McAbee: When politics & love combine
September 20, 2012
Clinton’s on at 8 o’clock,” I reminded my new wife as she went out the door for an evening run. We’ve been talking a lot about the national election lately and have been trying to sort through the demagoguery in order to understand what each party represents.I’ve been trying to show her that the qualities that she possesses that made me fall in love with her, compassion, her kind and gentle spirit and her reliance on Social Security survivor benefits that she received when her husband died five years ago, were attributes associated with the Democratic Party rather than her Grand Old Party.Like a lot of people I know who grew up in Texas, Marion has ignored the nearly idealistic Democrats, who would have everyone covered by health insurance, presumably paid for by the rich, because of a few issues: abortion, the oft portrayed Democratic depravity when it comes to all things God-related, Obamacare (she is a nurse practitioner) and their loyalty or lack thereof to the traditional family structure.But a couple of days ago, we were driving around the North Metro area when we came across a person who at one time would have been called a panhandler. He was standing at the corner of wherever.As is often the case, Marion gives the guy with the cardboard sign a couple of bucks. More than that though, her heart is overwhelmed with compassion. Where I might not give the person a second look, she is moved to tears for them.I sensed an opportunity to create an attitude change in my wife. She paused when I asked her if she were so affected by this man’s condition, why had she been so against giving him access to health insurance?That’s when cognitive dissonance set in. Cognitive dissonance is a state of psychological discomfort caused when someone tells you something that is inconsistent with your already-held attitudes. These responses range from a smirk to hysteria depending on the attitude and how tightly they are held.Changing someone’s mind is not an easy thing to do. An easier thing to do is to call the other person a blankity-blankhead.When we do that the selective process sets in.Selective exposure, by limiting the messages and media we consume to ones consistent with our own views. Selective retention, when we remember what we want to remember. Selective perception, when we actually alter the meaning of a message to fit with our pre-existing attitudes.However, contrary to popular belief, my wife’s intelligence makes her mind more malleable than a mind less illuminated. In other words, if your smart you’ll investigate things further, take a look at both sides and try out new ideas, but if you’re not smart you won’t.I’ve done it and now I hold two seemingly contradictory positions at once. I am pro-life and would not ask, advise or suggest to any woman in my life to have an abortion. Yet, I firmly believe that we are endowed with free will, that there are good choices and bad choices but in the end there is still a choice and no law will prevent that.If we were programmed to do the right thing all the time, what would be the reward for making the right choice?Of course, asking Marion to pay for abortive services is akin to coming into our church on Sunday morning and asking for donations to build a mosque. Build your mosque but don’t ask us to pay for it.Marion returned from her run and we put the former president on the TV. He spoke for what seemed like a week. Unlike him, I only have 600 words.Jeff McAbee is a writer living in Broomfield. He works as a graduate teaching assistant at Colorado State University while pursuing a master’s degree in public communication and technology. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Jeff_McAbee on Twitter.