That's what you get for stirring the pot

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
August 26th, 2009

I’ve been kind of feeling like this site (and my email inbox) has been hijacked by the whole pot debate over the past week, although in retrospect, I think it’s a good thing.

Heated debate has always, to my mind, been the fire that fuels our country’s psyche, sparking not just innovation, but human warmth, in our national policy.

I don’t think all – or even most – Source readers are interested enough in the marijuana issue to follow legalization arguments this closely indefinitely, but for those who are, the debate will continue on our op-ed pages and possibly even through an on-line debate as suggested by one of our readers (we’ll keep you posted – forgive the pun).

But issues have arisen through the course of the dialogue that extend far beyond the boundaries of pot legalization, speaking more to who we are as a society and how we, collectively, get things done.

First, let me say that many, many participants offered polite, intelligent, articulate discourse that was a credit to themselves and their cause, underlining the importance of conducting this sort of debate in the first place. Those people have my deepest gratitude and admiration for standing up and making their views known – that takes both courage and integrity.

It was the others, though – the angry, histrionic, contemptuous reactions that flooded in by the dozens – that brought, for me, a murky problem into clear relief.

I want to know what, exactly, they wanted to accomplish with their responses?

Over the years, I haved watched all sorts of people, of all belief systems and political leanings, take adversarial, evangelical approaches to lobbying for their cause, whatever that cause may be, fighting tooth-and-nail to beat opposition into submission through sheer vitriol. And the question I always find myself asking is the same: What is the goal driving such behaviour?

Do they really think it will gain them the sympathy of … well, of anybody?

Yes, my column was strident, perhaps arrogant – but I know what my goal was: to provoke thought, discussion and debate. The tone I struck appears, based on responses received, to have worked in service of my goal.

But I was just re-reading one lady’s diatribe telling me to get over myself, another man’s threat to find out where I live and “come knock some sense into that fat, empty head of,” mine, and the countless other emails taking sweeping hacks at Rob and I, calling us names and attempting to belittle us – I can’t figure out what they hoped to get done.

I know they tried to shut us up … never once stopping to notice that we had never done likewise – we did not erase a single post, nor edit one, and we posted only the more rational letters rather than the ones expounding on a CIA conspiracy to tank the global economy and take over the world by prohibiting marijuana. They just couldn’t see that we had provided them the perfect forum on a gilded platter, where they could roll out calm, rational arguments and, compared to my heavy-handed column, appear the very voice of reason.

Instead, they chose to spew hatred at Rob and I both.

What, I wonder, did they think they were achieving with those responses? Do they want to see marijuana legalized … or hate Rob and I?

I’m certainly not crying into my soup at night, and Rob still seems pretty well-adjusted (well, for Rob, anyway). In fact, they did us both a favour, making our points for us …as I’ve said before, it’s tough to ask society to trust you to manage a mind-altering drug in a reasonable, adult manner when you’ve just finished proving you can’t even discuss the possibility in a reasoned, adult manner … so what was their master plan?

They say they want to change the status quo; they say they want to sway people to their way of thinking … how many minds and hearts do they suppose are opened via hate mail?

I just don’t get it.

My point is this: never mind my feelings, or Rob’s, or the basic rules of common decency – we chose to write the columns in a public forum; we can take a little heat, no problem.

That aside, there comes a time when all of us, if we wish to bring our goals to fruition, must temper passion with pragmatism. Apply some strategic thought to the argument. Look to Martin Luther King Jr., or Gandhi … do you change the world by answering contempt with more contempt, or by being the only calm voice of reason when everyone else is shouting and screaming?

The answer is obvious… and it pains me, it really does, to see people who badly want something but will never get it because they can’t get out of their own way long enough to convince anyone else of its merit (no, I’m not referring to the pot lobby in particular, but rather to all those who choose to employ fury as a vehicle for change).

Don’t try to cow us – convince us, instead.

My grandmother used to annoy the living daylights out of me by saying, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can vinegar.”

Now I’m going to take it that extra step and say that just because you ripped their wings off, doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to eat anything you feed them.

There are ways to affect change in this society, ways to change public opinion, ways to change a long-standing status quo.

To all those who penned diatribes boasting more rage than common sense – trust me, folks. There are better, more productive ways.

Categories: Issues


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