Election campaigns and Einstein

Sara Denunzio

With another presidential election looming ahead, candidates are preparing to have their lives eviscerated, entrails laid bare for all to examine, evaluate and throw to the wolves. The American public is bracing itself for the claws-out catfight.

I, like most of you, am sick to death of the nonsense that surrounds (or perhaps embodies) political campaigns. It is a time in American politics when some politicians seem never to leave the campaign trail, when the issue of gay marriage can motivate people to the polls faster than a war and when a veteran can be openly criticized for going to war and not bleeding quite enough. There are many things that suffer in the onslaught of politics, posturing and propaganda, not the least of which, our intellectual integrity.

There was a particular turn in our collective thought that happened during the 2004 election which struck me as a serious blow to logic and reason, and one from which we’ve yet to recover. Perhaps I am mistaken in placing its origins in 2004-I admit to being less than attentive to government prior to the 2000 election-but, why has it become political folly to change one’s mind?

I have far greater respect for the person who can admit he is wrong, than for the person who hammers away at the square peg in the round hole. I think, perhaps that we have confused determination with stubbornness. There is a difference between the two, which is important and not even very subtle. To remain loyal to one’s family, friends and country regardless of hardship is evidence of strength in character. To hold firmly to a conviction, even when all evidence points toward its abandonment, is foolhardy.

Consider, for example, the moment during the confirmation hearing of Defense Secretary Robert Gates when Senator Carl Levin asked Gates if he thought the United States was winning the war in Iraq, to which Gates responded, “No, sir.” People considered this a startling moment of refreshing honesty. To me, it was merely sad that being forthright was such an anomaly.

Owning up to my mistakes, accepting the consequences of my actions, being open to new ideas, critically examining my beliefs – these are all values that were instilled in me when I was a little girl. As a result I have grown up to be a habitual seeker and a constant wanderer. Some people believe that once you find the answers to the big questions, you should hold steadfast, as those are the things that define us as human beings. I, on the other hand, think that ideas about the big topics of politics, religion and morality are those that call for the closest and most frequent evaluation. I have considered, adopted and subsequently abandoned any number of religious paths and political theories. You may call it capriciousness, I call it refinement. The ability to hold our convictions up to the light of reason and practicality is what allows us to grow as human beings.

I dislike the trend of putting stubbornness on a pedestal and believe that it promotes intellectual dishonesty. A girl has a right to change her mind but so does a politician.

So, whether you believe that abortion is wrong, or that gay rights are civil rights or in making love and not war or that Jesus is your savior or that rock is dead or that Angelina is pregnant again-be willing to express and fight for your convictions, but also be willing to be proven wrong. Didn’t Einstein say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? How about a little sanity over here?

Sara Denunzio is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].