Breaking Out of the Box

If you're a Democrat you must be an out of touch left wing liberal. If you're a Republican, you must be a right wing nut job. Independents are just disengaged or disgusted with the whole thing. The truth of the matter is, most of us are somewhere else on that spectrum. I am probably just left of the middle, and tired of everyone else defining who I am and what I stand for. I have a feeling there are others out there like me, people that just don't fit in someone else's box. We care about our community, our state and our nation. We are red (and blue) blooded Americans. We don't always agree, but that's what a representative government is all about. I say it's time for some Forward Thinking.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fact vs. Opinion

I was reading a host of editorial pages on-line and in print this morning and wondered- when did some of these people become so outrageously sure of themselves?  When did the right become right and the left become, well, wrong?  And this is the "liberal" media.  Give me a break.  My blood pressure increases just thinking about it, and not for the reasons you might think.  I relish a spirited ideological debate, or sparring over the different interpretations of data. Editorials and opinion pages are supposed to do just that, expose us to a variety of different viewpoints.  These days they seem more like sermons doling out the "truth," and there is rarely any variety at all.  If you don't agree you must just be too dumb to understand the "facts."  Except mostly they aren't facts at all- they are filled with assumptions, attributions and hot button ideological tirades-in short, they are opinions. Somewhere along the way, we went from commenting on circumstances and viewpoints, to personalizing and demonizing the people who hold them.  How did editorial writers and think tanks learn so much about about the motivation of workers and their unions-about the intellect of Americans who who have worked most of their lives in civil service jobs- teaching, protecting communities and fighting fires, working in government offices and driving garbage trucks?  Have they done some studies?  Surveyed some of those people about what makes them tick?

Remember visiting the library in school?  The Librarian (a rare breed these days) would point out the fiction and non-fiction sections and guide us through how to find the kinds of research material we needed to complete the projects our teachers gave us.  I learned early on from those high school assignments that required the identification of primary and secondary research sources, the delineation of fact and opinion, the creation of persuasive or informative text, that having my own thoughts and opinions and writing them down did not necessarily make them true. It's very easy reading and listening to things you already agree with. It makes a person feel validated.  The hard part is reading or listening to something you are not inclined to agree with, and examining whether or not there is something new to learn from a different point of view, some kernel of  wisdom that might be applied to your current circumstances.

In this country, around the world, in business and in life, good decisions and forward movement are often characterized by the tenacity and courage of leaders who know the difference between sticking to principle and drawing an early line in the sand. We don't need more vitriolic rhetoric and accusations about who is right and who is wrong.  We need ethical men and women who understand that true compromise is not acquiescence, but a process of finding the very best solutions to difficult problems; solutions that will benefit and support the wealthiest and the poorest and most needy among us.  We are sorely in need of strong leadership in this country-for our corporations, our schools, our communities and our nation-the kind of leadership that has the courage to forge common solutions that will help us all move forward.

I read somewhere recently that change always creates loss-that is part of the reason we hold on to "the way it used to be" for so long.  Embracing change requires a belief that something better and more meaningful will emerge as a result. People and institutions are not changed by battering rams of ugly dissension and accusation, and "better" is always in the eyes of the beholder, especially if we are focused on #1.  When we remember Abraham Lincoln's quote from Gettysburg, ".....government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth," it seems imperative that we seek to act inclusively rather than exclusively. Tea Party members are not the only patriots in our country safeguarding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Liberals are not all socialists seeking to dismantle private interests and give away the store to lazy union workers and undeserving citizens who just don't work hard enough. Experienced teachers are not all incompetent and the newly minted are not all superstars imperiled by outdated seniority policies.

By and large I think Americans are frustrated with the perpetual tendency to categorize everyone in the extreme.  They understand the solutions aren't simple. The history of generations bears out the need for dialogue about what is good for all of us, not just what is good for me.  Perhaps we should consider this-maybe it isn't that people and institutions don't want to change- maybe it's just because they don't want to lose.  It's worth thinking about, but that's just my opinion.  

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