Originally posted 11/03/17
Apparently, there is an inverse correlation between emotionality and critical thinking. Impassioned conversations cause the logical parts of our brains to shut down. Conversely, the more we practice critical thinking, the harder it is for us to be perturbed by sentimental arguments. I was reminded of this during another Obama discussion at the dinner table. Okay, here’s the situation…
I like Barack Obama. I believe that he is a good man with good intentions. He represents the amalgamation of the Black and White races. He gives us hope for the future of our nation. As a symbol, Obama succeeded in reigniting the spirit of progress and made us feel proud of the direction we were traveling. He is handsome, gracious and well-groomed in appearance, speech and behavior. When he speaks, he makes an audience of millions feel inspired, connected and understood. Obama pushes all the right buttons to stir our emotions.
While I like Obama as a person, and even more as a symbol, I reserve the right to disagree with him as a politician. To be fair, he faced an unprecedented amount of hostility and obstruction as the first non-White president. Some people would rather see the government fail than to see a Black man succeed at its helm. However, there were many occasions I found myself screaming “with what money!?” as I read about one of his latest fiscal decisions. While the causes he wanted to fund were noble, I felt he had to first knock off the leeches that were bleeding the system (corporate interests). It was his job to steer us toward a surplus, not add to the debt accumulated by his predecessors. Debt makes me twitchy.
Background info—Those of you who know me, know me as frugal. My mother likes to call me (mimicking a bird) CHEAP-cheap-cheap-cheap-cheap-cheap-cheap. She is absolutely right. I would rather stand naked in Times Square on New Year’s Eve than to have credit card debt. I have stalled buying a house, because I’d rather waste money renting than to be saddled with a million dollar mortgage debt. I cannot wrap my brain around the concept of buying more stuff when you haven’t paid for the stuff in your possession. I skim on the basics, so I can enjoy holidays and vacations without losing sleep. In my mind, you own nothing as long as you owe anything. But that’s just me.
Fast forward to our dinner conversation. Honey and I were discussing Donna Brazille’s revelations regarding the DNC, which I had read and Honey had not (keep that in mind). I laughed that Donna seemed to say “Oh, y’all gonna throw me under the bus? I’m taking down everybody!” Then, she proceeded to air the DNC’s dirty laundry and name names. Honey was a bit hesitant to offer his opinion, because he is usually rational and fair-minded. However, he nearly lost his rational, fair mind when I struck the Obama chord.
More background info—Honey loves Obama. He protects Obama’s name like Barack is his baby brother in a schoolyard of bullies. He is down for Obama like an elephant on a see-saw. Honey lives by, what I refer to as, the eulogy code– highlight the positives, and ignore the negatives. I knew this as I went into the next bit of the conversation, so I treaded lightly.
I told Honey that, according to Brazille, Obama left the DNC $24 million in debt. I relayed her claim of Obama neglecting the party and Wasserman-Schultz mismanaging it into the ground. His eyes perked up. Obama? He questioned why the acting democratic president would be held responsible for the party’s debt, which baffled me. I could not grasp his confusion, until I realized that we were operating from different assumptions.
I take for granted that the DNC and GOP have party officers, but that the ultimate leader of the party is the president. When your gal/guy wins the election, (s)he becomes the party leader. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? Honey did not think so. In his mind, this was another accusation against Obama for something that was not within his scope of authority. In his mind, Obama was the president of the United States, which includes both parties, thus precluding him from leading either party. (Did I sum that up justly, Honey? *wink*) If that is true, why didn’t Obama appear at both DNC and GOP fundraising events? Why was it a given that he would endorse the democratic nominee? Hmm?
A few minutes into our heated debate, I decided to stop defending and start listening. I had no skin in this game. Why was I pushing so hard against his rebuttals? Habit. Though Honey and I claim to be Independent, we both lean Democratic. However, our most contentious debates occur when I agree with Republican leaders/policy or criticize Democratic leaders/policy. He loses his ability to see both sides of the argument. His judgement is clouded by his disdain for Republican politicians, though we have very good friends who identify as Republicans *wink*. I decided to break the habit of reacting emotionally, and actually hear what he was saying.
What I heard was an impassioned response to an article he had not even read. He could not divorce his feelings about Obama from the topic at hand. Though I’m certain he disagrees, Honey allowed his sentimentality to impede his ability to form an unbiased assessment. He continued to fire questions at me in rapid succession. Some I answered to the best of my ability. Some I had no way of answering with my limited understanding of the inner workings of the DNC. When he sensed my weakness, he capitalized by making the point he’d set out to make at first mention of Obama’s name. We don’t know the other (baby brother Barack’s) side of the story, so we mustn’t spread accusations based on one person’s account.
He was right. I hate when he’s right, especially when he’s right for the wrong reasons. Having written the words, I can see that it makes sense to hold off assessment until we hear an accounting from the other parties involved. I am aware that Brazille is motivated by her desire to sell books, while exonerating herself. The sensational article she wrote for Politico must be received in light of that motivation. I am also frustrated by nearly a decade of Honey blindly defending the man who played a couple of games of basketball with him and his soldiers during a deployment. My own emotionality impeded my ability to review the article and ensuing argument with critical eyes.
Once upon a long time ago, I was part of a debate team. One of the most important strategies used to persuade an audience is striking a balance between appealing to their emotional side and their rational minds. To do this, a debater must possess knowledge of the subject, refined rhetorical skills and the ability to anticipate rebuttals. If you research your debate topic with the goal of proving a proposition you already believe, you will be blind to the arguments that contradict your points. When you research topics with the aim of disproving what you already know to be true, you will benefit by becoming more knowledgeable about the subject matter. With more knowledge, you are better able to critically assess the subject and articulate a more informed viewpoint.
Honey was right that we did not have enough facts to draw conclusions. However, I have absolutely no doubt that, regardless of the facts, Honey will never agree with anything that disparages baby brother Barack. That man has a hold on Honey’s heart that not even his wife can loosen. My fear is that Obama has infiltrated the hearts and minds of millions in the same way. The danger in this lies in the fact that we fail to think critically when our minds are clouded by fervent devotion. We cannot see the negative ramifications of fiscally irresponsible policymaking. We refuse to seriously examine laws, rules and regulations enacted under the Obama administration for fear of tainting his legacy.
I am not suggesting that we Trumpdoze everything Obama did. I am merely suggesting that we re-evaluate, with the benefit of hindsight, whether or not Obama’s actions were beneficial or detrimental to our country. Build upon the things, which he initiated that are working, and dismember those that are not. It is no more and no less than I expect us to do for any president. That, dear Friend, is equality in action.