It would seem to be rare that a book would explain comments made to me about that book as I read it. But Al Gore's Assault on Reason explored how the use of reason was under siege by people who saw me reading it. Two people I met briefly out and about have asked me about the book, and then followed up by parroting ad hominem attacks made against Gore. One of the people seemed honestly to be passing on a critique of Gore as being hypocritical concerning his own use of natural resources and did not seem to realize the disingenuousness and irrelevance of the point. The second person seemed steeped in the quick quips trotted out by talk radio hosts: today is cool in Baltimore, a lot of people pushing the climate change argument drive Hummers, and there are lots of scientists on both sides of the argument. Although these two incidents are merely anecdotal, they both were from people who appeared to be working class as both were working in a store or cafe.
In both places were the means to better information. For example, at the cafe they sold the New York Times which had the daily temperature which pointed out that although today was on the low side of the average temperature, the year was was warmer than average so far that year. And, of course, there have been numerous news stories about climate change that had the person read them, the conversation might have been very different.
I am very aware of how great is the temptation to point out
hypocrisy in opponents or generalizing on anecdotal evidence, but it is
counter to true and respectful arguments. And in the case of the
attacks on Gore which although untrue and unsupportable, do tend to
allow the conversation to be sidetracked. So it leaves the question,
should slanderous statements either be confronted or be ignored? Or
should only angels and saints be allowed to talk on behalf of a subject?
The answer may be that in America, we should realize we have lost the opportunity to have meaningful public discourse. I know some who have made cogent arguments essentially pointing out that specter of our racist past and present, our ineffective labor movement, foreign policy of overthrowing democratic governments, and the empowerment of wealthy to have our governments charter corporations that are allowed to not serve the public interest, all make it unlikely that we will improve.
It does seem true that the Bush administration and the Republican party are ensuring that the United States becomes a second rate country. And that the Democrats either are not interested in stopping that or are impaired by special interests in combating this trend. As the right pushes us lower in terms of education, health, housing, human rights, family cohesion, advances in science, free speech and press, free exercise of religion and several other areas, our chances of turning things around decreases. My hope is that the efforts of Gore, our once VP and almost president, and others bring reason and caring back as a real political force. Note: the accusations made about the right, Republicans and the current administration are based on numerous past posts on this blog and much more eloquently made in Gore's recent book.