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Why Both Sides

both sidesI am 73 years old. I have watched two generations of parents live their lives then slip away to whatever comes next. It seems to happen in one of several ways. The easiest way out seems to me to be what most people consider the most tragic … a sudden accident that snuffs out a life in its tracks. Then there are the injuries and illnesses that gradually drain the life from those we know. According to Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying, that can be a time to finally appreciate life and be the man (or woman) you were meant to be. Somehow, I suspect that doesn’t come easy. But some just getstranger old and slip away.  Certainly that is sometimes just due to the aging of the body, but I have a theory why others just decide to let go and die. I think as we age, we look at the world that’s changed around us and don’t like what we see. We feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land (to shoplift the title of Robert A. Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel). And at some point we just say, I’m ready for whatever’s next. It can’t be worse than this.

Since the last election, I have been having some of those Stranger in a Strange Land feelings. It would be easy to blame President Trump and those who elected him but I think they are a just reflection of changes that have been happening in our society for years now. The election of a president that reflects those changes has just made them more obvious to this usually optimistic 73 year old. The degree of disagreement between citizens and the vehemence with which people express their opinions … without ever considering thatkryptonite The Other might be right … scares me. Such attitudes are kryptonite to democracy … we’ve seen what they do to the ability of our leaders to govern. Most news sources are incredibly biased, not just politically, but culturally and philosophically. President Trump is right about that but unfortunately he sees it as a problem only when it is biased against him. I regularly read articles in the mainstream media (yes, I’m talking to you, CNN … Fox … USA Today) that are more about personal attacks on the other side than news … or more about social engineering than fact. Neither side is willing to give The Other credit when it’s due or respect The Other’s beliefs. Social Media only makes things worse. Anyone can post information or mis-information with impunity and a citizenry drunk on confirmation bias is only too happy to believe what supports their opinions. That has become the definition of facts with everything else fake news.

So, what’s an aging writer to do. He can slip into being a Stranger in a Strange Land and risk deciding this life is not worth living any more … or he can write about his frustrations. This blog, Both Sides Now, will be my place for that. Here, I will try to see both sides of the news, always an invitation to controversy. I can almost guarantee that if you decide to follow me, you will disagree with some of what I post. I may even disagree with some of what I post. That is the nature of being open-minded. The secret to not being so open minded that your brain falls out is to: do your research in reliable places, distinguish opinion from fact and think. In other words, don’t be offended by my opinions, think about them. Any comments, pro or con, are welcome as long as they are respectfully offered.

Biased

biasI like to begin my day with a cup of coffee at my side and my tablet in front of me, seeing what is going on in the world from the various news outlets.  I have searched for years for a source of unbiased news (a phrase that should be a truism but turns out to be an oxymoron) but have finally settled on reading biased news from a variety of sources, then drawing my own conclusion.   Over in the blogosphere or on social media, it is worse.   Opinions masquerading as facts may not win the day but they dominate it.   It is as if we are pre-programmed to be biased, which we are.  The culprit is not some brain-hacker out of The Matrix but a fundamental characteristic of our species known as Confirmation Bias.  Our Creator (or Evolution, you choose) has endowed us with a very strong tendency to sort through the array of information available to us at any instant and choose that which supports our currenttiger2 opinions, thus strengthening our belief.   Some scientists explain that for our ancestors, dealing with simpler (but more critical) situations (like Is that a Sabre-Toothed Tiger and is it likely to eat me?), reaching a quick decision in the face of sensory overload was a matter of life or death.  if this is the case, then Confirmation Bias is strongly linked to our Flight or Fight Response, becoming strongest when the situation seems threatening. Continue reading “Biased”

Caught in the Middle

tmp_21484-index21382328285 The 2016 Presidential election … and its aftermath … have convinced me that I belong to a disappearing breed, the Moderate. I am liberal on some issues (mostly social), conservative on others (mostly economic and national defense), and somewhere in the middle on many. Hence, Moderate. I have voted for the Democratic candidate only once (McGovern … the war, you know) but I frequently voted for a Democratic Congress to balance things out. I voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney because I felt that Barack Obama was too liberal and lacked experience. This year, I voted for Hillary Clinton for similar reasons … her experience and my concerns about the character of Donald Trump. Online, in the news, even with friends, I often feel Caught in the Middle politically. Recently, one old friend told me that if I read Trump’s book, I’d see the light, that we need someone who can negotiate in fear as president. Another old friend told me I needed to get out and demonstrate because Trump may be the next Hitler. I don’t like having my friends speak of each other as if they are the enemy, even if they don’t know they are doing it.

Continue reading “Caught in the Middle”