Politics, Lemmings, Ostriches, and the Problem with American Thinking

Posted on June 14, 2018 by Jeff Bloom

I try to avoid getting into political arguments with just about anyone, especially in public arenas, but occasionally I’ll dabble briefly as a learning opportunity. Today, I commented on a Facebook post by my local Representative to Congress, who happens to be a Democrat. Her voting record and stances on issues are a strange combination of mainstream Democratic and far right Trumpism. For someone who is highly educated, I find her contradictory views to be quite perplexing.

So, when she made her typical rah-rah type post on a non-controversial event, I took the opportunity to critique her lack of researching on accuracy of the information about the event (243rd anniversary of the Army) to try to push her to be more careful in her thinking and to point out how her lack of care in thinking has led to her support of numerous racist bills and other bills that hurt the working person. However, the response from other readers was angry. And, they were not angry about the actual point, but angry that I’d questioned the legitimacy of the U.S. Army’s claim to its 243rd birthday. It’s actually the 229th anniversary to the legislated establishment of the Army, but actually the 101st anniversary to the Army in its present form as a standing, full-time Army. Any way, this information is trivial. The actual point of my comments were about researching information and thinking more deeply about all issues.

Of course, no one recognized the real point, which I discussed at length, which brings up the pattern evident in this encounter. People are focus on their emotional reactions to some socioculturally established (in this case, nationalistic) situation (or any other type of situation that involves some emotional connection). So, all they see or hear is about that emotional trigger and see or hear nothing about the more important issues or aspects of the discussion. And, this relationship to emotional triggers and how they affect our thinking is one the problems with how people think about politics, religion, and other big issues of our time. These emotional triggers create a lemming-effect that can lead us off disastrous cliffs or create ostrich-effects of people burying their heads in the ground while ignoring everything else that’s happening.

And, the scary part is that many of the political, religious, and societal leaders purposefully play on this very trigger everyday.

How is this situation going to affect the future of the U.S. and the future of humanity, in general?

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