And so it seems to be as well for a widening portion of our population. There are men and women who have made a living turning their ideological opponents into straw men, and then handing those straw men off to an enraged and unhappy herd for destruction ritual. This method of making a living has spread as larger and larger chunks of the American population seem to seek out confirmation of their own biases and suspicions, putting membership in some mythologized tribe above what is right (and even what is true).
Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot give you credit for hearing the arguments of your opponents as repeated by your favorite populist rage outlet. Liberals, Moveon.org is not a good place to read about what Rush Limbaugh is saying. Conservatives, Rush Limbaugh is not a good place to hear about the most recent piece of legislation being supported by the Obama administration. There are usually smart people on both sides of any issue (if indeed there are only two sides!) And Rush Limbaugh and Moveon.org are not among them. It’s not that they aren’t smart (they are), it’s just that they act in bad faith. They have a victory other than the spreading of raw truth in mind, and their particular success depends greatly on the degree of inflammation they can inspire in your heart.
There are thoughtful and honest people of all ideological stripes out there, but they’re often drowned out by the circus of louder and more entertaining voices. Whatever side you may hold on any number of issues may be the best position, but please, consider your sources before you take action, or open your mouth. The voice of Authority, be it that of a founding father or religious text, is not a sufficient buttress for an intelligent argument. The facts must be looked at. Contrary opinions must be examined in a fair way. There has to be discussion. We must understand in a larger sense, that we are human animals, and are subject to some very powerful reaction cues and genetic motivations. Above all, seek to understand yourself.
Whatever position you decide to take on any issue, remember to ask yourself what the other guy is saying, and to sincerely seek out the most reasonable iteration of that stance.
Your best mind does not lie in your gut, and there is no device as liable to affirm your own secret wishes and suspicions as prayer.
My friend Phil has more to say on the subject. See here.