Cutting through the noise

Donald Trump officially announced that he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In the intervening hours we have heard of ton of reasons to support her (okay, actually mainly one) and a bunch of reasons we should not support her nomination. I’m going to try to cut through the noise and separate the wheat from the chaff.

The main reason to support her is that she will help overturn Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act. Okay, those are two reasons. Neither of them are particularly compelling as I have mentioned abortion before and really don’t feel like relitigating it.

Opponents have come up with a ton of reasons. Some are thoughtful and some are stupid. Some question how she could be an effective justice and mother to seven children. That’s stupid. Antonin Scalia had a large family and no one questioned him. So no, that’s stupid. Some have questioned whether she can take the seat considering that she holds beliefs that women should be subservient to men. Well, she’s been a judge, so in the strictest sense this is also stupid, but it does touch on something we will get to shortly.

Of course, the most popular reason is that RBG herself said she did not want this. As much as I am compelled by her and her career, I cannot necessarily stand behind this in the strictest sense either. She was a public servant. She served the public. The public ultimately gets to decide. This is where Mitt Romney offered his two cents. He said that the country is a majority center-right country and as such needed another center-right judge to balance the court.

His statement ignores a number of salient facts. First, the court was already a 5-3 court. So, even if he nominated a centrist judge it would still lean right. Trump could have nominated another liberal judge and it would still lean right. The second salient fact is that Barrett is not a center-right judge. She is an extreme right judge. There is no way anyone could look at American politics and think that that represents the majority of Americans under any circumstances. Finally, we get the fidelity of his initial statement. Is this really a center-right country? A majority of people voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. More people voted for Democrats in 2018 since the beginning of the 21st century. What exactly is his proof that the majority of the country is center-right?

The biggest knock on Barrett is that she is a so-called member of the Catholic Charismatic movement. As a cradle Catholic I feel somewhat qualified to talk about this. Simply put, the very fact that she is a member of any faith is not disqualifying. Anyone that says so is going down a very dangerous road. All that being said, her faith and her beliefs do deserve scrutiny as anyone’s beliefs would.

The charismatic movement is not nearly as popular as it once was. In the latter part of the 20th century is was a growing movement. It took over a youth ministry program I was involved in. Essentially, it encourages Catholics to become more engaged in the liturgy. It does this through more modern and upbeat music that also encourages hand signals and gestures during the performance of these songs. That by itself is perfectly fine.

There are other attitudes and beliefs that can come with it that might not be perfectly fine for a Supreme Court justice. There are some teachings that emphasize that women should be subservient to men, some find the speaking in tongues to be a little disconcerting as well. Some also believe in faith healing and rejecting modern medicine. Those beliefs would run counter to our bedrock principles that everyone is equal under the law and there should be a separation between church and state.

The operative word there is some. There are sects within mainstream churches that believe all of these things. On the other hand, one can attend a charismatic church (there is one in Houston) and simply enjoy the upbeat and modern liturgy without necessarily deviating from traditional Catholic beliefs and teachings. So, it is fair to ask her to articulate her beliefs and how they intersect with the law and constitutional principles. I’d hope you’d ask that of everyone that is nominated.

There will be a lot of noise in the next six weeks. Some of the noise matters and some of it doesn’t. Some noise is generated by well meaning people that just get caught up in every little thing that happens along the way. Some noise is generated by people that are purposely trying to generate noise. We need to be able to see past the noise to identify what’s important. If Barrett holds beliefs that women are not equal to men and that insurance companies can discriminate against people with preexisting conditions then she has no business being on the court. It doesn’t matter whether that’s now, after the election, or ever. If she happens to belong to a movement of Catholicism that sometimes preaches those things then she deserves the opportunity to set the record straight.

Das Capital

Everyone remembers Karl Marx for his landmark book “The Communist Manifesto.” Funny, no one remembers the real brains behind that book: Frederich Engels. However, I digress. His best work may have been the one he was working on when he died. It was titled “Das Capital.” It was essentially a theory of history.

