04CriticalAfter much prayer and soul-searching, it is clear that the time has come for me to make a change in my focus and strategy. That is, regarding what should be central in my effort to help build a better world ... and how to best pursue that goal. This decision has resulted in two changes thus far — focus on promoting critical thinking among citizens relative to political and social issues and changing my voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated.

I have struggled, for some time, with thoughts of not being on the right track for doing the task God desires of me at this point in my life. Some serious quiet time, and writing my last four columns, brought clarity far beyond what I have previously experienced. The first three columns constituted a series titled “Developing and sustaining thought deprivation.” These columns addressed how politicians and others who pursue power deprive citizens of the freedom to think critically about issues and policies … about all that affects our country.

The fourth column was titled “The push for ‘Medicare for All’ is thought deprivation in full view.” It explained how thought deprivation is at work in the championing of Medicare for All as a health care program. All four columns are available under “Articles” at www.karlmerritt.com.

I had previously given some attention to this thought deprivation process and the resulting manipulation of people through its employment. Doing the research, and thinking through various considerations as I wrote those columns, led me to the need for this finer focus on promoting critical thinking among citizens relative to political and social issues.

Then there is the decision to change my voter registration to unaffiliated. I was a registered Democrat for more than 40 years. After learning more about Republican values, it became obvious to me that those values aligned much more with mine than those of the Democratic Party. Consequently, eight years ago, I changed my affiliation to Republican and became active in the party.

Let me be crystal clear in saying my current decision to change affiliation had absolutely nothing to do with any mistreatment of me by anybody in the party. I am well aware that Republicans are routinely accused of being racist and not interested in involving or helping better the condition of black Americans. Whether at a state convention or local party events, I always felt welcomed and respected and that my voice was heard.

I never got the impression that my being black was a problem for any Republican I encountered. Be reminded ... I grew up in South Georgia in the 1950s and ’60s. I know racism when I see it.

Here are my primary reasons for the change to unaffiliated.

First, my observation is that no political party gives anywhere near adequate attention to helping citizens think critically through issues, or candidates, on which they must vote. That is, neither party forthrightly presents facts and allows for honest, reasoned and civil examination of those facts.

Instead, there are candidate debates where no topic is given this kind of attention. Phone calls are made to voters by individuals or a machine. A script is used, and there is no opportunity for productive discussion. These actions take place in an atmosphere where candidates, along with their supporters and surrogates, verbally attack one another and employ scare tactics.

Then there are the media ads that, I hold, for the most part, insult the intelligence of voters.

The ultimate indicator, I believe, that critical thinking is not promoted comes when voters have to survive the gauntlet of people handing out candidate information as voters enter polling places. Having the gauntlet says to me it is assumed people routinely go to the polling place having not decided how they will vote. Add to all of this the fact that media is almost devoid of programming that promotes, or even gives an opportunity for, critical thought.

The condition described in the preceding paragraph screams “thought deprivation.” No political party appears willing to correct course. That state of affairs is proving extremely destructive to America.

The second reason for my voter affiliation change is I need to be in a position to reach people of various political persuasions. That is: Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, unaffiliated, everybody. We are at a level of division, and pure hate, where I no longer think I can reach people if I am affiliated with a political party. The assumptions made about people because of party affiliation, to a sizeable extent, make productive civil discourse impossible.

I recently had a conversation with a black lady who commented to me that she hated President Trump. I asked why that was the case. She went into a speech about how he was not doing anything good for the country. In those comments, she said that Republicans are “just out for themselves.”

I stopped her and said, “I am a Republican. Are you saying I am out for myself?” Her response was a resounding, “Yes.”

She went on to say she could reach that conclusion regarding me simply because I was a Republican. From that one fact, she could identify my innermost motives. As sad as it is, this is where we are. It is unfair but true.

However, if my effort to promote critical thinking is to stand a chance, the obstacle represented by what that lady said to me must be eliminated or at least lessened in intensity. Even though I will not compromise my values or cease speaking truth as I see it, I hope that the unaffiliated status will lessen the door-closing stereotyping that comes with being identified with a political party.

Third, individuals who are actively involved in a political party are, as a matter of practice, expected to support candidates of that party. This is especially true of persons who hold office in a party. I am not willing to adhere to that expectation or rule. I first started to realize this was a problem for me when Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., joined in sponsoring legislation to prevent Trump from having authority to fire Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Even though the president repeatedly argued that Mueller’s investigation was “a witch hunt,” Trump always said he would allow it to finish. Consequently, I did not view the legislation as necessary. Now that the special counsel’s report is finished, there definitely was no need for legislation.

I got past the Mueller episode. Then, Tillis said he recognized the illegal immigration emergency on our southern border; however, he would vote for a resolution of disapproval in order to stop Trump from declaring a national emergency and redirecting funds for wall construction and other security measures. At the very last minute, Tillis voted to support the president’s action. That change of heart came too late for me.

As reported in an article by Brian Murphy titled “Tillis backs Trump on border enforcement. Why he won’t support emergency declaration,” here is the reason Tillis gave for his opposition. “As a U.S. senator, I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress. As a conservative, I cannot endorse a precedent that I know future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms,” Tills wrote.

As I write this section, news reports this very day say the southern border is being overrun by illegal migrants… there is an absolute crisis. For years, Congress has done nothing to effectively address this matter and is doing nothing now — zero. Zilch. There is pure incompetence, and Tillis wants to protect Congress so it can go on being incompetent on this matter and a multitude of others.

I realized that I would very likely not support Tillis for reelection. Tillis is just one example. There are other Republicans that I will publicly oppose and persons from other parties that I will support. This approach would not play well with fellow Republicans, or in any other political party and would hinder my ability to do the essential work described here.

In the big picture:

1. I will continue writing articles and books. I’ll be available for, and seek, speaking engagements.

2. I will personally organize and conduct public events that allow for citizens to be heard but also become informed in ways that promote critical thinking regarding the issues of our time. I’ll insist that individuals who speak at, or facilitate, these information-sharing events deal in facts and reason.

3. I will publish an e-newsletter.

4. I will personally fund this effort and operate it under my privately owned business, karlmerritt.com, LLC.

5. I will accept non-tax-deductible donations. This will be the only time I write, in my Up & Coming Weekly column, about this effort. Persons wanting to receive information in the future regarding this effort should visit karlmerritt.com and complete and submit a “Contact Karl” form. You will be put on the distribution list.

My thanks to Bill Bowman and Stephanie Crider, publisher and associate publisher of Up & Coming Weekly, respectively, for allowing me to share this information in a column.

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