Something I think everyone should try, and that is figure out why they have the opinions they have. It's not easy, and takes a little soul searching too. Things that seem so clear, all start to blur when you question your perceptions of life, and of your own opinions, that is if you do it right.
I found out early in life that the most important thing was to ask the right questions. Not all questions are equal, and if you ask the wrong question, you are going to get the wrong answer to what you want to know. The wrong question is easy to dance around, and that answer will take you for a ride. Another very important thing is be able to do Critical Thinking. Something they don't teach in school now days, but is very important to every day life. To look at a problem from every angle, and figure out the best way to proceed. Another thing is to be able to place yourself in another persons shoes. Try and figure out why they believe what they do, and why they act as they do. If you can do that, then you start to understand them better. Unfortunately there are times when that is totally impossible due to factors beyond one's own understanding.
When I was a child, way back when, toys were made differently than today. They were made of metal, and put together with screws. We all played cowboys and Indians, or good guy bad guy depending on what TV show we watched that day, and used cap guns that made a loud pop when you pulled the trigger. My cap gun wasn't all that old, but for some reason stopped advancing the roll of caps, and no longer made that nice popping sound when you pulled the trigger. I was not very happy as I had just got a new box of caps the day before. So I ran into the house, got the screwdrivers and plyers out of the kitchen where they were kept, and proceeded to take the cap gun apart. Well, it didn't go well to start. When the halves came apart, parts went everywhere. Springs and small parts were on the table in front of me, and I was again not happy. I must have spent 30 minutes or more trying to figure out what to do next. After that time I got up and headed to the door, figuring that I would never get that back together and in working condition again. Then it just hit me. A person just like me, designed that gun, and a person just like me put it together. All I needed to do was to UNDERSTAND it, and then I could fix it. So I turned around, and sat back at the desk and started to look at every part, and every indentation in the halves to figure out what to do next. In the end, I figured out a spring had broken, and so I bent a new hook at the end, figured out where to attach it, and with a few small wires poked the parts back into their guides where they belonged, and screwed the gun back together again.. Worked like new, and I was not only happy, but confident I could fix almost anything. Later on Mom had a can opener that quit working, and she tossed it into the garbage. I figured I would help her out, and fix it. So I grabbed the opener, and the screwdrivers and plyers again, and headed to my room in the basement. Now this is electrical, but I had already figured out you don't plug yourself into the wall socket, but I took the opener apart, and plugged it in. I could get the motor to run by placing the screwdriver across the switch, so I knew it wasn't totally broken. I also seen that on the contacts there was a cone shaped cavity on one contact, and a cone on the other. So I ran up to the garage and got some sandpaper, unplugged the opener, and sanded down the contacts smooth again. When I checked it again, it worked just like it should. So I put it back together, and gave it one final test, and everything worked as it should. I ran it up to Mom, and told her I had fixed it for her.. That's when I kind of got surprised.. She informed me that she hated that damn can opener, and was glad it had broke. So I was to take that can opener and keep it for myself to play with, and she was still going to get a new one since she could say it had broke without lying.. I didn't have a problem with that, and I was still proud that I was able to fix it since it was much more complex than my cap gun..
Now what does this have to do with opinions? Well that is where things start, being able to look at something, figure out how it works, and being able to just understand how things are using "Critical Thinking". If you can't understand how things are and how they work, then how can you have a good opinion about it.
When I was 9 years old, the United States had a problem in Cuba. I don't remember thinking much about Cuba until then, but it seemed that Russia was installing missiles there, and it upset America to say the least. I do remember some of the "Duck and Cover" drills in the 1950's, but again, never really thought much about it until the problem with Cuba and Russia. At that time I was in my Christian school, learning Christian stuff, and I wondered why they would hate us this way, and why we would hate them back. That was against everything they were teaching me, and I was also being taught that America was a Christian Nations, you know, the Under God in the Pledge of Allegiance we said every morning before school started. I was taught that we should love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and turn the other cheek, and all that good stuff, but I wasn't seeing that in real life, not even in my own country. It was at that early age I started to question my Religion. They teach one thing, but it's never acted on in real life as a Christian Nation. I figured that if the people of Russia wanted a different Government, they would work to get it, and that we shouldn't be involved with it at all. Same with Cuba, after all, it's their Country just as America was ours. We changed our Government from Republican to Democrat and back many times, so what's the big deal? At that time, to me it seemed as if everyone in the entire world had to be just like us, or they were hated. It wasn't until later that I started to understand what took place in the late 1940's to early 1950's with the, "Red Scare", or now better understood as, "McCarthyism", and that again got me thinking why should people who don't live in my Country, have to live as we do, believe as we do, and be just like us? This also went against what I was being taught, as "Freedom" is what we had, but again what I was being taught didn't reflect what I was seeing. Later on I figured they had it wrong, as being free to believe only what they did, and do only what they did, is not freedom. Of course even now if we do what they do, we go to jail, but they don't.
