Vetting the Truth in Our Echo Chambers

I don’t want to live in my own echo chamber, but I fear that most people do. Judging by the things I see on social media, a large number of people hear what they want to hear, see what they want to see and think what they want to think, regardless of the facts.

We all have our own worldviews. Some try to keep an open mind, but all of us see through filters that we have either consciously or unconsciously developed. These worldviews are a visceral part of us. Our identities are closely connected them, whether carefully crafted or inadvertent.

It seems that most of us have hard time seeing past our own worldviews, and I include the media in that generalized statement. I don’t exclude myself from that observation. I have to fight (myself) to maintain even a semblance of an open mind. Continue reading

Political Morality and Tilting at Windmills

I recently watched a video a friend posted of women who are Trump supporters talking about the decade old tape that has caused a firestorm of passionate debate. One friend who identified herself as “not a Trump supporter” observed that we seem to choose when we want to respond to these things with outrage.  Political morality always has a point, and the point isn’t morality.

How true that is!

Anyone who was an adult in the 1990’s remembers the Monica Lewinsky matter and subsequent allegations from other woman about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions that all took place when he was serving in public office in different capacities. There was outrage then, but the bulk of it came from a different quarter.

That is politics. Continue reading

Ramblings About Trump, Clinton, Politics and Change

The issues that face society today are bigger than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but these are the two combatants in the political arena amidst the maelstrom of swirling societal currents. Hillary Clinton could become the first women elected President in US history, while Donald Trump represents a clear and present desire to buck the inbred political system that seems to have taken a wrong turn on the way to representation of, by and for the people.

For some reason, a recent article about an “inside view of [the\] Trump pageant controversy” in the local newspaper got me thinking about the present election battle in the context of these larger societal issues. Continue reading

Better than That

I spend a lot of time reading and communicating with people on disparate ends of the political spectrum. I have voted Democrat, Independent and Republican in my life. I know where I stand on many (not all) positions, but my views have evolved over the years. No one party or generalization ever has represented where I stand. And that seems to be increasingly the case as time goes on.

I know that I am not alone in that.

But, we all have leanings, and we all tend to identify with one “side” or the other.  Actually, we tend to think in terms of sides, but the reality is that we all identify with certain ways of thinking, and those ways of thinking, which are varied, tend to fall on one side or the other of the political divide.

We tend to think that all the people who fall on “our side” think like we do…. But, they don’t. And we tend to think that all people who disagree with us are uninformed, lacking in intelligence and/or just plain “evil”.

I’m constantly amazed at the ways of thinking of the people who tend to “side” with me on some issue or another, but they don’t think anything like me!

For all of the communication channels that we have today with social media, I don’t think we understand each other very well. Continue reading

Political Labels & Common Ends

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / radiantskies

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / radiantskies

I recently read an article on equality and fairness titled, surprisingly, People Don’t Actually Want Equality, by Paul Bloom published October 22, 2015, in the Atlantic. That article triggered a number of thoughts for me. I wrote about some of them in Equality, Fairness and Me.

In this piece, I want to go in a different direction. I have friends on who span the spectrum of political ideology. I tend to fit somewhere on the conservative side of things, but, as I suspect with most people, you might find my views on either side of the spectrum, depending on the issue. I am not sure how some things came to be labelled “conservative” and other things “liberal”. As for economic issues, I would probably be labeled conservative.

I don’t like the label. All labels are self-limiting. They stand in the way of true understanding. They polarize people and reduce issues to platforms. They inhibit resolution and progress toward commons ends.

We do have common ends! When we get right down to the core of what people want, we pretty much want the same things. We want fairness. We want equal opportunity. We want to be left alone. We want everyone to get along and be happy.

Some people feel that private enterprise, left to itself, will do the right thing and everything will balance out, while government intervention just messes everything up. Other people feel we need government intervention to balance everything out because private enterprise creates inequality. People run the government and people run private enterprise. (Maybe people are the problem!)

I suppose the solution is obvious: some combination of private enterprise and government is the ideal solution. That is also obviously easier said than done. How we get to the ideal solution and what it looks like is a matter of great disagreement.

