I wrote this short piece for the Northwest arkansas Times a couple of years ago, inspired by much of what I read in letters to the editor columns and on Internet sites – in particular, Facebook, which brings out the inner schoolyard bully in so many. Political ESP – the power to know what is in the hearts and minds of millions of people you will never, ever meet

There is an amusing irony in the fact that so many who seem to believe they have this psychic ability feel aggrieved if the tables are turned, and someone issues a blanket indictment about the group that they belong to. “Liberals all believe white males are the enemy of truth, justice and the American way.” “Oh, yeah? Well, all conservatives are just a bunch of Stupid Heads!”

“George Bush/Barack Obama wants to put all who disagree with him in FEMA concentration camps.” And ditto for the next president, no matter who they are, or whatever political party they may belong to . . .

The World of political ESP

In the election of November 2012, I voted for Barack Hussein Obama. Though each person’s vote is sacrosanct in this country, and we need not discuss it with anyone, I just wanted to get that out of the way as quickly as possible. There is a lot that President Obama has done which I heartily agree with, and there is also much that I heartily disagree with.

If you were to see me walking the street, though, or across from you on one of our local buses, you would have no way of knowing who I voted for, or even the reasons why. There are no buttons on my clothing which cry out my beliefs to the world, nor do I wear T-shirts which either implore or demand that you see the world through my eyes.

And yet, all around us, like fortune tellers in a carnival side-show, there are many who can tell instantly why people voted the way they did, be they liberal or conservative.

There is a famous William Castle movie, “I Saw What You Did,” which later morphed into a more modern series of cheesy movies, about someone who pretends to know what a stranger did, with terrible results.

Since the election, we have had “analysis” of why the election went Barack Obama’s way; if you aren’t an academic or someone who plays close attention to politics the explanations may fit along with your own personal views. In letters pages, newspaper columns, blogs and on Facebook, or even in personal conversation there are those who have the neat answers in the palm of their hand:

Minorities and young people voted for Obama because they wanted “free” stuff. Women (as ever, a sort of political sub-species) voted for him because they wanted free birth control, or unfettered access to abortions.

Black people voted for him because . . . well, because he was one of them.

Lots of folks are just “against God.”

Obama was going to take all of our guns away, which is as ludicrous a notion as the accusation in the election of 1800 by supporters of John Adams that Thomas Jefferson was going to confiscate all of the Bibles in America. Best to hide them in your well, or bury them in your back garden, went the argument.

I’m pretty sure that once Jefferson won the election, there were folks accusing others of voting for him because they wanted him to do just that, which was never even on his mind in the first place.

If you voted for Mitt Romney, of course, it just goes without saying that you believe in shipping jobs overseas, treating women as second-class citizens and attacking Iran at the drop of a hat. Why should I waste my valuable time asking you why you voted the way you did?

Always with us, this form of political extra-sensory-perception has become even more rampant in this young century. “You liberals” is one of the worst epithets one can toss at someone, either in a letter to the editor or on Facebook (or “You conservatives,” come to that), but it has become sadly apparent that with all of the words being thrown around, very few people are actually stopping to listen to what anyone else has to say.

Ironically, if the tables are reversed, the person with the ESP often cries “Foul!”

We make a fetish of reading every word the long-dead Founding Fathers and the equally long-dead French writer Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, but how often do we read the writings of those we disagree with? The men and women who are alive and tread the earth with us today, and are just as passionate, literate and eloquent as those who led the way for us?

Instead we rely on our ESP, knowing instantly why someone would vote the way they did. And if we can use our mind powers to see into the soul of another, and then dismiss them entirely, we may well bring about results for this country just as disastrous as they ended another way in “I Saw What You Did.”

Originally published as guest editorial – Northwest Arkansas Times


Quote of the Day

If it were all so simple!
If only there were evil people somewhere
insidiously committing evil deeds,
and it were necessary only to separate them
from the rest of us and destroy them.
But the line dividing good and evil
cuts through the heart of every human being.
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? – Alexander Solzhenitsyn