Thursday, December 1, 2011

Irrational Thoughts

POP QUIZ:  Who said each of the following?: 

The USA is in serious danger of becoming "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists."

“Corporations are people, my friend.” 

“What I'm talking about is the order of deportation, the sequence of deportation. It is almost impossible to move 11 million illegal immigrants overnight. You do it in steps."

If you guessed, in this order:  Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachman, you are right.   (From MoveOn.Org, YouTube, the Nation, and the Washington Post.) 

I could have put equally crazy quotes in for all the Republicans running for office, most of whom have endorsed adding 2000 miles to the wall between the US and Mexico to the tune of $25 billion, some form of flat tax, and war with Iran.

Gingrich’s quote is the probably the least serious in terms of policy and law, but is the most indicative to me of a dangerous trend in our country, which is to say things in a serious tone of voice that make no sense.  He has put together two ridiculous, but also self-cancelling ideas and made them into one thought.

I know that it is possible to have contradictory or nonsensical thoughts—I do it all the time.  Just yesterday, I ate a bag of potato chips even though I am trying to lose weight.  I read the nutrition label and saw that these chips had 20% of my daily potassium and so told myself they were good for me.  I also think my cat understands me and that my dog does not.  Or, just last week I said I wanted to read more, but then spent a free evening watching sitcoms. 

The difference between me and the Republican front runners is that I don’t believe my irrational thoughts and behavior should be codified into public policy and I am not going to run for office on a Potato Chip platform. 

A commons frame calls for rational and respectful conversation amongst people who see each other as valuable and equal members of the human race.  To figure out what policies, laws, behaviors and customs will most promote the common good while insuring individual rights requires a lot of discussion.  A society based on a commons frame has many gray areas that must be worked out, and probably will have to be worked on for quite a long time. 

The current trend toward saying things that make no sense serves a very rational, if evil, purpose:  to stop discussion.  Who can enter a discussion with someone who thinks a corporation is a person?  Who can really talk with someone who thinks that the border between the US and Mexico should be electrified and have a sign on it that says, “This can kill you” as Herman Cain said recently?  Or that “compassionate conservatism” is a form of big government, as Rick Perry noted in one of his earliest interviews? 

So regular people cease to discuss politics, stop voting, and do not enter into the commons.  We must fight this trend by having as many conversations with as many people as we possibly can, and watching in ourselves for those times when we say or do things that are irrational.   It is through sharing our feelings, our history, our facts, that we together can create the policies, laws, structures and procedures that protect and promote everyone’s health and well being.  Promoting this kind of conversation is the best way to continue to work for the 99%. 

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