An Allergic Reaction to Thought: This week as stated on the Journal web page, Bill Moyers talked with John Sexton, President of NYU, for a wide-ranging conversation about religion, the role of higher education in a globalizing world, and the troubling disintegration of civil discourse in today's society. Sexton suggested that America increasingly exhibits what he calls an "allergy to thought" and that universities are the key to restoring nuance to public discourse" I responded to it on the site. See link below:
It is a tragedy in our culture today that the complexity of life is reduced to 10 second sound bites. It is as if our McDonald’s dietary habits reflect the fast food mentality of our intellectual life. Much contributes to this and a discussion, which I am sure Dr. Sexton would agree, must include great complexity. There is not time to do that here. I can say, though, that Dr. Sexton’s thoughts were fascinating. I could have listened to him for hours and would have loved the opportunity to ask him my own, hopefully, thoughtful questions as well.
I keep trying to think if I allow for complexity of thought and an exchange of ideas even when those ideas are diametrically opposed to my own. I think I have tried. I have also fallen short. I in essence, at 61 years old, have given up. I am a progressive Democrat who lived through the late 1960’s. I formulated my basic philosophy at that time and although I wavered throughout the years, I have basically remained left of center. I believe, my position and other progressive attitudes on the issues of the day are SO important and so unequivocally correct that I cannot often even listen to the opposition. Worse, I consider them my enemy. How can I be a progressive, thoughtful person and consider right wing Republicans actually an enemy? I am sickened by this. I am, without a doubt, sure they think of me as their enemy too. It is sad.
I think it terrible that I have gone from a person more than willing to debate to a person of cemented positions and often a cemented heart. Why? Why can I not be like Dr. Sexton? The issues of our day are so personal and so threatening to me that I simply cannot compromise them. I do not know if it is the election of Barack Obama, a gifted man of thought and compromise, which was the reason for my solidification of thought because of the utter disgusting racist spewing so constantly thrown from the other side at a man of good will. How can I compromise with this utter idiocy? Both sides are hardened and the reflection of what we see is a Congress immovable in thought and unwilling more often than not to compromise either. If the right is so unequivocally mean, hateful and violent why should I give their points of view credence? Why should I not defend MYSELF against what I perceive is their insanity and threat to me?
My enemy believes NOT in science but in myth. It believes there should be a mixing of church with state, does not allow for choice with respect to abortion, and would love to discriminate against homosexuals whom they believe have chosen who they are and therefore are not worthy of equality. It believes, too, in war, even peremptory war, forgets the civil libertarian Bill of Rights from which this country was honed and it loves its guns. They love taking this country to wars of revenge even when based on lies and even when based upon nothing, do not care about wars which our country has waged AFTER World War II which have killed thousands, displaced millions and destabilized the political climate of worst parts of planet earth. Moreover, they think global warming is a hoax and probably will even when New York City is under water. Their views are hardened in the irrationalities of religious superstition, uncompromising and extreme supernatural beliefs and a desire to impose those beliefs upon everyone else. They most certainly do not believe in government protecting human health. As I see it they are a threat to life on this planet. Their beliefs are so utterly repulsive to me that I cannot even listen nor stand to debate the non debatable. Evolution is fact, global warming is fact, religion upon which they want to base national policy is more myth than fact and goes against the most sacred of our Constitutional creeds, the separation clause. How can I compromise with that which is uncompromisable? (Yes, I crafted a new word.)
Dr. Sexton’s lofty thoughts in the classroom make for sweet talk and make him, indeed, a likable man. I am sure he had to be such to arrive at the position he attained. In the final analysis, though, I think that decisions must be made, choices must be arrived at and the prolonging of debate of certain issues causes the destruction of human life and, indeed, compromises ALL life on planet earth.
I am not happy with who I have become but I refuse to compromise with those who eschew most lofty intellectual thought, think reason is not for them, calls the left effete intellectual snobs and causes Susan Jacoby – a one-time interviewee of Bill Moyers – to write a book entitled “The Age of American Unreason.” I cannot entertain the thoughts of those who carry grotesque, insulting, racist pictures of our president as both Hitler and Stalin as if one person could be both polar opposites. I cannot compromise with those who occupy the extreme right wing of the political spectrum in which there is a litmus test now for membership in the Republican Party. Perhaps if it returned to the party of Rockefeller or Ford I could.