Friday, September 9, 2016

Facts about opinions

"The public is often inadequately represented  
 or wholly unrepresented. That presents a  
condition of great unfairness to the  
public. As a result, many bills pass  
 in our legislatures which would  
not have become law if the  
public interest had been  
fairly represented. . . ."  
1911.  Still relevant,  
 still true.  

Louis Brandeis was nominated to the Supreme Court. The nomination was bitterly contested, partly because, as Justice William O. Douglas wrote ...
"Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . . ."
On June 1, 1916 he was confirmed and became one of the most influential figures ever to serve on the high court. His opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the "greatest defenses" of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court.

Opinions are not facts.

Opinions are judgements and evaluations, often with broad implications. Their best use is in discussion where we process information and make decisions. Opinions are useful when they are carefully formed from verified facts and according to principles. Today's public discourse includes little such thoughtful discussion.

If we're going to learn and improve ourselves and our world, we'll want to listen to opinions, consider facts, and understand.

We learn little from folks who agree with us.  We learn most from those resources who have information we haven't heard or considered. Shutting the door on such opportunity looks counterproductive, if you ask me.  
  • What are the chances you and your teenager are going to come to the same conclusions?
  • What are the chances your Senator is going to agree with you on major issues?
  • What's the likelihood your congregation will know how to deal with the real world?
  • What might a sixty-year-old and a twenty-year-old have in common?
How might we maneuver our way through such difficulties?  Name-calling and personal attacks won't help much, will they.  Nor will yelling, accusation, and angry confrontation.

Such questions remind us that interpersonal and social issues require more than one-sentence answers, more than simplistic declarations from quickly formed opinions. We'll want to know more, and we'll perhaps want to be a little less rigid in our own thinking.  Maybe a lot.  :)

What might a sixty-year-old Christian and a twenty-year-old Muslim have in common?  You'd be surprised.  A little humorous journey.

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