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Archive for the ‘Progressive Politics’ Category

Logical Fallacies in the Presidential Campaign?!

I’m not certain that Tuesday’s election will give us the president we—both Americans and our international neighbors—need most in this pivotal period. But I will be grateful for the end of campaigning because I’m tired of hearing half-truths, lies, and verbal attacks in place of truth and thoughtful plans meant to honor the majority, regardless of financial status. I am appalled at the prevalence of logical fallacies instead of proof of critical thinking.

Our political leaders—and many followers– seem to have dwindled into talking heads who babble propaganda and expect us to silently nod our approval. We must not.

We can’t let ourselves be taken in by statements that sound true but are logical fallacies (mistakes in reasoning). They’re not always easy to spot because they could be factual in different contexts but instead are used to intentionally hide the truth. Much of what we’ve heard in the debates fall into that category.

Here’s a blatant example of a fallacy that someone said to me last week: “We will be forced to bomb Iran; otherwise, they will blow up our school buses.” You may have heard similar statements. I suggest this is not only a logical fallacy, but also an insidious message meant to arouse an emotional response (and possibly a call to action) in people who have stereotyped all Iranians as terrorists whom we should kill before they kill us. There are many assumptions in this statement and only one response suggested. Even if an injustice has occurred, there are many ways to deal with violent acts much more effectively than mimicking the perpetrator.

Please listen for logical fallacies during the next week. If you’re not sure how to recognize those most often used, here’s help. This link to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides good examples:https://i2.wp.com/www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/troufs/images/owl_purdue.gif

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource /659/03/

For the benefit of other readers, would you please comment on what you’ve noted?


Privilege or Oppression – Do We Construct Our Own Destiny?

Privilege and oppression: two sides of the same coin is the title of this slide, part of a PowerPoint presentation by Terry Keleher, a keynote speaker at Holland, Michigan’s annual “Summit on Race and Inclusion” held this week.  Many of my friends and neighbors disagree, thinking individual effort is the key to the “good life.”

My own story challenges that assumption. I was born in Holland, Michigan at a time when the public school system did many things well, including teaching grammar and spelling.  I was born into a family that did a few things well, including modeling a strong work ethic.  Just months before my birth, my parents had come to Holland, Michigan, from their birthplaces in the hills of Kentucky. My father has a sixth grade education and my mother completed high school (although the schools would not pass today’s standards for a quality education and my parents would likely not pass the standardized tests).  IF they had not moved, I would not have the education that propelled me onto two university degrees.  Without some higher education, I would not have had careers in banking, economic development, and teaching. Most likely, I would not in semi-retirement be interacting with people who support my continued learning and civic engagement.

Did I construct my own destiny? NO! I was born in the right place to parents who had the courage to move from their home and who worked hard.  Many people have as much ability as I do but either don’t have the educational base or the will to succeed because they’ve not seen positive outcomes of working beyond adversity.  (And the positive outcomes are much less visible than in my youth–even to graduates.)

If you agree that we don’t construct our own destiny, and would like to be a part of reducing oppression,  then please follow this suggestion from Charles M. Blow:    According to Blow in a NYTimes editorial he wrote on June 6, we need to “have a conversation about the direction of the country that takes that [government involvement] into account but lifts the language to a level where common goals can be seen from differing racial vantage points — to show a way to be merciful to those struggling while providing a path to financial independence and social equality.”

Please reply here or send me an email (harmlessjoyce@yahoo.com) if you’re willing to include me among those you engage in this conversation.

[The source for the image is: “‘Better Together: Fostering Unity Through Equity,” by Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, 6/5/12.” Posted with permission.”]

The Bread We Stash Belongs to the Starving

I just read Peter Singer’s essay, Famine, Affluence, and Morality. In it Singer quotes from the Decretum Gratiani: “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.” Singer concludes that “we would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving.”

I have thought that just giving money, especially not at a sacrificial level, would not be making a difference. Singer suggests that is untrue.  His message haunts me when I think of my Lent “sacrifice.”  For those few weeks, I gave up buying things I could do without. The outcome was that when a friend was struggling to buy fuel, I had a few extra dollars to share. And I didn’t have to give up anything because I had not already spent the money on my own wants.

Sadly, I have reverted to buying for the few seconds of pleasure something new gives me. It’s time to go back to my Lenten practice.  Donating doesn’t mean we have to send money to an international relief fund (although Mercy Corps is one I strongly suggest when that is the plan); it does mean that our “extra dollars” will find a good home if we are sensitive to the needs around us.

If you have a good story of how sensitivity and stewardship paid off, please share with us! It may just motivate others, for as Singer wrote, “what it is possible for a man to do and what he is likely to do are both, I think, greatly influenced by what people around him are doing and expecting him to do.”

Let’s expect this of each other because it is wrong not to do so.

