When I was a kid I always looked forward to the next television appearance of a guy known as The Amazing Kreskin. Kreskin called himself a mentalist and would demonstrate his ability to read minds by surprising members of the studio audience with his knowledge about what they were thinking right then and there. He ended every demonstration with a great gimmick. The host of the show would hide Kreskin’s paycheck somewhere on the set and the mentalist didn’t get paid for the appearance unless he found it before the end of the segment.
My enjoyment of this act was tempered by maturity. As I got older it became obvious to me that it was impossible for one person to read another person’s mind. My favorite TV mentalist was certainly entertaining but it was a parlor trick. I didn’t have to know exactly how he created the illusion- it was enough to know that no one can read minds. Therefore Kreskin cannot read minds. That epiphany from my young adult years strangely applies and helps to navigate me through the chronic Red state/Blue state bickering that now passes for debate in America.
If every passionate member on the Left and Right would take the time to remind themselves of their inability to read minds we’d be spared this endless cycle of faux-argument followed by faux-outrage. You know the drill. First a famous or semi-famous person makes a specious claim about the country, the administration, or whatever- then members of the opposite ideology begin the public handwringing and name calling that leads to an eventual boycott of something somewhere.
If it isn’t Sean Penn and Michael Moore raising hackles on the Right, it’s Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck poking at the Left. The brain dead Kabuki rolls ever onward and both sides turn out to be fueled by the same mistaken assumption. The idea that it’s possible for one person to read another person’s mind lurks at the bottom of the entire national discussion.
While perusing the morning headlines today I was greeted with the latest example of false debate from actress Janeane Garafalo. Ms. Garafalo, a well-known hater of all things right wing and Republican is now calling the Tea Party protestors ‘functionally retarded.’ She then adds that anyone of these functional retards that shows up at a rally or Town Hall meeting and shouts, “I want my country back” is just speaking in code. What they really mean is, “I want my white guy back”- presumably because they can’t handle the reality of dealing with a black president.
So how is she able to pick up on and decipher this right wing code? Well it’s obvious. She can read minds. No matter how much you natter on about the Constitution and free-market capitalism Janeane will not be fooled. She’s in your head. She knows what you are really thinking. It would be comforting to think she is alone in her mind reading quackery but it turns out to be a crowded field.
Garafalo’s latest gamma-burst of stupidity is only a parry to comments made by TV/radio host Glenn Beck about the President a few weeks ago. While opining on the whole Obama/Harvard Professor/Police Officer fiasco Mr. Beck couldn’t contain him self to commentary on the President’s actions alone. In order to round out his argument he made the claim that the President was in fact, a racist. He then went on to speculate about what might cause this deep-seated hatred of white people that lay at the core of Obama’s identity. Has the President ever expressed this hatred in a speech or interview? No. But he doesn’t need to do that. Glenn Beck can read minds and he knows what the President is really thinking.
-Members of the Left just ‘know’ the war in Iraq was all about profits for the two oil men who occupied the White House at the time. Neither Bush nor Cheney claimed such a goal but the Left knows what they were really thinking.
-Many of my friends on the Right insist that Barack Obama hates the country and is engaged on a mission of sabotage in an act of personal revenge. President Obama has never articulated this as an item on his agenda but the Right knows what he’s really thinking.
Enough already. Speculation about the mindset of another may be a fun game to play but it has no place in the assessment of truth. The only proper way to judge a politician or anyone is to compare words and action. If a promise is made and broken, or a claim is found to be wanting, it is proper to draw conclusions about the veracity or competency of that person based on the evidence. But this judgment gives you zero insight into the mind of the person you’ve just passed judgment upon. It can’t provide that insight because you don’t have the ability to read minds.
Give credit to The Amazing Kreskin. At least he understood how to entertain with claims of clairvoyance. The white noise of constant outrage emanating from both the Left and Right is driving many of us to simply tune out.
If Glenn Beck and Janeane Garafalo continue to insist upon revealing the inner dialogue of their political enemies, we should demand a better show. Can you imagine the spectacle of Garafalo and Beck tearing apart the Fox News and MSNBC studios in search of their next paycheck? Now- That’s Entertainment!