(Originally published Nov. 23, 2011)
I’m all for being engaged and involved in society and the political process. But if you’re engaged, it’s also important that you be informed and that you think things through.
It’s ok if you and I come to different positions, and even ok to acknowledge that our early influences set a pattern for how we see things. For example, I know a lawyer in Chile whose farm was taken over by the government during the military reign of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. The lawyer told me once that as a general rule, doctors are liberals, and lawyers are conservative.
My father died when I was young, and my grandfather, a country doctor and a rock-ribbed Democrat, was the primary male influence in my life. I lean Democratic, but I will vote Republican if there’s clear difference in the quality of the candidates. I also believe that business is the backbone of America, but that we have to take care of the weakest among us. I filter life and politics from that perspective, but I still try to do my best to see other points of view and to understand how people come to conclusions different from mine.
It’s not ok to be haphazard and sloppy in your thinking, and to jump into a movement purely out of passion. That’s why I admire the video from Penn and Teller that I’m featuring today. They do a good job of showing the importance of understanding issues and taking personal responsibility for your actions. People who sign the petition they’re offering would be signing their own death sentence if the ban it advocates would ever take effect.
My more liberal friends ask me how I can be involved professionally with industries like chemicals and mining. I truly believe these industries are essential and that they contribute immensely to the quality of life. The flip side, however, is that their contributions don’t excuse them from acting safely and responsibly. It’s important to me to align myself with clients who are committed to doing so. No company is perfect, but responsible companies will step up and do their best to make things right when they’ve made a mistake.
So, learn from Penn and Teller how important it is to know the facts and issues. Then, commit yourself to being informed and involved. In our democratic society, we the people are the government. We can blame our legislators and officials for the mess we’re in, but ultimately it falls on our shoulders to be thoughtful and clear about what we want and don’t want. Otherwise, we doom ourselves to being manipulated by our officials instead of being led by them.