The Thought Police


About That

The Thought Police

The nags on social media have been reminding me that I haven’t posted again for a while. Considering how many bots and cranks they’ve allowed to post misinformation and hate-filled propaganda, let’s say I’m not impressed. Irritated and tired of being nagged to “sell” something or make an “offer” in my posts, but not impressed. And not motivated to contemplate any of their ideas, which would keep me at the keyboard damned near 24/7.

Notta Louden agreed with me this morning. We’re in that limbo of having no students show up for class. It happens, but we are often caught without a Plan B for such days. I mentioned to her my social media frustration as we began sorting Social Studies articles.

“Because you have a life,” she said. “You and me, we prefer human contact to the know-nothings who troll so they can spout off whatever nonsense pops into what’s left of their minds.”

“I don’t know about know-nothings,” I said. “That spouting off resulted in the White House and Congress crowd we have now. Seems all that vileness was what half the country was thinking anyway.”

“If that’s so,” Notta said, “then, from the other half of the country, I say, ‘Shame on you! Your brain has better things to do.”

“Such as?”

“Such as learning. Such as talking to other people, not spamming or igniting them.”

“You mean flaming?”

“I mean calling people names because you don’t have any real reason to dislike them or what they believe, but they make you uncomfortable. Half the time ‘uncomfortable’ is only another word for ‘brain dead.’’

“Some folks would disagree with you,” I said. “They will insist they do think.”

She made her dismissive noise. “That’s not thinking. That’s reaching back to an old shelf in your brain and using an old thought like a concrete block to build a wall around what they’ve always thought. Keeps any hope of change out, and, without change, they die. Walled off minds like that are dead minds. And dead minds will buy anything that mortars in their block walls.”

“Lost cause, then?”

“I don’t know,” she said with a sigh. “Some days, it’s like attacking those walls with a spoon. But I suppose we have to keep trying. It’s like that story you told me about the carb tree.”

“Carob tree,” I said. “Honi and the carob tree.* Appropriate for this time of year, which we celebrate the Birthday of Trees.”

“Trees are good,” Notta agreed, “but so is continuing to reach out and break down the walls with better thoughts.”

“Better thoughts?”

“Yeah, like maybe not everything male or white is sacrosanct. Like women are human beings capable of self-governing and religion is no grounds at all for murder.”

“You’re going to an extreme here, Notta. Some people might hold some of those views, but it is the way their lives and culture want them to think.”

“I’m saying it’s time they had some new thoughts.”

“Drill into their skulls and pour it in?” I tried to laugh.

“If need be.” She laughed at herself a little. “No, they need to learn to change with the world and think new thoughts.”

“Are we talking about Thought Police here?” I asked. “That’s the usual comment made when people claim a right to their feelings.”

She waved my thought away. “Don’t confuse feeling and thinking. No, feeling you can’t help. We have sensory input and react; that’s normal. We can’t always control how we feel. And maybe we shouldn’t control it, but we should see it for what it is: an unreasoning reaction to something we don’t understand.”

“Like a child not understanding that a hot stove burns?”

Another disgusted look. “That’s pretty simple-minded for an example, but I suppose so. Burns hurt, therefore hot stoves are to be avoided.

“But dealing with people and experiencing different ideas isn’t like touching a hot stove. It takes a higher level of reason. More work, which is probably why so many people won’t bother. They don’t want to understand.

“There’s a lot of religions and cultures I don’t understand. But I don’t leave it at ‘that’s not me, therefore it’s bad and needs to go away.’ If I don’t understand something I try to learn about it and see if I can understand it. And not from only one source, one person. I prefer to find out for myself from lots of sources and weigh them according to my own reason. That’s how I go from feeling to thinking, even if there are folks who skip the work and go straight to what they call ‘thinking.’

“Thinking is hanging words on that feeling and that you can control. Or should. Because you think it and that’s fine, but it might not help anyone else. If it does, then you speak or post or write or whatever. If it doesn’t, keep it to yourself.”

“In other words, always think what you say, but don’t always say what you think.”

“Works for me!”

“Social Media would hate you.”

Notta grinned. “Well, you know what social media and their sales force can do with that thought.”

*, accessed January 29, 2018.

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