The Lost Skills of Critical Thinking and Open Debate

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
~Albert Einstein~

There is something I have come to realize after spending the last two decades studying both the history of this country and its system of government; that being that if you are not willing to question your own beliefs you will never be able to learn new things. If you are so closed minded that you reject any information that contradicts your existing beliefs, then you will never be able to face the fact that you were wrong in your beliefs; and that isn’t learning, that’s stagnating.

In his immortal Give me liberty or give me death speech, Patrick Henry also said something few have read, “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.” How many people today can say that about themselves and be truthful about it?

I hate coming across as accusatory, condescending, or insulting, but sometimes I feel like I’m trying to explain quantum physics to a bunch of kindergarteners who are just now learning their ABC’s. I truly believe that most people’s minds are not intellectually capable of wrapping themselves around the facts I’m trying to share with them; the indoctrination they underwent in the public school system runs too deep and their conditioning has become so firmly entrenched that I may as well be beating my head against a brick wall.

The only thing that keeps me going, I suppose, is the fact that the prize for all my effort is too worthy to give up on – liberty. You see, I am inclined to agree with Patrick Henry, who once said, “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else.” I could lose every friend I have and gain true liberty and I would die a happy man.

You cannot imagine the weariness I feel in my bones, especially when I hear people say something like, “What we need is a truly constitutional form of government” or “If we could just get back to the form of government outlined in the Constitution.” People, we do have the system of government envisioned by those who drafted the Constitution and argued, persuaded, and cheated the people of open and honest debate during the period which we call the ratification process.

While they may have been cheats and scoundrels, those who attended the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 were far from stupid; they knew exactly what they were doing when they carefully drafted each Article, each Section, each Clause. If the Constitution contains loopholes that has allowed the government it establishes to overstep its delegated authority, it is because they intentionally put those loopholes in it. If the Constitution does not provide us the means of resisting any unconstitutional exercise of authority, it is because those who drafted it didn’t want us to have the means to resist the power and authority of the government they were creating.

The Constitution was written just 13 years after the Declaration of Independence, and only 4 years after the war for independence came to a successful end. Yet in that short period the people of this country had already begun to forget why they had fought a war as visions of a grand and mighty American empire replaced the animating contest for liberty. One can only imagine how far removed liberty is from the minds of Americans who have undergone the indoctrination process of growing up in an America with an unlawful system of government; supported and defended by institutionalized education which fails to teach our children the meaning of liberty.

It has been my experience that you cannot hold an intelligent conversation with people on government and politics; you cannot hold an open and honest debate, because people have been taught certain facts, but not how to analyze contradiction facts and come to a conclusion based upon the strongest argument – something known as critical thinking.

You cannot count the number of times I’ve had discussions with people, and when I present facts or evidence that shoots down their opinion, they resort to “But Neal…” Let me tell you something, the moment I hear the word BUT precede something it tells me that the person uttering it is unprepared to provide any facts to support their position; they are falling back in the conditioning they have undergone.

People today let their emotions guide their discussions, and their emotions are based upon the indoctrination they were subjected to in the course of their lives. Yes there is a division in this country between the left and the right, the liberals and the conservatives, but that does not lessen the fact that there is little to no discussion over whether government itself is serving the purpose those who ratified it were promised it would serve – to protect and defend the liberty of the people and the rights of the sovereign States. If those two areas were to be introduced into political discussions in America the people would immediately see that their government has strayed from the purpose it was promised it would serve and has become tyrannical.

Those in power cannot allow that, so they continue to fuel the division between left and right; Democrats and Republicans. They give us ‘issues’ to fight over; abortion, gay rights, immigration, gun control, the war on terror, etc. etc. so that we will not see that government itself has become our enemy. As long as we are too busy fighting each other over which side of the political spectrum controls the beast, we will never unite and slay the beast.

Breaking this cycle is next to impossible because people have not been taught the skill of debating. A debate is merely a civilized, controlled argument; with each side presenting facts to support their position, and with the side presenting the strongest, most convincing facts winning the debate. Just look at the political debates on TV and you’ll see more insults and mud-slinging than you will facts to support a candidate’s position. Even those candidates who present a plan to remedy some problem in this country refuse to provide specifics as to how their plan will fix whatever problem they are addressing, or how they intend to fund their plan. They know the American people only want to hear the most convincing sounding bullet statements; without having to use their brains and analyze whether or not that plan will actually work, or whether it will make matters worse.

