Sunday, May 12, 2013
Will these young people grow up to adopt the current consensus?
A Pew poll aimed to find out what people in the United States all agree on. They got 90 percent assent, or close to that number, to a list of assertions.
Some of us are not like others of us, I realized reading through the list. On the other hand, maybe I'm not so far removed from opinions of the crowd as I might like sometimes to image myself. What follows is a snapshot of my reactions to the study.
Pew's areas of near universal agreement are in bold face; some of my responses to these items are in italics.
—believe in God.
Well, I do that -- but I worry that a lot of my sister and brother citizens seem attached to a rather demonic conception of the Deity. On the other hand, I sure don't want any more Wars of Religion, so mostly I remember to be polite about this.
—are very patriotic.
Not my best subject. I love this country, the land and our recurrent outbreaks of struggle toward greater equity and justice. I feel inexpressibly lucky to live with the wealth and security that we enjoy. But ultimately I sign on with the common English lyrics sung to the tune "Finlandia":
"This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine."
—consider preventing terrorism a very important foreign policy goal.
Huh? Preventing terrorism is much to be desired, but this only occasionally relates to "foreign policy." When you are the leading world empire -- or trying to be -- "foreign policy" is a very inadequate label for your international behavior.
—admire those who get rich by working hard.
No. Nor do I usually think those who get rich got there by working hard. Mostly they stole their wealth fair and square.
—think society should ensure everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.
There's something I can agree with. There are some crooks who get in the way. See the previous response.
—think it’s important to get more than a high school education.
Yes. Not certain this requires going to more school, though that probably helps provide a context for learning.
—favor teaching sex education in public schools.
—find birth control morally acceptable.
Of course-- and essential for women's autonomy and dignity.
—believe cloning humans would be morally wrong.
I haven't thought this through really, but I instinctively recoil, along with the rest of the 90 percent.
—believe it’s wrong for married people to have affairs.
Probably, unless people can agree on some other arrangement and handle any emotional fallout. We've made marriage into a contract between two people -- not society or our families -- and we need to keep our promises to each other, whatever those promises are. Fidelity is usually one of them. And children should probably have some claim on their parents' behavior.
—are interested in keeping up with national affairs.
Yes. Also interested in influencing the national direction; that takes work.
—believe it’s their duty to always vote.
Gee, an awful lot of people who believe this must be disappointed in themselves. I do it, but I can imagine feeling it was less than meaningful. On the other hand, I think campaigns and citizen activity are good for us, building our capacity for collective action.
How do you respond to this list? Are you in agreement with the 90 percent? Or perhaps, like me, you have some reservations?