Lately, it seems that everyone is convinced of everything. No room for thought, for challenge, for argument. Opinion is sold – and bought – as fact. Opinion that matches our already-held beliefs is held as ultra-true-can’t-possibly-be-wrong mega-fact. We’re apologists for obvious flaws in our standard-bearers.
We use memes, quotes, videos, rants and shares to defend and to offend. We attack character and intellect of people we’ve never even met; we defend character and intellect of people we will never meet.
In a country that prizes free speech, one major philosophical premise of that freedom (courtesy of Thomas Jefferson) is that “…error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
We can let you say whatever nonsense you want to say as loudly as you want to say it, as long as we can safely bank on the idea that the vast majority of us employ reason to discern between utter bullshit and truth.
Reason isn’t swayed by hyperbole, talking points, echo chambers, or stump speeches.
Reason isn’t scared into blind support by patriotic platitudes.
Reason gets suspicious when asked to blame “the Muslims,” “the refugees,” “the Mexicans,” “the Blacks,” “the liberals,” or “the conservatives,” because reason knows scapegoating and character attacks are the tools of those who lack facts.
Reason knows that if a solution sounds too simple to be plausible, or too good to be true, it is.
Reason knows that every best choice comes with some negative consequences and every worst choice comes with some positive consequences, too.
When you find yourself getting emotionally swayed, take a page from the cynic’s book for just a second. Ask yourself: what is she selling me? What does he NOT want me to ask? What’s in it for him or her?
There is no “right answer” in a complex society. There’s only the best possible answer for the most possible people. There are many paths up that mountain. Anyone trying to tell you that his is the only one, however, is asking you to suspend reason in the hopes his errant opinion will be mistaken for truth.