The person who sent this piece around, sent it with this message:

“Some of you will never read past the third paragraph. Others will devour this document and send it around the world. College students everywhere should be so lucky as to hear these words of wisdom from someone that is not a teacher. If you see this as a political piece, that speaks volumes about your approach to life and what you expect from it.”

Well, I’d never heard of Neal Boortz, but he certainly nailed down the truth –from one point of view. And, like so many people in law, in politics, and in the media – and apparently he belongs to all three groups — he seems to think that his truths, because they are true, can be opposed only by falsehoods. He seems to think that his truth is the whole story, rather than merely the case for the prosecution. It seems not to occur to him that truths can be opposed by other truths that are equally true.

Is that where you stand? Are you one who thinks that truth is all on one side, or do you see that, in real life, truth comes not row by row, but in opposites?

If all the truth were in one point of view, wouldn’t everyone have embraced that truth by now? And, conversely, if people were in the habit of conceding that opposite points of view might have their own validity, would our politics and public shouting-matches (one can hardly call them discourse) be so poisonous?

Those who are old enough to remember post-war politics may remember that there was a time when people knew that only know-it-alls thought they had a monopoly on truth. There was a time when only borderline personalities were sure that any ideas or values opposite to their own were automatically evil or stupid.

The fact is, in this world of dualities, truth comes in pairs. You can’t choose Authority OR Freedom; can’t choose Liberty OR Equality; can’t choose Individual OR Society.

Nothing comes without its valid opposite.

We choose. Either consciously or unconsciously, we choose. Life gives us no choice but choice. But the values we choose are not the only true values.

It is not true, and never can be true, that we are right and everybody else is wrong.

It isn’t true, and never can be true, that all our values are valid and any values that may cut against them are invalid.

It isn’t true, and never can be true, that all the right is on one side.

Here’s a suggestion. Whether you are liberal or conservative, read Boortz’ speech while doing two things: (a) remember that he is not wrong, and (b) remember that an equally true speech could be written that would counter every one of his points.

I predict that you will find either (a) or (b) difficult or impossible to do. But if you can at least remember that it can be done, you will be better off than most of the people in public discourse today.

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Latest Michael Ventura column. I never saw Route 66 as a boy. Kind of makes me wish I had.




Austin Chronicle – June 1, 2012

Austin, 1962. Just south of the University of Texas, a building is going up. It might be Dobie Mall. We’re facing northeast on an unfinished floor that’s open to the sky. The camera pans to follow Tod (Martin Milner) riding a cable suspended from a crane. A small UT stadium is far in the background; directly below, a residential street continues north. The camera pans west to reveal a not-yet-gigantic university, its tower, and a few buildings along the Drag. The rest is treetops. Nothing obstructs a view of distant hills.

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