Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Why I Don't Post about Politics and Religion
But today ... an experience. I just got back from the local health club (where I ride a stationary bike pretty much every day), and in the locker room, an old guy (i.e., someone about my age) was changing near me (I'd never seen him before) and after some chit-chat about the balmy weather, he suddenly told me three things with absolute certainty:
1. President Obama is going to have us all tattooed (think: Auschwitz).
2. Under the new health care law, Catholic hospitals must perform abortions.
3. Under the new health care law, a nurse living, say, in Ohio must move to Iowa if a hospital needs him/her there.
Well, there was no gainsaying him, and I didn't even try. (It's pointless when someone is so positive.)
But think of this: I spent my career trying to get things right--trying to sure of my facts. I urged my students to do the same. I have a profound respect for what is factual/actual. And here's what I've learned: If we can't agree on what the facts are, then we cannot have a conversation. And if we can't have conversations, then democracy--not to be too dramatic--is doomed.
Whenever I hear a hot Internet rumor, my first stop is Snopes.com. People should go there--or to other fact-checking sites--when they hear that their microwave will blow up if they heat water in it--or that chipmunk chatter is the basis of Old English--or that a public figure is Satan. I checked out the three statements above, and guess what? (Well, I didn't check the first one ... please!)
Today, so many of us--too many of us--get our "news" from a source that simply confirms our biases--on both sides of the political/religious divides. We can spend the day reading/viewing only things that we already support--and watching TV bloviators bellowing at one another from far extremes. Shouldn't we make the effort to learn what the facts are? And what reasonable people are saying on various sides of issues? (Key word, of course, reasonable.)
I am a Democrat--and have voted that way since I first voted in 1968. But many members of my family--especially on my dad's side (including my dad himself)--are/were Republicans. I love them. I disagree with them, sure, but I don't demonize them. I don't think they're Nazis--or evil--or anti-American--or whatever. Quite the opposite. Some of them are among the finest human beings I have ever known. I also have friends who live on all points of the religious continuum--from atheists to the most pious followers of various religions (my grandfather, father, and uncle were all ordained Christian ministers). I don't care what they believe--as long as they treat me the same.
So, my (probably) naive and quixotic plea is this--let's find out what's factual; let's start with that. Then let's talk ... Otherwise, all we do is yell--and share ignorance.