The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, March 05, 1999, Page 5, Image 5

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    No contest
Art of argument requires original thought and an open mind
JAY GISH is a senior broad
casting major and a Daily
Nebraskan columnist
I enjoy a good mental challenge.
I like to think about problems that I
can’t solve, and to pluck weird
thoughts from as far as my mind can
reach. /
I’ve done a lot of things at this
university in order to give myself
that challenge, like taking philoso
phy classes and becoming an opinion
columnist. A symptom of undertak
ing such challenges is that one is
exposed to a lot of arguments.
I don’t mean arguments in the
sense of a logical progression of
hypotheses and conclusions,.], just a
lot of peopfe arguing with each other.
Some people would try to tell me
that this is the highest form of men
tal challenge. They call it an
“exchange of ideas” in a very rever
ent tone. I may have only been
around for 22 years, but I’m old
enough to know better than that.
That’s because most of the time
when people begin to argue, they
start deluding themselves. Argument
| seems to lead to an inflated sense of
I believe most people normally
recognize that they are just one of 6
billion people on the planet trying to
find food, love and shelter, just like
all the rest. But catch most of them
in an argument, and all of a sudden
they seem to think they grasp the
Earth in their palm and must defend
it with their words.
Another notion is that by engag
ing in argument, you experience lots
of new ideas.
For too many people, you could
automatically supplant the word
“argument,” with “reiteration of a
patent viewpoint.”
It can be embarrassing to listen
to someone proudly spouting what
they believe is an astute point, when
it’s actually something rather simple
that’s been voiced repeatedly for
Even if someone does touch on
I something uncommon, with few
exceptions, the person will feel the
need to restate the point as many
ways as he or she can possibly con
jure. It becomes his or her
“Wonderdress.” (You can wear it in
hundreds of different styles!)
People believe time stands still
during an argument, as well. They
seem to think that no matter how
long they drag out their contentions,
if they eventually make their point it
will really be as if they didn’t just fill
a gaping hole in time with their ver
bal waste.
This may be why stories and
films about lawyers remain so inex
plicably popular. (Oh please, John
Grisham, write another!)
People have an infatuation with
argument, and lawyers are the
knights in shining armor of dis
course. Their entire objective is to
drag out the argument until they win.
And (gasp) they get paid disgusting
amounts of money to do it!
The reason I like lawyers (at least
in the context of this column) is I
believe that, because arguing is their
job, they are some of the few people
in the world who have a realistic
view of their own arguments.
They know when their words are
total bunk, and they’ve read enough
court cases to realize when an argu
ment is stale. They’re aware when
their droning has long trampled out
its welcome because they’ve done it
with the purpose of wearing down
the opposition or confusing a jury.
And unlike most of us, they have
a real reason to argue. It’s their job.
To be fair, people like those in
my ethics class and those writing in
this paper are pretty much forced to
argue. It is, I suppose, one of the
many things we are here to learn.
And I wouldn’t claim to be better
at it than everyone else. I would
admit, conversely, that I actively
avoid argument. It’s not because I
never have opinions. Sometimes
there are just better things to do than
shouting them out.
Nevertheless, that has become a
very popular activity. And it seems
like a lot of us weigh the merit of
writers or speakers by how much
they can tick people off.
But evoking emotion is not the
same thing as being insightful.
So the next time you’re bent on
arguing about something, try doing it
constructively for once.
It’s easy - and human - to ride
the adrenaline rush of angry debate.
But to realize its futility and to try
something more constructive puts
you on a higher plane.
Really listen to the arguments of
a person whose viewpoint you
oppose, then try to make the argu
ment for them. (I know for a lot of
people, this is kind of like yanking
out fingernails.) Then take it one
step further and write both your and
their viewpoints down.
Practical? No. Fun? Probably
not. But you might learn some
Finally, if you really must argue
with someone, please realize that
you are arguing with someone. That
means tailor your argument so it
means something to your opposition.
How many times have you heard,
for instance, a Christian arguing an
issue with a person they know to be a
nonbeliever or atheist, yet still sup
porting his or her argument by quot
ing the Bible?
How dense is that? In these
cases, the validity of the Bible is
irrelevant. If someone holds the
Bible in no esteem, why would they
ever value it as a source?
You need to find another way to
argue your side. Otherwise, what
you’re saying just sounds like so
much crap to your audience.
And you could just as well go
home and try to convert your
Teletubby doll.
Insult to injury
Father of girl in teen-sex lawsuit deserves punishment
TIM SUIJLIVAN is a third
year law student and a
Daily Nebraskan columnist,
I feel very sorry for Leanne
If you don’t know' that name, per
haps you’ll recall the teen-sex law
suit that garnered national attention,
drawing the likes of Court TV and
the major networks to Lincoln a cou
ple weeks ago.
The lawsuit and the national
media frenzy may be over now, fol
lowing Judge Jeffre-Cheuvront’s dis
missal of the suit as “frivolous,” but
Leanne’s injuries will last for a long
time to come.
