Dear Ben Affleck,
I recently watched the video of your appearance on the show Real Time with Bill Maher, with guests Sam Harris, Nicholas Kristof, and Michael Steele. It was Maher’s show though, right? Couldn’t really tell from the video. Honestly Ben, I think there is a lot for everyone to learn from this encounter, which is why I am spending my time writing this open letter to you. Let’s get right to it, because too many human lives are at stake.
I am going to be very critical of you in this letter, because like many other people in our society, you are looking at this issue completely backwards. Before I start with that though, I want to make sure to say I believe your heart is in the right place. It is clear to anyone who watches the video that you truly care about people. You are deeply concerned about how we homo sapiens treat one another, but what you are failing to understand is so are Maher and Harris. Having your heart in the right place is not enough, and if you can keep an open mind while reading this, I think you will understand why.
What was your mindset going into this discussion? Based on your non-verbals, voice tone, and overall defensive demeanor, which was neither provoked nor warranted, it appeared as though you came into this with some preconceived beliefs about Harris and/or the issue at hand. I’m not completely familiar with the structure of Bill Maher’s show, so correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the new guest supposed to get a couple of minutes of uninterrupted air time before the other guests join in?
Harris only had thirty seconds before you blurted out,
“Thank god you’re here.”
You appear to be a well-informed person, so I am going to go out on a limb and guess that you know both Maher and Harris are Atheists. It seemed obvious to me this was a passive-aggressive way of saying “fuck you” to Harris. Not a great idea to start off in a negative tone right from the get go. How is a discussion supposed to take place if someone is more focused on their preconceived notions than they are on listening to one another? That sounds more like an argument than a discussion.
I watched the entire video multiple times and instead of going through it all, I will just pick a few examples to help explain why I made the statements above concerning how you acted during this discussion. At minute marker 1:45, Harris said,
“I’m not denying that certain people are bigoted towards Muslims as people, and that’s a problem.”
You responded with,
“That’s big of you.”
Watching the video, I can hear that you responded even before Harris was done with his sentence. This is a problem that many people are guilty of, including myself. It means you already had the response in your head, even before Harris finished speaking. How is a discussion, an exchange of ideas wherein people listen to one another, supposed to take place if you already know what you’re going to say before you have processed all the information? If you had listened to Harris, instead of preparing your next attack, maybe you would have realized that he is fighting for the same people you are. Instead, you missed out on a great opportunity to close the gap between what your preconceived notions of Harris were and what he actually is. Instead of focusing on the fact that you two were on the same page, you had to get a cheap shot in, to show him that you were “more” on the same page than he was. Are you five years old?
Your biggest issue with Maher and Harris appeared to be that you felt they were stereotyping all Muslims. If you listen to them, you would see they are criticizing an ideology, not a people. After attacking them multiple times (minute 1:25, 1:50 and 2:20 are just a few) for stereotyping Muslims as a whole, you turn around and stereotype all Muslims. At 2:55, you interrupt Kristof, who was trying to help you understand the issue more, to say,
“More than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to the store and have some sandwiches pray 5 times a day, and don’t do any of the things that you are saying all Muslims do. You’re stereotyping.”
First, you are thinking of fundamentalist, not fanatical. For example, ISIS is not an Islamic fanatical group, they are a fundamentalist group. They follow the fundamentals of the Islamic ideology so what does that tell you about the fundamentals of this ideology? Not sure if it’s even worth asking, but where are you getting these facts from? You accuse Maher and Harris of stereotyping all Muslims, which they did not, but then you take a hard 180 turn and stereotype them all as “sandwich-eating peace lovers.” I understand that you believe you are protecting people who are Muslim, but I hope after some reflection, you are able to understand why making ignorant statements are counterproductive to helping people.
Don’t punish women you say? Try telling that to the many little girls who are forced into marriage at a young age. What about this 8 year old girl, who died on her wedding night to a 40 year old man due to internal bleeding? Yemen passed a law in 2009 not allowing marriage until the age of 17. It was repealed shortly after though, because the law was “unIslamic.” It is considered “un-Islamic” because the ideology of Islam was written by a man who married a six year old.
At 4:00 Harris finally (he also tried at 2:27 and 3:29, before being cut off by you and then Maher) gets a chance to speak,
“Ben let me unpack this for you.”
To which you reply,
“Please do. I’ve been sitting there just packed up.”
Finally, a solid descriptive statement from you. Exactly, you have been packed up this whole time. Your zipper has been moving a lot, but nothing seems to be going in your ears. You are not the only one who acts this way though, especially when it comes to this issue. The majority of humanity appears to have a hard time differentiating between ideologies and people. This is one area where I hope you can be a source for positive change, though I have some doubts. Harris was finally given a chance to talk and share what some of the facts on this issue are. Of course, it did not last too long before he was cut off by you (5:28),
“Ok, let Nick talk. It’s been”-then you twirl your hand and lean back in your chair- “lot of talking.”
How fucking disrespectful! Was Harris boring you with facts? I did not realize it is your show and you are in charge of who can speak and when. “Thank God you were there” to create an argument and to be a perfect example of what Harris and Maher were talking about at the very beginning of the show. Congrats! You entering this discussion “all packed up” resulted in a missed opportunity for millions of people, including yourself, to become more educated on the facts of this issue.
Let’s use our species-given right, freedom of speech, to look at Christian ideology for a change. For example, how many people born LGBT since the start of Christian ideology have had to suffer in tremendously painful ways, including death, due to discrimination from someone acting on their beliefs? Beliefs which are directly based on the teachings of Christian ideology (Leviticus 20:13). How many still suffer? It is 2014 and America still does not have marriage equality. More importantly, how many more generations will have to suffer before we stop letting people use the intolerance of ancient peoples as an excuse to cause our fellow Earthlings harm in today’s world? Positive change is hard, especially on a large scale. But for how many more years, centuries even, are we going to delay the change we want by preventing open and honest discourse.
I know you care as much as Harris, Maher, and I do about the future. I read somewhere that you have thought about entering politics. I do not know if this is true, but based on many of the interviews I have seen you in, I think you have the potential to make some positive changes in this world. Your heart appears to be in the right place and based on this interview, there is a fire in you to fight for human rights, but positive change takes more than having your heart in the right place.
Our hearts contain our strongest sources of fuel: love and hope. It takes more than fuel alone to head in the right direction. We are lost without our GPS, our compass, and there is no better guide than education. We need to encourage open, honest discourse between people about ideologies. We need to ask open-minded questions and check the facts, to see what the evidence says. If we do not know something, then ask someone who is “well-educated on the subject.” The loudest voice usually gets heard, and too often in society, the loudest voice is the most ignorant one. This is not what moves society forward, and if this is the goal, then we need to start defending people in the right way; by having more discussions and fewer arguments. Discussions can only take place, though, if we think critically. That means that we all need to start taking an open-minded approach when discussing the facts of the issues that affect us all so deeply.
Being critical of an ideology does not mean that one is being anti-human; just the opposite, in fact. Most human rights violations are due to bad ideologies. Yes, humans are the ones who carry out these acts of violence. The reason that many of these people carry out these acts is directly related to the ideology in which they believe, based on nothing but blind faith. If we want to protect people in the best way possible (and Ben, I could feel your passion and desire to do just that), the way that will have the most positive impact on people alive today and in the future, then we need to encourage open-minded discourse, not shut it down. We have to listen with an open mind to one another, and let the facts speak for themselves. Like you, I have high hopes for humanity. We can become more than we are currently and we can build a better tomorrow, today.
Sincerely, A Concerned fellow Earthling
See the Original Post from John Nelson Here