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:
For the benefit of other readers, would you please comment on what you’ve noted?
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.”]
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:
- 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?
“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.