In a recent dustup with a commenter or two, I found myself being labelled a “layman” on matters Constitutional. But where the commenter meant that as dismissive, I instead embrace it. I am, indeed, a “layman” on nearly all matters, an rejoice in that.
When Kevin invited in the guest posters a couple weeks ago, they all wrote little introductions to themselves. That made me realize I’d never done anything like that — and I think I know why.
I’ve often described myself as “a nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life.” That’s not self-deprecation, that’s plain honesty. I can back up all four statements. And I have no advanced degrees, no position of distinction, no certificates, no life experiences that I can point to and say “that is why you should listen to me and take my word for things.”
What I do have, though, are a few gifts that others lack:
1) I have a talent for words. I can express my ideas through the written (or typed) word with exceptional skill. And that is not purely ego talking; that is the opinion of numerous teachers, professional writers, readers, and other bloggers. I know I’m not the best writer in the world, but I do know I’m damned good when I put my mind to it.
2) I have a stage the likes of which few others have. With Wizbang, Kevin has given me a powerful platform from which I can speak. To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, “if I can speak louder, it is because I stand on the shoulders of a giant.”
Those facts shape my style when I write my pieces here. I know I have no short-cut to credibility, so I feel I have to work harder to persuade. I’ve seen many bloggers who simply pontificate, who pronounce things “good” or “bad” and expect the world to immediately bow to their genius. (I could cite a few examples, but the ones that come to mind are on the left, and I’m trying to avoid partisan issues here.) And it annoys me.
So that’s when I draw back on some of the best advice I ever received. A writing teacher drilled into my head three simple words: “Show, don’t tell.”
So, when I tackle an issue like the 2nd Amendment, or the genocide in Darfur, or why I think people like Oliver North, Rush Limbaugh, or Pat Buchanan are jerks, I don’t just say so. I show why I think that. I outline my whole thought process, and cite examples and evidence to back up my positions.
It’s a lot harder than simply proclaiming things as The Truth. But it’s more honest, and in the end I think it is more likely to be more successful.
So when a commenter dismisses my essays as “the work of a layman,” I sit back and smile. It’s like the stereotype of the drill sergeant. “Don’t you dare call me ‘sir!’ I am not an officer! I WORK for a living!”
No, I’m not a certified expert on anything. I don’t have any laurels to rest on. But that just means I have to work a bit harder — and that means that sometimes, just sometimes, I just might be better prepared to win an argument with someone who is an expert.
And if I’m wrong, I know I can count on plenty of people to tell just how I’m wrong, and how wrong I am.