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While looking for truth, open your eyes and minds

April 08, 2007|By LINDA DUFFIELD

President Bush is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

President Bush is the worst thing to ever happen to this country.

The president can do no wrong.

The president can do nothing right.

Conservatives are warmongers. And they don't care about regular folks.

Liberals are traitors. And they are soft on defense.

Enough already.

It might be time to face the fact that much of what passes for political debate in this country is nothing more than rhetoric by a bunch of people expressing their opinions, frequently at the tops of their lungs, without regard for the truth.

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No matter what a person's political persuasion, how could anyone believe that every politician on the other side is evil, or that every politician with the "right" party is the country's savior.

How can anyone believe that the president, or any other human being for that matter, is always right. Or always wrong.

Here's one way.

Make sure you watch only those commentators on all-news networks whose opinions agree with yours. Don't listen to what the other side has to say. And certainly don't do any independent research.

It is human nature to want to reinforce our own opinions by tuning in to those who think like we do, who spout the same stuff we do around the dinner table or in the lunchroom at work.

The problem is, most of that stuff on the all-news networks is not news. It is not unbiased. It is commentary, an oral version of what you read on the editorial page of a newspaper.

It's opinion.

It's not facts, not truth, not an honest assessment of world events by someone without a dog in the fight.

Just opinion.

And so we make up our minds based on which side we're on and on whom we perceive to be the good guys.

Here's an example.

Iran took into custody 15 British sailors and marines on March 23.

Iran said the crew had been in Iranian waters when they were seized while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. Britain denied the Iranian claims.

So who's telling the truth?

The fact that Britain is our ally does not exclude the possibility that the crew, perhaps by accident, was in Iranian waters.

And the fact that Iran is not our favorite nation does not exclude the possibly that the British crew was in Iranian waters.

Bottom line - there's no way to know with absolute certainly which side is telling the truth.

My point has nothing to do with who was right and who was wrong in that - or any - instance.

It is about the mistake of rushing to judgment because of sides long-ago taken, because of long-held beliefs based not on fact, but on emotion, prejudice and/or stubbornness.

There's not one of us who couldn't benefit from weighing all positions, by listening with open minds to what the various sides are saying and by doing a little independent research to find out more than what is being fed to us.

It might help us understand that what passes for truth in the high reaches of power might be the "truth" we are supposed to hear, but not necessarily the capital-T Truth.

Besides, we owe a bit of skepticism to our country, to the concept of democracy and to each other.

Linda Duffield is associate editor of The Herald-Mail. You can e-mail her at lindad@herald-mail.com.

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