I am right – you are wrong – right?

“You won’t change my mind.”

This is a statement that is used as a quick stop to just about any debate – political or otherwise. In the American political sphere, it is said by people on both sides of the aisle, and members from both sides regularly accuse the other side of saying it more often.

Which isn’t true.

Both are equally guilty, and usually the statement involves holding onto political “principles,” or otherwise showing complete loyalty to the concepts being promoted by the pundit du jour. And both sides are guilty of holding onto long-standing political philosophies simply for the sake of loyalty, in spite of changing facts on the ground.

For example, on the left, there is the “settled science” of climate change caused by man – an oxymoron on its face, since there is no such thing as “settled science.” Also, in all of the documentation about our changing weather patterns, there is barely (if ever) any mention of other relevant forces, like our sun. When there is talk about reducing carbon emissions, there is no talk about recycling carbon, to create bio-fuel. Perhaps that is somewhat fair, since the “fuel” that can be created like that isn’t particularly suitable for making fuel for our cars, but petrochemicals are everywhere in our society. It is difficult to think that bio-fuel made by algae that is fed with carbon emissions cannot be used to produce something, even if it’s packaging for our “never touched by man” drinking water.

On the right, there is the general thought that the US has too many immigrants. They are taking up all of our jobs, and bringing crime to our shores. Statistically speaking, neither statement is correct, but we still need a wall. The saddest part of this political thinking is that it is assuming that our nation has a cement ceiling restricting economic growth – no matter what we do, there will always be a finite number of jobs and businesses, and sooner or later, we will reach that limit. Presumably, we must reserve that limited resource for people who were born here, and ignore the fact that historically, our nation has enjoyed the greatest levels of economic growth when we have allowed or encouraged immigration.

The problems that we’re facing today as a nation are not simple, but more often than not, solutions to problems lie somewhere in between the political lines we have drawn to divide ourselves. Environmental problems like carbon emissions are more likely to be solved by capitalism, through scientific innovation that is focused on reducing emissions through recycling. We have done a great deal to reduce emissions at this point, and the next step is to find ways to use waste to make something else of value – like plastics from algae. The left won’t suggest that, but people on the right have occasionally been suggesting it.

Fear over job losses and immigrants have been brewing for years, with a steep increase starting after 9/11. While both sides have been battling over this issue, the primary problem with immigration has been largely ignored. Our legal immigration system is broken. There is no point to saying “people need to enter this country legally” when the bureaucracy involved is so flawed, it is nearly impossible. Before we talk about illegal immigrants, we should be demanding that our elected officials fix the legal immigration system, since there’s no point to tackling illegal immigration before that is done. We also need to remember that safety and freedom are not good bedfellows.

Above anything else, we need to stop dismissing potential solutions to problems simply because of the sources. People have political ideologies. Good ideas are non-partisan. Dismissing roughly half of the potential solutions to a given problem only increases the probability that no solution will be found. This radical notion is not about accepting “all” the ideas of anyone on either side of the aisle. It is stating that there is nothing wrong with taking the best bits and pieces of ideas from wherever they are found.

When we were young, we were taught to search for answers from multiple sources. That was meant to be a life-long skill – something all adults should do when faced with a problem to solve. Somewhere along the way, Americans stopped doing that. They chose sides, and allowed the leaders and pundits from their respective places on the political spectrum to spoon feed them information to regurgitate on demand. They created multiple generations of “You can’t change my mind” people. That has left us with massive debt, government as the largest employer (when adding all levels together), and freedom and innovation choking bureaucracies. It’s also left us sitting on one side or the other of a political divide, which only serves one group of people – the professional politicians.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how we’re doing things?

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I am right – you are wrong – right?