Bob, I am honored to be your friend and to be a recipient of your recent posting. I hope this is the start of a long conversation between us.
When NYC Mayor Koch once was pressed by a reporter on an issue, Koch said to the reporter: “I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you.”
Was the reporter being dim-witted? I thought so until I learned somethings are difficult to explain with words. That’s the situation I’m in here, but I’ll forge ahead with words and try to explain.
I thought a few readers of the text that ends Flutters from Side Street would have lightbulb moments. This section makes three main points. First, the opening paragraph of “A Story of Self-Deception may be less than clear but what I meant is that each of us think of ourself as being a certain kind of person and as life happens to us we sometimes-consciously or not-shade our understanding of an experience to be in accord with how we think we are. The account of my relationship with Barney illustrates what I meant and how it happens.
I might be wrong but I think lots of people if not most everyone shares this trait of self-deception. One type of light bulb moment is a reader’s , that something like this has happened or could happen to her or him. (The mistake in thinking this is that if I now were still in my 2007 mindset, I doubt it would occur to me that something like this has or could happen to me.)
Second is the sentence “And, I hope because within the spectrum of political and personal values in this country, the importance of our common ground outweighs that of our differences.” I guess most readers agree with this sentiment, but more with a “Duh!” than a lightbulb response. (Note, however, people meeting on common ground and working through their differences to solve problems is easier to say than to do.)
Lastly, is “(F)urther, a ‘shared destiny’ entails humility, a willingness to stand together with others having differing views, particularly when our common
values are at stake.” Nature perhaps equips us with the capacity of self-confidence as a species survival mechanism; we have culturally pushed self-confidence to the level of hubris. We have to relearn how to have in-common values. There’s increasing calls for more civility in our public debates, but more than civility is required. Civility is a face-to-face behavior.
We must recognize and respect the rights of others’ citizenship in their presence and behind their backs, and being respectful doesn’t necessarily mean being civil..
Bob, how does what I’ve written above have bearing on your call to action? The only concern I have with what you wrote concerns majority ruling over the minority. You probably agree that the majority must remain within the confines of rights shared by all citizens, in the majority or not. So this much is just a note, and one that probably doesn’t need to be made. However, I also want to add a thought for you to consider in your endeavor. Again, I appeal to my difficulty at explaining with words even as I forge ahead writing.
(I’ll begin quoting most of a paragraph from Naomi Wolf’s The End of America, book worth reading) “…Is it reasonable—is it really a matter of common sense—to assume that leaders who are willing to abuse signing statements; withhold information from Congress; make secret decisions: lie to the American people; use fake evidence to justify a preemptive war; torture prisoners; tap people’s phones; open their mail and e-mail; break into their houses; and now simply ignore Congress altogether—leaders with, currently, a 29 percent approval rating—will surely say, come 2008, ”The decision rests in the hands if the people. May the votes be fairly counted”?
The egregious abuses she cites are likely true, but heres the point I’m making, they could have all been made by people having good intentions, people who think they know what’s best for the people better than the people themselves know and who have the power, openly or not, to move on it. I know, I know, I know, I’m not likely to make much headway with the notion that the actors on all sides of the issues which confront us are behaving with good intentions. But it’s what I believe and I’m sticking with it. I also believe we’re not going to make much headway at closing the divides separating us in this country unless our methods of resolution incorporate the prevalence of good intentions.
How is it that bad things happen if no one’s acting with bad intentions? Part of it is systems that have gone bad, that have lost their checks and balances or didn’t have them at their start. Here’s an example: Newt Gingrich’s Republican Contract with America in concert with Grover Norquist’s Tax Protection Plan and the Koch brothers’ Tea Party have transformed Congress from a deliberative body into one in which the members of the two controlling parties now place party allegiance above negotiated solutions. You can also have a look at “Parsing Moral Superiority” on page 216 of Flutters from Side Street. (The Lucifer Effect: how good people turn evil by Phil Zimbardo is another worthwhile read)
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