Having had my share of gut complaints over the years I listened with sympathy to a glowing account of the benefit from going gluten free. When the gut is in misery a person will grab at any hope of relief. I’ve done that and I understand it. Hope is in fact helpful because an awful lot of gut issue arises from anxiety, often internalized. Listening, I nodded understandingly because I know the painful discomfort of unhappy innards. I even stayed placidly calm when the virtues of kale were lauded. In my view optimistic belief has at least as much benefit as a vegetable, maybe more.

But then, in one of those on-a-dime turns, the topic of individual health became societal sickness based on current politics. We were ill indeed, I heard, because when an official recuses himself it shows enough guilt that they should resign if not be prosecuted to boot. It was interesting that a person who moments before flowed with understanding of gluten and kale had just about missed the boat entirely on the meaning of recusal means. Even the most basic wiki search and review would have come up with better than confusing recusal with pleading the fifth. It’s not rare, of course, for emotion to drive an individual’s thinking but sometimes the result is so striking you know there is little point trying to discuss the meaning of recuse or anything else, for that matter, touching on the arrived at conclusion.

Too often, it seems, I find I need to back away from discussion or what might have been a discussion had it been the intent of the other to discuss rather than preach or chide. If you take positions you can be sure others will come after you for things you’ve said. That’s no problem. The knotty part of the board comes in being accused rather than questioned. Potential questioners will (quite understandably I find) disagree with me, which is fine. But, feeling aggrieved at not having their position agreed with, a good many who engage in debate over public issues do so more in a snit over perceived insult than an effort to understand. No one likes to be found in the wrong or misinformed. I’m included. But when a person is wrong or misinformed this is not the fault of the one who revealed the error. When discussion or debate hangs on personal bias and affect the search for broader truth becomes mired.

Very often a personally held foregone conclusion or truth gets smack in the way of getting at what I consider humane and human dialog. Not long ago I was chided (which is not a form of discussion) about my erroneous way of not recoiling in horror from the damage of unconscious and institutional patriarchal paternalism. I found the argument used on me to be quite strident and approaching abusive in its insistence I see and agree with a viewpoint I have reason not to accept and swallow whole. I leave that trick to left wing gulls and right wing pelicans. A person who is intent on chiding about the long history of patriarchal abuse will not hear a word of explanation that Father Knows Best was not actually about familial dictatorship. The program may have been silly, but it did not proclaim tyrannical patriarchal rights. I supposed (I think wisely) that the person bent on proving patriarchal ills to me will have their hammer of justice slowed by the reminder that the cruel patriarchy had spawned I Remember Mama before the father series. A made up mind doesn’t respond well to information that counters or modifies the conclusion considered “correct.”

It’s funny in a sorrowfully sigh producing way to see how convenient or desirable conclusions grab onto supposition and conjecture as factually correct and wholly accurate. The person with the correct political agenda does not want to hear (or will ignore or deny the accuracy of) that which is not in step with the drummer they follow. The look on the face of someone giving me the “true facts” said they did not want to hear that the patriarchal arch nemesis known as the Boy Scouts started programs in the 60’s with the specific intent to be more inclusive of ethnic and economic groups. The Girl Scouts (I think rather more successfully) made similar changes to their program and emphasis at around the same time. So neither the patriarchal or matriarchal elements in society were dead to the need to be more inclusive. But when a mind is made up based on conclusions that skip over inconvenient bits of reality there is a tendency for that mind to consider none of those details matters. In that way conjecture (similar to virtual reality) comes to have factual or reality based acceptance it does not deserve. If we want to craft bad policy the way to do so is by allowing fantasy to replace reason.

It is not an easy thing to get the facts right or work with intent to increase understanding. It is a lot easier to be on a bandwagon with others and carry along with the beat. But while that is going on (seems especially so of late) there may be more destruction than construction in what the beat accomplishes. Let me use the Boy Scout example again. If programs such as that for youth are bad as some say I have to ask the detractors exactly what’s wrong with encouraging boys to be Trustworthy (the first to twelve ideals Scouts follow) and what is the better replacement? If it’s down with this then what is there to replace it? All programs and all politics produce mixed results. In a open society we modify program and policy as we go. I see more hope in that than in holding rigidly dogmas.

I recall the woman bank president I knew on the Iron Range. She made her was in what was thought a man’s field. I respected her for that in a way totally unlike my attitude toward other bankers. I still admire her accomplishment and character. If she’d been given an easier way I wonder if my attitude would be the same.