OPINION: Listen to your mother, think for yourself

One of the basic tenets we teach in journalism school is to question everything. Don’t ever take anything for granted or at face value until you’ve examined it from every angle, considered all the alternatives, kicked the tires and opened it up to see what makes it tick. Take, for instance, President Obama’s speech to school children Tuesday that had so many conservatives in an uproar.
Now I don’t consider myself to be exceptionally intelligent. I was an average student at best in school. But if my parents had, metaphorically, plugged my ears and locked me in a closet to prevent me from hearing the president – or anyone else for that matter – speak, then the first thing I would have done when the opportunity presented itself would have been to find a copy or recording of the speech and read or hear what it was that they deemed so detrimental to my tender young brain.
I love my parents but I’m not going to buy into whatever they tell me just because they say so. I’ve seen them bleed and walk around in their underwear. They’re only human, too, and if they were the repository of all that is wise and good then I suspect we would have had it much easier growing up.
But there is apparently a small, thankfully, segment of the population out there that never figured that out. They’re the ones going around humming the line from the old hymn, “It’s good enough for me” without ever considering whether good enough really is. They’re content with the status quo, unable or unwilling to consider if things could actually be better.
Worse, they’ve allowed themselves to become Pavlov’s dogs, salivating everytime conservative talk radio or the GOP cajoles them into rising up to attack the current administration without considering how cast off they have been under administrations that purported to be on their side.
I think there’s a term for people like that. It’s cannon fodder.
I don’t have a problem with people who hold honest beliefs based on facts and sound reasoning.
I have friends I disagree with but they’re still my friends because I know they arrived at those beliefs through their own thought processes and reasoning and because they can make legitimate arguments based on the truth. After all, if we all thought alike and believed the same things, the world would be a pretty scary place.
But all these lemmings perched on the edge of a cliff waiting for their talk radio hosts and politicians to tell them to jump reminds me of a lesson I learned, yes, from my mother, who used to tell me when I was going along just to go along, “If so-and-so jumped in a lake, would you?”

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University, MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.

Marty Russell