Most people see history cyclically. We are often told that those that do not learn their history are destined to repeat it. In fact, people often cite current events with an obvious tie to historical events. Hitler seems to be a popular comparison, but there are others. Political scientists and historians have compared Donald Trump to George Wallace for instance. Their rhetoric is similar and their methods for gaining support is/was similar.

Das Capital was a unique theory of how history works. Marx believed we were constantly evolving. Sure, communism as he viewed it has never come to fruition. Yet, one cannot deny progress. We never quite get to where we think we are supposed to go, but each generation brings us closer to that dream of equality.

Marx made one major miscalculation. He believed the communist revolution was inevitable because the bourgeoisie (or business owners) would never relinquish power to the proletariat (workers). It would have to be taken from them. A study of late 19th century and early 20th century American politics is a study in compromise. We saw child labor laws, safety rules, the minimum wage, and the rise of labor unions.

In a similar way, it would be wrong to assert that Wallace was at the center of the civil rights movement. It had begun before he went into power and still rages on after his death, but it is impossible to deny his role in providing proponents of civil rights a focal point of opposition. Even though he recanted his racist views later in life, it is impossible to calculate the amount of damage his views and his actions did. Yet, you also can’t deny that those words and deeds provided fuel that helped the civil rights movement reach levels it might never have reached without him.

This is what we call a paradox. On the one hand, you have a horrible man that hurt countless people. On the other hand, his mere presence helped provide focus and energy to a movement for more equality. It’s two sides of a very perverted coin.

Enter Donald Trump. In many ways, it will take years for us to calculate the human damage he has caused in America. Whether his end comes in 2021 or 2025, we will be repairing that damage for years or even decades. Some of that damage comes in the form of frayed institutions and norms. Some of that damage comes in the form of short-sighted policies and policies that help the few and hurt the many. Some of that damage comes in the form of broken relationships with family and friends that have chosen one side or another. It is staggering to think about.

Some of the damage will never be repaired. Some lost their lives in the pandemic. Some lost their lives in natural disasters like the hurricanes in Puerto Rico or wild fires in California. He didn’t cause those disasters, but he certainly didn’t do all he could to help in the aftermath. Some of the kids in cages died. All of them will have psychological scars for the rest of their lives. There is no way to get around any of this.

However, we also can’t deny that the recent protests in part have gotten fuel from his presence. I don’t know how a President Clinton would have handled the civil unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd, but I guarantee she would have done a better job. It’s hard to do a worse job. Maybe Kyle Rittenhouse doesn’t happen. Maybe some of the other things like Portland don’t happen. Maybe they do.

We also don’t have the benefit of knowing how the civil unrest will turn out. We don’t know if we will see real progress like we did in the 1960s or if it will all be erased like a Etch A Sketch. We can hope for the best. We can hope regime change occurs sooner rather than later. If Trump gets another four years there is no telling what could happen. Things could build to a crescendo. None of us really want to see that happen.

A state of perpetual crisis

There are long cons and short cons. When you have a conman at the helm they are going to run both if they are at all smart. The short cons are easy enough to figure out. The longer ones take a little more effort. For instance, maybe if you stand in front of a church and hold up a bible you will convince some people you are the candidate for Evangelicals.

We will ignore the fact that he has never actually been in that church. We will ignore the fact that he’s rarely ever cracked open that Bible. See, that’s a con. It’s a simple con and a straightforward con, but it’s still a con. Then, we get the cons that take a little more effort to unravel. The right has been doing one for years.

The conservative movement draws it’s power from three primary groups. There is the business community that is generally in favor of lower taxes and fewer government regulations. The second one is what has been dubbed the Evangelical movement, but could generally be characterized as the Religious Right. They are generally anti-abortion and against same sex marriage. Finally, you have some working class whites that are concerned about immigration and inner city violence. What you’ll notice is that groups two and three often get victimized by the first group. Their taxes never seem to go down. In fact, they pay more and more while the first group lives it up on their luxury boats and country clubs. When the simple church goers and blue collar folks seem on the verge of catching on you manufacture another crisis. Maybe it’s a caravan of immigrants coming to the border. Maybe it’s a new law to limit abortion or expansion of rights for the LGTBQ community we need to fight. Throw out enough red meat and they won’t notice you are robbing them blind again.

