When I started this blog a little over 15 months ago, I had grand expectations of presenting details and facts and having reasoned discussions. I was quickly reminded that I have a tendency to give people far too much credit for a number of things, which often comes back to bite me in the tokhes. I tend to expect that people are going to be reasonable, responsive to new information, flexible, and interested in actual facts. The truth is that most Americans are not actually interested in facts. Nor are most Americans particularly responsive to new information. Reasonable? Nooooo. This does not leap to mind when most people think of Americans. Neither in America nor around the world.
Most people go into a situation with their mind already made up, and no amount of information is going to change it. It would take an extraordinary situation or experience to create any real change within that mind. More than that, though, it takes a rare individual.
So, for example, you have Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President (since most Americans were unable to identify him was while he was in office), and a truly evil man, who has a lesbian daughter, but maintains that, while he claims to love her, that does not mean she should have the same rights as the rest of America. Then, you have the much more rare case of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who “coming to terms” with the reality of his gay son, decides that means his son deserves the same equal rights as every heterosexual in this country.
These two examples picked from millions that could have been chosen, illustrate the two extremes. On the one hand, we have the much more common, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up.” and on the other, we see someone who, much to the surprise (shock even) of many, completely reversed a previous stance in response to new information. I think that Sen. Portman still holds many positions that are wrong, but on this he puts it very well:
”That isn’t how I’ve always felt. As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples. Then something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.”
Notice, in particular, that last sentence, because that is the point today. As much as the issue of marriage equality needs to be addressed in this country, and around the world, that is not the point today. (I have previously written on that subject, and probably will again.) I applaud Sen. Portman for showing that he is capable of thinking a subject through, and reaching a new conclusion. I think that this is very likely a man that while I may very strenuously disagree with his conclusions on a number of other topics, I could at least respect him. Now, I do grant that a Senator who can’t go through this reasoned process before it hits his own family, so to speak, is not the best choice for a senator, but at least he,as a man, is eventually capable.
I want to make one final point about Sen. Portman, it is this: it is clear that these are not just words from him. You see, Sen. Portman has previously been such an outspoken opponent that previously some students protested his being the speaker at their commencement, specifically because of this issue. To even speak the words now is a dramatic change. Of course, he has to follow through from here with action to be truly meaningful. But, I am straying, and while that is an important avenue to go down, as I said, it is not where we want to go today.
So, facts rarely persuade people any more. Maybe they never really did. Perhaps that too is part of the “goldening” of the past that we are prone to do. That process that humans tend to go through where we have this nostalgia for and memory of everything in the past being somehow better, and in fact, better than it actually was.
CONTINUED on PAGE 2