A battle for your hearts and minds
I thought “A Battle for Hearts and Minds” was a catchy title for this piece but I will tell you right now it has nothing to do with organ donation.
It does, however, have everything to do with persuasion. Persuading you and me and a whole lot of folks. Well, I am not actually sure about you unless, like me, you have your feet firmly planted in the middle of some hot button controversial issue. Something that brings out the best of the wordsmiths on both sides to duel it out for our support. Something like the issue of students being allowed to leave school for confidential medical appointments.
When I opened The Union and saw Jeff Ackerman and Cheryl McCall going head to head, I knew that this was serious business. Now granted, I didn’t know anything about Ms. McCall before reading her piece, but by the end I had learned a lot. Here was a lawyer that could take you through her argument with crystal clear linear reasoning. She builds her case methodically while skillfully flushing out counter arguments and dispatching them with deadly accuracy. Hers is a world of facts, logic, and reason. She is aiming for our minds, and her sights are rock steady.
Mr. Ackerman is quite another story, but anyone who would suggest he is not a match for Ms. McCall simply does not know with whom they are dealing. Mr. Ackerman’s style is not so much about facts and logic as it is about widely accepted beliefs. The amazing thing about belief is that it does not require cumbersome facts or intricate logic to understand; we just know in our hearts it is true. And the heart is exactly where his words are directed.
It sounds interesting, but first a couple of tiny factual things. Mr. Ackerman mentioned 30 school districts that have “parent friendly” policies. What he failed to mention was the other 462 that don’t. So that’s 6 percent that do and 94 percent that don’t. Just to be fair, Jeff. But, not to be out done, Ms. McCall makes a point of saying that no one does abortions in Nevada County. I would point out that the county line is not far away and neither are the abortions. Fair is fair, Cheryl. Never forget that these are professionals whose objective is to reach into your hearts and minds to capture your support.
So, how does all this reaching and capturing stuff really work? If we are being courted to make an informed decision to support something, we at least deserve to know how the ground rules work. (Fair is fair after all.) The first rule of the game is that nothing you hear is directed at the hard core of either side. After all, everyone already knows their opinion and that it’s a waste of time to try and change it. It is the great middle ground that is the prize because they are still open to forming an opinion. The approaches break down roughly into one of two styles. The first is to “educate” (logic, facts, reason, that sort of stuff) and the second involves the afore mentioned “widely accepted beliefs.” If you can marry your cause to one of those “widely accepted beliefs,” one that is embraced without question, who needs facts or logic?
Ms. McCall educates us with a lot of legal information that seems to clearly support a conclusion that school districts are acting illegally if they prevent a child 12 years or older from leaving school for a medical appointment without parental consent. But according to Mr. Ackerman, 30 districts do prevent the child from leaving school. So, where are the lawsuits and why isn’t the attorney general forcing them to obey the law? On this point, Ms. McCall’s silence begs for an answer. But, maybe it’s an answer she doesn’t want us to see.
Mr. Ackerman tells us that the current district policy exists because of bad parents and that the good parents are suffering because of it. Wait, stop the presses! This is all wrong. Everyone knows deep in their hearts that it’s the bad people who should be suffering and that the good people should be rewarded. Therefore this has to be a bad policy and must be changed! Guilt by association.
So now that you know the strategies, think, and don’t let yourself be manipulated by either side. Demand better of them and don’t give your allegiance until you get it.
John Morris lives in Grass Valley.
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