It's a simple word, really.
But few practice it.
This failure, incidentally, is partly because nobody learns about it any more, but in those who did, it's an intentional act.
It is why we're in this economic mess.
It is what is stoked by the hard-core partisans on the left and right.
And it is what people like Limbaugh, Hannity, Maddow, Mathews and others pray to their favored deity you never figure out, because the day you do their entire little empire crumbles around them.
Discernment is about accuracy, not popularity. It is about depth, not surface perception.
It has been said that great minds debate ideas.
Mediocre minds talk about events.
Small minds attack people.
Labels are so much fun, aren't they? Faggot. Nigger. Racist. Homophobe. Anti-semite. Communist. Marxist.
But one must discern. That is, one's ideas may be Marxist, but a person is not Marxist. And note carefully: That one particular idea someone has is Marxist does not mean the rest of what they believe or know is. Find their error of logic, discuss, debate and convince and suddenly you can't call them names any more.
Of course there are those who refuse to look at ideas, and instead label people. It's easier, you see, as you don't have to practice discernment. You only need to see a T-shirt, the color of someone's skin, a cross, pentagram or Star of David around someone's neck. You need only observe dreadlocks, a pierced nose or tattoo.
Do recall that Einstein was considered "slow" by some early in his life. There might have been a discernment problem there, eh?
We have become a nation that is apparently incapable of this function, and that's a problem. And this is an indictment that deserves to be leveled at both the left and right.
For literally two years we have heard that the Tea Party is a "Nazi" organization, that it's a bunch of "white boys who hate blacks", that the Tea Party is all "gun-toting rednecks" and other similar charges. Yes, there are probably people who call themselves "Tea Partiers" who have committed various offenses, including serious felonies. I recall news stories trumpeting that this guy was dealing dope, that one was engaged in some sort of kiting offense, and there was even an allegation of criminal sexual conduct in the news at one point.
But that there are bad acts committed by individuals does not mean that the ideas embodied in the Tea Party are evil.
That fact certainly didn't stop the left from making this claim on an incessant basis literally from the time of Santelli's Chicago Scream.
But now the shoe is on the other foot. No less an authority than the Oakland PD said that "about 100" black-clothed violence-loving jackasses showed up out of a crowd estimated at 10,000 in Oakland. They committed a few acts of vandalism but were stopped by the protesters in the main (and video of this has been posted; it was also shown live from news choppers hovering over the scene.) Just as telling on the 3rd there were multiple reports of demonstrators returning to where some of these thugs had committed vandalism helping to clean it up.
So does a 1% "infiltration" by these thugs make the entire demonstration "violent" or "violence-loving?" Well, if you're the right wing it does.
Similarly there is an alleged thug who demonstrated with the Ft. Collins folks and is now sitting in jail on an arson charge. The newspaper says: "Arrest papers available to the public do not connect Occupy Fort Collins to the arson fires, and police made no connection between the group's protest and Gilmore's arrest."
The right wing, of course, says no such thing. A quick Google search shows multiple "titles" claiming "Add Arson to Obama-endorsed #Occupy Activism."
Smearing political opponents is nothing new in America, but it is especially galling coming from the same people who themselves complained (and rightly so!) when they were identically smeared over the last two plus years.
The problem is that their smear is no more valid than it was when the left wing ran the same crap against the Tea Party.
Indeed, this afternoon there is one particular right-wing agitprop who was all but issuing threats that I'd become "irrelevant" if I don't decide and declare that the "Occupy" movement is what the hard right wants you to believe about it - not about individual acts either piggybacked or even unassociated with the protests, but about the protests themselves and by association everyone in them.
Let's remember that it wasn't that long ago that I had the same slurs and "threats" made against me by the hard left when we were all told that the "Tea Party" was behind Giffords' shooting. You do remember that charge -- later proved entirely false and baseless in the fullness of time -- right?
Well for those of you who don't remember that I'm an equal-opportunity clue-by-four applier to those in the media and blogosphere who run this sort of baseless garbage let me remind you of my lead story on that event:
Using the actions of someone who is clearly disturbed - the gunman was, from the results, not interested in only shooting Giffords as he targeted anyone in the vicinity - in an attempt to foment political fervor is both unhelpful and exactly how you take a nation from Freedom to Fascism.
