Friday, April 13, 2012

Why Can't the Americans...

     Close to a decade ago, a co-worker of mine quipped "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?", borrowing that from the Lerner & Lowe musical My Fair Lady (1956).  He was making a veiled racist statement that African-Americans simply refused to learn how to speak better American English.  Not that the overall message is much different.  Henry Higgins is espousing a harsh form of elitism based upon conformity to an elocution.  One's worth based on how well can speak, and an abandonment of any heritage hidden in speech patterns or word choice.
      But this isn't about that.  This is about how Americans – my people – and how we seem to refuse to learn how to separate that which we wish to be true from the actual examination of facts at hand to arrive at a consensus of truth.  This is apparent whenever there is some sort of artificial dichotomy forced upon, say in an election or in the discussion of religion.  The American, it would seem, is of the mind that one can simply decide to create a fact out of belief; it is in his or her nature.  This is not some sort of mere belief, but some construct the American has come to believe to be core not just to his or her own experience, but to existence itself.
     Why can't the Americans teach their children how to approach the world rationally, with respect for reason and a sublimation of personal inclinations?  Maybe that sounds as impossibly biased as Professor Higgins.  But there is something that diminishes us all in the American rush to abandon judgment.
     Recent things that have troubled me include the following (some of them are the same person):
  • A stubborn refusal to see how asking someone for identification before allowing them to vote is an example of an illegal search & seizure.
  • A stubborn refusal to believe that gun control laws exist because there are ways to purchase guns without abiding them.
  • Someone with an open mind as to whether on not the Moon Landings were faked.  Seriously.  There is absolutely no evidence (other than the will to believe) that we spent billions of dollars, employed the best scientists, and risked many lives in an effort to do something magnificent (at the time just for America) for humanity.
  • The belief that hating people can be justified because it is out of love, and the desire to save these people being hated from burning in Hell.  
  • The wonderment over just where our tax dollars go.  (Seriously, that information – save some classified spending – is readily available with just a small amount of research.)
  • A woman on CNN, representing the stay-at-home mother who decided that the values she was representing were tied to destroying the EPA, unions, and access to affordable healthcare.  Someone else's talking points are not knowledge, lady.
That's the thing, though.  We, the American people, don't want to do the work, the research to find out those things we just want to doubt.  We don't want to confront our prejudices with reason.  We don't want to doubt our convictions, because they don't.  And they hate us.  Except, of course, that they and us are the same group of people: Americans.
     When there isn't room for reasonable discussion, for reasoned examination of the world we encounter, there is only belief.  But what is the point?  That belief relates to nothing.  It is an empty thing, useful only for the beating of one's chest and shouting the other down.  And that just eats away at our collective soul.
     Well, if you suffered through that, enjoy some good entertainment.

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