Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Protesters turn back three buses carrying 140 immigrants as they attempt to enter the Murrieta U.S. Border Patrol station for processing on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, in Murrieta, Calif. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, David Bauman)
Passionate about reason

Posted on July 12, 2014 at 8:37 p.m.

So many questions. So few answers.

My friend Munch and I were at a table in The Daily Grind. I was bellyaching about this and that, and Munch was sipping a drink and listening. Munch is usually more interested in food than conversation, but for the moment I had his attention.

I was saying that I wasn’t as passionate about politics as a lot of people seem to think I am. Munch considered that for a moment and then asked, “So what are you passionate about?”

I didn’t expect the question, but not surprisingly, “Lois and my kids” was my immediate answer. And then we moved on to other stuff.

Later, as is oftentimes the case, I pondered some of the stuff that we’d discussed as I moved through the rest of my day. I thought about that question, “So what are you passionate about?”

If I had thought about it beforehand, I would have added “reason” to my initial response. I would said that “I am passionate about reason.”

Now as I look at that last sentence, I realize that it would be a good bumper sticker or T-shirt slogan. I may head off to Skinner the Printer and have one made up.

“I am passionate about reason.” Is that a contradiction? Is it an oxymoron? Or is it simply a complexity like those who say they will fight for peace?

One may sometimes question the value of cool reasoning. Power-packed rhetoric can whip up masses on both sides of a controversy, and then it’s simply a matter of battling to ascertain a winner. Reasoning’s victories are harder won. And, frankly, even alleged reasoning is usually subjective.

The border crisis is a current example. On one side, crowds chant “USA, USA” and block buses fills with illegals. Other crowds counter-protest, screaming, “Protect the children.”

Cool heads are scarce in this mêlée of rhetoric and inflamed emotions. Perhaps it’s time for the robot revolution that sci-fi fans are predicting.

I have a car that I suspect may be smarter than me, at least in some things. When I stop at a traffic light, Jake (yes, I name my cars) turns off. When the light changes and I take my foot off the brake, the engine restarts. It’s irritating, but I’ve come to accept it the way one accepts the idiosyncrasies of a quirky friend.

When I first got the car, I was checking out the navigation system, and I noticed “Address Book” on the screen. Curious, I scrolled down and clicked. There were the contents of my telephone’s address book. My car had wirelessly copied all my stuff into it’s own memory. It didn’t even ask, “May I?”

Less than a month ago, Audi announced plans to use robots to help service technicians work on vehicles. Its newest servicing technology is called “ART.” It will allow Audi technicians at a central facility to virtually diagnose vehicles at Audi dealerships across the country.

This could be the first step toward fully automated vehicle servicing and the complete elimination of human mechanics. Robot self-driving vehicles are promised to be on the road by 2020.

I’m starting to wonder if the only solution to our increasingly dysfunctional government lies in a passionless electronic Congress and Supreme Court. I wonder if that would be possible. I wonder if our founding fathers would approve of legislative machines. Ben Franklin might, but I doubt that John Adams would.

Perhaps I’ll ask my car these questions, if I can find the proper app to use.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.