Those who attempt to do so must be shunned and permanently turned aside, without exception and irrespective of which side of the political aisle they may hail from or argue for. Not only are such attempts wildly destructive to our Republic and inherently evil they also are outrageously disrespectful to those who have been injured or killed today.
And this is what I later wrote as more became clear surrounding the events of that day:
It took only a few hours for the radical left to literally infest the entire Huffington Post with what amount to a litany of lies.
"What is clear to me, at this chaotic moment, is that no one should be surprised by this turn of events. The bullets that were fired in Tucson this morning are the logical extension of every bit of partisan hatred that came spewing out during the last election, in which Gabrielle Giffords---a centrist, representing well and faithfully a centrist district---was vilified and demonized as a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a job-killer, a traitor, and more.
Anyone who uttered such words or paid for them to be uttered has his or her name etched on those bullets
Anyone care to rethink their position that my views on this are not one of discernment and have a partisan bent? That I expect that people will be judged individually and that if you are going to smear an entire group of people you damn well better be able to prove it -- not by claim but by strict proof?
I want answers.
I want to know who's funding these black-dressed folks that showed up in Oakland. I want to know because there's a recurring theme here among protests and demonstrations, going back to several examples during G20 meetings, including the last one in Toronto. There is evidence that some of these people at some of these protests have been intentional plants. Well all that nice new gear costs money folks, and while it's not exactly "high tech" the fact remains that a bunch of do-no-good dope-smoking hippies don't have the funds to put toward something like that, never mind the very real risk of a prison term. Who were these clowns? I know who they are pretty-clearly not -- they're not representative of the people "Occupying" Oakland.
Likewise, I want to know what the truth is about this arson charge. Arson is a very serious felony; this guy, if he did it, is going up the river for a very, very long time. But this doesn't fit either; he's a businessman if the news reports are correct, which hardly fits with an "Occupy" motif for setting fires. The truth will come out on this one, of course; he's entitled the presumption of innocence under the law but the judge was convinced that the bond should be held at a very high level, so whatever might be in the arrest report the judge is buying it -- at least for now. If you're going to claim that this person is somehow connected to the goals or acts of the actual "Occupy" movement then present your evidence -- thus far that claim is no more valid than that Gifford's shooter was a "Tea Partier" or that "Tea Party ideals" were responsible for her attempted assassination.
We have a serious set of problems in this nation folks. That the left smeared the Tea Party for the last two+ years is no excuse for the right to pull the same crap now.
It was wrong when they did it and it's wrong when you do it too.
I called the left out on it and I'm going to keep calling the right out on it as well. If that means both sides send me hate mail, so be it. I refuse to play this game no matter which side of the aisle it originates from.
We must have a debate of ideas, not people. I don't care whether the person with a good idea is white, black, Chinese, Indian or Martian. I don't care if they vote Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. I don't care if they're liberal or conservative.
I do very much care if they speak out of both sides of their mouth. I will attempt to debate and discuss if an obvious logical flaw is apparent, but if you display a closed mind and partisan crap I will come after you like a nest of angry hornets and for each straw man you care to stand up I will chop it down without fear or favor.
As just one example of this from the right's set of "charges" leveled against the OWS demonstrators relates to student loans. The claim made is that "it's your own damn fault for taking on $100,000 worth of debt for a degree that doesn't pay well enough (or at all!)"
Ok, let's examine that.
First, College Debt was made non-dischargable in bankruptcy. Congress did that at the behest of the banks and it's relatively recent. This status is unique among types of debt, with the only other type being as difficult to discharge being that for child support. The common cry from the right is that one has a "moral obligation" to pay all debts incurred.
The problem is that these people are speaking out both sides of their mouth. Two examples will make this clear. First is the Mortgage Bankers' Association, which walked on its own building and repudiated its debt, jingle-mailing the keys. Where was the outrage from the right on this practice and why wasn't that outlawed?
Remember, it is a moral obligation to pay your debts, especially your mortgage. Well?
Second, I want to draw a different and much-more damning parallel: Drug abuse.
See, leverage -- that is, debt -- is an addictive drug. Doubt me? Ok, if it's not addictive then the Federal Government can stop deficit spending tomorrow, cold turkey.