This brings us to today’s lesson. This is the excessive use of crisis in order to distract from the current crisis. It becomes a machine. First, you do something to invent the crisis. You create a hysteria over something that is not all that important. The next step is convincing as many people as possible that only you can solve the crisis. This is easier since you created the crisis in the first place. Finally, since the crisis isn’t real anyway, you can take credit for solving the crisis.

When you live in a perpetual state of crisis then it is easy to become exhausted to crises or exhausted period. It is easy to become hyperfocused on crises that don’t matter and overlook the ones that do. When you continually are in crisis you simply don’t have the energy to do it anymore.

The latest crisis resides on the Supreme Court. We need nine justices. We might have a contested election. You can’t have a contested election with a deadlocked court. Except, we had the last election with a deadlocked court. That one was actually deadlocked 4-4 on most issues. It didn’t seem to be important back then. That’s because we hadn’t manufactured enough crisis.

See, we hadn’t talked up enough the possibility that the Democrats were going to steal the election with their vote by mail. No one has ever done that before. Vote by mail is a new thing they want to do. They are sending everyone 14 ballots so they can stuff the ballot box. We might not know the results on election night. That is literally unprecedented. We’ve always known who won on election night. Walter Cronkite himself reported the results from 1832 on Channel 13 on election night by 8:30.

So, we hire 137,000 lawyers fresh out of law school to contest an election before it has even happened. That’s the crisis we are creating out of thin air. We convince enough people that vote by mail (also known as absentee voting) is dangerous and must be fought at all costs. I alone can solve it by appointing a new justice now, now, now. I then get credit for solving the crisis by limiting vote by mail and getting my conservative justice. See, this is how this works.

A breakdown in logic

Tensions and feelings are raw again following the announcement of indictments in the Breonna Taylor case. Specifically, the feelings are raw primarily because of the lack of indictments in the Breonna Taylor case. The only indictment that came down was as a result of shots fired into the neighbor’s home.

In situations like this it is difficult to be dispassionate. However, if we are even to attempt to look at the legal ramifications of things we have to look at the situation dispassionately. We will start with the most obvious question. Should Breonna Taylor be dead? It seems like a simple enough question with a simple enough answer? Did she do anything wrong? Did they shoot her to protect others or themselves? Did she even have a criminal record? Was she suspected of a crime? I think everyone can agree the answer is no on all counts.

However, this is where reasonable people go their separate ways. Those that deny police accountability do so because Taylor’s boyfriend opened fire on the officers. They fired back. So anything that results from that interaction is justified as self-defense. If you ignore all of the other facts in the case then that conclusion would seem reasonable enough.

Ask many of those same people what would happen if someone busted down their door in the middle of the night and they would all say something similar. That person would be dead. They’d get their gun and shoot that son of a bitch. Of course, in saying so they don’t quite grasp the problem in this case. The officers involved had a no knock warrant and were dressed in plain clothes. What is true is that some seem to claim they identified themselves as police at some point. Yet, when you have a no knock warrant you are presumably using the element of surprise to capture your suspect. If you wanted to announce yourself before you busted down the door you wouldn’t get a no knock warrant and you wouldn’t dress in plain clothes.

The moment they busted down that door then Taylor’s boyfriend was justified in opening fire. If what proponents of justified use of force is correct, then he would have been fully justified in firing at anyone busting down his door in the middle of the night. You don’t have to have intent to kill to be guilty of killing Taylor. You just need intent to be guilty of a higher charge. When you create an unsafe situation that results in someone’s death then you are guilty of manslaughter.

Lest anyone think that I am getting out of my normal 1000 word response this morning, we need to keep digging a little deeper. Those that defend police will point out that they were carrying a legal judicial order and doing so as prescribed by law. They don’t have to announce themselves as police before they kick down the door. They don’t have to wear anything that would identify themselves as police. They are certainly allowed to fire back once fired upon. Fine.

This is a simple situation with a very complicated solution. Breonna Taylor should not be dead. She had no criminal record and was in bed asleep when she was shot. Someone is legally responsible for her death. It can’t be her. We’ve shown that it really can’t be her boyfriend since he behaved in a way many would in the case that someone invaded their home. If we are to believe that the police are not responsible since they carried out a legal order then who is responsible?

