Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Count is Now at: 10

When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself not to start writing a post on a matter that gets me steamed without first counting to ten, slowly. The plan was to keep anything from making ad hominem attacks or other crimes of poor commentary. The headings above articles such as this will keep a running total of where I am at in the counting. I'll consider myself calmer than I think I am currently if I can keep that total below 1,000 for the year.

Neal Starkman in a guest column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer speculates as to why President Bush's approval rating remains above 50%. Obviously he has done nothing to deserve it:

"What can explain his popularity? Can that many people be enamored of what he has accomplished in Iraq? Of how he has fortified our constitutional freedoms with the USA Patriot Act? Of how he has bolstered our economy? Of how he has protected our environment? Perhaps they've been impressed with the president's personal integrity and the articulation of his grand vision for America?

Is that likely?"

Apparently not. Instead the fault must lie with the electorate:

"It's the "Stupid factor," the S factor: Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright."

Of course, we are not talking about just some people, we need this to explain why a majority of Americans support the current president. It must be that people are too stupid to apply thought and would rather be told what their opinion is.

Now, I can understand why someone of the liberal persuasion, which I assume Mr. Starkman is, can come to feel that way. If you believe in the self-obvious truism that all war is bad, and that the invasion of Iraq is a war, then the invasion of Iraq is bad. One would truly have to be a simpleton to believe otherwise.

Other times you may get a person of the liberal persuasion conceding, nay, demanding, that the situation is really complex. Naturally, these are typically professors or others who would be out of a job if what they are speaking about were fully understood. When the liberal position says that nuance is needed to understand something, that usually means that a conservative simplicity is apparently correct and that contorting the interpretation of the facts is necessary to make it seem that the liberal truism is the correct explanation.

(This whole fair and balanced acknowledgement of both sides of the issue is tough. I'm really having to focus to keep what I am writing from being little more than, "I'm right, you're wrong, so nanny-nanny-boo-boo." You try it and see how hard it is to keep your personal bias out of your work.)

When I look at debates between conservatives and liberals, I can see that they are debating on two entirely different scales, and those scales tend to be constant. To use an analogy: Picture a jigsaw puzzle. The Liberal can discuss and examine a single piece and expound upon its qualities and short comings. Meanwhile, the Conservative will focus on the way that the pieces interact and how the big picture emerges. Out of this interplay, we can get the following exchange:

Liberal: Look at the work I have done on this piece. Each side is precisely the same length, and it now has four right angles, making it a perfect square. Much more appealing than the lopsided triangle it was when you gave it to me.

Conservative: Very nice, but the only space left in the puzzle is a triangle.

From where I sit, it seems that the liberal position is to either take a single issue and shape it to their liking and to hell with the rest of the world, or else accept a position as perfect and demand that the rest of the world adapt. The conservative position is that each piece should be shaped with the big picture in mind and if no piece is perfect, then oh well.

My position? Let each piece be what it is, and you'll find that the big picture is better than you could have done yourself.

And to Mr. Starkman, please try to understand that people can be quite intelligent and still come to a different opinion than you do. Your glib dismissal of over half of the adult population does not make me enthusiastic for your image of intelligence.