Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"A Circuitous Route To An Appropriate Outcome"

An intriguing title?  Or one transparently tipping the payoff?  I am thinking now possibly both.  But I like it, so it stays.

Your logical reasoning powers have delivered a confident determination.  And what turns out to work is exactly the opposite.

(Note:  Which, coincidentally, is the psychological “Flavor of the Month.”  I read a book on the subject, plus three subsequent book reviews, such as the premise-revealing The Knowledge Illusion, arguing that our intellectual processing system is shoveling us nonsense, leading us to make unhelpful decisions, as reflected in another reviewed book on the subject entitled:  Denying to the Grave:  Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save us.  


Imagine a Just Thinking person learning that the operation helping him think is falling down on the job?  What else am I going to think with?  My toes?

MY TOES:  “Sorry, we’re just foot fringe with toenails.”

The idea for today’s scribbling came to me – or came back to me, as I may have mentioned it before and forgotten – while watching a time-passing if not entirely engrossing episode of Blue Bloods, concerning the issue of flag burning. 

Extraneous Side Trip:

I find myself surprisingly “in sync” with successful series dramas (e.g., Blue Bloods and Bull – but I am embarrassingly tone deaf when it comes to hit comedies. 

By the way, you know why my posts are sometimes too long?  “Extraneous side trips.”  Extending them longer still by allotting space for acknowledging I do that.  I actually enjoy them – finding them the difference between “a walk” and “a walk occasionally interrupted to identify some flowers.”  Justification of Wordiness” also fattens the narrative.  And now I’ll stop.)

Back in the 1960’s and early 70’s, opponents of the Viet Nam War sometimes burned the American flag as a protest.  (Which makes sense since that’s when the Viet Nam War took place.  Protesting a war before or after it takes place is like, “What are you doing?”... Okay, no more.)

In 1989, in a tight 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court determined in Texas v. Johnson that the previously punishable burning of the flag was protected as “symbolic speech” under the First Amendment of the constitution. 

It was now the Law of the Land.  Henceforth, no one could be prosecuted for taking a match to “The Stars and Stripes.”

Some people hated that decision.

“Our soldiers fought and died under that flag.”

Rebutted the other side, with paralleling fervor,

“And one of the main things they fought and died for was the lawful expression of ‘Free Speech (including the ‘symbolic’ variety).”

The decision’s detractors believed that the court’s ruling opened the door to permissible flag burning.  With protesters now freed to wreak havoc without consequence, the desecration of “Old Glory” would unquestionably increase.

Except it didn’t.  In fact, the exact opposite happened.

Why did it work out that way?  It worked out that way because

What kind of protest is engaging in an “Act of Defiance” that is totally legal?

Reflecting the neglected aphorism:

“You know how to get people to stop doing something?  Let ‘em.”

The Texas v. Johnson decision offended substantial numbers of American citizens, including Supreme Court Justice Kennedy who, in his written “Majority of the Court” opinion allowing flag burning observed, “The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like.”  (I, a naturalized American, was not crazy about it myself.)

But, if they (we) put their (our) grumpiness aside – no easy task, I assure you – those who came out on the “short end” of that decision will realize they got exactly what they wanted.

Nobody’s burning the flag.

It is possible the Supreme Court majority was simply following the law.  But I’d like to believe – for the validity of this example – that they knew precisely what they were doing.

Hypothetical Conclusion:

If it is true, as numerous psychologists have demonstrated, that when we believe we are “Thinking right” we are actually thinking wrong, then, imaginably, conversely, when we are “Thinking wrong” we may actually be thinking right.

Suggesting we ought to consider this strategy more regularly.

Or am I thinking wrongly about that?  

(And believing I’m not.)

1 comment:

JED said...

Apparently, it's illegal to burn the flag of the United States in other countries because they seem to do it pretty often. What do we do now?