I’m dismayed by what passes for public debate these days.

It was probably just as bad in 1991 or 2001, but now it’s getting under my skin more. No doubt I’m becoming a grumpy old fart. (Becoming?)

More and more, it’s about shoot your mouth off first; ask questions later. The Tamil refugee situation, for example. Passion is riding high on both sides; people demonstrate; everyone’s blogging and hogging the mic. But from what I can tell, we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Despite the oxygen sacrificed to date, there are still some very basic questions, like: who are these people? Where did they come from, specifically? Are their lives actually in danger back in Sri Lanka? Are any of them really Tamil Tigers, members of a banned terrorist organization? Should the Tamil Tigers have been banned in the first place?

Isn’t it important to know the answers to these questions before we stomp our little feet and demand they be sent back where they came from or welcomed with open arms?

I realize it’s no fun waiting until the questions are answered before we join the debate, and with the array of communications tools available, the temptation to mouth off is hard to resist. Here’s my advice: resist!

Not every stale-dated geezer is as grumpy as I am. Look at Smilin’ Bill Vander Zalm. There’s an old guy who’s happy as a kid in a candy store because he has single-handedly hijacked democracy and doesn’t have to explain why. He says the HST is a bad thing, so sign my petition and we’ll get it overthrown, boo-ya!

Does anyone really know if the HST is good or bad for the economy? Who cares? It’s just another tax and we hate taxes, grr. Where do I sign?

No one’s happy with the sneaky way the Campbell government imposed the HST, but is that really the point? We have to pay for health care or education, and is the HST a better or worse way of paying the bill than income tax or cutting services? Do you know the answer? Or are you just taking Bill Vander Zalm’s word for it?

The most dismaying thing about all this sound and fury? It prevents us from asking legitimate questions. The loud side no longer bothers to give a straight answer; they just question the motives of the person asking, and no one wants to get caught on the wrong side of the issue. So we stew in silence.

Or even worse, join the fun. Ignorance rules, dude.