Recently I was looking at an on-line publication from the American Library Association. In it there was a link to Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit. I clicked on it and observed his presentation of the Kit on YouTube.

His ten steps, in the form of questions, to detect baloney addresses the need to thoroughly examine what we see, hear, and read to filter out that which has no sound basis.  In this age of instantaneous bombardment through all forms of media, there is a lot of baloney out there and also many individuals who make a good living promoting some of the most odious kinds of it. Look up Baloney Detection Kit in the search engine of your choice to find a direct link to Mr. Shermer’s presentation of his kit.

His tenth step is the question “Are personal beliefs driving the cause”? This ties in to my topic for this blog entry, that of the rapid decline in civil public discourse in this country.

Since early summer, and particularly since Congress adjourned for the August recess, you can not avoid hearing, seeing, or reading in any media of your choice strident voices promoting one side or the other of the health  care situation. Notice I did not say discussion or debate. The hysteria, demagoguery, and downright falsehoods found in all aspects of this situation are downright appalling and do not reflect positively on our ability to listen to each other and discern what the real issues are.

As I or you reach our conclusions on this or any other issue that concerns us, we come to this process with a predetermined belief system. This belief system is the result of many factors, including  family upbringing, place(s) where we have lived, education, economic status, race, sex, religious belief or unbelief, employment history, and social and work connections. None of us comes to anything with a clean slate. It is important for us to realize this as we enter the information gathering process necessary to form our own opinions. This information gathering process is where concepts found in the Baloney Detection Kit can be of assistance in reaching a personal conclusion on any subject under consideration.

Why am I so concerned about the tone of our current interactions on health care? This situation is  another indication that our ability as a people to have civil discourse on issues that concern us is rapidly diminishing and may be disappearing altogether. For a nation to function effectively as a democracy there must be civil public discourse on the important issues that face us.  We must respect those with whom we disagree and express our disagreements  in a manner that does not inflame passions to the breaking point or beyond. We must also be open to the realization that we do not know it all and might even be incorrect in our assumptions and beliefs. Without this civil discourse process, as a nation we lay ourselves open to individuals and forms of government that bear no resemblance to democracy.

Let each of us pledge to work towards restoring civil public discourse to the life of our Nation.

So long for now!

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