer for Liz Warren. It teaches kids how to guide the conversation toward enlightenment rather than do what comes naturally, call the crazy uncle a Nazi and excoriate him for his racism, sexism and personal destruction of the environment.
Never is there any suggestion that the uncle isn’t crazy, angry or an idiot. Because HE IS!!!
And so the question is posed, is there any discussion to be had? In the view of the young and passionate, something must happen to the wisdom of a twenty-something that, with a few decades of experience atop that brilliance, they morph into an old person of utter awfulness. Or perhaps only youngsters today enjoy the genius of wokeness, such that every person who lived before never stood a chance of being anything other than an angry, crazy uncle.
There are certain phenomena that seem to make a conversation impossible, even when forced into the situation where you have to speak to one another. First, there is the meme problem, that young people rely on shallow and simplistic platitudes, often captured in their very funny memes, and believe these conclusory views are explanations, arguments logic, rather than empty rhetoric.
When you try to explain why “believe the woman” may not be a rationally sound approach to deciding issues of credibility, as opposed to “believe the facts” for example, you get at best a blank stare and at worst a lecture on the historic oppression of women and use of manipulative doubt to silence their views. When you try to explain that this has nothing to do with evidence in a specific instance, there’s a good chance they will either throw something or start to cry. Crying never makes Thanksgiving dinner taste better.
There is also the language dilemma, as the words and concepts employed by the Olds are foreign to the young. While the idiot uncle uses words based upon dictionary definitions, the young substitute their Humpty Dumpty meanings and hear what they want to attribute to the nasty old guy rather than what he’s saying.
And finally, there’s the “hate speech” problem. Should the Old use the word “girl”** or “hysterical,” he will be lectured as to his sexism and misogyny, as these words are no longer permissible if one wants to engage in conversation with a young person. While Olds may be under the misimpression that they are entitled to use the full panoply of words available, that’s only because they are angry or crazy. For the most part, the uncle will have given no thought at all to his personal pronouns, and find it hard to respect those chosen by the youngster.
Is this doable? Is it worth the effort? Does the smelly old guy have a duty to try to explain to the woke young person that it’s not that he’s crazy, angry or an idiot, but perhaps his worldview is formed by the decades of life experience gained on top of his twenty-something brilliance? Or should he just nod and feel bad about the future of humanity?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply.
** Oops, I did it again.