The problem is that those in power in Kentucky feel that no one is. I think we know that’s not true. So, if we remove Taylor, her boyfriend, and the police involved then who do we have left? I think many of you are not going to like the answer because I didn’t the first time it popped into my head. Who gave them the authority to do this? That’s right, it was a judge himself.

Lawmakers gave police the right to use no knock warrants. The police officers supervisors obviously signed off on them seeking the no knock warrant in the first place. So, who is legally responsible? The judge that signed the no knock warrant should be arrested for reckless endangerment. The lawmakers that allowed no knock warrants are also legally liable. The supervisors that approved and sanctioned this are responsible for not only Taylor’s death but putting their own officers in harm’s way.

It seems extreme and that is what I thought when the thought first entered my noggin. Still, we cannot get past the fact that Breonna Taylor is dead and she shouldn’t be. So, either the police did not follow procedure when executing a no knock warrant and recklessly caused her death or they executed it perfectly and the mere use a no knock warrant recklessly caused her death. It’s one of the two.

What we know is that no one is going to arrest a judge. No one is going to arrest any state elected officials. No one is going to arrest the officers’ superiors. This is all we are going to get. So, for those that want to blame the boyfriend consider this: what would you have done? Are you okay with someone breaking down your door in the middle of the night? Are we reasonably expected to comply under those circumstances? I may not fire back, but I’m certainly not just waiting around to die. I suspect you aren’t either. So why are we expecting that in this case?

One Brick at a time

There is an overwhelming feeling I see when I’m talking with friends. It seems to affect people of all types. One of the first pieces I wrote in this new series talked about depression. Depression is but a symptom of the feeling I am talking about. That feeling is the feeling of despair. Despair happens when we feel like things are slipping away and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Whether it be watching America descend into chaos, politicians cravenly going back on promises that they’ve made, or democracy itself seemingly slipping away. I’ve had people tell me they’ve cried daily. I can’t say I’m there yet, but I find myself tearing up more often. It usually happens when watching something sad on television. Scenes that used to leave me unaffected have me making excuses. I was about to sneeze. There was an itch. I just had to wipe my eyes.

This despair ends up manifesting itself in numerous ways. Depression is just one of those. Sometimes people get angry when they experience despair. Sometimes they participate in dangerous activities. That could be to escape the feeling or to feel more alive. Everyone reacts in a way specific to them, but we all know the root cause of it.

Often times this despair is a combination or real life events and events imagined. I ran across someone online that was convinced Christians were being persecuted because a couple of statues/artifacts that had been defaced by vandals. Those couple turned into dozens of statues and then hundreds. Those vandals turned into an organized group designed to overthrow religion.

Others are convinced that the president won’t peacefully transfer power in case of defeat. There are a number of fears here. First, those that fear this fear that the election will be compromised somehow. Interesting that people on both sides feel this. Secondly, they fear he will do something to invalidate the results. Are any of these fears founded? Are there boogeymen coming to overthrow religion? Will the election be rigged?

A large part of the despair comes from the fact that even if the election works out there will be too much damage to repair. You spend so much time and political capital repairing damage that you hardly have time to advance the cause. This happened in 2009 as well. We had to overcome the financial crisis. We had to repair alliances around the world. So, we got really one piece of landmark legislation through.

If that is the case again I have a nominee. I want to shore up our political institutions and strengthen our elections. The first step is getting rid of the electoral college. I understand the arguments for it. We’ve all seen the maps about how certain states dominate in terms of population. How would a popular vote be fair to those small states? It’s simple really. It’s one person and one vote. Everyone’s vote counts equally whether they live in Los Angeles or Billings. States cease to matter.

Then, I would end gerrymandering forever. An independent commission would use computers to draw the 435 congressional districts. Studies have shown that fewer than 200 current districts are even competitive. They are separated by ten points or more in most cases. Gerrymandering is simply when political parties get to choose their voters instead of the other way around. Experts have determined that if districts are drawn independently then over 300 districts would become competitive. Think about what that would mean. In order to win you would have to appeal to the majority. Representatives would have to be sane and rational to win.

