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I Was Wrong

When was the last time you changed your mind about an issue?

“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” – Gelett Burgess 

Or else – as in my case, Mister Burgess – you were right about everything in the first place. 

Seriously, I’ve moderated my views on some issues, rounding off the sharp edges as it were. But there are very few topics on which I’ve done a near 180-degree turn. 

One of those is hunting. I used to be completely opposed. I wasn’t a PETA-phile, mind you, but I thought hunters were basically cruel people who loved to kill defenseless creatures. 

Then I made friends with a hunter who showed me I was being a hypocrite. After all, I eat meat – chicken, beef, pork, and the best food of all time, bacon. 

Much of the livestock that ends up on supermarket shelves are raised in cramped and often inhumane conditions but it doesn’t stop me from making chicken parmesan for dinner. 

My hunter friend pointed out that it’s intellectually dishonest to happily eat meat but leave it to someone else to do the dirty work and then have the gall to think hunters are the bad guys. Venison is his main source of meat; he wastes nothing.  

The only people with completely clean hands in this debate are the vegans and I’m not planning to become one. I’m also not taking up hunting but I acknowledge that, unlike me, hunters are taking responsibility for their food supply. At least the deer have a decent life of freedom before they become dinner. That’s more than can be said for the non-free range chicken I served last night. 

I bring this up because debate in this country has become ever shriller and more polarized with the middle ground evaporating all the time. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. But most people are essentially cherry pickers – we choose which statistics we trust and arm ourselves with studies that agree with our opinion. 

Education writer Diane Ravitch was criticized for going from being a staunch supporter of the No Child Left Behind law to believing it is hurting education. If you read her explanation of her gradual metamorphosis, you realize she simply saw more and more evidence of the harm it was causing until she couldn’t support the law anymore.

Leftist writer Christopher Hitchens, who died last month, broke ranks with the left over several issues, including the Iraq War. 

You don’t have to agree with Ravitch or Hitchens to give them credit for allowing their views to evolve in light of new events and evidence. In other words, when we call someone a “flip-flopper” does it really mean he has an open mind? (Of course when a politician flip flops, there is always the question of whether it was for expediency or a true conversion.) 

So my question is this: When was the last time you changed your mind about an issue? Or let new evidence moderate your views? 

Mark Jamison January 19, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Margie, you were not entirely wrong. One of the few things I have enjoyed about growing older is gaining the ability/willingness to see the other side and adjust my opinions accordingly. That being said I don't think I've ever done a complete 180 but rather settled on the belief that the truth, no matter how muddy, is somewhere in the middle. Your use of deer hunting is a perfect example in that your argument that it is "more moral" to harvest a surplus of deer to put food on the table instead of promoting the horrific state of affairs that we find ourselves in regarding factory farming is in miy opinion spot on. However the photo you use to accent your article represents something all together different. (And I mean no offense to the person in the photo. I do not know him or his situation) Walt is right and I don't want to turn this into a debate over deer hunting (actually I do but I won't) but I have been arguing this particular subject from both sides for forty years and if nothing else I've learned that there is no clear cut right or wrong side of the argument but when we are all willing to "change our mind" even just a little we get a lot closer to the truth.
Robert Smigielski January 19, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Also to Mr/Mrs "I Am Knowledge" black bear makes a great rug and IS ACTUALLY EATEN. The animal is similar in taste to pork and plenty of wild game cook books have recipes for preparing and serving black bear for the table. So you now have an opportunity to know even more about hunting. Rob
Lenny January 20, 2012 at 01:04 AM
I think a person's viewpoints resemble a lump of clay. When they are young, their viewpoints are molded easily, possibly changing many times in their young years. As a person gets older, their opinions on issues solidify based on their experiences-just like the way clay hardens. Eventually you reach a point where you are quite set in your ways, and just like a solid dried piece of clay, there isn't much you can do to change it. I have seen my viewpoints change over the course of my life. When I was a teenager (early 90's), I was quite liberal on most issues. As I reached my 20's, my views started moving to the right, most notably when it comes to gay issues and abortion. When I found out that a few people I know had some negative experiences with homosexuality, and seeing the things you never hear about in the media, it really opened my eyes to the dark side of it. As for abortion, I just kinda sat on the fence until my son was born. Once that happened, I became what I would term "Pro-Child". I still hold a couple of liberal stands, such as on the environment, but my pendulum has swung to the right and has stayed there for a good number of years.
Mark Jamison January 20, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Seriously ?
Margie Peterson January 20, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Thank you, Jaded1, for the kind words and to everybody who took the time to comment. Walt, as far as comments go, I think some of these are very much to the point. But I agree that isn't always the case. Years ago I wrote a column that discussed some parenting issue and made the mistake of using the cliche "Everything else is basket weaving." I found out in no time how many basket weavers I had ticked off. More recently in a column on the PSSAs, I was essentially called an elitist by one commenter and a champion of mediocrity by another for the same column. It comes with the territory.

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