Mike McClellan: We don’t need proof of our beliefs anymore. If we simply hear them often enough, they must be true.
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown's column "Firearms are welcome at peaceful protests" is symptomatic of one of America’s seemingly insolvable problems: the inability to examine our own beliefs.
The Browns wrote in defense of those who’ve carried guns to demonstrations recently, including the now-notorious “Chris.” In doing so, they rely on the clichéd arguments of the right: It’s legal to carry a weapon in our state. The demonstrators were only making a “political statement.” And they add the argument that Black Panthers carried weapons at demonstrations during President George W. Bush’s time in office, so how is this any different?
But what this really is about is the paranoia of so many. It’s not limited to only one side of the political spectrum either. When Bush was in office, we had the same paranoia on display – Bush is a fascist, Bush is taking our rights from us, Bush knew about 9/11 in advance, Bush is spying on us, and Bush is like Hitler.
The current group of paranoids are taking it out on President Barack Obama – Obama wants to make our country socialist, Obama’s not a citizen, Obama wants to take our guns from us, and, of course, Obama is like Hitler.
The men and women coming to demonstrations armed to make a political statement certainly do – just not the one they intend.
Their purpose, according to the Browns, is to show that “if we don't stand and demonstrate peacefully for all of our freedoms, they will quickly slip away and vanish.”
They have bought into the misunderstanding that Obama is hellbent on disarming our country. Even if there’s no evidence of that at all.
And that’s the problem. We don’t need proof of our beliefs anymore. If we simply hear them often enough, they must be true.
And we do hear them a lot. Too many of us live in an echo chamber, where we only associate with those with whom we, only read views that reinforce ours.
Maybe that’s always been the case. But the advent of the Internet and
24/7 cable has made the echo chamber huge.
The result? Robert Frost wrote about it years ago in his poem “Mending Wall.”
It’s about two neighbors who meet each spring to reconstruct a wall between their properties. But the speaker in the poem has his doubts about the wall, that there is nothing they need to keep separate.
His neighbor, though, doesn’t even think twice about it, the wall must go up. Even if they don’t need it. After all, the neighbor’s just following the belief of his ancestors, that “good fences make good neighbors.”
He won’t “go behind” that thought, won’t examine it. Instead, he’s like “an old stone savage armed,” unwilling to rethink his view.
Too many of us today are like that “old stone savage.” We’re armed with our beliefs, unwilling to examine them, safe in the cocoon of those thoughts, making those who don’t live in the same cocoon our enemies.
It’s a sad way to go through life.
Mike McClellan is a resident of Gilbert.