One of my enduring childhood memories is when I once suggested to a store owner that he had given me the wrong change. I must have been about eight years old, and the change included a Kennedy half-dollar, which I mistook for a quarter. The owner, with a touch of irritation, explained to me that the change he gave was, in fact, correct. I was mortified. It never crossed my mind that this was a reasonable mistake for a child to make and did not imply any egregious lack of intelligence on my part. It certainly never crossed my mind that the adult in the interaction could have acted with more maturity.
I now recognize half-dollars, but the fallacy of arguing without understanding all the facts remains. We know our side of a story and we assume the thinking that lies behind those whose views oppose ours. That assumption is often incorrect.
Naturally, this is easier to pinpoint in others than in oneself. Two examples crossed my desk last week. In the first, Nellie Bowles, in her TGIF column on the Common Sense platform, ridiculed Governor DeSantis for suggesting that low recruitment and retention in the military was connected to woke policies. She wrote:
“Ron DeSantis is barnstorming Iowa, talking about how we’ve all gone too soft and too woke. Explaining why military recruitment is struggling: “We look at our military now and we see them getting caught up in political ideology, gender pronouns, talking about global warming. . .. People don’t want to be part of a woke military.” DeSantis is a man with a woke hammer and everything he sees is a woke nail (you get what I mean). Anyway, if a young would-be soldier is debating his options, I just doubt too many nonbinary gunners is the issue as much as the idea of being sent to a miserable pointless war in a miserable pointless place. “
I doubt that Nellie knows many enlisted men. I personally know of more than one young man who grew up expecting to follow in his family’s military tradition and chose not to precisely because of policies that began with Bill Clinton’s first act in office being the welcoming of men who identified as homosexuals to the military and has continued step-by-step through today’s transgender craze. Yes, these young men do not want to fight pointless wars, but who they were fighting next to, who would be their “band of brothers,” in a military that sees social progressivism as its mission, was paramount in their momentous decision not to enlist. I think that as a self-identified lesbian, Nellie, who is appalled at some of the excesses of the Left, cannot accept the idea that millions of decent people in the United States are not at peace with the diminution of traditional values that has taken place over the past few decades. It would certainly be difficult to accept that there have been unintended consequences that resulted in harm to the country she loves.
My second example was sent by an old friend who shares ideas that he thinks would interest me. The article he clipped from Yahoo!life (not exactly a fount of conservative thought) spoke of the closing of many hospital-based rural maternity units, citing cost as the reason. The comments were what my friend found interesting, as many vehemently blamed the Supreme Court’s roll-back of Roe v. Wade as the sole reason for the closings. To use that same terminology as Nellie did in her article, these readers’ hammer is abortion. Every lack of access that might lead to a bad medical outcome for women is attributable to that.
The most important question to ask myself, of course, is what my own hammer is. What issue might I be misunderstanding due to my own point-of-view. When traditional college debate was still acceptable (rather than the side that agrees with the judges’ views being the winning one) each team would try to predict the opposing team’s arguments. Being blind-sided by something that you had no preparation to refute or modify was a good way to lose. We all live, by default, in an echo chamber today as the media has given up any pretense of presenting, “the facts, just the facts.” When you don’t understand where someone is coming from, changing your own or anyone else’s mind is a Sisyphean task.
I am now going to indulge in a shameless plug. One of the joys of my life is watching our children parent their own children. Sometimes that means biting my lips as I see them make what I think are mistakes, but more often I am in awe of how loving, deliberate, and insightful they are. Many of you enjoyed reading our eldest daughter’s articles that frequently ran in my Practical Parenting column. If you, or someone you love has young children, I’m delighted to share info about the webinar Rebecca is hosting giving ideas and guidance for mothers on how to enjoy the summer months with children, ages 3-13. As summer approaches, it is worth considering how best to use this less structured childhood time. As Ms. Harrington learned, a goal of setting the seeds for successful adulthood is one of the joys of motherhood.
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