Oh, my dear . . . not so fast.
“If we think our job here on earth is to fix ourselves, we will keep looking for the broken places. If we believe our job is to be kind, we will keep lavishing love on ourselves.” ~ Geneen Roth
The problem isn’t that we aren’t in the street, or that the Tea Party is. The problem isn’t merely with the people we’ve put into office. The problem is that too few of us engage in critical thinking about the world around us, much less about the society we live in and would like to have. We don’t examine the candidates who stand before us who make declarations about taxes, and education, and science, and sexuality, and reproductive rights, and the environment, and what they’re going to do to “fix” it all.
Many of us don’t think critically. That is, we don’t have a system for gathering and examining evidence to determine the validity of the claim.
But how can we? We aren’t taught to do so. We think we are reasoning our way through a problem, but most of the time we are taking shortcuts. A respected friend or leader tells us a fact and we believe it. We see A at the same time as B and assume one is the cause of the other. We engage in behaviors that our parents and grandparents and great grandparents before them engaged in, and we teach them to our children because we’ve always done it that way. We rely on the wisdom of the ages and dismiss the advances of science and technology.
Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically. They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked. They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking. They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason. They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so. They avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues and strive to appropriately consider the rights and needs of relevant others. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world. ~ Linda Elder, September, 2007
We must learn to always ask ourselves: How do I know?
The funny thing? Most of us think it’s the other person who isn’t thinking critically. It couldn’t possibly be us! And yet we all have our blind spots, our own areas where reason doesn’t stand a chance. We are not Spock. We are human beings.
. . . they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest.
Back when I was a believer I would pray for parking spots close to the store. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that. But you know what? I thought it worked! I would remember all the times God answered my prayer in the affirmative and when he didn’t, I rationalized it away by telling myself, There must be a reason why I didn’t get the spot this time. Maybe someone more needy than I got the spot. In my world, god controlled everything. My holy book told me that he knew the numbers of hairs on my head and that even the tiny sparrow was under his care, so of course he heard and answered my humble prayer. It’s how I believed the world worked.
If someone feels the flu coming on, drinks a hot toddy, heads off to bed and wakes up in the morning feeling better, how does he know whether it was the drink he took before he went to sleep that made him feel better or just a good night’s sleep gave his body time to rest? Was he really coming down with the flu or just some little achy-ness or stomach upset that would have passed regardless of what he did? Without examining the evidence utilizing a method to determine causality, he doesn’t. And the easiest thing is to believe that it was the drink that healed him, so that the next time he’s feeling poorly, he’ll down that toddy again, just in case.
Beyond learning how to think critically, we have to know how we are wired and that we evolved to see patterns that may not be there, to make connections that may be tenuous or non-existent.
More to come.
I posted this on my old blog on July 9, 2011 after we said good-bye to our sweet Daisy. I’m re-posting this for Stephanie Miller, who is going through the same grief today for her beloved Max.
We know you’ve been hurting for a long time. And you were getting so tired.
You spent the day in the sunshine, wandering the yard and nosing in the sage for lizards. Then you came inside to take a nap at my feet. I brushed you one last time, and then you and I and Dad went for a ride. One of your favorite things to do. Sissy met us there. And then we said good-bye as you fell asleep in our arms. It was as peaceful as we could have hoped for.
Thank you for being our big brown doggie.
I don’t believe in heaven
And I know that there’s no hell,
I don’t think you’ve gone anywhere,
And I guess that’s just as well
‘Cause I want to remember
the last look in your eyes
It was the best and worst thing
to get to say goodbye
They say we’re not s’posed to comprehend,
But I wanna know more
Being there with you at the end
was a pain I had hoped for
Did you know where you were going?
Did you like the time you’d spent?
I wish that you’d stayed longer,
But that’s not how it went
Now I know there’s no forever,
but of all the hearts I’ve met,
I think the place we ended up
was as close as one could get,
They say we’re not s’posed to understand
That doesn’t help me
Watching you leave by my own hand
Were the cards that were dealt me
Some would blame the dealer,
some would blame the deal,
some would make up stories
that never could be real
I hope when you left,
You were glad to be back home,
I think that you knew
You would never be alone
I’ve no need for heaven,
Or some eternal bluff,
I prefer what’s real
And what we had here was enough
I’m glad I get to miss you
but that you can never miss me
Thinking you’ll wake up and see us
is your eternity…
I miss you
I miss you
“Small Comfort” ~ George Hrab, Trebuchet
I posted this on Facebook two years ago on April 2, 2016. I had been asked to speak on Hillary Clinton’s behalf at our County Convention. I wouldn’t change a word of this.
