Friday, October 7, 2011

Think Before You React


Every day we see items in the news that inspire gut reactions of outrage. The trouble is that we too often do not take the time to think about news and by thinking I mean critical thinking. A good example was when President Obama publicly spoke out upon hearing of the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates for disorderly conduct. But at least he recognized his blunder and made amends.

Can that be said of many in the news commentary business that fight over being the first to give their gut reactions to things that they know very little about, like the recent killing spree in Norway? When the news first broke there was immediate blame placed on Al Qaeda, Muslim extremists, and jihadis in general. How wrong they were. The same thing happened in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing—it must have been Muslims. Wrong again.

I am constantly getting emails that have gone through many generations of forwarding, all expressing outrage over one thing or another, but what they all have in common is a lack of examination of the facts. It rarely takes me long to verify the lack of veracity or the twisting of facts from these largely anonymous articles. But these emails just keep going around long after the lies have been exposed.

What is wrong with America is just what Adolph Hitler recognized as his power base when he said   “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think.”  Far too many of us fail to think critically about what happens around us each day. Because of that we, or the people we elect to represent us, give support to laws that pass to “get tough on crime” only to discover the unintended consequences that come back to bite them.

9/11 scared us, but was our collective gut reaction appropriate? Are we happy with the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are we happy with the way the Patriot Act has curtailed many of our freedoms? Were our leaders using critical thinking skills when they took these measures to “Protect our National interests?” Or were they just counting on the people not thinking so that they could pursue some hidden agenda? Of course, I am not suggesting that our leaders have nothing but the highest respect for the people who elected them.

Now, what do you think?  And take your time thinking, don’t just react.

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