Sunday, July 10, 2005

Everyone Take A Deep Breath…

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece before the London attacks, but they seem even more appropriate now.

Sometimes these days when I’m reading my daily dose of blogs I feel like Bill Clinton in the run-up to the 2004 Election when he said that he wondered whether he was the only one who thought both Bush and Kerry loved their country. This was at a time when the invective going back and forth was at an all time high and hatred was in the air.

Although things have cooled down a little since then, sometimes I wonder. On the right, there are daily rants that seem to suggest that no Democrat or liberal has ever worn a military uniform or sacrificed for this country (even Karl Rove recently got in on the act), and imply that most people on the Left are doing little more than having bake sales for Osama. The disregard for facts or any semblance of balance in these polemics is mind-boggling.

On the Left, the antipathy is of a slightly different sort. On one side, there are those who have made it their personal mission to scold Republicans for not signing up for Iraq duty, and then there are those who simply go through the litany of terrible things happening in Iraq. All too often these commentators sound like spiteful kids saying, “I told you so,” and at times one can’t help but sense a tinge of reveling in the chaos, which is particularly disturbing.

I know from personal experience what it’s like to feel so strongly about something that it overrides one’s rational faculties and makes one think, feel, and say all types of idiotic and harmful things. In some ways I think this is largely the product of youth and our innate predisposition to want to have definite answers to very complex problems. The hope is, however, that as we get older and wiser we increasingly put aside our dogmas and rise above our intellectual inadequacies (which are of course the symptoms of our fears and insecurities), and act a little more cool-headed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen as it seems that many adults carry their prejudices and biases with them all the way to the end.

During this time when the stakes are so high and lots of people are dying in very nasty ways, I would like to make a plea for everyone on all sides to take a deep breath and remember a few things:

1. The true enemies are the extremists (terrorists and others), who are a real force that need to be reckoned with (even if we disagree about how).

2. All of us are basing our opinions on limited and imperfect information and none of us has a crystal ball or knows the answers to counter-factual realities.

3. While it’s our democratic duty to criticize and hold our government accountable, let’s all try to do it in the most constructive ways possible.

4. Let’s put at least as much effort into solving problems as we do criticizing each other.

5. And don’t forget, without reason and clear-thinking there can be no progress.

J.S.

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