Rudy Ruiz recently wrote a very thoughtful and accurate opinion article last week that asked the question:
Why has it become so difficult to even consider changing our minds about important issues?
The current debate over healthcare reform has really pushed this notion in front of the public. There has been a shift, especially recently, wherein politicians refuse to budge from their stance (almost always partisan) as the notion of changing your mind has been deemed to mark you as a “flip-flopper.” This negative connotation, rather than potentially marking you as a rational individual, carries with it the wrath of an overzealous public. Once again, Washington isn’t about doing what is right for its constituents, but rather staying in power so that they can do what is right for themselves and their friends.
This close-mindedness is being driven into the public consciousness by our leaders. Consider this recent example of U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann rallying conservatives to block the healthcare reform bill and any other Democratic initiatives:
[she warned] the proposals “have the strength to destroy this country forever.”
“This cannot pass,” the Minnesota Republican told a crowd at a Denver gathering sponsored by the Independence Institute. “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass…”
Bachmann: "Slit our wrists; be blood brothers"
I believe that the absolute best example of close-mindedness and outright absurdity comes from Republican Senator Charles Grassley. This is absolute proof that our leaders aren’t our leaders, but instead are interested in only themselves and partisan politics:
In an interview today on MSNBC’s "Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan," Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R) said he’d vote against any health-care reform bill coming out of the committee unless it has wide support from Republicans — even if the legislation contains EVERYTHING Grassley wants.
"I am negotiating for Republicans," he said. "If I can’t negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I’m not a good negotiator."
When NBC’s Chuck Todd, in a follow-up question on the show, asked the Iowa Republican if he’d vote against what Grassley might consider to be a "good deal" — i.e., gets everything he asks for from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D) — Grassley replied, "It isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans."
In short, Grassley says he’s willing to walk away from legislation in which he gets everything he wants.
GOP Support Most Important to Grassley
I don’t mean to pick on the Republicans, as I don’t like the Democrats particularly either. It just so happens that they seem to have thrown a rod lately in their behavior regarding healthcare reform. Let’s get back to Rudy Ruiz’s article and extrapolate it a bit more towards the general populace. He contends that three factors exacerbate this paralysis by lack of analysis: labels, lifestyles and listening.
First, the labels ascribed to many potential policy tools render sensible options taboo, loading what could be rational, economic or social measures with moral baggage. This narrows our choices, hemming in policy makers.
Second, our lifestyles favor knee-jerk reactions. The way we think, work and live in the Digital Age demands we quickly categorize information without investing time into rich interaction, research and understanding.
We’re hesitant to ask questions because we don’t have time to listen to the long, complicated answers that might follow. And we lack the time to fact-check competing claims. In our haste, it’s easier to echo our party’s position than drill down, questioning whether party leaders are motivated by our best interests or the best interests of their biggest contributors.
Third, we tend to listen only to like-minded opinions as media fragmentation encourages us to filter out varying perspectives
Rudy Ruiz: Open Your Minds America
We live in a hectic world where our time is being stretched increasingly slim. New advances enable us to do more, but at the expense of free time. It is important for people to realize that the key to any intelligent, important decision is to gather as much information from BOTH sides, analyze it, and then form your opinion. Given the lack of time in our lives, people take the easy way out, and merely puppet the ideas of the people whose ideology it is they follow. If we are ever to succeed as a nation, then this practice must end.
And as an aside- I frequently debate people who are uninformed on issues and merely spout rhetoric, and to those of you I kindly ask:
If you are going to defend a position, defend it relative to your knowledge on the subject. Thank you.