I read this article intended to disparage freshly announced GOP Presidential candidate Ben Carson. The author cites five quotes as proof that Dr. Carson should not be considered serious presidential material. I looked over the quotes and I think I understand how the author may view them as ‘crazy.’
Of course they aren’t. They are considered opinions that differ from those of the author, a self-proclaimed political progressive. To his mind, opinions such as those Dr. Carson stated, shared by many who hold a conservative viewpoint, are crazy. Does he mean that it is not rational? Too extreme to be serious? Or that these kinds of opinions can only be held by the clinically insane?
Dr. Ben Carson is about as far from insane as a person can get. His personal accomplishments are at the pinnacle of human endeavor. Perhaps you’re not aware that he was the first person to successfully separate Siamese twins conjoined at their heads. The feat required the invention of numerous procedures and a level of expert execution that is perhaps unparalleled. Just as impressive were the challenges that Carson had to overcome to reach this high level and his unimpeachable personal integrity. You can see more of his bio here. Or watch the movie Gifted Hands, Carson’s life story starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Why would an author, who presumably himself wants to be taken seriously, call a man like Carson crazy? I reckon there are two reasons. First, it is the political M.O. of modern progressive media, pundits, and opinion-makers. Second, the author really thinks a conservative viewpoint is crazy.
The attempt to marginalize or vilify those who differ politically is nothing new. In my lifetime, I’ve seen good and faithful public servants unfairly characterized in the media. Such people as Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Clarence Thomas, Ted Cruz, Ron Paul, and Sarah Palin are examples of people whose only real transgression was that they were politically conservative. You may disagree with the philosophy, viewpoint, and policies of these people, but something they are not is stupid or crazy.
We perceive someone as mentally unstable when we can’t understand how they could possibly believe and act the way they do. People frequently appear irrational to us. This is hardly ever the case. They (and we) are, however, under-informed. Humans understand others by mapping what is our brains into the heads of others and assessing them according to what we would do if we were they. We judge them by the resulting standard. We do this because it is the expedient way to try to understand others, not because it is the best way.
It is actually an act of hubris to assume that you know what another person does or doesn’t understand. The highest form of discourse, political or otherwise, is to first seek understanding – to ACTIVELY LISTEN. We do this when we perceive and understand the conceptual building blocks the lead the person to an opinion or an action. Then and only then are you in a position to begin to evaluate the solidity of their point of view.
When we dismiss or disparage others in kneejerk fashion, we actually show our own shortcomings. We can rightly be accused of ignorance, arrogance, insolence, and prejudice. People who already see things the way that we do may respond positively to us – we appeal to their baser emotions. But those with differing points of view will ascribe one or more of these negative traits to us, and we end up hurting our cause in the eyes of a wider audience.
I don’t imagine that Allen Clifton, the blogger I referenced above, cares much about that. He has a political axe to grind, and he isn’t targeting those who don’t already feel as he does. His is a cautionary example. He typifies an attitude that detracts from our society by fomenting discord as one group is pitted against another. In his attitude if not his conscious view, there is no room for dissent. He may believe he is for individual freedom, but the opposite is true. He and his ideological brethren value social justice and the accompanying politics of identity over the maximization of individual liberties. This directly opposes the spirit of the American founding. Those who ascribe the values that led to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution see Clifton’s as the extremist viewpoint.
Dr. Ben Carson may or may not make a good president. Rational people speculate on both sides. Some think that as a political rookie, he isn’t ready for the biggest office in the land. He and his supporters argue that this is in fact a positive, as they claim that the professional political class represents more of the cause than the solution for today’s challenges. Carson says he is running not to win, but to serve. He honestly believes that he could bring something to the office that others cannot. Whether you agree or not depends upon what you think a good president might accomplish and your evaluation of Dr. Carson’s ideals and communication skills.
Upon some things we should be able to agree. There has never been a person such as Carson to occupy the office. The man is not crazy, he’s crazy smart. He is also principled and personally accomplished. These things used to matter in evaluating a person’s suitability for the White House. I speculate that Clifton would certainly back Hillary Clinton. If you apply the same tactics and thought process that Clifton does, and you assess Hillary’s moral character with respect to her behavior in the many Clinton scandals over the course of their thirty-plus year political career, one could conclude that she falls far short of a man like Ben Carson. Using the Allen Clifton mode of analysis, one might even consider it ‘crazy’ to vote for her for the highest office of the land. It’s perhaps not the most appropriate term.
Categories: Communication Skills