So… some people asked me if they could see what I intended to say today at the Washoe County Democratic Convention, before I was booed and heckled and lost enough of my five minutes that I was asked to cut it short. Below are my full remarks:
When I was asked speak to you, I was at once happy and nervous. After all, I knew I’d be talking to a ‘mixed crowd.’ But I know that I have friends on both sides of the arena today.
Mostly I wanted to honor Hillary Rodham Clinton and her life’s work, and why I believe she should be the next President of the United States. And five minutes just isn’t enough time to do her justice.
I have a confession to make. I have not always been Hillary Clinton’s biggest fan.
It wasn’t until I actually began to push through the media narrative to examine her history, her life-long commitment to issues near and dear to my heart, her ability to work across the aisle to make things better for people, and the loyalty and friendships she’s made and kept over the years, that I began to look at her in a new light, and how, eventually, she moved from last place to first in my personal Presidential Preference Poll. I’ve been on board ever since.
And I’m not the only one she has won over. As Jon Favreau, President Obama’s speech writer (and 2007 Hillary Clinton nemesis) wrote recently:
“This same story has repeated itself throughout Clinton’s career: those who initially view her as distrustful and divisive from afar find her genuine and cooperative in person. It was the case with voters in New York, Republicans in the Senate, Obama people in the White House, and heads of state all over the world. There’s a reason being America’s chief diplomat was the specific job Obama asked Hillary to do—she has the perfect personality for it.”
There is no candidate running to be the President of the United States who is better prepared to take on the responsibilities of the job who has the depth of knowledge and breadth of experience to deal with the many challenges facing our country that Hillary Clinton has. No one.
I know that when she is in the White House I won’t have to worry about national and world affairs. I know that she has the ability and the intelligence to handle whatever comes her way.
For me, it all comes down to this: She cares. And she always has. But, honestly? The caring part is easy. The solutions part, the fighting to make it right part? That’s hard. That takes a plan. And let me tell you, the woman has a plan. She has lots of them. She has plans for the big challenges and the small ones.
She is a problem solver. She doesn’t wring her hands and point fingers. She gathers the best minds she can, and works to find common ground and solutions that will benefit as many people as possible. This has been her way for decades. As she said at the conclusion of her 1995 speech in Beijing:
“We must move beyond rhetoric. We must move beyond recognition of problems to working together… to have the common efforts to build that common ground we hope to see.”
I trust her to fight for us in the things that matter most for us. The kind of things that, indeed, keep us up at night.
I trust her to fight for women and children, because she always has, from her earliest days with the Children’s Defense Fund, through her years as First Lady of Arkansas, as First Lady of the United States, as United States Senator and finally, as Secretary of State. The advancement of women and children has always been her focus.
I trust her to fight for the right of women to make their own reproductive choices. As Senator, Hillary Clinton introduced 8 pieces of legislation with the clear purpose of expanding and protecting women’s access to reproductive health care — more than any other presidential candidate.
I trust her to fight for equal pay for equal work.
I trust her to fight to make college affordable for all.
I trust her to stand up to Wall Street.
I trust her to fight for universal health care and to build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix where it falls short. Health care has been her fight for decades and she’s not stopping now.
I trust her to take on substance abuse and to work end the stigma of mental illness.
I trust her to fight for veterans.
I trust her to fight for the Dreamers.
I trust her to fight to reform our criminal justice system.
I trust her to fight to end gun violence.
I trust her to fight inequality in all its forms.
I trust her because she understands that the problems we face are multi-faceted and complex. That more often than not there is not a one-size fits all solution to a problem. That intersectionality requires working on numerous fronts to address what looks to be a singular problem.
I trust her to fight for us, not because she says she will, but because she’s been doing it for decades.
I trust her to fight for us, because she IS a fighter. No matter how much is thrown at her, no matter how many times she’s knocked down, she stands back up and gets to work.
Which brings me to my final point. At her 2009 Senate confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said:
“Too often, we see the ills that plague us more clearly than the possibilities in front of us, but it is the real possibility of progress, of that better life free from fear and want and discord, that offers our most compelling message to the rest of the world.”
At the end of the day, Hillary gives me hope. She has a spirit of deep optimism that I often struggle to find. Not a blind faith Panglossian “everthing’s great” optimism, but a deep abiding faith in the American people and in the future of our country and the world.
I don’t know where she gets it. It is something deep in her core. She has a resilience and strength that gives me hope just enough ledge to keep my toes on.
And that’s why I’m With Her.