The final leg of this plan would be to create one set of rules for all elections involving national office (meaning president, representative, or senator). That means polls open at the same time and close at the same time. That’s also true of early voting and absentee voting. This would also make voter ID universal or not. Whatever the rule is in one state, it’s the same in the other 49 states. That would affect IDs, voter rolls, and everything else.

Studies show that Congress’ makeup does not match the wishes of the American people. The president won a minority of votes. The Senate is majority Republican even though more Democrats got votes in the last several elections. State legislatures are predominantly Republican even though there are more Democrats in the country. They blocked justices under Obama and packed them under Trump. They keep thousands if not millions from voting nationwide with onerous ID laws designed to affect poorer and darker Americans in addition to other voter suppression methods. It’s easy to see where the despair comes from. We clearly see that those that represent us really don’t represent us. Most of us didn’t even vote for them. If you want to change the despair you have to change that first.

I think the other problems will somehow become more manageable if those in Congress and the White House simply reflect the majority of people that voted. It will also become manageable if people have to be sane and reasonable to win office. When you have sane, rational, and reasonable people in government then the problems suddenly look so impossible.

The No Meme Pledge

I wanted to take a step back from fiery rhetoric to talk about something I’ve noticed lately on social media. People no longer speak for themselves. They post memes. They quote someone else. Sometimes, when pressed, they admit that they really didn’t look at it closely. This is especially true if the meme or quote is longer and more involved.

The internet has been with us for an entire generation. It has created a generation of people that have the bravery of being out of range. We can say things online we never would have said in person. People even created terms like “troll” and “cyberbully” to deal with the phenomenon.

Most of us in the older crowd spend our time on Facebook. The kids seem to love Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. I’m not on any of those platforms, so I can’t really say anything about those platforms. I’ll just speak to what I notice on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook in particular is great in that you can connect with friends and family you go years without seeing in person. You can see pictures and major life events and share in the common experience of larger events.

The current feeling I have came to a head when a friend clued me into something you could do with Facebook. It is called “snoozing”. Essentially, it allows you to ignore posts from a particular person for 30 days. It also does not allow them to comment on anything you post. How sad is it that Facebook has to install an option for people to be able to specifically ignore other people.

Yet, it’s sad when you know someone you love or like has become so toxic that it dampens your day when they post something. We immediately go back to our memes. The meme has become similar to the Gif in that quickly delivers a thought usually with a chuckle. It brings celebrities, animals, famous characters, or humorous situations and slaps on a quick slogan on for the quick laugh.

The problem with the meme and Gif is the same as the problem with the 30 second soundbyte. It doesn’t offer any context. Most issues have a context to them. They aren’t solved with a meme or a Gif. They are solved with hard work, deep thought, and careful compromise.

There can be no greater irony or microcosm of life than an attempt to snooze someone following the post of an inane meme. You can’t snooze your friend. It snoozes the poster of the meme. I’ve done it a few times. I don’t ever know anyone that originally posted the meme. So, I can snooze them, but that really doesn’t do any good.

The irony is that this mirrors the real life situation. The friend or loved one can simply claim that this wasn’t their meme. They were just forwarding it on. They didn’t create it. It’s not their responsibility. It doesn’t necessarily reflect what they think 100 percent. They just liked the sentiment and decided to share it. We’ve heard it all before.

Except, we are responsible for what we post. We are responsible for the tone we bring to the conversation. We are responsible for what is on our wall or on our Twitter feed. I can’t come at this from a position of judgment. I’ve posted stuff on my wall that was toxic. I’ve posted stuff on my twitter feed that was toxic. I may have even posted a meme or two.

So, here is my pledge. I will not post a single meme on my Facebook or Twitter feed between now and the election in November. I’m still going to speak my opinion. No one will ever stop me from doing that. Still, you will know that it’s mine. That way, if you don’t want to hear what I say you can unfollow me or snooze me. I suspect the more of us that do that the more respectful the dialogue will be. Then, there will be no need to do all of that.

