Sunday Soapbox: Defending What I Never Said

>> Sunday, January 24, 2010

*Steps on soapbox*

A week ago, I couldn't think of something to complain about. Today, it's how to choose.
Regarding some of the possibilities, I'm probably too irked to be objective, so I'll stick with one of my pet peeves. What is it, you wonder?

People telling me what I think, what I meant (but did not say), and asking me to defend positions I've never taken (or that even crossed my mind). This isn't aimed at any particular person. I can't remember when it didn't happen, which strikes me as odd. People who don't know me and people who do, it doesn't seem to matter. Too often, people get bent into shape over what they think I meant to say, rather than what I said. And demanding I defend those things I never said.

Part of it, I think, is that, because I'm very straightforward - and people often aren't - it's easy to assume I'm only telling part of my opinion or that I have a hidden agenda. Folks, if I have something to say, I'll say it. You don't have to read between the lines. I don't write anything there.

I'm a fairly unique individual. It's easy, when someone espouses a particular view (particularly if it's not one the other person shared), to assume someone got it from listening to others. That isn't me. I'm not saying I've never been swayed by what someone had to say, but it was because it fit in with my own thinking, included data I didn't have, or involved better reasoning than my own. It's happened. But it didn't happen because of who was telling me, but that what they had to say fit in with my own way of thinking, made sense when I thought about it. Which means, it's still my thinking. My mind can be changed, but you have to have logic that works for me as well as the logic that got me where I am.

What I'm saying is, it's unlikely anyone can predict how I got here or what my opinions are on other topics based on my opinion on one. I'm weird. I don't fit in any particular religion, philosophy, political ideology, area of expertise, mindset, background, race, or mold in general. They not only broke the mold when they made me, the stomped on it a few times for good measure.

But, if you manage to decide what I "really" meant to say or what I was implying, for heaven's sake, don't expect me to defend your interpretation of my words. I won't do it. Ask me to defend what I've said, describe how I got there, say why I think the way I do, no problem. But I get to decide what I think, no one else. And I won't defend positions I don't have.

Just sayin'.

*Steps off soapbox*


  • Jeff King

    Amen, can't express that same opinion any more than you did.

    Every time I read your post I find myself reading and shaking my head in agreement, and I hate it.

    You leave me without anything to add, or very rarely something I disagree with.

    All in all, I don't see how it could be any different, than what you state. Some people want to pull you into an argument because they have anything better to do. Or they don't read everything you have said, and base an opinion on part of your comments.

    But really, how cares about those kind of people, roll your eyes and move on life is too short.

  • Steve Capell

    I have found myself many times with people that will go beyond the bounds of human decency to try to prove their way of thinking is correct. I am just glad they do not have their finger on the button of some brain washing machine. I agree with you!

  • Descartes

    Given the choice between admitting they are wrong and proving they are right, most people get right to work on the proof. I don't recall who said that, but I have always liked it.

    Issac Asimov was a great and prolific writer who was also a scientific genius and general know-it-all. He was a lot of fun to read. He told the story one time of how he went to see a lecture given on some of his earlier writings. he was shocked by the things the lecturer said and went up to him afterwords to correct him. The man told Asimov that just because he wrote the stories doesn't mean that he knows what they mean.

    I think all writers have willful misinterpretations of what they write. Clearly this is what you meant to say.;)

  • Roy

    Yup. You're not the only one who suffers from this, as you well know from having been there to witness some of the ridiculous comments in the comment threads of some of my Gather think-pieces. The problem is that people decide they don't agree with someone else and automatically ascribe the opposite of what they themselves believe to those they disagree with. I can't tell you how many times I've been told what I believe by (a) conservative Christians because I'm not a Christian at all, and (b) by conservatives because I'm at least nominally "liberal" (if not outright radical; see my membership in the Green Party). And nothing I can say, even by emphasizing in bold italics what I actually said, will change their minds as to what they think I should believe because I'm not them. It's called the "straw man" argument, and it drives me up a wall. Lately I've just been ignoring attempts to entangle me in a straw man set-up.

  • Stephanie B

    Thank you, Jeff and Steve.

    Ah, yes, Descartes, I see you understand the concept quite well. It's interesting because I'm fine with people interpreting what I say any way they want, thinking whatever they choose to. If someone has a reaction to my writing I didn't foresee, I have learned not to get spun up about it...mostly (I'm not perfect). What drives me up the wall is someone telling me what I *must* have meant and insisting that is more valid than what I think it meant, as you demonstrated with Asimov, actually teaching a meaning Asimov didn't intend and correcting the author. When these people then demand I defend it, it vexes me a great deal. When people teach other people what literature means, I think they should be very careful not to confuse what they think (even what is the "accepted" interpretation) as fact. I've seen students graded down because their interpretations don't fit the prescribed (aka teacher's) definition. In my opinion, that's doing it wrong. Which is why I was so recently torqued in a discussion I should never have been in. I'm fine with someone feeling differently about something. I'm not fine with someone telling me that, if I feel differently, that's an error of fact. That, however, is an entirely different soapbox.

    Roy, the problem is I'm just not that smart.

  • The Mother

    I find myself often being misinterpreted. Sometimes it's about my choice of words, but more often it is what is read into my words.

    I also find that differing levels and directions of education contribute to that misunderstanding.

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