Letters to the Editor

Childishness prevailed

A recent column cautioned against conversations about religion, politics and sex in the workplace, probably a sound bit of advice given the maturity of most Americans.

Paul Pruyser, the legendary Menninger psychologist and teacher of mine long ago, was amused by Americans’ admonition to avoid discussion of politics and religion. Pruyser, a native of the Netherlands, was fond of asking, “What else is there?”

What he understood about Americans is even more true now — that, like children, their opinions about religion and politics are almost entirely shaped without reference to political theory, details of policy or moral philosophy.

Instead Americans take positions based on impulses, unconscious gut reactions and feelings, which leaves them deprived of ideas necessary for civil debate and prone to feeling threatened and angry when their inchoate beliefs are challenged. So, like children, we confine our talk to sports and vacuous pop culture, and sneer condescendingly at things of intellectual weight.

Is it any wonder that, reasoning like children, we elected a spoiled, clownish child as president and seem to have taken oppositional two-year-old pleasure in doing so? We are now in far more trouble than the great Pruyser could have imagined.

Al Scovern