(Part 2 of our discussion from David French’s Divided We Fall, although bear with me; it will take us an intentional minute to get there…)
Last fall I witnessed a horrendous outcome. No doubt an unmistakable atrocity. It was such a gross injustice, in fact, I actually looked on Twitter to see what was trending; maybe there was more we could do.
It was November 20th — feeling like just one more crushing blow in an ongoing, crushing year.
We were in Minneapolis — or at least watching events unfold there on TV.
My beloved Boilermakers were playing the Golden Gophers from the University of Minnesota on the gridiron. It was a Friday night, and we had fallen behind early; it was seemingly one of those death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts kind of games, where we just couldn’t seem to make any progress. Whatever we did, we were still behind; they played better. There was mistake after mistake. That is, until the game’s climactic conclusion. Redemption was near.
Down 11 at the half, our young men persevered in enemy territory. We continued to close the gap. With less than a mere minute to go, we were driving; we had a sweet set up. QB Jack Plummer throws a perfect strike to tight end Payne Durham. Durham reels it in — “TOUCHDOWN!” The Purdue celebration begins!
And then came the flag. With no visible contact on live television, while one official emphatically signaled the score, another threw that crappy yellow flag for offensive pass interference. The touchdown was wiped off the board. Plummer threw an interception on the next play. Game over. Purdue loses. Horrendous, indeed.
One of my favorite pastimes is watching Purdue sports. It doesn’t matter which sport or which season — football, basketball, volleyball, you-name-it. Any team’s torso adorned with “Purdue Pete,” the “Boilermaker Special,” or the historic griffin (affectionately referred to on campus as “the flying chicken”) is the immediate object of my affection, attention, and adoration. And no doubt, the absolute, undeniable best way to watch Purdue sports is to watch with Purdue fans. [Insert special shout out to each of you here.]
We share the same passion. We get the way each other thinks. We cheer — and jeer — in unison. But there’s one more thing…
We share a perspective. We share a bias. No matter how physically different we may be, we share — as referenced in Chapter 5 by David French’s excellent book, Divided We Fall — what’s called a “predeliberation tendency” in regard to Purdue University.
To “deliberate” means to engage in long and careful consideration. It means to carefully weigh or cautiously consider. It is marked by a slow decision-making process. A predeliberation tendency is different; such means prior to any actual consideration, we’re already inclined to lean a certain way or believe a certain thing. Objectivity is decreased. The comfort and convenience of watching the Purdue game with Purdue fans, therefore, is that I don’t have to seriously consider any other angle as credible or worthy of weighing. I don’t have to even interact with the holder of those angles, thinking I know enough — that my fellow Purdue fans are enough. Predeliberation thus omits the care and the caution that prudent deliberation requires.
But there’s one more aspect to a predeliberation tendency which may be the reason French suggests that “if you read only one chapter in this book, this is the chapter to read.” Utilizing the research of former University of Chicago law professor and Obama administration official, Cass Sunstein, French discusses how group deliberation with persons of varied perspective actually sharpens us and leads to better outcomes. And — and this is what’s concerning about what we’ve been witnessing play out in front of us for years — when we fail to deliberate extensively with those of varied perspective, the “deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.” In other words, deliberation absent varied perspective leads to the extreme. There are indeed extreme perspectives being pushed today — incredulously guised as normal and acceptable — by intelligent people on both the left and the right.
Disagree? As always, the Intramuralist welcomes constructive, respectful disagreement. But first note my words above…
… a horrendous outcome… an unmistakable atrocity… such a gross injustice… in enemy territory, for God’s sake!
That describes a game. Just a game.
Understand that I still believe my conclusion from that game was accurate. I believe, too, that the result had consequences and was unfair. However, without sincerely weighing ample, other perspective, my reaction becomes exaggerated and extreme.
Deliberating with only the likeminded, friends, increases our indignation. It also makes us worse at what we do and less sensible in how we react. Hence, as we continue to advocate for unity, justice, and liberty for all, we need to avoid the extreme, as the extreme perspective is challenged to see how wise unity, justice, and liberty for all actually are.