Who on the either side of the aisle -- left or right -- has advocated, pushed for and demanded this happen (other than me)? Nobody. Therefore, the assertion is false. Therefore, you're forced by basic logic to accept my premise -- it is addictive.
Now let's look at the right's argument on addictive substances.
The essence of the argument is two-fold:
- Drug addiction is wrong and thus is and should be punishable by prison terms.
- Drug dealing is even more wrong and thus is not only punishable, it is more-severely punishable than drug using
So therefore the purveyor of a loan that knows, or has reason to know, that the borrower cannot pay should be held more liable than the borrower.
Guess what? If we got rid of the "special case" educational loan problem, and those loans were able to be discharged in bankruptcy, how many "sociology majors" would have $100,000 in student loans?
That's easy: Zero, just as there were zero before the law was changed.
Because nobody would loan you the money to go to school unless the lender, in their analysis, believed you could pay -- that is, the loan would not be a harmful drug to you.
Therefore they might determine that you could borrow say, one times the average annual earnings for your particular field of study over four years, provided you got acceptable grades (checked every quarter!) If not, well, you'd get cut off.
You want to borrow a lot of money? Ok, go into engineering. Or some other high paying field. If you want to study the liberal arts that's fine, but you're not going to be able to borrow $100,000 to do it, as if you default the lender will eat it and thus they won't lend to you unless they believe they're going to get paid back!
At the same time get the government out of the student loan business. Now we have private loans and they're fully able to be discharged. Therefore, in the main only good loans will be made because the lender will have skin in the game.
That in turn will drive down the cost of college - a lot. Like by more than half. Why? Because nobody will be able to get a loan for $100,000 to pursue a sociology degree, ergo, it won't cost $100,000 to obtain one.
Is this so difficult to understand?
Not in the least. It's basic logic. But if you follow it, then the right's incessant claim that the banksters "did nothing wrong" evaporates instantly and they're forced to admit that the essence of all that happened during this time frame with the abuse of leverage was intentional predation.
Several people at the Pensacola OWS were waving signs about student loan debt and trouble getting a job. With just five minutes spent explaining this proposed change in the law I had every single one of them I spoke with agreeing that this path represents a real answer to the problem.
That's discernment of where the problem actually lies and then it's communication, conversation and debate leading to conversion of belief through logic, not name-calling and bomb-throwing rhetoric.
That is what we need in this nation folks.
Discernment, communication, conversation and debate and if we engage in it we can obtain conversion of belief through logic.
Yes, it's easier to name-call and bomb-throw, rhetorically and otherwise. But it's fundamentally dishonest and we're out of time -- we simply cannot afford that sort of crap any more.
For four and a half years I've tried to accomplish this job through the path that begins with discernment, because it is the only way you will ever do anything constructive. Name-calling is not constructive, nor is the rhetorical and political crap that passes for "debate" among the banal.
One path leads out of the woods in this nation and brings us forward. It is not an easy path and it requires effort, but it is attainable.
Of that I am certain.
The other is more of what we've had: Hypocrisy, lies and smear jobs.
It is your choice to make folks, but here's the rub: The mathematics of where we are as a nation, and where we're headed, is not a debate topic. It's a fact. The longer we wait to take the path of discernment the greater the probability that it will not matter any longer -- that events will foreclose that option as a viable path forward, leaving no constructive options at all.
There are those who think hastening or praying for such is a good idea. You're wrong. Down this path lies almost-certain ruin. Only about 1 in 20 "revolts" succeed; the other 19 are put down at horrific cost. Put another way, as I've said before, for ever 1 George Washington you get 20 Hitlers, and those odds suck. To those who believe that being an agitprop for same will get you some privileged position history says the exact opposite: Those who participate in the incitement are immediately rounded up and killed by the new dictator as he consolidates his power, as he's well aware that the people who did it before could do it again, this time to HIM! History thus tell us that it's nearly certain that you will wind up in a shallow ditch with 10,000 of your closest friends and a literal splitting headache as your "reward" for such activity in the event your "provocation" is successful. That should be something to think long and hard about before you engage in this sort of foolishness.
It's the correct first step, it's the necessary first step, and it's the one you ought to be taking, because it's the only path forward that works.