Our tendency to embrace views seems as common as breathing. And while columnists of the print media and talking heads of television cry of the volatility of today’s political environment, the nation’s newspapers of 1800 reveals times haven’t changed though the methods of addressing issues continue to evolve.
I’m most entertained, or perhaps frustrated, by those whose beliefs cannot be reconciled with their lives. I speak of those who take a stance on an issue - usually without benefit of research or thoughtful consideration - and not understand their stance might change if they truly understood the consequences of the issue or if their circumstances changed.
To be fair, I find this trait common of people of both sides of the political spectrum - little time in research, less time in thoughtful consideration and nothing in the way of open discussion. A considerable amount of time however is spent thinking about what they’ll say next.
Long ago, I was involved in a lively - if not heated - discussion on the issues of the day. And the primary issue was the war in Iraq. At the time, our community was reaching its peak as the centerpiece of the state’s conservative movement, and the discussion included many who followed in lock-step with conservative leanings. Note, I don’t use the word values.
Others stated the war in Iraq was justified, our country’s approach was valid and, as an American cause, we should get behind it, no matter the evidence, goals or outcome. Now let me qualify - one can disagree with a war and support the troops. Demand of your leaders an end to a war, and demand of your leaders supplies and equipment to ensure a quick end to a conflict so the troops might return safely to their families.
So I dared ask ... If you support going to war in Iraq - boots on the ground - but your son or daughter were called to active duty - perhaps as one of those pair of boots - would you still support going to war? How about if your son or daughter were injured or killed? Would your country “right or wrong” take precedence? What if you discovered questions existed regarding the validity of the evidence supporting the war? Or is war acceptable so long as someone else’s son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, serves on the front lines?
No one acknowledged the possibility they might change their view or strike a different tone - no matter the circumstances, no matter if they were directly affected. Having known families whose loved ones were in engaged in combat, I was surprised. Then again knowing the political climate of the day - and the need of most people to be accepted by those around them - I shouldn’t have been surprised. The peer pressure we faced as children, the need to fit in, not appear outside the box, never goes away.
Fast forward a few hours. Two of the others were in the parking lot and ran across an SUV with stickers blasting President Bush (the younger) and the war in Iraq. Quite an uncommon display at that stage in the war. Seems the driver had lost a son in the war. And this was about the time questions were being asked regarding the evidence used to justify the invasion.
The owner of the SUV, the father of the fallen soldier, then walked up and greeted the two. The father also had supported going to war. A former military man, he believed if your country called, you answered. You don’t question orders. So his son went to war. Then the father lost his son. Then he found out we, as a country, might have engaged in the war based on fictitious, if not falsified, data. The administration wanted a war and it damn well was going to have one. The father felt beyond betrayed.
One of the two later caught up with me and spoke of the encounter. He experienced “from a distance” what it would be like to be engaged in an issue rather than - like the most of us - spectators sitting quietly in our homes, picking sides, no real consequences for what we say, what we believe. He had a saddened look about him. He was humbled.
Let’s hope we all remain so humbled.