Saturday, March 22, 2008

Think vs. Feel; Know vs. Believe

I have been avoiding this subject for months, because deep down, I don't like to write about these things based on what I "feel". I would rather tell you what I "think". It is easier for me to defend what I know based on thinking.

Writing and arguing based on feeling strives to "persuade through Pathos", and that is the kind of persuasion that has dominated our public discourse for far too long. It's easier to appeal to peoples' fears than it is to appeal to their common sense. True, in a world as complicated as ours is, common sense often fails us; but so many of you claim to rely on it, that I try to base my opinions and beliefs on that, rather than an appeal to your emotions.

Of course, that hasn't ever worked, has it? My thinking predicted most of the awful things that have happened since 9/11. I told people close to me that we would be manipulated by our fears into starting the wrong war, and we were. I always tell people what I think, and they listen with varying degrees of politeness; but then they tell me what they feel, and brush away my thoughts as if I don't have a track record of being correct.

And now, along comes a presidential candidate whose appeal is based in a feeling: Hope. I think that hope is a much better feeling than fear; and I think that I like hearing what he has to say... especially after the last seven years of ignorant stubbornness, paternalistic condescension, and outright lies that we have put up with.

But I don't want to base my choice on a feeling.

And so, I have waited. I've waited for something to really think about. Something to base a real argument on, not just Hope. And I've watched with varying degrees of interest and tolerant patience as candidates have dropped away. Now we are down to a small handful, and while I still don't know quite what to think... I know what I feel.

I missed Barack Obama's speech on race the other night, but someone was kind enough to forward me the link. I won't quote anything here, because the entire speech was significant; I feel that our grandchildren will be studying that speech in school. In his speech, Mr. Obama said things that I have been thinking for a long, long time; that people of all races have legitimate concerns about their lot in life. That we need a leader with the courage - and the audacity - to make the changes we all need. That it's possible to overcome hatred and suspicion with patience and love.

This speech was an important answer to the cynics who criticize Mr. Obama's emphasis on Hope. It was a bold, thorough, and effective answer to questions raised about his background, his loyalties, and his commitment to unity. I don't think everyone will be convinced; too many people still feel afraid of what he represents, and will hide their fears behind words that make them sound thoughtful: "he's a socialist", or "he's naive", or "he's just too inexperienced."

But I don't think those criticisms are valid. He is not a Socialist; he speaks of the rights AND the obligations of our citizens. He speaks of the sins of the corporate culture without condemning all corporations. And, if you compare his attitude with his opponents, you begin to realize that experience itself isn't as important as the lessons you learn from it.

Most important to me, though, is the gentle firmness with which he defends his belief. If his belief in our ability to overcome our problems by working together is so laughably naive, and if there is no hope... then what could you possibly offer as an alternative?

I am sure there are dangers; I am sure there are valid questions that remain to be debated and addressed. But I know what I believe; and I think I can trust what I feel.


Willy said...

Senator Obama does indeed give a beutiful speech and he seem very earnest in what he says; however, he is only role-playing and if you believe what he says, you believe Peter Pan. How will you feel when the US loses the most significant ally we've ever had? And, that is only one detail we know for certain about Obama. You think our nation is a mess now, you just wait for "Change" to come about. Senator McCain is right - Obama doesn't see the big picture!

Tad said...

The U.S. has lost many significant allies since 2003; it's hard to know which one you're referring to. At least we'll have Neverland... unless I'm misinterpreting your Peter Pan remark.

But since Sen. McCain's "big picture" seemed to be blind to our economic woes until last week, I have no choice but to question his vision. He's a generally honorable man who has the best of intentions, but the world he wants to lead is simply not his.

I think, though, that you (and many of my friends) have missed the reasoning at the core of my support for Sen. Obama. I'm no Democrat; I don't agree with much of the party line (of either party), and when I speak my mind, both extremes tend to be offended. I expect to spend the next 8 years battling my Democrat friends over things like Nationalized Health, and fighting for FairTax to replace the IRS.

But I'm exhausted by the horrible things that have happened to this country under the thumb of the Republican party. I'm sick of the willful ignorance, stubbornness, and greed in the name of a kind of capitalism that they don't really believe in.

I want a pacifist leader. I want someone who believes earnestly in what Sen. Obama says he believes in. And I'm beyond ready to see someone who is NOT a white child of wealth take the helm.

I'm ready for a government that will take an active part in moving us to renewable energy... active in the sense that they will hold off the oil and coal lobbies until solar, wind, and others can truly take root.

You imply that there is something to fear from the direction we are going to head in under a President Obama, but you haven't built a case for it. A lot of people fear change; but change came under the last Administration, despite their best efforts to pretend it wasn't happening.

We can do better than that.