The only issue

Abortion is an issue I’ve discussed before in passing. However, it has never intersected with so many issues as it does right now. I’ve also mentioned Ruth Bader Ginsberg as well. It seems the ship has sailed on Republicans waiting to fill the seat. Heck, Mitch McConnel couldn’t even wait 24 hours to make that declaration. Elections have consequences after all.

I think the saddest part of this whole deal is how political the court has become. I was always fond of telling the story of Earl Warren to my students. He presided over the court from 1953 to 1969. He was a part of Brown v. Board of Education and Miranda v. Arizona decisions to name a couple. He was appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower was a Republican. You can’t always predict how a justice will act. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Conservative thought on jurisprudence has gone from an overall legal point of view to a litmus test. Would you overturn Roe. v. Wade? If the answer is yes then you are qualified to serve on the bench. Life is complex and certainly legal philosophies and issues are complex. Is abortion really the most important legal issue before the court today?

I’ll address where I am at on that issue in a minute, but we know it is not the most important issue. The court is constantly dealing with issues of equality. Whether it be continuing systemic racism, prejudice against the LGTBQ community, or differences between men and woman, the court’s stances on those issues affect far more lives. The court also has opined on issues of free speech and campaign finance. In the age of the internet, issues of free speech and privacy are also dreadfully important. Every era has it’s legal questions. Abortion might be the least important and least interesting of all of them.

This is because the legal issue surrounding abortion is different than the act itself. The legal issue behind it was decided by a 7-2 ruling in 1973. Clearly, the court back then felt it was a compelling privacy right that belonged to women. The human side of the issue is a lot more complex and the various reactions to it should also be more complex.

I have known multiple people that have had abortions. I’m not revealing the number or any identifying characteristics. It’s a right to privacy. I will only say that none of them used it as an extended form of birth control. They were difficult decisions that were made for complex and often tragic reasons. I’m just thankful I wasn’t in the same situation.

As a general rule, I am opposed to abortion. I also don’t think it should be a political issue. Beyond supporting or not supporting a woman’s right to choose, it really shouldn’t be on the ballot. There isn’t much a president can do to affect abortion since it’s a legal right. What legislatures have been want to do lately is pass all kinds of restrictions. I suppose that makes sense. They are supply side economists after all, so why not apply the same concept to abortion?

I’ve always been a demand sider. Statistics show that the rates of abortion have been lower in Democratic administrations than in Republican ones. So, are we worried about what people say or are we worried about what actually happens? If you want to limit abortions you limit the demand for those abortions. You do that by limiting unwanted pregnancy. How do you do that? Well, you provide more education for kids. You provide access to contraceptions.

You don’t eliminate the choice. You help them expand the choice. There is adoption, but there is also making keeping the child more palatable. You do that by providing support. The common criticism of the Pro-Life movement is that they aren’t really Pro-Life. They are Pro-Birth. The moment that child is born then those poor girls can fend for themselves. We don’t want to provide them with affordable health care. We don’t want to provide them with income assistance. We don’t want to provide them with help finding good food. We don’t want to provide them a roof over their head. If you didn’t want to end up like this then you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place. That’s the world we are bringing that child into.

It’s okay for the state to kill convicted murderers. It’s okay to repeal the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic. It’s okay to refuse to wear masks. If you’re afraid of getting the virus then you should just stay inside. The elderly would gladly give up their lives to save the economy. It’s okay to pollute the environment so our company can make a few dollars more. It’s okay to separate children from their parents at the border. It’s okay to strip women of their ability to have children at the border without their consent. It’s okay to neglect your own citizens following hurricanes, wild fires, and other natural disasters. This is particularly true if they reside in a blue state or a U.S. territory that doesn’t get to vote. It’s okay to keep blue states from getting much needed supplies for the pandemic. Blue lives matter, but they only matter if you’re talking about police. If you aren’t then only red lives matter.

While we are on the subject, notice that the all lives matter crowd never shouts that at the blue lives matter crowd. It’s only when someone mentions black lives. In other words, quit calling yourselves pro-life. You aren’t pro-life. You are pro-birth. Life is a continuum. It doesn’t stop at birth. Being pro-life means being for feeding that child. Being pro-life means being for keeping that child healthy. Being pro-life means being for educating that child. Being pro-life means protecting that child’s life equally no matter their background. Being pro-life means that their life is more important than the economy. Being pro-life means the state doesn’t get to end that life no matter what the child has done. Being pro-life means we don’t enter into wars of choice so our children can end the lives of other children.

