Time Out

Notes from a flaming moderate

Is That The Whisper of Wisdom I Hear?

Poster boys for the Right and Left took identical positions,


People in Washington, DC call themselves political and news "junkies," because they just can't get enough of either, and the supply is always available. The Sunday morning ritual here is overindulgence in both substances - news, interviews and "talking head" shows on T.V., Sunday newspapers and opinion pieces, supplemented by the internet - these are digested, discussed and debated by the locals with the passion other cities reserve for sports.

Somewhere in the midst of the din of this past Sunday's politico-babel, I stopped still. My brain shifted from reading a page of the Washington Post to listening to Fox news. Could it be? Was it true? Or was I just confused by all the multitasking? Because it seemed to me (and upon checking I saw it was indeed true)...that Rudy Giuliani on Fox and Tariq Ramadan in the Washington Post - poster boys for the political Right and Left - took identical positions on the proposed building of the Mosque at Ground Zero

Both were against it. Both acknowledged, without any doubt, that freedom of religion guaranteed the right of Muslims - just like any other religious group - to build wherever they want. And both believed that to do so, at this time, would not be a wise decision. Wisdom dictated that now is a time to honor the sensitivities of the families of victims of 9/11 and other Americans, argued both the former Republican mayor of New York City and the politically Left professor of Islamic studies, This is a time to seek the common good, not confrontation. Build the Mosque elsewhere, they advised. That would be wise.

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Wisdom is non-partisan. One psychologist who researches the subject, Paul Baltes, defines wisdom as the integration of mind and virtue. Experience and information are involved in wisdom, of course, but it can be seen most clearly in judgment, especially in situations like the Ground Zero Mosque, where emotions tend to run high, and the matter is important, but uncertain. The wise person has good emotional regulation, sees nuance and multiple points of view, and is oriented more toward the common good than toward self-centered aims.

In today's 24 hour news cycle, where popularity rules, knowledge is traded for rankings and information shrieks at diminishing attention spans it is good to stop and listen - to hear the whisper of wisdom.

 

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D., is affiliated with the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at the George Washington University.

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