Trump’s wall has nothing on America’s stupid political wall. Literally, Trump’s proposed wall requires a ladder and some gumption to leap. Will it slow down some illegal aliens? You bet. But with incentives like free k-12 schooling, citizenship for future off-spring and free healthcare, ladders will remain in great supply on the south side of Trump’s wall. We can’t, however, so easily scale the stupid political wall that is separating Americans from each other. Mr. and Mrs. America … tear down that political wall.
The recent #Comey hearing and the internet hysteria it kicked off was a classic example of that stupid political wall. Reading people talking past, over, and under each other was just frustrating. Real and political science explain the stupid political wall.
Researchers say that the average American has an IQ of somewhere around 98. It’s not the median, it’s the average. However, given the sample size, let’s face it; about half have an IQ under that “average.” Researchers also say something quite illuminating about IQ difference. I bet you will recognize quickly the phenomenon they describe.
Have you ever found yourself painstakingly setting out a thoughtful, cogent, intelligent argument on an issue to someone, only to have the person say something back to you that literally makes no sense? If that has never happened to you, you might be much further up the IQ ladder, such that you are smart enough not engage, willy-nilly, in debate on public policy issues with just anyone. I was never that smart.
Most of us are familiar with this phenomenon. We observe it when we use social media for debate on issues with friends, colleague, family, and even strangers. Debating law, religion, and politics with strangers, which I have gleefully done, is proof of one’s IQ averageness. When we do this, sometimes we get angry, upset, and mostly frustrated. Are you picking up what I am putting down, as my teenager asks? So, you swear off Facebook for two weeks and groan about why it is that people can’t get it … whatever “it” is.
Do you know why they can’t get it? It’s that stupid political wall.
Truthfully, the wall is not just political. The wall is mother nature … that’s the stupid. However, Americans then give stupid a unique political twist. Let me explain.
Researchers say that that once people with an IQ separation of 25-30 points, often 1-2 full standard deviations above the other, try to interact, they simply can’t do it. That’s an over-simplification, of course. It’s not that people much smarter than others can’t interact or even find moments of shared understanding with those quite lower on the scale. It is that generally speaking, on more complex issues, the higher IQ person is using concepts that the lower IQ person can’t follow. The lower IQ person then uses concepts in response that often don’t properly relate, make sense, or are even applicable to the discussion. The debate devolves, and it all goes south with both sides frustrated. That’s the “stupid” wall.
What makes the wall larger, harder, and indeed tougher to scale is the unique American political twist. Added to the wall of intelligence separation is the rise of political religion. Political religion is that reactionary, emotion driven, anti-intellectual response many have developed that pushes us to reject ideas, concepts, and facts that challenge our political beliefs. I call this political religion because challenging one’s politics these days is like challenging one’s religious faith.
Americans take their party status on faith, and like their religion, they reject it being questioned. Faith becomes fact. Your actual facts and reasoning mean nothing to them.
Add the political religious foundation of our American society to the IQ wall, and now we have a boundary that we can’t climb. In fact, the wall can get so high we can’t even hear each other. Moreover, many people have no interest in climbing that wall. Still others don’t know the wall exists. Ignorance, they say, is bliss.
Of course, political debates bog down on more than just intelligence and partisan religion. Many people have unequal knowledge too. Imagine you’re a neurosurgeon with a 135 IQ and you’re trying to discuss and explain a complex medical procedure to a high school drop-out with average intelligence and no medical knowledge of any kind. In that scenario, both sides would immediately recognize, at a minimum, the disparity in knowledge. Likewise, at least with an unspoken nod, both might acknowledge the disparity in intellect.
In political debates, however, everyone fancies themselves an expert.
Mostly, we are experts in our own opinions, about which we “feel” strongly. Feelings aren’t facts, and passion isn’t reason. What some feel and believe on faith supplants any self-awareness about what they know or understand. Americans think they are right on political issues because they believe it. They think you are wrong because you don’t believe what they do.
Belief free of facts and reason is a prima facia case of ignorance.
Heart surgeons and brain surgeons don’t suffer the indignity of arguing medical procedures with the uninformed or average American. Yet, lawyers routinely find themselves having to argue legal issues and concepts with people who googled something on the law. We have more real lawyers than we need now … and the demand for internet lawyers is zero.
