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Did you know that President Obama is Black?

On Sundays in the Dallas Morning News, there is a section called, “Sounding Off”, that has brief comments by those who live in the Dallas area about a particular topic. The topic is chosen by one of the Dallas Morning News editors, and those of us that are contributors to the Sounding Off section get an email from the editor whenever he is interested in getting our opinions about a given topic.

Today, I got an email requesting two or three sentences about the topic, “What is the great untold story about your community in 2009 and how would it surprise people?”

I actually didn’t quite answer that exact question, but here is what I did submit:

“One great story in 2009 is how easy it has been for us to accept a Black president. I, and many people I know, disagree with many of President Obama’s policies, but his race hasn’t ever come up in my discussions with others. We are getting closer to Rev. Martin Luther King’s vision of judging a person for who they are rather than by the color of their skin.”

This is pretty cool actually. Obviously, there are still bigots out there, but there have to be fewer now than there were, say, 30 years ago. When Kennedy ran for president in 1960, many people thought he couldn’t get elected because he was Catholic.

I would like for us to take this one step further. When discussing policies that affect us, let’s not bring up any labels that serve to divide us. For instance, for a particular policy, does it really matter if the person who is giving their opinion is a conservative or a liberal, a leftist or a rightist, or a Republican or a Democrat?

It’s not that those things don’t matter, but they have nothing to do with whether their thinking about a particular policy is something that you may or may not agree with. In other words, it is best to judge someone’s policy ideas based upon your principles and not about irrelevancies such as the person’s skin color or political affiliation. This is much less divisive, and tends to keep a discussion based upon the merit of the ideas presented.

For instance, consider these policy positions that I have:

1) I think that the private use of drugs by adults ought not to be illegal. (I’m not advocating that people take drugs, I’m just advocating that they not be illegal).

2) I think abortion is almost always bad, but don’t think it should be illegal.

3) I think that we should have the strongest military in the world.

4) I think that we should bring our troops home from all foreign countries.

5) I think having nuclear weapons has been a tremendous deterrent to war, and it would foolish to get rid of all of them.

6) I think that the evidence shows that the Earth is warming slightly but that we have little evidence as to how much humanity is contributing to it. Furthermore, limiting carbon dioxide emissions will have a negligible effect on however much global warming is occurring. (If the Earth does start warming to an unacceptable extent, there are much cheaper and more effective ways of dealing with it).

7) I think that one of best ways to increase the prosperity of Americans and eventually the world is to build lots of nuclear power plants. We would shortly have clean, safe and inexpensive energy, and would have time to properly develop other sources of energy, such as solar power.

I didn’t bring these ideas up here to convince anyone about them, but rather to show how some of them would be considered conservative, some liberal, etc. It doesn’t matter to me what labels a person gives them, and I don’t consider any such labels when thinking about my positions. I only consider my principles. Isn’t that a good thing?


Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at


Anonymous said…
You say it's a good thing that people only consider their principles when deciding whether a policy is good or not.

But what if the person's principles are wrong?
Tim Farage said…
If someone's principles are wrong, then that can certainly lead to differences of opinion about good policies. But at least you can find out where you disagree with the person, and possibly come to a compromise.

I assume when I say this that we are dealing with people of good will. If you're dealing with Stalin or a suicide terrorist, there's not much to discuss.

That said, most people would agree with two basic principles:

1) Treat others as we'd like to be treated.

2) Use your talents to help make the world a better place.

Just agreeing on these will lead to much commonality with repect to policy.

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