When I got older, and faced the "Draft", I knew there was a good possibility I would end up fighting in Vietnam. Some of my classmates joined the U.S. National Guard, and others just joined so they could pick the type of service they entered into. It was January of 1972 that they drew the Draft numbers for people born in 1953, and I had a high draft number, but by the middle of the year they were getting close, and I almost enlisted. I was lucky when people who served time in the Military came back from Vietnam, and told me it was a Bull Shit war, and if I didn't have to go, don't! Again, good information from people who had been there, and knew what they were talking about. They never got as high as my number, and in January 1973 they ended the draft. Still talking with people who served in Vietnam, it was very clear this was a war we should have never entered. The objectives set by our Military was totally misguided, and impossible to implement. You can bomb this, but you can't bomb that, you can move this far, but not any farther. It wasn't long and I started to look into why my Country was doing the things it was doing, and tried to look past the Bull Shit we were fed.
So I looked to the people who had nothing to gain by putting facts out there for all to see. I listened to what was known about the JFK assassination, and how it was almost impossible for that to be carried out by just one person, making the Kennedy's assassination a true conspiracy. The same went for Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Then it came out that even the war in Vietnam was another lie. It didn't start the way we were told. Vietnam was ruled by the French for about 80 years, and when WWII started, Vietnam was taken by Japan. After the war, France wanted Vietnam back, but the Vietnamese didn't want to be ruled by France, and fought back.. The French called the U.S. and asked for help, and of course because that means money for the Military Industrial Complex, they said sure.. What people don't understand is that Ho Chi Minh lived in the United States in Boston and New York City, and loved America, and thought America might help free his Country from France. In 1918 and 1919, Ho Chi Minh hooked up with other Vietnamese nationalists, and petitioned Woodrow Wilson when he went to France for the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, as they wanted to get their freedom from France, but were ignored. He again looked to the United States during WWII for help. Agents of the OSS were parachuted into the jungles of North Vietnam in 1945 to make contact with him, and a medic helped nurse him back to health from dysentery and malaria. The U.S. intelligence assessment of Ho Chi Minh was that he was more nationalist than Communist, and was an acceptable partner. So they provided him with weapons and training teams to help in the fight against Japan in Vietnam. After Japan was defeated, Ho Chi Minh again asked the United States to help his Country get free of France, and again the U.S. ignored him, so he turned to China for help, and they said yes.
So over the years when I studied History, and how I was taught that America stands for Freedom, I had to ask myself why didn't we stand up for the freedoms of Countries like Vietnam?
Are you starting to see a pattern as to how I found my opinions? I couldn't trust the people who taught me what I should know, I had to dig into History to find out for myself. I love my Country, as it's the only one I have. But I found out very early that you can't make your Country better by ignoring the things that should be changed. I do hold America to a higher standard because it is my Country, and as yet I can't understand why others just keep repeating we are great, even when we are not, instead of working to hold our Country to that higher standard we should have. So when it comes to being, "Patriotic", I am, but I will not just go alone with repeating something I know not to be true. My opinions are based on as many facts as I can find, and I continue to dig for more truths, even when I'm saddened by what I find. What we are told to believe, and what we are taught in our schools are not even close to being factual, so the children of today are living a lie, based on falsehoods taught to them in our schools. There are people out there trying to set the record straight, but no one seems to want to hear the real truth, and maybe it's because the truth hurts.
As you can see, I look at as many facts as I can. I examine history, and try to figure out why things were done as they were. I look at what's going on today, and if they are truthful with what they are telling us. So many things to look at, and my opinions can change over time as new facts become available. I never set my opinions in stone as so many people do, and having your beliefs and opinions set in stone are not useful to the person or the Country. If you ignore the problems, they will never go away, but only get worse. Critical Thinking; being able to place myself in others shoes; digging and looking for facts and information; asking the right questions; not placing myself in any small box of any kind, Religious, Political, Race, Gender, and being true to what I believe, and treating others that way; all play a part in how I come to my opinions.