Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Stephen Ambrose, Eisenhower's authorized biographer, quotes Ike as saying:
"Never question another man's motives. His wisdom yes, but not his motives."
And Samuel Johnson told Boswell:
"We cannot look into the hearts of men, but their actions are open to observation."
I am not ready to ignore motivation, despite the admonitions of these great men. I am an actor and try to explore the motivation behind the words of my characters so that I can portray them realistically. But public discourse in America has become so shrill and accusatory that substance is often overwhelmed by rancor.

I believe it is to the advantage of those, like myself, who are convinced to our bones that terrible blunders have been made by the current administration, to state our case as dispassionately and factually as possible, whatever our understanding of the motivation of our adversaries. Though there have been charlatans on all sides of the political polyhedron, I believe the namecalling and mudslinging has been more often the modus operendi of the opposition. When we fall into that careless habit our message is weakened, diluted.

Reason and history are on our side. Let's give the country the facts and let the opposition do the screaming. I think our message will drown out their namecalling in the long run. Perhaps the opposition will even begin to moderate their voices and begin to deal with real minds and real issues instead of straw men and bogus distinctions. Of course, I think an honest discourse would bring the nation our way.

Besides, as Mark Twain said:
"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."
So from my perch here on my limb -- except when motivation is crucial to the discussion and there is clear evidence of falsehood or insincerity -- I will try to write as though I believe my opponents believe what they write and assume in my discussion of the issues that their motives are pure, however mistaken their words and actions or whatever evil results from those words and actions.

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