I wrote a blog recently (1/16/17) that mentioned Planned Parenthood favorably. The next day a man remarked he could never support a group that sold baby parts. Surprised, I considered my two choices. I could attempt to educate a man with the grammar of a two-year-old or ignore him. I decided upon the latter and wrote his information was flawed and hoped he’d research the topic further.
Though a teacher for many years, I never understood my craft. How does one person fill another’s head with ideas? How does one disabuse someone of a cherished notion that is wrong and even dangerous? Why do some thoughts stick in a person’s head while others never take root?
The other day, I read a snippet about Glenn Beck, a right-wing talk radio and television host who once called Barack Obama a racists “with a deep-seated hatred for white people.” (“People”, The Week, December 2, 2016, pg. 10.) In it, Beck admitted he’d had a change of heart on some social issues, particularly about “Black Lives Matter.” He’d listened to the president’s talks and decided, “…Obama [had] made me a better man… So much of what I believed was either a sham or has been made into a sham.” (Ibid pg. 10.)
As a commentator, Beck was obliged to listen to the president’s speeches, but what in those patient and reasoned arguments wore the journalist down? Logic, I find, is incapable of accomplishing a conversion. Some emotional connection usually occurs. That, or self-interest is at work.
In Beck’s case, I have no information to draw upon. But I do know, self-interest can effect change with a miraculous speed. Congress is a prime example. For years, work got done through the art of the deal. Legislation moved when a sufficient number of votes were bought and sold, a process called “earmarking.” The press prefers to call it, “pork-barreling.”
After the Great Recession, citizens became less tolerant of horse trades. They saw earmarking as a waste of taxpayer’s money — unless a “bridge to nowhere” would spur the economy in their neighborhood. The hue and cry grew so loud, the practice was finally banned. But as human nature has shown, time and time again, without a carrot the work of Congress can come to a halt. Says writer Chris Cillizza, for two centuries pork barreling provided grease to get legislation passed. (“Bring back pork-barrel spending,” by Chris Cillizza, reprint from The Washington Post in The Week, December 2, 2016, pg. 12.)
To bring change to a democratic society, we have two paths. We may choose to appeal to human nature as it is. Or, we may appeal to human nature as it ought to be. Being a pragmatist, I’d take the first path. The latter is the way of saints, and the reason, I suspect, so many found themselves lost to a burning pyre.
(First puslished 1/26/17)