the fast-food of critical thinking

One of my earliest memories as a kid in Carmichael, California is of a 1/12th scale plastic model that either my dad or my brother put together. It wasn’t of a car, as anyone who knows my family might imagine, it was of John F. Kennedy sitting in a rocking chair. It must have been around 1966. Its significance was beyond my scope as a four year-old, but it instilled something deep in me, much like an image of Christ hanging in a home might; a reverence, an awe, a respect. Not just for the man, but for the Office.

I remember seeing the first person ever become the President of the United States without the vote of the electoral college. I was at my aunt and uncle’s home in Salt Lake City watching on their console color television as the country’s shift in leadership left scandal behind and got our hopes up for the future. Though I was twelve at the time and certainly naive in retrospect, I never doubted the efficacy of our democracy.

In contrast, my wife and I happened to be in London in May of 2010 on the day the United Kingdom was without a Prime Minister. We were at 10 Downing Street in the fray of reporters and demonstrators and security, helicopters overhead. It was electric and disconcerting and made me grateful for my US passport.


We’ve witnessed the uprisings and insurgencies in Syria, Iran, Egypt, we’re students of historic fascism,  we’ve even been reminded of heavy-handed leadership with the passing of the Iron Lady, but when did things get so bad in the United States? What constitutional rights have we as a nation surrendered?

There’s the Patriot Act, granted, and the hassle at the airport, but, where’s the impetus that drives a state’s association of sheriffs to threaten federal law enforcement with their lives when they invade the state to take away firearms? Or to spur on racial overtones by a rodeo clown? Or to post an online video game that rewards slapping around a woman? When did it become so chic to piss on the presidency of the United States?

Put Benghazi, Snowden and the NSA, the IRS, and the non-transparency of drones into historical context and there’s an inherent paling to snafus past. I got into a bit of a debate with my son over the verdict of the Zimmerman trial on which I proffered my only position; the verdict is a product of the system we call democracy. This system used to be the best there was, even with its varied brands of influences. I say used to be because it, the judicial arm, like the legislative and executive and even the fourth estate of the press, had a relationship with The People.

They don’t anymore. In researching and teaching social media it’s clear that The People are framed by the polarized incumbents and their special interests and they don’t know who to listen to or where to go. Opinions and attitudes aren’t formed by the dissemination of objective information, instead, they’re adopted from social and other mediated sources, the fast-food of critical thinking, with bandwagoning and groupthink on the dollar menu.

Think about it. When did you last agree or like a post without truly vetting it, determining its sources, flushing its intent, or determining its audience? The less this is done the more vulnerable we become and the more the distance grows between The People and the constitutional intent of its government.

Were Revell to release a scale plastic version of President Barack Hussein Obama, I’d get it, though I’d probably have to go online to do so. I’d build it, set it on my office desk and watch it make certain people uncomfortable, rolling their eyes, or excusing it on my being a liberal. I’m not, though. I’m an American with a respect for the process this country used to represent and can once again.

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