September 25, 2010

Last night on Channel 2, I experienced a great test of one’s built in prejudices. Almanac did a short feature to demonstrate that pre-disposition influences how your brain sees and hears input. Blocking all visuals and eliminating identification of who was speaking, they ran a series of quotes made by recent politicians in the Minnesota election races. The audience was asked to identify who made the statement. It was amazing. I found myself agreeing with statements that-had I known who was speaking- I would have found fault with, and likewise, disagreeing with one or two that were quotations from those politicians I favor.

Although the emphasis of the feature was to demonstrate how physical features and mannerisms influence audience objections or acceptance, it also clearly showed that our own political leanings also influence what we hear and how we hear it-and most importantly, what we block – so that we protect our own mindset, rather than open our minds to new and perhaps better, ideas.

I first was awakened to this phenomenon during the 2008 elections, when as a supporter of MinnPost, I attended several group viewings of the presidential debates. As the audience assembled, we were often seated at random in mixed groups – Republican, Democrat, and Undecided. We watched the debate; then held a table and group discussion led by MinnPost personnel about whom we thought “won” the debate, and why. It, too, was an amazing experience and gave me what I needed to make an informed decision. I altered my opinion on some things; I solidified my opinion on others, and all in all, because of that experience, I probably made the most informed and non-emotional decisions I have ever made in a national election.

Unfortunately, it was not permanently embedded in my brain as my primary way of gathering information, and I continually have to remind myself that I need to set aside innate prejudices, listen and absorb a better reality before I make a decision.

This is not an easy task, I understand that. But it is why the Tea Party Movement to remove all incumbents and start over will not yield results – even if they are successful in winning the seats. One needs not get rid of the old; one needs to learn to listen, collaborate, compromise, and use the power of all ideas to come up with the best direction for our nation. Once upon a time, I think we as a country knew that. Today, in spite of a movement in my professional life towards interaction, collaboration and engagement, the political world has moved to that world of isolation where only one’s OWN ideas have merit. What an interesting counter-movement – and topic for yet another blog.

This morning, I just want to share that MinnPost once again has proven their worth. They picked up that Almanac exercise from the show last night which is now posted on YouTube and included it as a feature in the Saturday edition. Check out David Gillette’s article at http://www.MinnPost.com, watch the No Bias Election Guide and see if it helps you to focus on the issues and not on the personalities or political ideology.

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