The trouble with 'doubling down'

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Al Swegle, guest columnist

If we take a step back, the shooters of mass murders nationwide have had problems with social skills. Mainly they have been loners. They have thinking outside the mainstream. Instead of adjusting, they “double down” — they never admit to errors in their thinking process. They blame others, and their solution is to get a gun.

“Doubling down” is a common problem in society today. Donald Trump doesn’t admit he makes a mistake. Instead he doubles down. The base who support Donald Trump are not swayed when information surfaces that he has made a mistake. Instead the base doubles down. Donald Trump tells evangelical Christians not to pray for Democrats. We forget that Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies.

We are overlooking the value of old religious practices of tolerance and repenting. If we don’t acknowledge that we’re mixed up, we are destined to keep on being mixed up.

Loners by definition haven’t learned to get along with others. They’re mixed up. They’re deluded. We need to teach tolerance and understanding, instead of division. We need to teach social skills somewhere, whether in school, in churches or the military. We are a polarized society. We are proud that we don’t understand each other. That really doesn’t make sense.

So we get angry when we disagree. We hate our opponent. We hold grudges. We find ways to be anti-social, such as going to a gun store to build an arsenal of ammunition and military weapons. Hey, then we have power, and with power we can demand that other take notice of our views.

In the olden days, we acknowledged that we had an error in our thinking. In the olden days, we calmed down. In the olden days, we didn’t have mass murders. In the olden days, the folks whom we had a disagreement with often forgave us, often quite readily. “Hey, forget it,” they’d say. “No sweat.” Thus our anger dissipated. It evaporated. We decided to cleanse a festering wound instead of magnifying our disagreements.

We magnify by shouting. The solution is simple: Teach how to discuss instead of argue.

The Trump phenomenon isn’t a debate over political correctness, but a debate over old-fashioned courtesy and tact. It’s over social skills.

Overall, society is OK. We are just going through a phase. Most problems today are blown out of proportion by vocal and intense minorities. We have gerrymandered congressional districts and huge political war chests.

It’s not good politics to mock.

• Al Swegle, of Cedar Rapids, was Gazette farm editor from 1968 to 1987.

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