June 2, 2008 – Liberal thinking is rational, creative and compassionate. Driven by the right side of our brains, it sees the big picture first, then fills-in the details. It inspired a new and promising form of government 232 years ago – the United States of America. It secured freedom and opportunity for millions, most of whom were immigrants and former slaves. It brought about new technologies that revo- lutionized agriculture, communication, transportation, and medicine. It gave us a second chance when the Industrial Revolution ran out of steam and capitalism alone wasn’t working for most Americans. It promoted “progressive” reforms that gave women the right to vote, made discrimination in schools and the workplace illegal, and committed society to providing for citizens who are unable, whether because of disability or age, to provide for themselves. It was liberal thinking that challenged our physical and mental limitations and put men on the moon.
Conservative thinking is guarded, cautious, protective and resistant to change. Driven by the left side of our brains, it processes information in a linear manner, arranging parts in a step-by-step process before arriving at conclusions. It too played an important role in the building of this great nation. Conservative thinking by the Founding Fathers protected us from excesses of power by providing for checks and balances in the Constitution. Conservative thinkers in state governments then forced the fledgling national government to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution so that basic, individual rights would be protected under a stronger, “federal” government. These kinds of thinkers, our first President among them, cautioned us against foreign wars and economic entanglements, insisted on fiscal responsibility, built a strong Navy to protect the nation as a whole, and established national preserves to protect the environment and our national resources. But the party that claims the conservative moniker today seems to have forgotten its roots.
Recognizing the benefits of both kinds of thinking, I think it is safe to say that we need both by those who represent us if they are to make good decisions… and, yes, it is possible for the same person to employ both kinds of thinking, although we each do have a dominant style. Hence, Republicans are capable of liberal thought, though some might be loath to admit to it, and Democrats are capable of conservative thought. Imagine that… Science on the subject tells us that the learning and thinking processes are enhanced when both sides of the brain participate in a balanced manner.
We are all also prone to reptilian thinking, but this is not the kind of thinking we need governing us or even in selecting those who do. What, you may ask, is reptilian thinking? It is basic, instinctive, and emotional thinking. It is the kind of thinking that causes us sometimes to act without thoroughly considering the consequences, or to act even without thinking at all. The basic ruling emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment emanate from this, the first stage of our brains. When we are out of control with rage, it is our reptilian, basic brain that overrides the rational parts of our brain. So, if someone says that they have reacted with their heart instead of their head, what they really mean is that they have conceded a decision to their primitive emotions, their reptilian brain.
If Americans concede to their primitive emotions this election year and vote with their heart rather than their head, they may well be voting for a four-year extension of fiscal policies (taxing, borrowing and spending) that have brought us to the precipice of depression. I say this because: the national debt is nearly twice what it is was when George Bush first took office; our roads and our bridges are falling apart; real jobs with decent pay and benefits have been lost to other nations; the dollar has lost 40 percent of its value; gas now costs twice as much as it did then, which is driving up the cost of everything else; our homes on a national average have lost 14 percent of their value, and; to sustain our efforts in Iraq, we must borrow ever more from China and Japan. Sure, most of us have had a measly couple extra hundred dollars after taxes each year to spend, but that doesn’t buy much these days. The truth is that big business is more profitable than ever while small business is rapidly becoming extinct. If you own preferred stock, you’re rolling in dough. If you own common stock, you’ve either lost your shirt or you are barely breaking even. Executive directors are making obscene salaries even as employees’ benefits are being sacrificed to the competition. Therefore, a small percentage of Americans have grown wealthier at the expense of all the rest of us. But our government doesn’t want us to know how bad things really are (see the below reference).
John McCain has committed to supporting the Bush tax cuts during his administration, although he opposed them as a Senator. He has said too that he is committed to keeping our military in Iraq for “as long as it takes.” However, after nearly eight years of President Bush and his policies, most Americans (62 percent when I last checked) say that they think we’re on the wrong path, both in the War on Terror and on the economy. I believe that they are right. and I too believe that it is time for change. As Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
I read a comment on-line last weekend in response to an ABC news article. It was written by someone who said she is a great grandmother, older and wiser now, thinking about the mess we are leaving her grandchildren to clean up and to pay for. She said, “I would not vote for Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman. I would not vote against Barack Obama because he is young, black and has a funny sounding name. Neither would I vote against John McCain because of his age or for him because he is a decorated veteran. I will vote for the candidate whose convictions and advocated policies make the most sense for the nation as a whole.”
I plan to do the same. I pray that you will do likewise.
Please feel free to respond pro or con to this posting.
[i] Kevin Phillips, Harper’s Magazine, “Numbers Racket ~ Why the Economy is Worse Than We Know,” page 43, May 2008