Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Erin's Problem 2

Oh yes, Erin's problem. She's a space alien... nope, just kidding. As far as I know she is a very viable human being, so the aliens must be after her, as the picture above would suggest. I certainly would be if I were an alien.
But I digress.
As I've mentioned, my lovely case manager has left us to return next week.
Unfortunately for Erin she has chosen to go during AMC's "Rambo Week," so she'll miss the American Movie Classic channels playing of "First Blood," and "Rambo, First Blood 2," in their entirety, every freaking night this week, "in case you've forgotten how good he is!"
(Yesterday I received a free steak, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich form the Subway franchise, with my 8 ounce cup of coffee. 8 ounces. When I went downstairs to meet Paul to go, I saw the older gentleman, Nikita, who informed me, "You know Rambo's on all week!" while smiling famously. "Yeah, really?," I asked him.)
However, Rambo doesn't have anything to do with Erin's problem, or dilemma, which may be more accurate. And it's a serious dilemma.
While driving back to the Las Americas one recent Tuesday morning, after enjoying a nice breakfast at the local Starbucks, Erin and I discussed the new Health Care Reform Initiative that President Obama had just signed into law.
She didn't know anything about it.
Now my lovely case manager has not overly concerned herself with keeping up with the local, national, or international news stories or current events. She's much too busy being a twenty five year old young woman (twenty six next month!) who enjoys many other interests, and who focuses most of her energy into those, which is fine. I did much the same for the greater portion of my life. It wasn't really until George W. Bush got into office, and the excesses of his administration, gradually woke my lethargic, drug and alcohol riddled brain, and I began to take interest.
Erin does involve herself with a group who monitors locations where suspected human trafficking may be taking place each Monday night, which is exceptionably laudable, and even possibly dangerous, which makes me worry about her, but I applaud her efforts. Human trafficking and modern day slavery in the United States and throughout the world, is a subject which interests me very much as well. She's taking action. I as of yet have not.
Also, recently she has expressed a sincere desire to learn more about the world around her, current events, and the political process. That's why I recommended she watch "The Daily Show," and "The Colbert Report," which if nothing else would be a fun way to keep up and learn.
But that morning while driving back, Erin told me what troubled her.
Her ex-boyfriend was a conservative, and had expressed a typical conservative view point when talking about the health care reform effort (i.e., why should hard working people pay for those who don't work, the overall quality of health care will suffer, it's a government take over, death panels will kill granny, on and on). While driving back I expressed a few progressive talking points (i.e, runaway health care costs were bankrupting the nation and the Republicans would like to leave it just the way it is, the United States is the only industrial nation that does not provide universal heath care to all of it's citizens, health insurance companies are nothing but blood sucking leaches, and granny is too old anyway).
After I finished Erin seemed unimpressed with my impressive argument and expressed in no uncertain terms what the problem was.
I paraphrase: "You know Rick, you're so good looking..."
Just kidding. She really said this... I paraphrase: "You know I hear what you're saying, and I hear what my dad and Shane have told me, and I don't know who to believe, or which is telling the truth, it's just so hard to make up my mind with all of the information that is available... I wind up not thinking about it at all."
That's a significant problem. And lovely Erin is not the only one which is affected by it.
So, what's the answer? What will help her wade through all of the available information, or propaganda actually, which is specifically designed to warp one's thinking to a certain end?
Good question! Glad you asked. And I will try to answer in as bipartisan a fashion as I can possibly muster.
Erin is correct. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, and a great deal of it is biased. The right-wing, or conservative talk radio, or television network coverage supplied by Fox News dwarfs that of the left-wing, or progressive media, but still it's there and the viewer has a choice. But what to choose?
First dear Erin, I would submit one needs to take an introspective look at one's self. What kind of person are you, how do you feel about social issues, do you care about your fellow citizens, or... not so much, do you concern yourself with what affects you, and those closest to you primarily? How do you feel about the world around you, what are your goals, how would you like the country to be? One needs to know one's self in order to take a position.
And then, well there's no getting around it, it takes a lot of work. Like what was mentioned in Monday's post (see, Why Trust? 2), one needs to investigate an issue your interested in, lets say health care, then one needs to become familiar with the subject by doing independent research using as unbiased sources as can be found. Fortunately, with the advent of the Internet this is a whole hell of lot easier than it was just a few years ago. Still, it takes time and effort. I should know, I spend more than half my day doing just that, and I've been doing it for years, and I still consider myself a novice in many areas, and the pressure to keep up with all of the current information is nothing less than daunting. But it needs to be done.
Next, one armed with information needs to take a position. To make a stand.
There is a conservative stand. There is a liberal stand. There is a libertarian stand. There is a socialist stand. There is a capitalist stand. There's a religious stand. There's all kinds of stands one can make, which one needs to correlate with one's own core beliefs.
Now that you know where you stand on a certain issue, how do you get more information, who do you trust to advise you. Certainly you would trust those friends and relatives that take a similar stand that you do, and you can debate those who don't. That always makes for lively conversations!
How about the media? Who do you trust to keep you well informed on the issue you're interested in?
Let's say the right is represented by Fox, the left by MSNBC, and possibly the center by CNN, or PBS. One needs to do a bit more work here, not just follow those reporters or commentators who tell you what you want to hear, because they may by lying to you. Shocked? Yes, it is true, some will "misinform," to advance their own agenda.
So throw idealogy aside and "fact check" what Rush Limbaugh is saying, or Keith Olbermann, seeing who is lying or speaking truth on a consistent basis (there are sites devoted to doing just this, notably Once you've accomplished that you will have a fairly reliable source of information which is consistent with your core beliefs.
And those need to be your beliefs. Not your dad's. Not your mom's. Not Aunt Bette's. Not your college professor's. Your beliefs. Your parents influenced you more than any other individuals, but you need to make up your own mind, not be an extension of them.
And finally, who do you want to represent you in government? Obviously you want somebody who comes the closest to sharing your core beliefs. Armed with your trusted sources of information hopefully that will now be a much easier choice. Make an informed choice, stand by it, defend it, own it.
Never become a "low information voter." Research and information will win the day.
Dear Erin, I hope you read this sometime and take it to heart, and above all I hope it helps. If not now, maybe at sometime in the future.
Now it's my hope that I haven't helped to create a little pint-sized Republican, right-wing lunatic.
We shall see.

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