Biff America: Time spent debating Jed Clampett
I have some strong political and social opinions. If I were to place them on this page, then many of you would very likely say, “Boy, that guy is a wicked smart fella.” (Because, of course, all who agree with me will have Boston accents.) But it is equally likely just as many of you might utter, “Eee-doggies, brains being lard that ‘idjit” couldn’t grease a pan.” (By the same token, anyone who does not agree with me must be a Jed Clampett impersonator.)
It seldom pays to write about religion or politics, because if you are contradicting what readers believe, they will simply stop reading and think you’re an idiot. But if we were to sit across the table from each other and have a give-and-take conversation — both of us offering salient points and pervasive reasoning while listening to arguments and urgings from the other side — two things would occur. We would walk away with a newfound respect and fondness. And, more importantly, neither of us would change our opinions.
Changing Our Minds?
Truth is, in today’s times, few of us ever change our minds. The reason being is that our initial leanings are constantly reaffirmed by propaganda spoon fed to us — mostly online. I often wonder how the homepages of my web browser or Facebook look compared to those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. I’m guessing they see stories and memes that back their previously clicked-on opinions just as I do. As an example: I recently was online shopping for some throwing knives for my mate for Christmas. I went to a few different sites (Smoky Mountain Knife Works is a good one) and perused the selections of throwing knifes. Eventually, I found a perfect set, three well-balanced daggers with cord handles and a dropped-point tips. But even though price, quality and design were good, I finally decided against the purchase because, in truth, my mate cares nothing for knives and has no interest in throwing them. I must have confused her with myself … I love knives.
So anyway, for several days after having searched, discovered and decided against buying my little love-ninja a throwing-knife set, every time I logged into my various homepages there were ads for numerous styles and makes of knives. It was if the web knew what I was interested and hoped to give me a nudge.
By the same token, when I log on, the first several news stories I see will often be in support of my particular politics. Obviously, it is because along the line I’ve clicked on stories that lean a certain way, so that is what comes up first. If for some reason this does not happen, then I have found myself scrolling down past stories that suggested I was “some kind of ‘idjit’” until I got to one that made me feel “wicked smart.” So I’m not getting informed — I’m getting affirmed.
Lest any of you think that by admitting this reality that I am more than likely getting lopsided information makes me any less adamant that my politics and policies are spot on — it does not. That is not how I roll.
So all that said, I still believe that my side is the correct side, but I have to also acknowledge that it is possible or even likely that we are not as totally, positively, absolutely, double-pinky, lie-you-die correct as I might have thought.
You Are Wrong
There is much grey mixed in with the black and white of opinions, but there are some (at least in my mind) inflexible truths. If you are mean, insulting, degrading or disrespectful to those with whom you disagree, then you are wrong. If you spend your energy looking for the negative while disregarding the good, then you are not only wrong but also harming yourself. If you repeat, promote or condone misinformation, then you are both lazy and doing the nation a disservice.
Certainly, at this place in time, there is cause for concern, as well as a reason for reckoning, but that is all part of the process of democracy. All of us — left, right and in the middle — should give one another the benefit of the doubt, or to quote someone who’s having a birthday soon, “If you love those who love you, then what reward have you?” And that guy was one smart fella.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul,” is available at local shops and bookstores and at backcountrymagazine.com/store.