I am an unrepentant internet lurker. I move in and out of Facebook pages and groups flawlessly, like a ghost. I ride the internet like I am living the most fanciful dreams of Nick Spicoli. All I need is some tasty waves and a cool buzz, and I’m fine. Or, in my case, all I need is some Dunkin Donuts coffee and an internet connection. Watching people interact, reading their “arguments,” and following their political food fights fascinates, titillates, scintillates, and often saddens me. Most days I am amused. Few days I am informed.
Make no mistake, I learn from the experience. I do find great reads, some unique insights, funny quotes, and a few thoughtful, honest, well-written, well-reason arguments and ideas. That’s what I am out there for. However, the internet super-highway is like the Highway of Death in Kuwait on Route 80. It is littered with the intellectually dead. Unfortunately, for many, they are trapped in a Bruce Willis movie … they don’t know they are intellectually dead.
The biggest problem with the stupid political wall, as I describe it, is that both groups believe they are on the same side of the wall. It’s a bit like terrible drivers, we all know they exist, we just think it’s the other guy.
When the great William F. Buckley once said, “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University,” he had the benefit of never hearing, reading, or interacting with those folks in the white pages. Buckley probably thought his fellow Bostonians were much like himself, an even more common error where we all see the world through our own phenomenology. This sometimes leads us to believe that others think, act, and behave as we would. They don’t.
If Buckley were alive today, I’d take him to a few Facebook political groups, and I suspect he might then want at least a Harvard faculty Senate in his dream government.
I grew up a blue collar kid, and I have worked jobs that some now say Americans won’t do. You can find a long list of people who will swear there is little special or intelligent about me. That’s probably true. I do have one insight that many do not, and that is the great journey of life I found myself in daily contact with Americans of every shape, type, and intellect. Because of that, I am astutely self-aware of my innumerable flaws. Likewise, I have stood in rooms with people both much smarter and knowledgeable than I. It’s humbling when you realize it, and frightening when people don’t.
We can’t fix or change the great bell curve of ability that includes intellect. If we could, I’d be pitching for the Mets. We get the gifts we get. It is, however, incumbent upon us to work hard in every aspect of our life to improve the knowledge we have, and to be patient, thoughtful, and considerate of other views. You need not be a genius to be open-minded, and most geniuses could benefit from open-mindedness and self-awareness.
As Americans, we can’t mandate or legislate equality of physical and intellectual gifts. We can, however, get on the same side of the wall to appreciate and formulate public policy. To do that, we require more listening, more reading, more learning, more thinking, and more empathy … from all of us. Likewise, we have to embrace politics through civil discussion, and not religious, partisan zealotry. That’s one wall we need to break down.
If you don’t understand or agree with the argument of another, work to do so. Maybe they are right? Before you question with anger or vitriol the conclusion of another, look at your own conclusions and test them against facts, logic, and reason … not against ideology or faith. Mostly, just because you have access to say or write something, doesn’t mean you have to do so.
Read, think, learn, rinse, repeat.
Building walls in America might have some benefit for staking out geographical boundaries. Erecting ideological barriers built on faith, party affiliation, or feelings, is always a bad idea. We need to rip down the stupid political wall as best we can … to a neighborly fence. Then across it, we should work on sharing ideas and civility. That will improve everyone’s understanding.
Mr. and Mrs. America … tear down that political wall.
Author: Richard Kelsey
Richard Kelsey is the Editor-in-Chief of Committed Conservative.
He is a trial Attorney and author of the new book on higher education, “Of Serfs and Lords: Why College Tuition is Creating a Debtor Class”
Rich is a former Assistant Law School Dean and Law Professor. At Mason Law Kelsey conceived of, planned, and brought to fruition Mason’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, known as CPIP, drawing on his expertise as a former CEO of a technology company specializing in combating cyber-fraud.
Before returning to private practice, Rich taught legal writing and analysis and an advanced litigation seminar. In 2014 he was elected by the graduating class as the faculty speaker at their graduation.
He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, radio and on TV. Rich has appeared on hundreds of stations as a legal expert or political commentator. He provided the legal analysis for all stages of the Bob McDonnell trial and appeal for numerous outlets including NPR and WMAL.
Rich also writes on occasion for the American Spectator and CNSNews.com.
In his free time, Rich is part of the baseball mafia of Northern Virginia, serving on numerous boards and as a little league and travel baseball coach.
His Twitter handle is @richkelsey.