Monday, February 21, 2011

Be Patient. Deliberate.

While playing with a kitten new to our household, I saw him finally sit back and watch the pattern of the feather that I dangled from an elastic string. Instead of wildly following the feather and wearing himself out, he held still and planned his attack as he might if he were allowed outside and his life depended upon hunting birds. I was proud of his newfound restraint as it signaled a new level of maturity in him.

The American voter should take a lesson from my kitty. Each and every one should learn to hold in.

The party that does not hold the Executive branch enjoys an uptick in House seats at every mid-[Presidential]term election. Granted, the GOP gain in 2010 was, as everyone now says, “unprecedented,” but a gain is not. Why? I dare not answer the question definitively; there are just too many variables. I will however assert that fickle voters--the ones who cannot hold in--is one variable.

President Obama inherited a world of hurt. Even before the votes had been cast, the economy tanked and stimuli of all sorts--with no reckoning or accountability attached--were doled out. He coolly walked into the Oval Office after dancing the night away, surely reeling from a raised consciousness about Iraq, Afghanistan, the U. S. economy, the deficit, the number of big businesses teetering on collapse, the number of suffering Americans out of work, foreclosed upon, and in need of a job.
And what did the American people (anyone else tired of hearing those two words?) expect?

Apparently, we, the people, expected President Obama to wave a magic wand, kiss our boo-boos, and make it all better before Spring drifted into Summer. We had no patience for the time it takes for democracy to work--and that is a painfully long stretch indeed. If you want quick solutions, look to your nearby autocrat. He will decide without asking you or anyone else for another point of view. If you want some momentary chaos and healthy frustration with a measure of success in the end, then democracy, not autocracy, is your game. The results are usually worth waiting for, but waiting is not something we, the people, like to do.

We lack the patience to reserve our judgment, often shown in the voting booth, until all the facts are in. Here’s a case in point:

Ask yourself if government officers and media celebrities have ever overstated, understated, misrepresented, or outright lied in order to gain, maintain, or increase power. If you answer that question with a “no,” then please find a boat, step in it, throw away the paddle and GPS so you may lazily drift away to La-La Land because surely the currents will guide you home (or more likely, lead you to an unpleasant end at the hands of an autocrat, also known as a wolf in sheep’s clothing).

On the other hand, if you answer that question with a “yes,” then throw cold water in your face and apologize for rushing to judgment no matter which man or woman, party, or celebrity currently holds sway over public opinion. Tell yourself that you just better become well-informed if you hope not to be the victim of overstatement, understatement, misrepresentation, and lies. Tell yourself that you will open yourself to other points of view because you, my friend, can discern the truth when you have the facts. I place my faith in you.

For example, is it true that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Barney Frank are responsible for the collapse or near collapse of Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and charities or pension funds worldwide? Someone told you so, but was that someone right? No! That claim is “arithmetically, factually, demonstrably not true,” according to Charles Ferguson, writer and director of Inside Job, speaking on Talk of the Nation, NPR, February 17, 2011 (http://www.npr.org/2011/02/17/ 133842361/Filmmaker-Sees-Inside-Job-In-Wall-Street-Crash).



Re-read those three adverbs--arithmetically, factually, demonstrably--that Mr. Ferguson chooses to refute a commonly held myth placing blame on government policy with Democratic leanings for the economic debacle. Ferguson says he can prove his assertion using math, fact, and evidence. Them’s bold words, and it is your duty not to repeat or uphold the commonly held and widely spread myth until you have examined the math, fact, and evidence, until you have read Dr. Ferguson’s critics and his rebuttals (e.g., http://blogs.ft.com/economistsforum/2010/10/the-director-of-inside-job-replies), and until you consider who has the most to gain by suppressing math, fact, and evidence. In other words, you must hold in, restrain your impulse to judge, especially if the facts seem to fall in favor of your world view, and examine the facts before choosing sides.

This is what people of courage and compassion do because they believe that Thomas Jefferson, the wordsmith and Founding Father, knew something about our future when he crafted a document that has granted us more rights and privileges than many other people enjoy. He said, “An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will” so withhold judgment until you have the facts. Please--for all of us.