Charter for Compassion

I added my name to the 78,506 others who have confirmed the Charter for Compassion. Will you join us? Here is the link:

Charter for Compassion

“We Have it Within our Power”….Pres. Obama

I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice:  Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now.  Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option.  Remind us that if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge. (Pres. Obama, Sept. 8, 2011)

We have the power–under God–to meet this challenge. Yesterday I read a blog post by Michael Hyatt on the difference between successful and unsuccessful creatives at  Michael Hyatt\’s blog. Two of his suggestions seem especially relevant to what President Obama asked of us in his Jobs Bill speech:

  1. Take responsibility.
  •  If we don’t like what’s going on, we have the right to demand that our leaders work to change broken systems IF we are willing to participate in the process of change.

But what can you and I do? We can speak out whenever an opportunity occurs in our own circles of influence. But before we speak, we should have done research so we are presenting useful, balanced arguments that make disagreement difficult (by the way, don’t view dissenters as the enemy).

Where do we get truthful information when so much of the media is blatantly biased? Study several sources, preferably some that are created by foreign media (I keep NPR Topics: News; IBTimes.com and BBC News on my Google homepage). Whatever we read, it is imperative that we use our critical thinking ability to analyze their objectivity!

2.    Seek help.

  • Ask others to join with us (or join with them), not just for the blending of diverse skills, but also for the strengthening of commitment that comes from being accountable to others.

But where do we find those willing to partner? I find that when I am willing to speak out, potential colleagues quickly make themselves known by their input in the discussion. Then all I have to do is ask them to meet with me, either in-person or online. If they’re already in a related group, they may let me join.

How many does it take to make a difference? In the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Will you join me here with your creative ideas to change what is broken in our systems?

Embrace Faith, not Ideologies

“It’s not a lack of plans or policies that is the problem here,” Mr. Obama said Monday in his first public comments on the economy since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating last Friday. “It’s a lack of political will in Washington. It’s the insistence on drawing lines in the sand, a refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology. And that’s what we need to change.” from Obama Counsels Calm, but No Deal Is in Sight

Henry Idema, Pastoral Support Minister for Grace Episcopal Church of Holland, said similar words from the pulpit on Sunday. Ideologies, systematic bodies of concepts, especially about human life or cultures (Webster’s Dictionary definition), sets boundaries between groups of people. It also tends to limit the thinking of individuals within a group bound together by an ideology. By deciding that certain cultural groups are losers, should pull themselves up by their bootstraps without government intervention, or deserve all they have because of personal ability/inability, ideology members dismiss personal responsibility. They define themselves as superior or at least separate from the losers, making it easy to expunge them from their field of view.

Idema has a different view. He said we often embrace ideologies to overcome personal fears and insecurities. Instead of finding relief in concepts, reaching out to the God of our faith is a surer path to the help we seek than separating from neighbors who may need our help but could also be our hope.

Reclaiming our Power

Leonard Cohen singing \”Democracy\” (is coming to the USA)

[My summary of  presentations by Rudy Lopez and Sharon Lettman at the Detroit Wellstone Action! Camp on May 21, 2004]

Just being on the side of what is right, just and fair does not cause us to win in the struggle against violence and injustice.  We are not in an ideal world; therefore we must organize for action.  We must gain the power that comes through organized people and organized money (having access to resources).

For most of us, the label “power hungry” has a negative connotation, yet power is neutral.  It’s what we do with it that makes it good or bad, harmful or hopeful.  Those who have power get to choose how it is used.  Our community, and certainly our world reflect the values of those who have the power.  But does the place and the age in which we live reflect your personal values?  If not, it may be that you have bought into the widely-distributed message that power is to be feared because of its corrupting influence.  Yet those who created that message are profiting from our lack of power.  Can you name a corporation, organization, or leader who seems to profit from our losses?  Consider services that many Americans have been denied, services such as health care, a quality education, and protection against unemployment–services necessary for the quality of life that rightfully belong to all people.

If our rights are to be respected, we must reclaim our power.  We must have the ability to act according to the precepts of our faith and values.  We must follow in the steps of powerful leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa.  They left a legacy of justice by using their power to organize people and resources.  They showed us how to start movements that serve all humanity.  Now it’s our turn.   To be the ones with the most power, we must look beyond our difference to the values and visions we have in common.

It doesn’t take a multitude to begin.  With a few other people from our neighborhoods, churches, or community groups, we can instigate a grassroots effort to address our most pressing issues.  By reaching out to our circles of influence with a compelling message, we are activating the power of the people.  As private citizens learn how to advocate, our courage and commitment become a beacon to our friends and associates, many of whom also crave a place to participate.

As we dare to share what we stand for, people will organize around our issues (because they are their issues, too).  Collectively we have the power to create laws, to make candidates accountable, even to transform systems.

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