For Those Who Would Persuade Us

Get over your smugness – you aren’t smarter, they aren’t dumber and doing what is best for America isn’t about crushing those who disagree with you.  If you need to crush others, get that that’s about your ego and your fear.  See your therapist immediately.

Recent times have shown over and over how difficult it is to have a reasonable exchange of ideas when people are impassioned or scared. We humans incrementally lose our ability to be rational as emotion creeps into our brains and effectively dumbs us down.  All of us.

The 20% of Americans on the far right have made up their minds.  No amount of persuasion, no list of brilliantly articulated facts and no charming approaches will be so compelling that they will change their views.  And it’s exactly the same for the 20% of Americans on the far left.  So, arm-twisting any of those folks is an exercise in frustration for you and it annoys everyone else.

What remains is the middle 60% of Americans.  These are folks who are politically disaffected to the point that they don’t even want to look at the issues that will impact them significantly.  They’re weary of being told self-serving political fantasies, they are right in thinking that the screamers never listen to them and they are sick of the political bickering and demonizing that solves nothing for Americans but instead is designed to produce power bases for bickering politicians.  That is to say, elections are decided by people who don’t want to hear your political views and would rather you just went away.

So, if you want to persuade others to agree with you, start with a little humility and compassion.  And your offering facts instead of fantasies would be most refreshing.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How Gullible Are We?

President Bush had intelligence information in advance of 9/11 that clearly and plainly warned of a plot by al Qaeda to attack America.  He was told that they might use airplanes and that an attack was imminent.  And he dismissed all of it and even belittled an agent who brought him information, saying, “Alright, you’ve covered your ass”.  How interesting that Bush’s thinking process was about ass covering, rather than protecting and defending America.

That he didn’t read his briefings and dismissed critical national security information merely provides more examples of his lifelong unwillingness to learn.  Some are dedicated to ignorance.  That’s not shocking.  Here’s what is.

After over 2,800 of our countrymen and scores of foreign nationals were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania, Bush and Cheney actually told us that they had protected America from terrorist attacks.  Yet not even that oft-repeated lie was not what was most shocking.  The truly shocking part is that the majority of Americans believed them.  How gullible are we?

They told us that they didn’t authorize torture.  Yet on February 14, 2010, the former Vice President admitted in an interview that he did authorize torture and that he had directed his aides to manipulate the legal issues so that he could get away with it.  Before that, though, he told the lie that, “America doesn’t torture,” even after it was public knowledge that prisoners who had been convicted of nothing at all were being waterboarded, something that has been recognized as torture since the Spanish Inquisition.  And the majority of us bought the lies.  How gullible are we?

Dick Armey, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty are high on their Tea Bagging fantasies.  They’re playing on peoples’ sensibilities, demanding small government and low taxes and they rally their true believers in hatred of anything that isn’t them, which attracts a generous sampling of white supremacist groups and immigrant and gay haters.  Disappointingly, mainstream Republicans are sucking up to these extremists for fear of losing a few votes.  That’s because what is important to them is staying in power, not what’s best for America.

Many people buy the extremist arguments, talking about the stimulus package as though there would be no adverse impact of doing things differently.  But there would be.

If we end the stimulus, the programs that the money would have funded will end.  People will lose their jobs, as will all the people who make the things those then-unemployed folks would have purchased.  It’s a multiplier effect of job losses.

So, let’s try a little test of their dedication to the Tea Bag.  We’ll get a bunch of Tea Baggers together and ask to see a show of hands of everyone who is willing to lose his or her job so that we can shrink the size of government and lower taxes for everyone.  Note that we’ll want to do our very best work at minimizing government, so we won’t supply any unemployment benefits to them.  Do you think anyone will raise a hand?  Likely not, but hundreds of thousands of Americans are having temper tantrums over government spending anyway.  How gullible are we?

178 Republican representatives voted against the stimulus package.  That’s all of the Republican representatives.  At least 111 of the NO voters have gone home to their districts and smiled at ribbon cutting ceremonies and at the handing out of oversized checks, bragging about the jobs that will be generated for their constituents because of the stimulus money they brought with them.  They were proud to bring home the bacon, this from a bill they voted against.  And most of those hypocrites will be reelected.  How gullible are we?

Democracy requires an enlightened citizenry, Thomas Jefferson told us.  Unfortunately, those with the loud megaphones are interested only in themselves and their power, so they play us by filling our ears with lies and misinformation.  They manipulate us and play us for fools.

One last time: Just how gullible are we?

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Grant Park

Yes, that Grant Park.  The one that the world remembers from the 1968 riot that happened concurrent with the Democratic National Convention.  It was defined by the Kerner Commission as a police riot, which infuriated Hizzonor The Mayor (Daley the First) and confirmed for much of the world that Chicago was still a frontier town.  It also made for a stunning visual image of radical kids seeming to be connected to the Democratic Party.  The spectacle assured doom for the Democrats for decades to come and Grant Park has been remembered ever since as the site of a riot.

I was of an age that I might have been in Grant Park on that dreadful August night in 1968.  I wanted to be there, but I wasn’t.  I followed a more conservative path, starting and running a business for 25 years.  So, what was I doing in Grant Park this time?

Forty years can change a lot.  Now, two generations later, the crowds were back – somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000 in Grant Park on a November evening.  There were no protests.  There were no police in riot gear.  There were, instead, police eating pizza.  And police guiding visitors.  The most aggressive show of force by the police was a phalanx of cops astride those gorgeous thoroughbreds just watching, as if to say, “We’re here if we’re needed.”  They were never needed.  Not this time.  Not in this place.

This was a singular night of celebration.  The energy was entirely joyous and periodically exuberant.  It was a gathering of a long separated family, come from distant places to rejoin in a communion of belief.  It had been so very long and the night so dark.  And there we were, witnessing together the first rays of light to break across the sky of the future.

We’ve suffered the lies and wrong wars, from repeated attacks on the Constitution and from the crush of a falling economy and the nonsense of no accountability.  This night the message of change was overwhelming and the energy in Grant Park felt like enormous relief.  Hurray for the Obama house that fell from the sky and landed on the Wicked Witch of the West!  Let the joyous celebrations begin and we’ll start the journey down the yellow brick road back to the America that has seemed lost in an eight-year fog.  Ding-dong, the witch is dead.

And, of course, there was so much more.  Did I mention that Barack Obama is black?  Well, half black.  Logic would suggest that he is also half white, except we probably still carry around the hateful “one drop” notion that helped to perpetuate racism for 400 years, so he’s commonly referred to as black.  Setting aside the multi-layer stupidity of that, consider the messages we have delivered to ourselves and to the entire world: about possibility and hope; about belief in ourselves; about change that has taken not years, but generations, even centuries; and that we have put a stake in the ground to declare that something profound has occurred.  The racial tectonic plates have shifted.  Even the political hate mongers cannot sway us from taking yet another step in the direction of the true promise of America.

After Barack Obama won the Iowa (that’s the 95% lily white Iowa) primary, Rachel Maddow said it best: “This is the kind of America I want to live in.”

I never lost my 60’s idealism and still get a lump in my throat at the Memorial Day ceremony on the Village Green.  I sing the National Anthem out loud at ball games and write letters to the editor over our government abandoning so many of our tribe in New Orleans.  I still have stars in my eyes for America.

And so do several hundred thousand of my friends who gathered in Grant Park on a balmy November evening in 2008.  This is the kind of America we want to live in.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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