Arthur Saginian | Is This Opinion or Preaching?


As I read the opinion section of The Signal certain names start to emerge as clearly conservative, some as clearly liberal, and some as simply down-to-earth and reasonable. 

Some of the writers seem to take themselves and their topics far too seriously for their own good while others provide entertainment value with their deliveries. I applaud The Signal for giving voice and providing an audience to all of those minds, minds representing both sides of the aisle as well as the solid center. That, to me, is the sign of a newspaper that has risen above petty politics and partisanship to the level of a balanced human being. 

An attorney friend once told me that there are not two, but five sides to every story: there is the defense, there is the prosecution, and there are the three witnesses, each of whom saw something different. There are no absolutes in life, there is no right or wrong, good or bad, there is only the personal story that each and every individual brings to the table as his or her own testimonial in defense (or at least in explanation) of who they are, and why they think and do things a certain way. 

My son and I often have conversations about certain people, people who have unreasonably strong opinions about a particular matter. These people are intensely passionate and resolutely inflexible in the maintenance of their position. They simply cannot see things any other way, and genuine dialogue with them is impossible and even to attempt it is pointless. My son and I then play a speculative game in trying to figure out what could have set them off early in life to make them as they are now. The one who proposes the most reasonable explanation (by getting the agreement of the other) wins the game. 

I think staunch liberals and conservatives both fall into this category. Something set them off early in life to make them as they are today. It could have been the untimely or violent death of someone close and dear, smothering or neglectful parents, too much bullying during recess, or too many sermons in Sunday school. It’s like that conversation between Clarise Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the movie “Silence of the Lambs” where Lecter was asking Starling about her childhood on her uncle’s farm, and Starling abruptly concluded by saying that she “just ran away.”

“Not just, Clarise,” insists Lecter, “What set you off?” 

After the naiveté and magical thinking of childhood is worn away by the grit of stark reality, the majority of us settle down and realize that humanity is what it is and the best anyone can really do with their lives is to simply live it, and try to enjoy living it, without harming others. But some of us are not able to settle down. Some of us are restless, driven by our internal demons, those things that “set us off.” 

Some of us are driven to preach, and there are preachers both liberal as well as conservative. One need not be a Catholic priest to preach. Some of the most liberal writers in The Signal are also the most ardent preachers, imploring its readers as to what is right and what to do. 

A few do it for the attention and the power over others, but I think the majority really do believe they have the answer to the world’s wrongs and can make things right. Conservatives implore us to turn to God (largely because they have no faith in man’s ability to save himself) while liberals implore us to turn to government (largely because they have no faith in organized religion and think God is on vacation), and in a way I agree with both of them, but each in his own way is involved in an exercise in wishful thinking. 

It’s ironic that most of the people I see going around trying to “convert” others are themselves lost. In my experience, those who are not lost simply live their lives while letting others be, much like backpackers on the trail (by the way, backpacking is my favorite activity). 

If someone is not “ready” there’s nothing you can do to help them. If they are, then they probably don’t need your help anyway. In that sense, church, to me, is nothing more than a big social club. But one might also be astonished to learn that most, if not all, of the clinical practitioners in the field of mental health were driven to that profession for one reason, to exorcise their own demons. 

If I myself were pressed to preach anything I would use this quote by Jesus of Nazareth: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5), which would probably shut most of the “preachers” up if they were listening. 

Arthur Saginian is a Santa Clarita resident.

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