Seasonal Attitudes, Winter 2011 Still

Part of the joy of living here in the Midwest is experiencing the simple, pure, patriotism that residents share at the grass roots level here in the heartland of our great country.  As a rule, I have found most of the political discussions to contain respect, a good dose of humor, a bit of self-degradation at being a particular party member or ideology, and last but not least, a deep appreciation for the ties that bind us all when the political discourse has run its course.  After all, for many of us, our generations’ Pearl Harbor was 9-11.

One can imagine my continued disappointment at observing the group mind-think that, on occasion, present-day ideology and devoted, cultural movements attain, using old marketing tricks.  For example:

Democrats don’t wear flag pins or Republicans want to kill Medicare patients

Statements such as these are disingenuous at best, but make great headlines and fodder for 24/7 news coverage which relies heavily on speculative, rather than factual, discourse.  Unfortunately, by using off-the-cuff remarks, presented as creed in casual settings or within professional, web-savvy, political graphics, such simplified statements are magnified and instantly attain significance.  Even more dangerous to me is the acceptance by an energized but historically- ignorant crowd.

If I had uttered anything similar to these sentiments when I was in school, my teacher would have corrected me and asked,

Can you back that statement up with facts, data, or any research?

For sure, a discussion – at the junior high level – would have ensued in that semester about generalizations; the pros and cons of using them in a debate, an essay, a discussion, etc… The accompanying reminder to note our specific research and be prepared to footnote such statements akin to my examples would have been emphasized several times by any of our instructors; very simply:

If you can’t back it up, don’t include it in the final report.

Of course, we would also explore the exaggerated concepts found in advertising campaigns; i.e. testimonials from the manufacturer that “9 out of 10 dentists recommend Crest” or some celebrity exhorting his favorite hair product.  Once again, we students would have participated in an open discussion that encouraged us to think and to question from where such statements came; more importantly, were such statements relevant to the topic at hand?  The entire discussion would have been respectful and factual. Personal slurs were off limits; no serious student who had completed his homework would stoop to that low degree in any academic setting and still expect a passing grade.

Again, I’m aging myself.  We were taught to question and think.  One entire unit in social studies warned us to beware of ideas presented in print.  Red flags rose in our young minds when we learned to “read between the lines” as we absorbed our current events in classroom studies.  Was I the only one who wondered just how the next generation was going to absorb any more history?

Call me an optimist, but I believe appearances are deceiving in this politically correct, technologically savvy, holiday season.  Heartfelt wishes for our country’s future in this brave, newer world present themselves often; one has only to ignore the incessant claptrap and irritating buzz, and then focus on the sincere goodwill of their daily encounters.  Actions still speak louder than words here in America’s Heartland; unemployment is high, foreclosed homes are prevalent, yet the locals still find enough change and bills in their pockets to fill the kettle and thank the bell ringers for volunteering to stand in the cold winds.  Smiles and respectful chatter abound; and yes, we still wish strangers and friends alike a Merry Christmas…