Still Looking for Explanations …

I just read a review about another book, The Righteous Mind, which seeks to explain why so many Americans vote for people who do not act in their interest. I have yet to read a convincing explanation for this, and I didn’t really find it here either, but there were grains of truth, the beginning of an answer. Maybe my problem is I’m looking for a simple answer.

But I did like what this reviewer said about the author’s solutions to the problem.

“First, we need to help citizens develop sympathetic relationships so that they seek to understand one another instead of using reason to parry opposing views.”

I’ve learned it time and again my whole life, a lot of people do not listen to reason. I also personally have another problem, when I am faced with someone who is very conservative, (is against gay marriage, a better healthcare system, anti-Moslem, anti-atheist, etc.) I get so upset I can’t even reason myself!

I’ve also tried the above approach, by the way. Instead of trying to convince people I’ve tried to understand. “Okay, why is [fill in the blank] a bad thing?” Each time, this got the person even angrier. They either can’t come up with an answer (and get mad at me for it) or they come up with some version of “it’s tradition,” “we’ve always done it this way,” etc. Which brings me back to reason (“well, slavery was traditional, women not being able to vote was traditional”) and this never resonates for them.

I liked this suggestion. “Haidt also wants members of Congress to go back to the old practice of moving their families to Washington, so that they socialize with one another and build a friendly basis on which to cooperate.”

When I wrote my book about the NYPD I spent a lot of time with people with very conservative views, and likewise, they spent a lot of time with someone with very liberal views. No one’s position was changed, but we grew to like and trust each other, and to respect each other, and in this atmosphere, cooperation did occur. I could see how in a political arena, given similar repeated contact among families, compromise would be possible.

Because I was inside so much finishing up my book, and recuperating from the bone graft I’ve been missing spring. I took these pictures to and from the dentist last week.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

5 thoughts on “Still Looking for Explanations …

  1. It’s so difficult. I struggle with the same thing. And like you, have a visceral reaction when challenged. I can feel my heart beat faster, tighten up. I say to myself “I don’t have to like you to be kind to you” but most often I just drop the conversation feeling defeated.

  2. * Whenever it looks like someone is acting opposite to their interests, likely we’re just not understanding their viewpoint well enough. From where they are coming from their actions look very reasonable and make all the sense in the world, and its a very rocky road to think we can know better than they do what is best for them.

    * When it comes to politics more and more the options come down to two candidates, neither of whom represent the voter’s interests. Both major parties are heavily co-opted by special interests who have their own goals in mind, rather than that of the general populace.

  3. Hi Stacy,
    it’s been a while.

    Since my last post, my wife and I have moved out of Dallas and now live in a small town with less than 3,000 people. My back yard allows direct access to the Paluxy River, the last free-flowing river in Texas.

    Maybe I’ll send you a few pictures.

    Oddly enough, I am just the conservative you refer to. We would have differences of opinion on each of the 4 issues that you bring up. But I am completely in agreement with you about the hostile and unreasonable arguments that arise between conservatives and liberals. My experience is just the reverse of yours, and at the same time my feelings about the tone of the arguments are the same as yours.

    I guess that among the issues that you call to our attention the health care issue is the one that is being discussed at the moment.

    As you can see from the arguments at the Supreme Court, it is entirely possible that this particular health care agenda could be unconstitutional. It’s not that conservatives would not like a better health care system; it is that the new system cannot compromise the freedoms that the constitution provides for us.

    I would say that liberals think that conservatives compromise fairness, and conservatives think that liberals compromise long-term survival. It would be nice if we could all discuss these things like human beings.

  4. I agree with your assessment in that last paragraph.

    The only thing I really disagree with is, it may be that conservatives want a better health care system, but it is only liberals who try to put one in place (I should say, as long I’ve been an adult and paying attention to things like this). But if I’m wrong, and a conservative has, I will accept being corrected of course.

    I honestly don’t know if Obama’s healthcare law is unconstitutional, I am not a constitutional lawyer. Unfortunately, I do not trust the Supreme Court to be objective either, which is probably the most depressing thing of all (to me).

    I’d love to see pictures of your new place and the river!

  5. Tagryn, I honestly wasn’t trying to come across like I know best for someone else. I was thinking of working class people voting for people who have put tax policies into place that have harmed them economically (while benefitting the wealthy).

    They may feel Obama is worse, but he has been trying to do the opposite.

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