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The futility of trying to train a pig

By Michael M. Bates
web posted August 1, 2011

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is an intelligent, insightful man.  An example of that came recently when he was asked why he won't hire clerks who have substantive philosophical disagreements with him:  "It's like trying to train a pig.  It wastes your time, and it aggravates the pig."

Try as I may, I have considerable difficulty applying Justice Thomas's sage observation to my daily life.  A reminder came earlier this week.

We were having dinner with a very good friend who I've known for over 40 years.  She is a traditional JFK Democrat who hasn't noticed her party's since changed just a little bit.  The conversation went along well until the subject turned to Social Security.  It's a rip-off because, she asserted, no one has ever gotten out of the system what they paid into it.

I noted that the very first Social Security recipient put in less than $25 and ended up receiving more than $25,000 in government checks.  My point was such a system was obviously actuarially unsound from the very beginning and thus unsustainable.  My friend looked at me skeptically.  Since I'm used to getting looks like that, I went on.

A person earning average wages who retired in 1980 at 65 received their contributions (a misleading term since there's nothing voluntary about it) as well as their employer's contributions back in Social Security checks in 2.8 years.  She had a ready response: "I don't believe it."

What do you do when seemingly rational, bright persons choose not to believe documented facts because it conflicts with what they "know"?   The late Congressman Larry McDonald (D-GA) once told me how he handled similar situations.  If a person walks up to you claiming he just saw a purple elephant, he said, don't bother trying to persuade him there aren't purple elephants.  There's nothing you can say that'll convince them otherwise.  They are just too detached from reality to devote any time to.

I have another friend, this one a high school classmate with whom I reconnected via social media.  We've had several exchanges involving politics and the most recent one is fairly typical.  I'd pointed out that a left wing congressman she's expressed admiration for has received 100 percent favorable ratings from the National Abortion Rights Action League, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, and the National Organization for Women.

Her carefully crafted response begins; "Ok, let me get this straight, you're against rights for gays, African Americans and WOMEN! Typical Republican.  I hope you're independently wealthy as you'll do well with your Party."

Where do you even begin with something like that?  Merely citing her hero's popularity with an assortment of special-interest groups makes me the bigot.  I'm certain this woman knows virtually nothing about these outfits, other than their innocuous sounding names.  They are mostly liberal pressure groups advocating bigger, more expensive, and more intrusive government.

NOW, for example, has about as much to do with women's rights as I do with classical music appreciation.  Last month, it passed a resolution urging the age to receive full Social Security benefits be lowered.  This comes at a time when even leftists have shown a modicum of concern over exploding entitlements. 

NOW also passed a resolution calling for "Medicare for All."  Who's going to pony up for that?  The 51 percent of households that pay no Federal income tax?  Other NOW resolutions promoted its "Destigmatizing Abortion Ad Hoc Committee," recommended the Violence Against Women Act be amended to ignore a complainant's illegal immigrant status, and called for a Federal law "defining reproductive rights explicitly as enforceable civil rights."  For those like my friend who apparently haven't been paying attention, "reproductive rights" is code for abortion on demand, preferably paid for with tax dollars.

I was going to reply to my classmate's comment, citing chapter and verse, but on further reflection have decided not to.  Why bother?  All I'd get in return, most probably, are more ad hominem unpleasantries and bumper sticker slogans.  And if I brought up Justice Thomas's remark, no doubt it would be interpreted as me calling her a pig. 

A neighbor and I had a very brief discussion about Bill Clinton a few weeks ago.  It ended with her saying. "I don't have time like you do to read facts and figures and statistics.  But I'm a strong Democrat, and (emphasis in original) I KNOW WHAT I BELIEVE!"

Sadly, that's pretty characteristic of most Democrats/liberals I've encountered.  They admittedly don't know very much, but they know with absolute certainty what they believe.  Ignorance is bliss, and they're among the happiest folks on earth.

If you're a conservative, the odds are pretty good that you've had experiences similar to mine.  What we need to do, I guess, is adhere to Justice Thomas's excellent guidance and stop wasting our time discussing politics with folks who ain't never, never, never going to get it.  Plus, we'll cease aggravating them, which is a kindness.   Now if I can just follow my own advice . . . ESR

Michael M. Bates is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right. His web site can be found at http://www.michaelmbates.com/.


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