Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How About Some Rational Discussion for a Change?

It can be really frustrating for liberals to try and discuss issues with conservatives who use videos like The Second American Revolution to try and make their points. If you haven’t seen it, it is a speech that decries the idea of diversity and attributes a quotation “Tolerance is the last virtue of a dying society.” to Aristotle when in fact these words appear to be from the writings of a modern evangelical minister.

In my view, this kind of conservative showboating is a prime example of demagoguery which is to appeal to people’s emotions and prejudices rather than their rationality.

I don’t mind at all discussing political issues with people who see things differently. But it would sure be nice if more of those on the conservative side would at least put up some rational arguments instead of mindlessly distributing right-wing talking points in mass E-mailings as iron-clad facts.

For example, I am still approached by some who still question whether President Obama is really an American citizen despite his offering a copy of his birth certificate online. But some are still unconvinced, saying it is a forgery. For those who are not familiar with it, is an apolitical site that investigates whether the many E-mail polemics spread around the Internet are really based on truth. In their posting, Birth Certificate they explore this issue in detail giving proof along with sources that he really was born in Hawaii in 1961.

But when exploring the Snopes site and
inserting "Obama" in the search box one comes across an incredible list of E-mail accusations hurled at Obama, the great majority of them having no basis in fact.

There are
Obama's 50 Lies which includes the long discredited assertion that Obama is a secret Muslim.

There is even an article on an E-mail that proclaims
Obama As the Anti-Christ.

But the one that takes the prize is the following E-mail recently forwarded to me.

Something to think about Tony:

I thought I would never be able to experience what the ordinary, moral German felt in the mid-1930s. In those times the savior was a former smooth-talking rabble-rouser from the streets, about whom the average German knew next to nothing. What they did know was that he was associated with groups that shouted, shoved, and pushed around people with whom they disagreed; he edged his way onto the political stage through great oratory and promises.

Economic times were tough, people were losing jobs, and he was a great speaker. And he smiled and waved a lot. And people, even newspapers were afraid to speak out for fear that his "brown shirts" would bully them into submission. And then he was duly elected to office, with a full-throttled economic crisis at hand [the Great Depression].

Slowly but surely he seized the controls of government power, department by department, person by person, bureaucracy by bureaucracy. The kids joined a Youth Movement in his name, where they were taught what to think. How did he get the people on his side? He did it by promising jobs to the jobless, money to the moneyless, and goodies for the military-industrial complex. He did it by indoctrinating the children, advocating gun control, health care for all, better wages, better jobs, and promising to re-instill pride once again in the country, across Europe, and across the world.

He did it with a compliant media. And he did this all in the name of justice and...change. And the people surely got what they voted for. (Look it up if you think I am exaggerating.) Read your history books. Many people objected in 1933 and were shouted down, called names, laughed at, and made fun of. When Winston Churchill pointed out the obvious in the late 1930s while seated in Parliament in England (he was not yet Prime Minister), he was booed into his seat and called a crazy troublemaker. He was right though.

Don't forget that Germany was the most educated, cultured country in Europe. It was full of music, art, museums, hospitals, laboratories, and universities. And in less than six years - a shorter time span than just two terms of the U. S. presidency - it was rounding up its own citizens, killing others, abrogating its laws, turning children against parents, and neighbors against neighbors. All with the best of intentions, of course. The road to Hell is paved with them.

So when the references to being Muslim or even the anti-Christ aren’t enough, there are always the Hitler analogies to fall back on when one really wants to drive home a point.

Look, I am not against criticizing the president no matter how tasteless it may be. Our First Amendment rights which soldiers have fought and died for to preserve are far too important.

It just seems that so much of the criticism from those especially on the far-right is based so much more on emotion and prejudice than rationality. Many if not most of us reading some of the above excerpts attacking Obama would probably just smile at some of the ignorance on display. But the fact is that there are a significant number of people who really believe this stuff!

For example, there is this Washington Post article from April
Obama Still a Muslim to Some.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, one in 10 Americans believed that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. According to a new poll from the Pew Center for People and the Press, one in 10 Americans still believe it.

Overall, 17 percent of Republicans say they believe Obama is Muslim, exactly the same as during the election. Among whites, close to 20 percent of evangelical Protestants persist in that belief.

Here’s my problem with all of this. We have so many complicated problems like the economy and health care reform that we urgently need to solve. And that requires rational discussions between people with differing views to come up with workable solutions.

There’s that word rational again! What does the dictionary have to say about this word?

ra·tion·al [rĂ¡sh’n’l]

reasonable and sensible: governed by, or showing evidence of, clear and sensible thinking and judgment, based on reason rather than emotion or prejudice

In short, this is just the opposite of the demagoguery that is practiced by those on the political extremes. But in spite of the above definition, emotion is also important to spur people on to get things done and solve problems. People on both sides of the political spectrum often have emotional feelings behind the positions they favor. Indeed Barack Obama did capture the emotions of many of his followers to allow him to be elected president. It’s only when emotion and prejudice take over all rationality that leaders like Hitler come to power as in the example above. Let the rational discussion begin!

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