In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacres, a majority of people have taken to their bully pulpits to speak authoritatively, quick to smack down any and all opinions that belie or challenge their own. We’re arguing together and against one another online and possibly off. This makes perfect sense, but the way we’re doing it is also part, if not entirely, the fundamental problem with our society and why we are stuck in a pre-conversation that never advances. We all argue from our fixed beliefs, where else would we argue from? But the way we’re arguing, the name-calling and indignant verbal foot stomping, is an action that invalidates the points we’re trying to make. It is nearly impossible, at a time like this, to reason from a place of logic and not passion, but our inability to do just that is, I believe, the problem. People are going round and round one another, combative and questioning anyone who challenges their position. They are not too afraid to ask difficult questions of others, but they are afraid to stop and ask the same questions of themselves. It’s time for the people unaccustomed to critical thinking to begin to question what it is they believe, and why. It’s not enough to argue for your beliefs if you cannot back up that these beliefs are your own, and not your legacy.
So many of us accept what we’ve been told and taught without ever asking if we believe the stories, the religions, the politics and the ideologies we’ve been raised on. It’s remarkable how many adults in this world live with childhood beliefs. Such adults are quick to dispel the myths of Santa and the tooth fairy, two magical spirits who tend and serve every child on earth, yet they cling still to their childhood conviction that there’s a magical spirit in the sky who tends and serves every human on earth. Why don’t people ask themselves why they still believe what they were taught to believe as children? Conviction is not genetically inherited. We are born without beliefs and raised under the narrative umbrella of our parents or guardians. But there comes a time in every life, when critical thinking must begin and powerful questions have to be asked. If people stopped to question their own faith, they might come to realize that theirs is historical, passed down generationally, accepted without issue. Or maybe they would be able to confirm that yes, yes, this is true for them, this IS what they believe. But people don’t stop and question or evaluate, or even confirm what they believe to be true, because they are too afraid, as though they were incapable of standing on the feet of their own set of ideas and ideals, but this fear begets more fear and this collective cowardice to face our own conscious and unconscious selves, is literally killing people. People must learn to reason dispassionately, to look at evidence that might disconfirm their beliefs. We must be able to look at both sides of an issue. When we can do that, when we can actually weigh without passion, without rage, without narcissistic attachment to what we feel we deserve, to how we interpret the constitution or the amendments, when we can look logically at any given situation at hand, and not be gripped by fear or loss of control, we might actually be able to all agree that the execution of twenty kindergartners and six adults comes before our own ego-centric ideologies. We might all start to think critically about why this has happened and less about what we fear will be taken from us if we begin to ask ourselves the hard questions. We might realize that arguing in service of our own rights instead of the rights of our children, our siblings, parents and loved ones, is precisely why these people were murdered in the first place.