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On writing nice

March 5, 2015

Since day one on this blog my Comments Policy has stated:

  • Be nice. If you have to wonder whether you’re being nice, you’re probably not.
  • Try to write precisely and clearly. For most people, this alone will take care of the “be nice” command. That said, it is one of the hardest things on Earth to do and I will fail repeatedly. I trust you to call me out when needed.

I realized I can’t reconcile my own instructions with this sentence (and a few others) in my diversity essay: “The fact is conservatives don’t care about diversity except when they can use it to bash liberals.” I know my personality can be confrontational and argumentative, and I consciously try to temper those tendencies in my writing. I’ve failed before and clearly did so here. I would have benefited from reviewing Alan Jacobs second rule of online discourse: “The point is: You can’t read minds and hearts, so you don’t know…So let’s skip over the motives and focus on the ideas.”

Especially since I was trying to engage Dougherty et al., I should have made sure to not impute bad motives to them. I’m very grateful Dougherty still decided to read and respond to my essay.

But though I regret the tone of my piece, I do stand by my two main arguments. First, conservatives–and especially social conservatives–should do more on diversity. While I don’t doubt many of them care about diversity, I don’t see evidence they take meaningful action to foster it. Much of my very Hindu family should consider themselves social conservatives, but they don’t. That’s a problem. Second, the best way to start embracing diversity might be to first turn inwards and focus on becoming more fully Christian. But I’m much less sure on this point. It’s ultimately a question of strategy and execution and there may be other ways to diversify.

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