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I asked my granddaughter the other day just how a person could have a civil discussion when one side takes on an issue, often wrongly in my opinion, with evangelical fervor. At 21 months of age I’ve grown to respect her opinion, though it is offered in two and three word sentences.
She was busy with putting blocks in the right holes, you know, square where the square belongs, circle where it fits. She then headed toward the book where the green frog, la rana verde in espanol, and the red apple always seem to catch her eye.
In a page or two she pointed at the blue fish, el pez azul and nodded. Fish. El pez. She nodded.
I quickly got her drift.
You offer a person of intransigence a fish. I’d thought of that before but I’d forgotten. I was going to offer a variety of local, state and federal members of the New Conservative Neanderthal Party (NCNP), formerly known as the republicans, a wild Alaskan sockeye fillet as a measure of my willingness to listen to their views and accept where they came from. That notion arose after an incident at the Lake County Fair last August. My significant other Susan and I were wandering through the commercial building at the little fairgrounds in Two Harbors and we saw a big poster board standing on a table at the Lake County Republicans booth. A sign said “Send your comments to President Trump.”
Oh yeah, we’d send our comments to President Trump, you bet. As we neared the pens a smiling woman came out from behind the poster board and asked “Would you like to send a comment to President Trump?” Susan simply said “He’s an asshole.” The woman’s smile deflated into a sad frown but then re-inflated into a smile as she said “He’s great!” Susan wasn’t in the mood to discuss politics. She just wanted to send a comment.
I told the woman that we’d talk another time. That’s what made me think of offering her a fish. Months later, I guess it’s time. I will do that. It will be my way of opening a civil conversation.
I understand that offering a fish in no way guarantees that the conversation will go two ways. I guess it really doesn’t matter. I will offer a fish. I will be civil in my offer. I will hope for civility, not fervor, in return.
In the meantime the granddaughter was trying to climb into the backpack, saying “outside, outside” enough times that I had to agree it was time to go for our walk where we collect flowers and pick a cattail and watch butterflies. At the end of the road the cattle may be grazing. A white barn leans in a vacant field.
The granddaughter is open to words and images of all kinds. A mailbox is a very compelling object.
Ahh, the open mindedness of youth. She’s taking it all in without bias, without any notion of the anti-intellectualism so rampant in our culture in these modern times. Isn’t that an oxymoron of sorts, hyperbole, that we are a thoroughly modern society that has pretty much ignored intellectual thought even though the founders of the nation based their democratic experiment on study and reason and philosophical debate.
There were many scientific thinkers in the mix. Many celebrated the scientific method, that process that generally doesn’t prove as much as it disproves, allowing fact and reason to break through and replace stubborn myth and old wives tales.
It must be something in the processed food most people eat nowadays that makes today’s political and social climate averse to reason and intellectual thought. Makes false skeptics of the uniformed. Maybe it’s something as simple as monosodium glutamate or disodium inosinate that makes the human mind resistant to civil and reasoned discussion and replaces it with blind or myopic evangelical fervor no matter if the subject is religious in connotation or not. The National Rifle Association isn’t a religious organization but it speaks with religious fervor and creates devils no differently than a snake handling evangelist. A logical discussion is out of the question if you bring up guns.
Climate change is a fad to the CEO of a coal company. The science that may indicate the planet is warming is the work of devils and witch doctors according to many of the finest anti-intellectual scholars and creationists.
Climate change skeptics like to point out, erroneously, that the idea of warming is new, a passing fancy of scientists in search of funding. What most people fail to notice is that the idea of climate change, that hundreds of years of burning of fossil fuels may have an impact on the atmosphere, is a notion that first arose 50 years ago. It is no fad. To a world built upon cheap fossil fuel it was a notion that had to be ignored as long as possible, which it has. We’re all in on that myopia.
The baby isn’t one of the myopic sufferers. She may not have all the knowledge and trivia stuffed in her like we do but she still has something in her that most of us seem to have lost.
An unfettered open mindedness.
There are no devils or boogeymen. Just mailboxes and cows and cattails. All I can say is that she and her little kind are the hope of the future and we must never let them fall into the clutches of the uninformed and superstitious.