Leanne’s father, Doug Detmer,
filed a lawsuit against Dawn Bixler,
the mother of Dallas Mills, the 16
year-old boy who had sex with 16
year-old Leanne some 15 or 20 times
before she finallv eot Dreenant.
Doug Detmer, through his attor
ney Kirk Wolgamott, alleged in his
lawsuit that Dawn Bixler had a duty
to act to prevent his daughter from
being impregnated by Mills.
The suit drew national attention
because it was thought to be the first
of its kind in the United States.
Why do you think it was the first
of its kind?
Perhaps it was because no one
had ever been as stupid as Doug and
Sharon Detmer. Not only did they
bring a patently frivolous and outra
geous lawsuit, but they did irrepara
ble harm to their own daughter in the
The Detmers alleged that it was
the boy’s mother who had a duty to
prevent the pregnancy. They said
Dawn Bixler knew Leanne and
Dallas were having sex, so she
should have prevented the pregnan
Somehow their reasoning man
aged to discount the fact that Leanne
and Dallas had sex in not only the
home of Dawn Bixler, but in their
home as well.
lhe Detmers also ignored the
fact that they seemed to have knowl
edge of the teen-agers’ sexual activi
ty as well. Sharon Detmer admitted
to asking Leanne whether she was
having sex with Dallas in an inter
view with the “Today” show.
The Detmers also thought that
Dallas Mills was a drug user and dis
approved of the relationship on that
So why the hell didn’t they put
the brakes on their daughter’s rela
tionship with Dallas then? Did they
think it was OK to allow her to have
an alleged drug-using boyfriend?
That’s the first injury to their daugh
After the Detmers learned
Leanne was pregnant, they forced
her to get an abortion. That’s injury
No. 2.
To add insult to injury, they
brought the frivolous lawsuit that
brought this whole sordid mess into
the national limelight.
Now Leanne Detmer has to live
with the details of her private sex
life, abortion, counseling, and abu
sive father having been exposed to
public scrutiny, not only to her
friends, neighbors and relatives right
here in Lincoln, but to the entire
Did the Detmers ignore the fact
that their daughter was already hav
ing problems with depression and
taking medication for anxiety attacks
when they made the decision to go
public with the details of their
'daughter’s sex life?
Did the Detmers think that recov
ering the cost of the abortion and
counseling - $11,371 - was some
how more important than protecting
the privacy and dignity of their
I checked the Polk’s Lincoln City
Directory to see what Doug and
Sharon Detmer did for a living.
Unfortunately, the Daily Nebraskan
doesn’t have a current copy, the most
recent available here in the office
being the 1994 edition.
The 1994 Polk’s Lincoln City
Directory lists Doug Detmer as a
laborer at Goodyear. It lists Sharon
as a paraeducator with Lincoln
Public Schools.
Goodyear employees make fairly
decent money. LPS paraeducators
don’t make a lot, but combined with
an income from working at
Goodyear, I would imagine the
Detmers made enough to live com
I tried to determine what Dawn
Bixler did for a living, but I wasn’t
able to find out. Maybe she had a lot
of money, or at least more than the
Detmers. I don’t know. ^
Regardless of who had how
much money, I can’t imagine
myself ever exposing any child fl
of mine to that kind of humilia
tion. It would make no differ
ence to me if I found myself in »
the Detmer’s situation and I jfl
were unemployed with mil
lions of dollars in debt loom- ■
ing over me. I still wouldn’t do ■
Not for money. V
Would I do it for the principle w
of the matter?
To do that, I would have to
believe that the principle out- \
weighed the privacy concerns of h
my child. jgj
i couia never make tne
scales tip in favor of principle
over the privacy of a child of
mine. Not the privacy of a
client, either.
In dismissing the lawsuit,
Judge Cheuvront said, “I hope
that the primary basis for this
case was not to profit in some way
from convincing some gullible
media organization that the pregnan
cy of a 16-year-old girl brought
about by a 16-year-old boy is some
how unique. I can assure die world it
is not.”
Did Doug and Sharon Detmer
What’s wrong with these people?
If there was a villain here, it had
to have been Doug Detmer.
Not Dallas Mills.
Not Dawn Bixler.
Not Leanne Detmer.
Doug Detmer. He’s your villain.
He’s the only conceivable defendant
in any lawsuit arising out of this set
of facts.
That’s because he’s the one who
brought the lawsuit in the first place.
He’s the one that hurt his own
And it wasn’t the first time he
hurt her. She told counselors that he
had threatened to kill her and that he
had physically abused her.
Doug Detmer testified that he
grabbed his daughter’s hair and
pulled her down a flight of stairs. In
another incident, Leanne threw a
glass candle-holder at him and
stabbed him with a screwdriver.
I wonder why she did that.
Any of Leanne’s emotional
or mental problems that Doug
Detmer tried to attribute to
Dawn Bixler through the
actions of her son Mills
were, in all probability,
the result of Doug
Detmer’s own abusive
conduct toward his
Sacrificing her
privacy over a few
thousand dollars
borders on abuse.
Strike that. It
is abuse.
She ought
to be suing
Melanie Falk/DN