Column: The experts let us know right from wrong

It is an extraordinary time to be an American.

Our ever-changing world leaves some, myself included, with questions, doubts and concerns about the future of our country. But never have we had such an embarrassment of riches with which to quell those concerns, alleviate the doubts or answer the questions.

Odds are you’re surrounded by experts. People who are smarter than you and know more than you. I’m not talking about experts you see providing context and insight on local and national news programs. I’m talking about regular everyday people like you. You even know some of them personally. And if you’re worldly and with it, you have access to their expertise any hour of the day your heart desires. All you have to do is log into one of your social networks.

There’s a lot to be said for the discussion of ideas, philosophies and beliefs, particularly when it comes to political discussions. Collectively we may not share the same ideas, philosophies or beliefs, but understanding those whose ideas, philosophies or beliefs differ from ours can be a valuable, enlightening and perhaps even enrichening tool.

And thanks to an online world many of us are tethered to every day of our lives, we’re exposed to expertise I never knew existed 15 years ago.

For example, follow a Facebook posting from a television news channel that discusses anything our president did or didn’t do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about our current president or the recently retired president. Spend five minutes reading 12 hours worth of comments on such a post and you’ll see all sorts of people who will tell you the real story. And often enough you’ll find somebody with an opposing view, who not so gently belittles the person he or she disagrees with.

That’s truly what makes America great, isn’t it?

I think I’m more impressed by the people I know personally, people who know far more than you or I ever will.

A divorced father I’ve known a long time recently pointed out to me that our country is better served if Russia is our ally. I liked his logic. I didn’t agree with his logic regarding a counterpoint I made, but his positions seem to come from intelligent, contemplative thinking. Impressive given he’s the primary caregiver to his two young sons, who are exposed to a wide array of experiences and people in their neighborhood, community and beyond. My friend has also recently completed a master’s degree program and is beginning a teaching career at what I presume is the midpoint of his life.

His plate has been full, and then some, in recent years, yet he still has the time to digest a variety of resources and information about the political world in which we live. At least I’d like to believe so.

I know other parents who have their hands full, as well. Between working long hours, caring for their children and making time for the occasional family outing, they still find time to formulate astute political opinions and either validate or strike down my own opinions by their statements. It can be humbling, but who can argue with those who are smarter than us and bold enough to share their brilliance?

And even if your friends are too shy to tell you how it is, all you need to do is belong to a Facebook discussion group. I follow discussion groups for several communities, including Richfield and Bloomington. One recent discussion about local, immigrant-run businesses that closed voluntarily on a Thursday to illustrate the significance of the immigrant population in our communities drew plenty of expert opinions from people I don’t know.

But they weren’t afraid to state the facts. Some people had opinions, others made sure all of us knew exactly what was right, or wrong, with our country’s immigration policies today, and our political machine in general.

I think I’m at a disadvantage. I don’t pledge allegiance to one political party, but it seems that many of our resident experts are folks who do. We’re all welcome to our personal beliefs and opinions, but it seems like plenty of people are smarter than me, because they make it clear that their statements are fact, and there’s no alternative universe in which their statements could be even slightly flawed.

David Dillon won’t remember who I am, but several years ago I interviewed the third-party candidate for the Third Congressional District seat. He was running under the Independence Party banner circa 2008, despite ties he had historically to the major parties. I don’t remember five things we talked about that day, but the thing that stood out to me that day is something I’ve carried with me ever since.

He compared our two-party duopoly to a food fight. Sure, there’s bipartisan efforts being made to this day, but the effort to belittle and degrade the opposition was far too prevalent in the politics of our country, he argued. And this was during Facebook’s infancy, before it became ingrained in the daily lives of many.

Many of us seem to have taken that food fight to our Facebook pages. We’ve become the politicians Dillon railed against, with our opponents being friends, neighbors and random strangers across the metro.

Making America great again? I’m skeptical.

It’s hard to resist the food fight, and sometimes I fail to do so, but I’m largely successful by remembering one important thing. Opinions that differ from mine are superior. Unfortunately I might be the only one who believes it.