People today want quick fixes that can be explained in 30 second sound bites so that they don’t have to think too hard and so that they can get back to Facebook or American Idol. Critical thinking and open and honest debate have gone out the window and Americans today cannot deal with someone who comes to a political discussion armed with facts; so they resort to name calling and insults against the character of the person they are arguing with.

I would like for you to read something; it isn’t very long as far as quotes go, but it explains perfectly how an open and honest debate should occur. This comes from Brutus’s essay on George Mason’s objections to the Constitution, “Gentlemen, At this important crisis when we are about to determine upon a government which is not to effect us for a month, for a year, or for our lives: but which, it is probable, will extend its consequences to the remotest posterity, it behooves every friend to the rights and privileges of man, and particularly those who are interested in the prosperity and happiness of this country, to step forward and offer their sentiments upon the subject in an open, candid and independent manner. –Let the constitution proposed by the late Convention be dispassionately considered and fully canvassed. –Let no citizen of the United States of America, who is capable of discussing the important subject, retire from the field. –And, above all, let no one disseminate his objections to, or his reasons for approving of the constitution in such a manner as to gain partisans to his opinion, without giving them an opportunity of seeing how effectually his sentiments may be controverted, or how far his arguments may be invalidated.”

How many of you can say that the abovementioned quote is how you personally act during any political discussion? Do you bypass and sidestep around questions and facts that you have no facts of your own to support? Do you insult or resort to “But Neal…” whenever your position comes under attack?
Patrick Henry, the most fervent defender of liberty this country has ever seen, once said, ” For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.” His willingness to seek out the truth, and change his positions based upon it is something that is sorely lacking in most people these days.

Had I not also shared that love of the truth I would still be a die-hard Republican supporting whichever GOP candidate showed up on the ballot. And, had I not loved the truth I would not have bothered spending hour upon hour pouring over Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, and the notes from the various State Ratifying Assemblies. In short, had I not loved the truth I would still be a mindless indoctrinated drone like most Americans are now.

We are told/taught that it is okay to disagree with each other over political positions and the issues, but to never question the authority of the government when it enacts a law; and God forbid we question the integrity of the Constitution itself. Yet if the Constitution did not, in fact, lay the groundwork for the system of government that taxes us at rates approaching 40% of our wages; if the Constitution did not in fact lay the groundwork for a system of government that tramples upon our liberty; and if the Constitution does not provide specific measures we could use to restrain government to its intended purpose, is it that hard to accept that the Constitution is flawed; that maybe it is not the great document we were taught it was?

As I have mentioned before, behind every law, every edict, every statute governments pass there is a gun pointed at our heads; telling us obey or you will be punished. Yet if the government was, in fact, created by we the people, and if we truly are the masters over government, where is our authority to punish those who violate the few specific powers we delegated to them?

Cops and other agencies of the federal government can kick down our doors, search our belongings, and generally harass us all based upon the slightest innuendo or accusation that we are guilty of violating any of the laws they swear to uphold. The thing is, these officers of the law are ALSO sworn to uphold the Constitution; so why can’t we dial 911 and have the police arrest every piece of trash legislator who proposes, or votes in favor of any law that oversteps the limited authority which has been delegated to government?

Answer me that and I’ll shut the hell up!

Patrick Henry railed against this fatal flaw in the Constitution, all to no avail, as the delegates of his State of Virginia went ahead and adopted the system proposed by the Philadelphia Convention. Yet Henry’s words ring as true today as they did when he spoke them in 1788; so I will share them with you now, and leave you with the closing challenge: Prove that Patrick Henry was wrong… that is if you can.

My great objection to this Government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants.

The Honorable Gentleman who presides, told us, that to prevent abuses in our Government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people. Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical; no longer democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?

A standing army we shall have also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny: And how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders?

Where is the responsibility — that leading principle in the British government? In that government a punishment, certain and inevitable, is provided: But in this, there is no real actual punishment for the grossest maladministration. They may go without punishment, though they commit the most outrageous violation on our immunities. That paper may tell me they will be punished. I ask, by what law? They must make the law — for there is no existing law to do it. What — will they make a law to punish themselves? This, Sir, is my great objection to the Constitution, that there is no true responsibility — and that the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves.

Okay, now it’s your turn; provide your argument proving Patrick Henry was wrong to fear the adoption of the system of government outlined by the Constitution. I’ll patiently wait for you to provide evidence to the contrary.

About Br'er Rabbit

I'm just one person out of millions of others. The only thing different about me is that I don't walk around with my head up my ass.
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