When he announces a policy my gut reaction is to be offended, decide it’s just another indication of his incompetence, and hope it doesn’t work. As an example, consider the tariffs he has been placing on friend and foe. When I first heard about them, I immediately declared them a terrible idea. I couldn’t wait for the policy to blow up in his face.
Eventually it occurred to me, and it has been difficult to admit, that my opinion on issues was being formed from knowledge of the source rather than knowledge of the issue. If Trump says he’s for it, I’m against it.
I finally realized this was a terrible way to think, going against all my training as a mathematician. I know that evil people can sometimes say wise things. But my attitude didn’t allow me to discern such occasions. I was being the jerk in knee-jerk.
I believe China has been attempting to capture our technical expertise by demanding it as a condition for a business to operate in the country and by stealing it in any other way possible. So why was I blaming the president for tackling that problem via tariffs, and perhaps other means. Knee-jerk!
I’m a strong believer in immigration. Every day I’m grateful for the folks from various regions of the world who touch my life, from work friendships to close friends to varieties of tasty foods I’d never otherwise sample. So when Trump attacked the arrival of those from other lands, I immediately formed an opinion he was wrong in every sense. But we’ve always had an immigration policy, often flawed, from early days in our country. So why wasn’t I examining the issue more closely? Knee-jerk!
Don’t get me wrong. Recognizing the problem does not imply accepting Trump’s solution to it. I think his approaches often border on the insane and without a doubt on the cruel. What I’m saying is I should not state a problem doesn’t exist just because Trump says it does. But I don’t have to agree with his solution method either.
It turns out knee-jerkism isn’t a partisan disease or even close.
One need only mention climate change. I will never understand how any individual cannot accept the evidence that shows conclusively our planet is in a race to destruction, not 200 years from now, not 100, but closer to 30. Ah, now I understand. Knee-jerk!
How about Medicare for All? Just the words invoke cries of socialism by those with no knowledge how such a system would be implemented or even if there might be workable ways of handling it. Or even what socialism really is. Knee-jerk!
Knee-jerkism appears on both sides of almost every major issue. As an example, consider the special prosecutor investigation into the Trump campaign involvement with Russia. One side is absolutely convinced it will lead to impeachment. The other considers it a witch hunt without merit. Neither side knows what the final outcome will be, but both sides have their stands staked out independent of knowledge. Knee-jerk!
Many exhibiting the knee-jerk disease have zero understanding of the issues, relying only on the source they choose to dictate their position. Say Trump and we’re against it. Say Obama and they’re against it.
Knee-jerkism is dangerous. Those of us who employ it could bring disaster. Because it doesn’t allow us to recognize real problems, and, if we don’t recognize them, we can’t solve them. Even worse, if it causes me to take a stand that eventually turns out to be wrong, I will have done harm to the political side I favor.
So I beg us all, me especially, not to engage in the activity. Because every time I do I am giving up my ability to think freely, to analyze a situation and make up my own mind. I don’t want to be like that.