In my morning reading of the news, I’ve come across two major issues that simply show one giant problem in America. The first is the Supreme Court and the Affordable Healthcare Act. The second is the modern-day lynch mobs being formed to hunt down Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Both issues show one common problem; we’re unwilling to think through complex issues, but instead would much rather jump to conclusions.
The Affordable Healthcare Act, while noble in its intentions, is rightfully being picked apart in questioning by the Supreme Court. The idea that the government can force anyone to buy anything is simply absurd (before people point to car insurance, keep in mind you only have to purchase car insurance if you buy a car; the government doesn’t force us to buy anything as a condition of simply existing). At the same time liberals are bemoaning and attempting to defend what is really an absurd law, conservatives are attempting to defend what is really an absurd system. When we ask for the conservative solution, while some have a more nuanced approach, at the end of the day it looks at those who can’t afford health insurance and says, “Too bad for you.” Liberals think the system is broke and needs to be fixed, but it’s not. The system works fine, it’s just too expensive. Conservatives think the system works completely fine and just needs a few tweaks. The system doesn’t work fine, as there are multiple people who can’t partake in our system.
This issue points to the truth of a G.K. Chesterton saying that, “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” The reality is that our current system is simply unaffordable (even by people who have insurance) and highly confusing for those with insurance (I’ve received 7 different “final bills” for a recent hospital trip; even the billing department doesn’t know which one I actually owe). In other words, we do need a solution, but one that doesn’t force the poorest Americans to pay for something that is 1/10 their income. We need to keep our high standards of healthcare, meaning it’ll remain expensive, but find a way to streamline things to try to make it cheaper, or give basic coverage to those who can’t afford healthcare (and reward employees for giving advanced healthcare to their employees, rather than punishing them for not doing so).
However, I don’t expect people to think on this issue. I expect people to react emotionally or along party lines – but we forget that doing so can often have dire consequences. Just ask Spike Lee. He recently tweeted the address of Zimmerman (the man who killed Trayvon Martin) implying, “This is where the guy lives, get him.” Problem is it’s not where he lives; it’s the address of someone completely unrelated.
Now as readers will observe, I certainly believe that Zimmerman was in the wrong and most likely deserves to be charged with manslaughter. But the lynch mobs that are popping up are without excuse and an overreaction to an injustice. Offering “dead or alive” wanted pictures, calling for the death of Zimmerman, putting bounties on his head; these are not the actions of a civilized nation. Crime happens. Racism happens. But we only make it worse when we resort to vigilante “justice.”
Both of these issues highlight the biggest problem in America, which is that we refuse to think through issues. Some might say that I’m guilty of this too by declaring what Zimmerman did to be a murder, but I would argue that when one follows an individual at night, essentially stalking the person, and the person attacks you, you have instigated the attack. I came to this conclusion by thinking through the circumstance, regardless of the race or character of the individuals involved; if Person A stalks Person B and Person B attacks Person A for it, most people would view Person B as being justified. Person A may kill Person B, but this becomes manslaughter, not self-defense simply because Person A’s actions instigated the whole situation. In fact, in most circumstances people would agree with this. I tend to think that if a black man was stalking a white man and the roles were reversed, suddenly this would be about a black man murdering a white man. However, in this same scenario, the New Black Panther party would be defending the black man while those who are currently defending Zimmerman would be defending the white victim. Why is this? Because we’d rather go with gut reactions and rely on our biases than to think through the issue.
Why is it that America is becoming more and more polarized on issues of race and politics? It’s because we’ve found our comfort zone in terms of thinking and we refuse to leave it. We’ll watch Fox News and only Fox News. We’ll read Drudge, Brietbart, or some other conservative outlet. We’ll listen to Limbaugh and Hannity and no one else (except other conservatives). Or, alternatively, we’ll watch MSNBC and only MSNBC. We’ll read Huffington Post or Think Progress or the Daily Kos, or some other liberal outlet. We’ll listen to Maddow and no one else (except other liberals). In essence, we have created intellectual ghettos for ourselves, refusing to interact with other ideas beyond saying, “You’re an idiot and you’re wrong.”
The true sign of being open-minded is the willingness to evaluate ideas. By “evaluate” I don’t mean begin with our beliefs and work from there, because sometimes our beliefs can taint our viewpoint. We may approach politics through a libertarian or Communistic ideal, thus tainting any opinion that doesn’t align itself with our ideal. We may approach race issues as “white is right” or “black power,” but such beliefs merely taint other opinions. In those cases, we truly refuse to see how the other person sees the issue. This doesn’t mean we will necessarily agree with the person’s view, but it means we can understand it and learn from it.
Perhaps we should have a new standard in our discourse. We should only be allowed to vocalize our disagreement with someone once we can provide an explanation for the belief we’re criticizing, and the explanation is something the supporters of the idea agree is an adequate explanation. This means abandoning ideals and dealing with the fact that when it comes to practical issues, there are multiple ways to solve a problem. Instead of being high on attitude, we could for once attempt to be high on reason.
Or you could just say I’m an idiot and go back to your intellectual ghetto.