Home > Uncategorized > The Difference Between People and Ideas

The Difference Between People and Ideas

I wrote a blog the other day, and was surprised by the angry response. I have had people respond angrily before, but this was an entirely new type of anger. I wrote one blog about Spain’s experiment with “green” jobs, and a few people took issue with my data, and some with my conclusions. I’ve had a lot of people suggest that sometimes I need to re-examine my assumptions and how those assumptions factor into reasoning. And, to tell the truth, I enjoy that. I’m always up for a good discussion, whether it’s about religion, politics, philosophy, and sometimes even sports, although I’m woefully ignorant about almost all sports.

The response that surprised me, though, was not about facts, conclusions, or my reasoning process. It was about the fact that I called the President of the United States by his first and middle names only. I called him Barack Hussein, instead of Barack Obama or any other honorific. Apparently, a few people took umbrage at that, and suggested that I was either failing to show him the proper respect or trying to insult him by using his middle name. Some suggestion was made that I was playing to xenophobia due to the arabic sound of his middle name.

So, for starters, let me clear a few things up. I don’t necessarily believe that Mr. Obama is a muslim. He adverts that he is a Christian, and I have no evidence to the contrary. I don’t believe that someone’s name is an insult, unless they picked it themselves. Since Mr. Obama’s parents picked his name, it’s hardly an insult to him to use it. I have also never called Mr. Obama a name, unless I backed up that name with evidence that it was fairly descriptive. When he was caught lying, I called him a liar. That’s really more descriptive than insulting, though. I certainly never used it as an ad hominem attack, however.

And yet, after my blog, I was attacked for being biased, among other things. Now, I freely admit to being biased. I think being biased is a functional outcome of thought. You either believe in creationism or not, for example, and whichever side you identify with will produce an innate bias in your world view. I have a set of core beliefs, as do we all, and these beliefs create a bias in the way I act and with whom I associate with. I am much more likely to join the NRA than NARAL. Biases are only bad when they interfere with your ability to evaluate new information.

Having said all that, I’ve come to a conclusion about the nature of politics in America. And that is that people invest themselves in their choice of politicians. Their choice is more than the selection of a representative, it is an extension of who they are. People identify with their choice and therefore any criticism of their choice is seen as a criticism of them. Instead of rational discourse, this leads to a situation where people look for evidence that supports their representative, and tend to ignore evidence that points the other way.

This goes to explain why, for example, Sarah Palin is so popular. The right wing believes in a set of principles, she articulates those principles, so people invest in her. They now feel an obligation to support and defend her, regardless of her less than brilliant presentation. And it’s not limited to the right. We saw the same thing with Dukakis, Dean, Bush, Biden, and the list goes on. This also explains the anger. If I am critical of Obama, I am, by extension, critical of them. It is reminiscent of the old slogan of the woman’s movement, that the political is the personal. In fact, it is actually the reverse. Nothing could be less personal than politics, at least in who are my friends and who I respect.

There are, for example, a number of democrats that I admire greatly. There are a number of republicans that I absolutely consider abysmal. However, those qualities are irrelevant when it comes to making policy decisions. Even though I am nominally a conservative, I opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though I admire some democrats, their policy on border criminal amnesty is wrong for America.

I suppose the point of it all is that there is really no reason to believe that because I object to his policies that I detest Mr. Obama as a person. Because I disagree with a person on which policy approach is better, it does not follow that I think less of them. There are ideas I love, and ideas I deplore. I advocate some ideas instead of others because, there are, in the long run, only people I love and the ideas I advocate are the ones I believe to be beneficial for us all.

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