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Challenging Assumptions

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Richard Turcotte
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Most people find the process of challenging their assumptions very difficult. It is not just that the assumptions are hard to see; we usually do not want to see them. We become emotionally attached to our beliefs, and to question them can feel very threatening. Nevertheless, uncomfortable as the process may be, it nearly always pays dividends. It usually leads to a deeper understanding of the nature of the problem, and often to better solutions.

Why is this concept (apparently) so poorly understood? The unwillingness of both the Right and the Left to consider unpleasant facts and truths only hardens the battle lines drawn in our increasingly partisan culture. In our respective quests to ensure perfect solutions and ideologies free from consequences in all their applications, Life is usually much messier--all the more so in the political/policy-making arena.

We're moving away from the governing principles that sustained us for several centuries: compromise and negotiation are now the ultimate four-letter words. Majority rule is no longer the rule. If one side cannot get its needs met perfectly, then obstruction and misrepresentation become acceptable methods, because the "other side" is simply evil and deserves no consideration whatsoever.

The question the rest of us confront, then, is not how to tutor the Tea Party in the realities of democratic governance. It is what we should think when one of our two major political parties is captured by a faction that rejects the possibility of normal politics. In his essay, 'The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt -- 1954,' Richard Hofstadter left us these strikingly prescient words:
'[I]n a populistic culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active, and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.'

The idiotic quest to repeal Obamacare at all costs; the borderline inhumane legislation making voting more difficult because of an entirely fact-free (integrity-free as well) concern about voter fraud; the ongoing efforts to deprive women of their right to choose; the Paul Ryan budgetary attempts to deprive tens of millions of even the most basic of necessities, on and on go the efforts of a Tea-Party-dominated Republican mindset that has decided that our democratic and constitutional form of governing can be set aside whenever it suits their purposes to favor the wealthy few at the expense of the not-wealthy many. Nice, huh?

Is anyone paying attention?

Well-intentioned choices on occasion lead to unforeseen and unpleasant consequences. Deliberate attempts to harm millions of citizens are guaranteed to harm millions of citizens. The opposition to extending unemployment benefits and the zealous pursuit of cutbacks to spending programs--all benefiting the neediest and most desperate among us--have become hallmarks of what passes for the Republican Party agenda. Throw in denial of scientific and economic facts, add some nonsense about voter fraud, sprinkle with the realities of cultural change (or just deny and oppose), and the menu of policy choices is just about complete!

This is okay? This is how patriotic, Christian, exceptional, leaders-of-the-free-world nations govern?

Who cares about facts when emotions and beliefs matter more? Honoring principle is fine in the abstract world, but when that objective becomes the only one pursued, reality will eventually exact its inevitable price on the continuing failure to negotiate small steps forward. When all the doors are closed from the outset, finding necessary solutions and proposals and plans becomes all but impossible in any time frame that matters.

Good thing integrity, honor, decency, and character are glaringly absent from the corporate, media, and political "leaders" driving the Republican Party clown cars. Wouldn't want them to be burdened with shame, embarrassment, or anything else approximating any semblance of humanity and acting for the common good.

If this is American exceptionalism and democracy, perhaps we should re-think.

(Adapted from blog posts of mine 1. 2.)

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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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