THE ONE THING WORSE THAN IGNORANCE

     I recently had a conversation with a very bright and very observant man.  Let’s call him Brad.  Brad is, I suspect, of a considerably more conservative bent than I.  What that likely means is that Brad is more likely than I to believe that, where a task needs doing on behalf of the community, a private enterprise would probably do a better job of it than a bureaucracy.  So, as regards the implementation of  a national health program, Brad would likely favor having that program administered by a system of private enterprise rather than by a federal or state bureaucracy.

     Here, however, is the amazing thing.  Brad and I had a conversation about the subject.  We did not shout at each other.  We did not curse each other out.  We did not belittle each other or in any way mischaracterize each other’s views.  In other words, we had a real, honest-to-god conversation.  He spoke and I listened.  When he had finished, I asked questions and made observations.  We identified common goals, and we reasoned together about the viability of various means to achieve those common goals.  Brad is, besides being very bright and observant, also brutally honest.  It would be the grossest of understatements to say that he does not tolerate fools well.  He has, in addition, developed strong opinions, and he has developed those opinions based, not upon prejudice or political or religious fervor, but on solid information and sound reasoning.  Yet he and I had a conversation, and in that conversation we exchanged ideas.

     I say that is amazing, and I say that because the present political, and religious, atmosphere is such as to not simply avoid, but to absolutely forbid rational discourse.  What has replaced the rational exchange of ideas is the irrational, and even anti-rational, railings against positions that are straw men, dishonest mischaracterizations of the thoughts and proposals of those whom we oppose.  The left says the right wants to impoverish the middle class and deny them health care and education.  The right says the left wants to socialize wealth and hand over the management of our lives to the government.  The left are Communists.  The right are Fascists.  Blah, blah, blah.  And the problems get worse, and nothing gets done, and we all suffer the more for it.

     So let’s start over.  We do, or should have, the same goals, all of us Americans.  To be an American is to accept as unquestionably true that all humans are created equal, and each human is endowed by his or her Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This we hold true, and if you do not, you are not an American.  Now, here comes the big ending, the major conclusion:  ALL THE REST IS A MEANS TO THESE ENDS.  The only thing left to discuss, once we admit these as our ends, is the best means to achieve that equality, that life, that liberty, that pursuit of happiness.  And the discussion of the best means to an end is, by its very nature, a RATIONAL discussion. 

     We are in need of a program of universal health care.  Point out to me the best means to achieve it.  Let us reason about it.  Let us not say it must be thrown out because a liberal put it in place rather than a conservative.  It makes no sense to endorse the Romney health plan in Massachusetts and oppose the Obama health plan for the nation; at least it makes no sense on the simple basis that it was Romney who did the one and Obama who did the other.

     We are creating a global problem in the environment, and we need to to identify and pursue the means to solve it.  If we do not, we will leave our children a planet that is verging on uninhabitable.  We need to discuss this honestly.

     The list goes on and on.  Jobs, highways, crime, drugs, etc.  Refusing to reason is actually a refusal to solve any problem, and in the end it is in fact a refusal to pursue those ends that define us as Americans.  Left and right alike are killing us.  Let us reason together.

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