American myths hurt dialogue

Published 9:44 pm Monday, August 12, 2013

By Joseph L. Bass

We Americans love our myths.

A general definition of a “myth” involves a story or idea that is unproved or completely false. Sometimes myths are based on partial truths, but primarily they involve fanciful, wishful thinking not based on any factual information.


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Some myths are not so much false as incomplete; myths based on partial truth frequently suggest erroneous conclusions.

And social programs intended to overcome problems based on half-truth myths have little, if any, hope of being successful.

Is it possible that we can love our myths too much? Let us consider that possibility.

Many realize that it is politically incorrect to make statements that indicate a popular myth is false. Some people are so emotionally attached to certain myths that they become hostile toward people who speak the whole truth. Often statement of a complete truth is considered highly inflammatory.

This common social situation involves many serious social challenges that no one talks about openly. There exists little, if any, frank, civil dialogue among us regarding these issues.

But how can we overcome social challenges if they are swept under the carpet and talking about them draws hostility from others?

Let me provide a couple of examples. On Aug. 5, 1999, I was the guest on a popular talk radio program. The subject I was asked to talk about involved public safety. I was well prepared with considerable information, statistics, academic citations and so on. I was pleased with my delivery and with my answers to questions from the program’s host and from people calling in during the show.

The producer and the host were quite surprised that so many of the 27 callers were in support of the material I talked about. But the producer said later that they had calls from people that threatened to discontinue support if I were allowed on the air again.

Since then I have volunteered to be on the program when related subjects were in the news, but I doubt I will ever be asked to appear again.

Early in the morning March 18, 2008, I was interviewed live on the BBC World Television News program also dealing with public safety. This was the morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Heller case dealing with the Second Amendment.

Again I was pleased with my delivery and in answering questions from the BBC host. Everything I stated in the interview proved to be correct regarding the court’s decision. Although I had been interviewed by them several times previously, I doubt the BBC will call again.

How can we overcome social challenges if they are swept under the carpet and talking about them draws hostility from others? Isn’t it probably we could make greater progress toward overcoming our social challenges if there were frank, civil dialogue among us?

America has many improvement opportunities; shouldn’t we be working together through dialogue to determine solutions that have the greatest potential for success?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at