Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Open your mind

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It is time to leave your political "echo chamber" and listen to other views. Yes, even the ones that piss you off.

If what you are looking for is unquestioning affirmation of your wisdom and assurance of the sheer rightness of your opinions, you ought to get a dog. With a daily bowl of kibble, and perhaps the occasional table scrap, you will be assured of uncritical "buy-in" for whatever crazy idea may capture your imagination. Plus, dogs are discreet and won't get you into trouble by revealing your politics to your Trump-loving father-in-law.

But you may want more and may be sufficiently confident in your beliefs to risk exposing them to other opinions. Hearing opposing views won't hurt you. Honest. Many of us tend to limit our associations to the like-minded and hear only views similar to our own. This tends to create confirmation and the belief that "everyone" sees things your way. But not only will considering opposing views sharpen your own thinking on a subject, it may also give you insight into the thinking of your political adversaries. This will allow you to more effectively rebut their arguments, rather than just resorting to the usual shopworn caricatures and sloganeering that only generate noise and rancor—which never change anyone's mind.

And, those of you on the liberal side may also recognize that when you deliberately insulate yourselves from the other side, you tend to expose yourself to mocking and parody. The demand for "safe places," "trigger warnings," and the use of "therapy puppies" to protect you from the trauma of mere ideas not only make you look absurdly fragile, but provide grist for more than a few unkind comedy routines.

With a view toward further diversifying its voices, New Times has asked that I join with contributor Al Fonzi on its pages, and occasionally present the conservative perspective on local issues. Readers may react to this news with a dismissive yawn, "so what?" or "big deal," but nonetheless, here I am.

SLO city is a lot more liberal than the rest of the county, and most of the country. If you doubt me, try strolling through downtown in a MAGA hat and engaging strangers in discussions on immigration policy. Then, head up to North County, and extoll the moral imperative of being "woke." While a picture of a 20-year-old frat kid in blackface or a sombrero may cause locals to erupt in a hyperbolic lather, in most of the country, it merely makes folks reflect on all the dumb and embarrassing stunts they pulled when they were young and grateful that they grew up before the internet.

If you are especially daring, and possess a sturdy constitution, you might even try something as radical as checking a conservative news source, such as Fox. Think of it as an anthropological experiment. For example, studying headhunters doesn't mean that you endorse the practice.

A conservative around SLO city is truly an exotic. You may wonder, "Are there really two of these characters hereabouts in SLO?" Yes, at least two, and maybe even more. Perhaps we'll form a cell or something. Being retired, and part of the last generation to learn cursive writing in school, we already have a secret code we can use to conceal our communications from you younger people.

Or your reaction may be less charitable. Before writing to request my picture to affix to a voodoo doll, you may exclaim, "What, another deplorable spawn of Satan? There goes the neighborhood." Being a college town, this is probably the more predictable reaction, and one that we conservatives are used to. I get a lot of healthy exercise from eluding mob pursuit, and I have found that even the most righteously offended throng will usually not pursue you up a tree, at least if it is sufficiently tall. I have also found that the average dry cleaner charges a lot to remove tar and feathers from clothing.

Now, you may wonder why I would bother to write opinion pieces, beyond my obvious membership in the not-so-secret right wing cabal, which is determined to enslave The People. First, to some of us, writing is like flatulence. It is something that must be released, no matter how unwelcome it may be to others in the vicinity. As a recovered liberal myself, I have no illusions that I am going to somehow change minds. I am unlikely to provoke a sudden epiphany, causing a reader to give themselves a palm to the forehead, and exclaim, "Wow! I never looked at it that way. He's right!" The best result I can hope for is something like what I get in my arguments with my buddy Fat Larry. He will never yield or concede a point, but he may later inadvertently let slip a reference revealing that my argument made an impression and he considered it. This will have to do.

Well, I have to run. There is another torchlight march coming up my street, and hearing my name chanted angrily is always a bit disturbing. Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney who, perhaps a bit nostalgic for his days trying to beguile disinterested judges, stays busy by ranting on the issues of the day. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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