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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Guessing the Motive

The question of motives is a key question. Just take an easy example. A young wife loses her husband in a tragic accident. A man who comforts her for her benefit is a nice guy. A man who comforts her in the hopes of seducing her is a "player", a not-nice-guy-at-all. The act is the same -- comfort. The motive determines whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. Unfortunately, common sense would tell us that guessing motives can be a very difficult thing to do. Fortunately, it appears that very, very few people are aware of that common sense.

Take, for instance, this whole "birther" thing. Now, the facts are simple. A group of disgruntled Hillary Clinton enthusiasts started the "Was Obama born in the United States?" question thing. It was fed by comments from people like the president's grandmother who said he was born in Kenya and Michelle Obama who referred to Kenya as his "home country". It wasn't helpful when the ambassador from Kenya said that the president was born there. All of this fed the "birther" idea. Now, let me say up front that I am not a "birther". To me it's a moot point. I just don't care. But what has fascinated me in this whole discussion has been the claims of motivation from the president's supporters. You see, even though it was people from his Secretary of State that started the question and even though it was people like his wife, grandmother, and the Kenyan ambassador that fueled it, it appears that the only possible motivation for "birthers" is racism. That's right. No one could suggest this stuff if they weren't racists at heart. And without even batting an eye, the secret motivations of the heart have been easily and cleanly extracted and shown for all to view.

Or how about this whole homosexual thing? Now, lots of people who call themselves Christians have read their Bibles and concluded that homosexual behavior is against God's moral law. They look at history and have concluded that homosexual behavior is against God's moral law. Further, they examine the history of the Church and the world and find that the only functioning definition of marriage throughout history has been the union of male and female. So, they take that position. And all of the sudden the world is certain what the motivation is ... and they even have a word for it -- "homophobic". That's right! The only way that anyone could actually conclude that homosexual behavior is sin and marriage is between a man and a woman is if they have this irrational fear and hatred for people who perform that particular behavior. Again, without the slightest difficulty at all, the secret motivations of the heart have been easily and cleanly extracted and shown for all to view.

It's all around us, it seems. A man or a woman who holds that life begins at conception and that murder is wrong is not a moral person. He or she is a sexist, anti-choice person. That's their motivation. It isn't a stand for right or a defense of the weak. It is a power struggle, an attempt to force their own opinions on others. And, as in the other cases, any attempt to explain the rationale for their position is simply seen as a cagey dodge, an attempt to exonerate themselves of the charge of being a religious right-wing radical intent on ruling the world with their outdated sense of morality, their disregard for the health of women, and their fake concern for right and wrong. Evil people! Nor is it just the one side of the question, either. The conservatives are quite sure that the liberals "hate America" (motivation) because they act in ways contrary to the conservative agenda, as an example. They know their motives, and they're evil!

I'd like to make a suggestion. I would like to suggest that it's not quite so easy as many think to determine motives. I would like to suggest that before we leap to a group decision that lumps everyone doing "A" with motive "B", we pause and step back. It's not fair. It's not real. And I would have to question your motives in doing so.

Unrelated Post Script:
Today is Harold Camping's "end of the world". If Camping is right and the Rapture occurs and pigs can fly and we all get rainbow unicorns for pets, this will be the end of this blog. Of course, so convinced am I that he's right that ... I have posts ready for the rest of the month. Yeah, not gonna happen.


Danny Wright said...

Hey, if you don't know when it's GOING to happen, you don't know when it's NOT. So therefore, it could be today... Right? Strictly from an odds position, when you think about it, the chances of it being today are millions of times greater than winning the lottery. Which in my rambling mind makes me wonder, how many Christians are more concerned with whether or not they will win the lottery today?

Stan said...

Well, I'm pretty sure that it is not today. I've always imagined that when someone states "I think it will be on this date," God eliminates that date from His list of possible dates because, after all, "no man knows the hour or the day." But, wait ... you're saying I'm more likely to win the lottery today than the world to end. Hmmm! Too bad I didn't buy a ticket, eh?

Marshal Art said...

Great post. Incredible how fallible human beings not granted the power to read the heart of other people can so quickly assume the motivations of those people who take opinions in opposition. Obviously, and here I'm doing exactly that, such people aren't truly divining motivation. They are applying motivation in order to demonize their opponents and label them in a negative way. But I can support this "divination" of my own with the knowledge of the true motivations of the people being demonized. For example, as you suggest, pro-lifers' motivations are obvious. They are pro-life.

One example of yours, however, is a bit off. The idea that liberals hate America or want to destroy it comes from a frustration that libs insist on policies that are known failures. It has become a case of, "if you don't want to kill yourself, why do continue to do things that will kill you?" So the slight distinction is that "libs hate America and want to destroy it" is more a matter of hyperbole than guessing motivation. Nonetheless, I would agree that it is not a good tactic to make the accusation, especially without a rock solid explanation. Far better to attack the faults of the actual policy proposal on it's lack of merit.

Stan said...

"The idea that liberals hate America or want to destroy it comes from a frustration that libs insist on policies that are known failures."

In your opinion. Not that I'm disagreeing, but they don't agree. They believe that their ideas are for the best. Or, let me ask you, do you really believe that all those liberals out there are consciously thinking, "What's the best way that we can derail the country in order to destroy it"?

Danny Wright said...

Hey, that's begging the question isn't it? There is no reason to assume ,or evidence that there is, much thinking going on at all.

Marshal Art said...

No. Not exactly. On one hand, I agree that they believe their policy proposals are sound, despite their close resemblance to failed attempts at similar policies. In this case, it is as I said that those who say the libs want to destroy America are are referring to the failures of the past and how implementing them now would produce the same results. It's more rhetorical, than a guess at motives.

On the other hand, as Obama wants to "fundamentally change" the nation, he has to destroy what it is to get there. So in that sense, the accusation is accurate. However, I think the first possibility is more likely what is going on.

More to the point, this "lib destroying America" thing is less a guess at motivations than a warning of the results of their proposals.

Stan said...

Yes, Dan, I suppose it might be. On the other hand, I am of the opinion that all people act rationally. They act according to what they believe. Now, if what they believe is irrational, then their actions will appear irrational to others, but they are still acting according to what they believe. I find it hard to believe that anyone acts otherwise. That is, I have no way of comprehending someone who acts with total disregard for anything at all that they consider "the right thing to do". Even a suicide bomber, as incomprehensible and irrational as that might seem, is acting according to what he/she considers "the right thing to do". Thus, I still assume, perhaps without much evidence, that liberals are acting according to what they think is "the right thing to do".

Marshall, it would seem, then, that you are agreeing with me. The motivation is not "I hate America and want to destroy it", but something else. The problem is that the method and results appear to you and me to be detrimental to America, but I would still hold that the motivation (the point of this post) is not intended as such. I would contend that there are anti-American folk out there who do not have the best interest of this country in mind and who believe that destroying this country would be the best option. I've even read of folk who argue that human beings are a detriment to the universe and ought to be eliminated. But, at least in those cases, we have their stated motivation.