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The news cycle has mostly moved on from discussing alleged links between violent political rhetoric and the Tucson, Ariz. shooting. And the spectacle of our legislators sitting boy, girl, boy, girl, er, D, R, D, R, will further move us beyond it.

Nonetheless, let’s postulate this as ¬†one of the reasons we react so strongly to the alleged links: If media and messages can make someone do that, what other, smaller¬†things can they make us do? In other words, the discussion beckons us to question the source(s) of our own thoughts and desires, and that’s not something we really want to dwell on. And if we do dwell, we don’t want to stay too long or venture beyond the poles of conventional wisdom.

A clever invention, but it doesn't light up all by itself.

How much of us is really us, and how much comes from outside, whether it’s all those Smurf cartoons we watched as children or that odd tension we recall from our childhood homes?

There’s no easy answer, so it’s inevitable that our national attention will move on to something else. Human motivation is just too complicated. But you don’t have to be crazy to acknowledge that we hear other people’s voices coming from our own mouths sometimes–namely, the voices of our parents. But if we are honest, we can likely name other voices as well.

 

 

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It continues to intrigue me — the biblical point Obama raised in his inauguration speech on putting away childish things.

He seems to mean things like partisanship and political gamesmanship and their attendant ills, with self-righteousness and ideological rigor mortis being two of the biggest.

But those things are decidedly not childish. They are the sole province of adults (and adolescents, I might add). Name me a child who sticks to a course of action, no matter how foolish, based on some abstract philosophical notion.

Children may fixate on something and carry on like fools, but it’s generally over a concrete object, say a chocolate chip cookie, a Matchbox car or a pair of footie pajamas. I don’t see them crying over failed adherence to free-market principles or skepticism over Keynesian economics.

I guess it sounds clever to compare peculiarly adult blind spots to childish things. But it doesn’t do much to advance our political discourse when we seek to infantilize people based on what they may feel are important principles.

Or when we seek to explain away what is decidedly an adult problem as some sort of childishness that needs to be abandoned. Good luck with that.

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