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You're a debater.

Declan Gunn

December 13th, 2018


You’re a debater. It’s an identity, a lifestyle, one that you can tell your uncles and aunts about with pride. “Wow!” They say. “So you just argue with them? For, like, an hour?” You tell them it’s only around forty-five minutes.


You’re a debater. The trophies are nice. Cheap, shiny, yellow plastic cups with faux limestone bases. They put some sparkle on your bookshelf and college applications, and now your grandparents are suddenly okay with using the words “marvelous” and “excellent” when introducing you to their friends.


You’re a debater. Your friends tell you to please stop telling them that one sandwich is objectively better than another, even though you’re right, of course. Considering you aren’t is counterproductive. You won’t say how, because you’ve found that simply saying something is counterproductive and then not elaborating makes other people shut up.


You’re a debater. Sometimes you catch yourself monologuing, either out loud or in your head. Yes, everyone runs through the what-I-should-have-dones, but you flesh them out in detail. You can hear yourself making your firm rebuttal, your call to action, your whatever-it-is that you’re saying.


You’re a debater. You don’t know the definitions of all the words you say, but no one else does either. No one’ll challenge you, because you seem like you know what you’re doing. If you pretend to be confident, you are. You tell yourself, that’s all it is, just the projection of self-assuredness.


You're a debater. You don't think before you speak, you do both concurrently. A blessing. A curse. One certainly more than the other, but you're not sure which.


You’re a debater. You’ve taught yourself a very particular mindset, one that never precludes compromise or collaboration. Every situation can be won, you tell yourself. A conversation about what you all did in art class? You can beat the other guy. Your painting was better, and you’ll tell him exactly why.


You’re a debater. It’s hard for you to write this poem, or prose, or whatever it is, because you like to deal in absolutes. You’ve already changed the organization several times, and you’ll probably do so again several more. What should the format be? There is a right answer to this. Everything has a right answer, and you’re out to find it. Or, at least, convince everyone that you have.


You’re a debater. You can rise to the top of a classroom, or at least, speak loudly enough that people think you are. It doesn’t matter if you drown out people’s voices. If they aren’t saying anything, they must not have anything to say.


You’re a debater. You don’t care what’s right, or what’s good, or what’s true. All that matters is how well you argue whatever phantom position has inhabited your speaker’s shell. You’ll take devil’s advocate positions too far. Discussions aren’t about exploration, they’re about pushing an agenda.


You’re a debater. Your teachers say your essays are too single minded. You don’t believe in counter arguments unless there is first a rebuttal. You don’t present the parts of a source that complicate your argument. There is only the question of whether your argument is accepted, and if you say it well enough, it must be.


You’re a debater. Thinking that your identity can be more complex than that is wrong. You either are or you aren’t. The world is made up of binaries. There is never any grey area.

You’re a debater. You love -- you LOVE -- the rush you get up at the podium, just NAILING a speech. Killing it. The words coming out of your mouth in rapid succession like bullets flying out the barrel of a gun.


You’re a debater. You hate- you HATE -- that twisting and turning of your insides as the day of the Big Debate gets closer and closer. You’re nervous, panicky, and skin-crawlingly anxious, but it’s too late to back out. This is who you are.


You’re a debater. You want it to just be black or white, but it isn’t. It’s both. It’s neither. It’s grey.


You’re a debater. Maybe what you’ve been saying, been thinking, isn’t true. Maybe nothing is. Looking back, you know for sure a whole lot isn’t.


You’re a debater. You don’t know how to end, because you always finish your speeches by summing up your points and calling the people of the world, or more often classroom, to action. But that won’t make any sense here, so you figure you’ll just stop.


N.B. This is a work of fiction. Lots of the ideas expressed are pretty trashy, moral-wise. Don't hold 'em against me.

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