Trump said an awful thing. Although he denies it, several sources have confirmed that, in a closed-door meeting about immigration policy, he asked, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” People went nuts, with good reason, but I think the focus has been wrong. This is cross-posted from my FaceBook, word for word (except this paragraph of introduction).
My memory for some things is awful. It’s a running joke at work, and my graduate students have teased me by admitting their strategy of coming back to me with a research idea that I dismissed weeks ago, with the hopes that I will have forgotten dismissing it, and will get excited about it the second or third time. I can’t say that this strategy hasn’t worked…largely because my memory can be pretty rotten at times. I don’t think it’s pathological, or a sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think some things are salient, and stick, and others are easily dismissed, and forgotten. I also know that memories are quite flexible, and often we remember things very differently from how they actually happened. An article in Vox reminded me of this, and there are other excellent examples out there.
Fair warning, there’s a spoiler below, so if you haven’t listened to the episode of Radiolab called “Reasonable Doubt” and want to/plan to, you might not want to read below the fold just yet.
I think this is going to be another long, winding road. My thoughts are coming together in waves, and not all that organized. I may delete this opening before posting…or may just leave it here so I can watch the winding road and maybe enjoy the ride. I have a Facebook friend who I do not know in real life, and I don’t think I’ve ever met in real life. He became a Facebook friend because he maintains a pretty sizable following of Trump loyalists, and after going back and forth a few times, he asked me to join the fun. I don’t participate in the banter all that much since the start, mostly because it’s not my style (the typical response from the Trump loyalists is a meme about Hillary being ugly or something like that), and I get bored with the lack of real discussion. The folks over there seem more about winning, when I’m not there to compete. But this group has given me a window into Trump loyalists that I might not otherwise have, and I’ve made some generalizations. I know generalizations are often unwise, and I’m sure there are individuals who support Trump and do not fit this mold. Indeed, I’m not sure at all that these loyalists are representative of Trump supporters at all, so in truth I see this more as a focus group than a survey, but I’ve still seen some interesting things. Let’s start the ride.
Bad things happen. Tragedies happen. When they happen, it’s good to help those affected, and it’s good to think about ways to prevent those things from happening again. If they can’t be prevented, it’s good to think about ways to protect us from the damage they cause in the future. These seem like normal responses, yet so often, doing these things gets blasted as an attempt to politicize a tragedy. I really don’t like that critique, and the critique itself seems to be more “political” than actually talking about solutions and prevention.
In a somewhat hastily written post yesterday, I noted that some of the issues we grapple with about abortion could be solved by a way to remove the fetus from an unwilling mother, and allow it to gestate without needing the mother.
But what if the choice is this: carry the pregnancy to term, or terminate the pregnancy while others do what they can to save the embryo/fetus? Aside from the gigantic technical hurdle, there are plenty of other issues that need to be resolved (who pays for it? what is the impact on the population? who raises the child after gestation?), but it changes the discussion completely. We could even use this technology to take away what I see as sex discrimination entering into the debate (anti-abortion laws mandating the only instance of violating body autonomy, and it only applying to women). There are folks who think that the biological father should have a say in whether or not the woman terminates the pregnancy…now he can have that say, as long as he’s willing to carry the pregnancy to term (and consents to the implantation of the artificial womb and surgical removal of it and the baby when ready). These are things that could become technically feasible in the future. Again, I somewhat doubt they will, because I don’t see much real motivation for it, but my crystal ball hasn’t worked very well for years (or ever).
[Somewhat rushed piece…overwhelmed with work, but trying to stay in the habit of writing, and it’s been a long time. I’m sure it’s full of typos and other problems, but at this point, it will have to do]
I’ve spent a bit of time talking about abortion and abortion rights since Hitting Bregma started (notably here and here). I’m fascinated by it as a topic because it’s so meaningful to so many people, that I honestly see it as the number one guiding issue in our politics today. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this at all, and I would enjoy being shown that it’s not true, but I think the abortion question actually drives many people in one direction or another, and then the other partisan issues take hold. It’s easy for me to imagine somebody being appalled by abortion, leaning toward a particular political identity because of that, and then slowing assimilating with all the other beliefs of that political party. It seems like a key reason, for instance, why a deeply religious Christian would so predictably care about small government, about maintaining strong borders, about a super powerful national defense, about implementing the death penalty, about low taxes (especially for the wealthy). On the flip side, it’s puzzling to me that advocacy of abortion rights does such a good job at predicting where somebody stands on raising taxes on the wealthy, on being against the death penalty, about working hard for minority rights and environmentalism, and about government services for the poor. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t fall into those more predictable positions. I know plenty who are deeply religious, and guided by this to be sickened by abortion, but put this aside to otherwise favor liberal politicians who are anti-death penalty, pro-helping the poor, pro-helping immigrants, and willing to tax people to make that possible. It would be a silly straw man fallacy to say that I’m implying that this applies to everybody equally, but I find it interesting to see how many people seem to find their political identity by following the pro-choice or anti-abortion trail to the rest of the stuff.
I have a tendency to think of the world in a two-type model. Of course I know this isn’t true, and I’ve spent plenty of time explaining false dichotomies to people, both in my personal and professional lives, but in a non-literal, knowingly unrealistic way, I like to do it anyway. My wife and I have a long-standing view, for instance, that there are two types of people in the world: people who would lick the plate if it were socially acceptable, and people who wouldn’t. “Lick the plate” is, in many ways, a statement of passion for food, but also for life. The “plate-licker” gestalt reveals a person with a zest not just for food, but for life. Somebody who wants to get every last drop out of the good stuff, and lick the plate. We’ve recognized this (false) dichotomy since early in our life together (we’ve been together for almost a quarter of a century, married for a fifth of a century), although it seems to have become an unspoken thing in the last few years.
I’m certainly not alone in my dichotomization of the world. Others have different splits, cat people and dog people, organized inbox people and those like me with thousands of unread emails, Coke vs Pepsi…we’ve seen these all.
So here’s my false dichotomy of the day: there are people who seek a label, and people who shun them. I’m one who seeks a label, and I think one has finally dawned on me. I’m a “Bartlet Democrat,” and proud of it.