So, I hope that you can see that Pro-Life means a whole lot more than just abortion. I don’t like abortion any more than anyone else, but I’ll be damned if we allow short-sighted zealots to wipe their hands and walk away as soon as that child is born. That child’s life has just begun. They deserve more. We can argue about what that looks like, but you don’t get to call yourself Pro-Life if you think you wash your hands of it after the child is born. You don’t get to call yourself Pro-Life if you allow government officials to endanger our lives everyday with their short-sighted policies. You don’t get to call yourself Pro-Life if you are okay with letting that poor family starve because of choices they may or may not have made. You don’t get to call yourself Pro-Life if you are okay separating children at the border and putting them in cages. You don’t get to call yourself Pro-Life if you think opening the economy is more important than saving people’s lives. You are pro-birth. I have no issue with anyone that is pro-birth. It’s a fairly respectable viewpoint. You just don’t get to stand on the moral highground of Pro-Life.

Emotional Growth

Last time, I wrote about a woman that was threatening to divorce her husband because he was a Trump supporter. They had been married for five years. She knew he was a Republican before they had gotten married, but they were obviously married before the age of Trump. It’s obvious she naturally assumed he would be opposed to Trump. That assumption was obviously wrong.

Some of the responders on the left seemed to naturally assume that the man in question was emotionally stunted. A recent post from PsyPost asserted that people with lower emotional intelligence are more likely to hold right-wing views. It was published on September 3, 2019. So, it’s not completely up to date, but it seems close.

Yet, that seems to be one of the reflexive things we say when we want to denigrate an opponent. We insult their intelligence or in this case say they are emotionally stunted. The other side does it too when they call liberalism a sickness. These things are usually done to shut down debate. It feeds into that whole, “I can’t understand why you….” My wife even caught me doing it when I uttered, “I don’t know what I can do for you” after someone uttered an inane comment on Twitter or Facebook.

We all need to grow emotionally. Often times these pieces that I write serve to work as therapy. They drudge up memories of when I might not have been as enlightened as I am today. I won’t be as enlightened as I will be in the future. That’s how life works. Growing up where I did, I really grew up in a bubble. We were all generally sheltered and even people that would technically be called ethnic minrities tended to have the same cultural background as the rest of us. Their parents worked professional jobs and were educated. So, encountering different people in college and later on in life was a learning experience.

When I wrote about interracial marriages in the last post, I was reminded of a situation I found myself in in college. A friend invited me to go to a school function with her. We had had several classes togather and always got along. I liked her and was attracted to her, but I assumed she wouldn’t be attracted to me. Part of that is probably because I was never much of a player, but the other part was that she was black and I was white. As it turns out, her invitation was not only meant to be us going as friends, but maybe her way of reaching out. I could look back at it as a blown opportunity, but I am also happily married. So, I chalk it up as more of a learning experience.

This growth continued throughout my teaching career. When I look back on the way that I sometimes acted I cringe. I don’t know that I had any particular malice in my heart. I just didn’t necessarily know any better. Admittedly, I have not always been an effective teacher. Part of that is my failing. I sometimes struggled with discipline. Some of that is based on the fact that I have always been too nice. Yet, I could be easily frustrated and frustration often leads to anger. It has been a lot easier working in the capacity I do now. I can be nice and built a report with students no matter who they are or what their background is.

What does this have to do with politics? It’s really simple. It is easy to feel superior in a conversation. It’s a defense mechanism that allows us to ignore what someone else is saying when what they say challenges deeply held beliefs that we have. They don’t have the facts or they are just a racist asshole. That’s the easy way out.

The hard way is to remember that we are all flawed people and are all on a journey to become the best version of ourselves. That’s the downside of reflexively calling someone a racist. First, we deny our own beliefs that we may hold or may have held. Secondly, we put someone else in a defensive posture where they will be reluctant to do a serious self evaluation. It’s always good to look inward every now and then to really check ourselves. It’s uncomfortable to admit that I may have been one too at one time even if I didn’t necessarily hate anyone.

