I have a good friend I worked with for nearly 4 years and who is around the age of 70, named Henry. Throughout our years working together, we had many conversations on topics ranging from politics and economics, all the way through religion and philosophy. While Henry and I disagreed on a lot of things we discussed, I cherished those conversations and miss them dearly. While we may not have agreed upon specific solutions to problematic issues, the most important factor was present: there was a genuine desire to solve the problems in a way that would make people’s lives better, regardless of the solution.
The reason this desire was the most important factor in our conversations and debates being exceptionally valuable was because no matter how wrong we believed the others ideas or arguments to be, there was a mutual understanding that we were not worried about who was right and who was wrong, but we were ultimately concerned with what would solve the problem in the best possible way. This is a quality of discussion that is, in our day in age, rare.
My perspective of the news, the media, school (K-8th/ high school/ undergrad), debates, and all like things, is that they have distorted the learning process away from healthy, fruitful discussion, in favor of, on a very basic level, ‘this is right and this is wrong.’ I know this sound incredibly naïve and I too would love for this not to be the case in our ever developing, futuristic-esk world, but I must face reality and so should you.
The reality, as Henry so frequently expressed his frustration over, is the very little honest discussion that goes on between individuals of differing views in America. So-called solutions for issues of poverty, sickness and disease, the environment, foreign affairs, social policies, economic policies, and so on, have become so polarized that very little quality debate ever ensues. Let alone that the general public hears.
Henry yearned to have experts on various issues sit and objectively discuss a topic without the buzzwords and soundbites people want to hear and the media abuses, but yet destroy fruitful debate. Things both in the political arena and outside of it have become so much about just getting people on your side rather than the content of what you trying to say/do.
We have politicians that don’t seem to want to solve a problem as much as they want to convince people they are right because we have two or three sides to an argument that won’t budge. I will interject that they may have a genuine desire to solve the problem, but the fruitfulness of that desire is overshadowed by the need to prove people you are right, which doesn’t help people learn to think rationally but rather the opposite.
We have people rioting in the streets and bringing people to court over social injustice and inequality, who are unwilling to have a rational discussion that doesn’t involve name calling or outright rejection. To think, or at least to express your thoughts that aren’t in support of the radical measures to ‘right’ those injustices, is to grievously wrong them. The way people feel has overcome repercussions, or frankly, right or wrong.
We have serious problems we directly face such as our economy, welfare reform, social right issues, immigration, poverty, and terror threats and attacks, as well as others indirectly, but all worldwide problems. Yet, where is the objective discussion from those who truly desire a solution? If anywhere, it is behind the scenes where the general public is removed and thus uninformed. Which really doesn’t help anyone.
The American public is self-directing themselves into a people who are all the bosses; they want the solution but don’t want to think through the problem, do the research, discuss, and then have it critiqued in order to come to a practical, worthwhile solution.
It is no surprise we are like this. Every problem or question we face is so easily solved by a simple google search. In school, every class involves ingesting information from previously answered questions. There is not much thought involved. While there are caveats to this type of general education, I believe many people, if they are truly honest, would agree that they may have had to put in many hours of work in school but very little of it involved critical thinking and fruitful discussion.
Pursuing something that works should be the highest priority when it comes to solving problems. Being truthful, honest, and humble in these pursuits is the only thing that will bring about fruitful discourse. We as the American public should be having these kinds of thought-provoking, truth seeking discussions, not just those whose jobs are to come up with these solutions. That is what made America great in the first place: that the average American could think about, talk about, and believe whatever they so desired, and because they could, they were passionate to pursue truth and excellence in it.
Let’s get back to what made America great: An exhibition of passion for pursuing solutions to the problems we face, through humility and honesty in the knowledge and ideas we discuss. -emphasis on ‘we’-
Only we, the American public, can make America great again and it will only happen if we are intentional with each other. We must be informed. We must be educated. We must pursue truth. We must. Our leadership will only be great if we as people pursue greatness.