|What's wrong with changing your mind?|
I’m talking specifically about people who employ a political strategy or an attempt to sway public opinion. When they are met with reasoned opposition, or public disagreement, or FACTS that contradict their specific agenda…they keep going. They power on through, ignoring all good advice from their advisers. Ignoring challenges from the people they are supposed to represent. And in the case of so many of the complex issues of the day, they ignore the data that does not coincide with whatever goal they have set for themselves. There is something to be said for staying faithful to your moral and ideological values in the face of opposition. Anyone is entitled to their opinion obviously, no matter how myopic. My issue is with those who use power and influence to discredit facts. Or those who refuse to change their position in light of overwhelming evidence.
There are more than a few climate scientists who identify as Republicans and have been employed by politicians and leaders to present an expert opinion on the state of global warming. Since the birth of the Tea Party movement in 2009, several of these scientists have found that the politicians in their own party refuse to listen to data that conflicts with the party’s core message.
Rick Santorum (I love to hate this man), when it is made clear that 98% of Catholic women have used birth control continues to soldier against it. He then further alienated his fellow Catholics by insulting JFK: America’s all time favorite Catholic (except maybe Sinatra).
This trend is taken much further by wind-bags like Rush Linbaugh who took the attack on women to new heights by calling a woman a prostitute for making a case in favor of providing birth control for women.
These people are well aware of the benefits of birth control on women’s health. They know how much money can be saved from taxpayers (as well as insurance companies) by taking relatively inexpensive pre-emptive health measures. They know that unwanted pregnancies lead to a raise in abortions, as well as a raise in abused, neglected, starved or otherwise mistreated children, who eventually become the financial burden of the rest of us.
They know that the services that community service entities like Planned Parenthood perform far more mammograms than abortions. They know that the low-income community that Planned Parenthood serves will never vote for them anyway.
They have to know these things. Not only are these facts are being shouted at them by an ever-increasing public, but they have crafted intricate gravity defying counter-arguments to their opposition.
Why do they do this? When a world of information fits inside the plastic rectangle in everyone’s pocket. Why deny the facts? Why shut down every dissenting opinion? Why not change course when it is clear that your position is flawed?
The conservative comfort level rests firmly on routine and certainty. Ritual and authority. When a decision is made, it becomes a command. The followers either want to be the commander or the commanded. Either will do as long as someone is in command. This, in my view is the reason that bi-partisan solutions are viewed as a type of treason in the current political climate. Cavorting with the enemy is bending to another’s will. How else can Republican House Speaker Boehner tell a room full of people, “We will not compromise” to thunderous applause.
I first noticed this when George Bush began his crusade of a pre-emptive attack on Iraq in the hunt for WMDs. When no weapons were discovered, told America that we need to be “steadfast” and “resolute.” When confronted with the lack of evidence for the military action, his response was to stay the course.
Part of their cultural lexicon is built on “staying the course.” I’ll almost give the religious leaders a pass on this because at least they believe that the creator of the Universe wrote their rulebook. But of course they do not push forward every rule in the book. Only those rules that reinforce their specific cultural agenda.
You can see the disdain for changing your mind in the lambasting of 2004 presidential John Kerry being admonished as a “flip-flopper” for changing his mind about the Iraq war once he received more information about the WMD mission. You can see it in the Republican distrust in Mitt Romney for producing a single payer health care system in his home state then blasting the idea on a national level. (OK, I agree with that one).
More recently, you see the reaction from those who were shocked that Richard Dawkins "renounced his atheism" and said that he was agnostic in his debate with Archbishop Rowan Williams. Anyone who watched the debate understands what he means, because he EXPLAINED HIS POSITION in detail at that moment as well as in The God Delusion in 2006. The faithful actually thought they found an “aha moment” when the world’s most famous atheist admitted that he did not know with certainty that there is no God. By pointing this out they are showcasing their lack of understanding of the words atheist and agnostic as well as the philosophical positions being discussed in that particular debate or science in general. What they got out of that highly intellectual and civil discourse was “HA! He changed his mind!”