Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 242- Difference of opinion

Dear Mr. President,

Tonight I saw a movie with friends. Upon exiting, we all had vastly, radically different reactions. Some hated it, the others loved it. Few were in between. The ensuing shouting match, which might charitably be described as a debate, revealed both camps to be intractable. Luckily, we were arguing over Piranha 3-D and not health care, the environment, or anything that actually matters. I understand having different tastes in entertainment, but the stark contrast between those who loved what they saw and those who hated it reminded me of the kinds of shouting matches that political debate usually devolves into. How is it that we can have such differences of perception, even over verifiable facts?

Lately I've been cringing at the all-too-fresh memory of a situation I badly misjudged and, as a result, badly mishandled. I was so sure, so confidently convinced about my perceptions that, once I was slapped back into reality, it was as though the ground below me shifted. This is probably just another aspect of my control-freak personality disorder, but being so wrong about something I was so sure of has thrown me into intense self-doubt. What else am I sure about today that will seem laughably off-base tomorrow? If I'm capable of being so self-deceived, what other perceptions of mine are false?

This kind of doubt is actually good for me. It keeps me from the kind of arrogance that I am often prone to and it keeps me asking questions that need to be asked. In the end, it also often confirms my views, giving me stronger faith in the things I believe and helping me to articulate these beliefs more clearly in the future. I learn not to be so sure of anything that I can't process contrary evidence. I think that maybe a little self doubt might be good for some of the more ideologically entrenched in government. Our society is facing so many problems that we all ought to be wondering what beliefs we've falsely clung to, what choices we've badly made, and how we can change these as we go forward. I think this especially applies to those in government (particularly career incumbents) who continue to do what has always been done without wondering why; to declare the earth isn't getting warmer no matter how much new evidence comes to light, or to define family and citizenship and education in the same tired old terms. Evolution cannot happen without recognizing our mistakes and reaffirming what is important to us.

You have always struck me to be a contemplative individual. Mr. President, I know that flip-flopping is not something a political figure likes to admit to, but have you honestly re-evaluated any of your positions since the campaign? Has the work of government changed the way you view certain issues? How can we reward public servants with the courage to change their mind when presented with new information or alternate views, and encourage more of it in those who lack it?

I suppose for now I'm going to take comfort in the things I am certain about. Like the fact that Piranha 3-d is the worst movie ever made. No matter what Eric says.

Respectfully yours,


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