I do not just speculate that we all want basically the same things. It is not just my opinion. That premise is the exact conclusion of people who have studied these things:

“[W]hen asked about what distribution would be ideal, Americans, regardless of political party, want a far more equal society than they actually live in or believe that they live in. In an article published in The Atlantic, Ariely writes, ‘the vast majority of Americans prefer a distribution of wealth more equal than what exists in Sweden, which is often placed rhetorically at the extreme far left in terms of political ideology—embraced by liberals as an ideal society and disparaged by conservatives as an overreaching socialist nanny state.’”

Ironic, isn’t it? Maybe all of our fighting based on labels of “conservative” and “liberal” are just getting in the way of getting to the resolutions that we all want.

The Freedom In Defying Stereotypes

via The Daily Caller  by Ginni Thomas

via The Daily Caller
by Ginni Thomas

One thing that is a constant theme for me, something that is always just beneath the surface of my thinking, one that is continually rising to the top, is the truth that people are not stereotypes. I am probably as guilty as anyone of stereotyping. Sometimes stereotyping is useful, but we must never forget that people are not stereotypes.  Stereotyping people into groups, and stereotyping groups themselves, can be an impediment to truth, real dialogue and effective communication and understanding.

Sometimes, we even allow ourselves to fit into stereotypes by not thinking or acting independently apart from the collective.

It seems to me that some stereotypes are more “popular” than others at different times in our societal history, and that our history has been a series of societal movements to break those stereotypes. Race, gender, sexual orientation and many other categories of people and groups that have been stereotyped have gone through a collective metamorphosis. Currently popular stereotypes are of “homophobes”, Christians, conservatives, the news media and, yes, liberals too.

There was a time in our history in which African Americans were stereotyped and, therefore, categorized, segmented and dismissed by society as a whole. People thought ignorantly that blacks were inferior. Brave black men and women, who were highly intelligent and motivated, dared to show this stereotype was not true. The broke the stereotype by becoming educated and succeeding, in spite of all the obstacles.

The problem with stereotyping on a personal level is that it creates barriers between people. On a societal level, when stereotyping takes hold in popular culture, it creates barriers between people and people groups and segments of society. Those barriers have political, cultural, social and economic consequences. They feed and perpetuate biases and prejudices. We buy into to those thought patterns of others and even ourselves sometimes without realizing it.

Stereotypes can be insidious, and calling them out subjects them to scrutiny and diffuses them.  When stereotypes form unseen and prevail, they can be destructive. When stereotyping becomes so prevalent as to rise to the level of national (or popular) consciousness and begin to receive scrutiny, they inevitably begin to break down. When we become conscious of the stereotypes that inform modern, popular culture, we begin to see people stand out who do not fit the pattern. These are the brave pioneers who dare to be different, who purpose not to be defined by the categories others make for them. In this way, they and others who recognize them begin to break the patterns and encourage others to have the same freedom

This can be along, slow process when stereotypes become ingrained. Stereotyping of African Americans continued long after slaves were freed and civil rights passed and vestiges continue to persist today. I am struck, however, by the notion that stereotypes evolve. They come and go. In a weird way, “popular” stereotypes become opportunities for real change once they are recognized. .

In present culture, one of those stereotypes is that minorities are all liberals. Minorities who are not liberal are treated as rebels, outcasts, traitors. They are shunned by the “group” that claims them and demands they step in line. This is stereotyping. Stereotyping does not account for the fact that people are individuals and are not defined by the common expectations others have for them.

I was led there by a post on Facebook of a piece on a black, female professor taking issue with current Democratic politics. (Available here if you are curious.) It seems there is a rising tide of educated, black conservatives who are breaking down the stereotype that the Democratic party is the minority party. I think this is a good and healthy change. Racism is an extreme example of stereotyping. The very idea that all people of color should affiliate with one political party is stereotyping; in fact it is racism – it perpetuates the idea that all people of one race are the same, think the same, act the same and can be defined in the same way.

Stereotyping can be a way of categorizing and dismissing, but exposing stereotypes can be a catalyst for societal change. As people visibly break the stereotypical molds, change occurs. Real change does not come from legislation or demagoguery; real change comes from people stepping out boldly and daring to be different. Real changes comes from people who defy stereotypes and show the way for others to unchain themselves and embrace the freedom to define themselves.