It’s a delicate balance. I am usually ineffective in debates because I am not secure enough in my own opinion to fight back as hard as I should. I allow that doubt to consume me. It can be disjarring to see people who are seemingly so sure in something that seems so wrong to me. My sincerest hope is that everyone reevaluates their beliefs, attitudes, and emotional growth at least on occasion. Emotional growth is not a liberal thing. It’s not a conservative thing. It’s a human thing. We need more of it these days.

Inter-party Relationships

Social media is an interesting place to escape every now and then. Twitter in particular is a fascinating place. It is easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole when you look at the replies to a particular tweet. This happened to me today. I read a tweet from a woman that was disgusted that her husband of five years was still supporting Donald Trump. She was considering divorce.

The beauty of Twitter is that you can see dilemmas encapsulated into short bursts of words. The downside of Twitter is that you see the replies in short bursts of words. I experienced something similar earlier in the day when I attempted to engage a guy when he said that mainstream media had created the myth that Donald Trump was racist. I bowed out. It just wasn’t worth the effort.

As someone that has studied a little psychology, I’m more interested in this overall topic. The topic of Trump’s racism is just not interesting anymore. It’s so obvious that for those that can’t see it there is nothing I can really say. However, the issue of relationships is interesting on a psychological, personal, political, and historical level.

Interracial marriages used to be so rare that they were illegal in some jurisdictions. Couples that came from vastly different religious backgrounds were also rare. They may still be rare. Data is understandably old, but the rate almost doubled for interracial marriages in the last census. It was 15.1 percent in 2010. It jumped to 17 percent in 2015.

We see similar trends in interreligious marriage. The rates for marriage between a couple from different sects of Christianity hasn’t increased that much. However, the rates of couples from completely different backgrounds has doubled since 1960. Overall, 81 percent of marriages in 1960 involved both parties being from the same faith background. That dropped to 61 percent in 2014.

So, the new taboo appears to be interpolitical marriages. The responses from the Twitter followers seemed to demonstrate why. Liberals and progressives wanted this woman to get a divorce. Conservative men took the opportunity to insult the woman. Conservative women asked for his digits. A smattering expressed regret that this kind of issue would destroy a marriage.

It’s difficult to put on the therapist hat in this kind of situation. It involves looking at the situation completely impartially. The best I can come up with is that we should know as much about our partner as we can before we marry them. According to the woman, she knew he was a Republican before they married. So, one has to decide whether that’s a deal breaker. It’s the same as marrying a Yankees fan or Cowboys fan.

On the other hand, I get the difference between being a conservative and being a Trump supporter. My wife is a conservative. She’s a conservative in the classical sense. She wants the government to stay out of our lives and she wants the government to live within its means. She also didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and won’t again. If she were a Trump supporter I’d have to seriously evaluate the situation. I don’t think I’d leave, but you never know until you are in that situation.

This is all proof that this election isn’t a policy debate. It’s not about foreign policy or domestic policy. It’s not about tax policy. This election is about who we are. I know who I am. I know who I want those around me to be. I know not everyone agrees with me. The hard part is deciding what we want to tolerate. In that case, I can’t judge. On the one hand, life is too short to be with someone you can’t respect. On the other hand, life is awfully lonely if we exclude people we disagree with.

A wounded animal

There are moments when you have little that you want to say. Then there are moments where you have too much that you want to say. Yesterday, news came down that put us in the latter category. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death has sent many of us reeling. There will be numerous moving pieces that will celebrate her life and her long and distinguished career. Part of me wanted to do that.

Others will strike out in anger and make big claims. Part of me wanted to do that. Yet, I wanted to touch on the emotion that is overwhelmingly driving all of that: fear. Fear often leads to anger and can lead to aggression. So, I thought I would introduce a personal story to illustrate the point.

Last week, our daughter accidentally closed the door on our cat’s paw. It was an accident. Our two cats were fighting and she was trying to prevent it. The cat broke two bones in his paw. He was understandably frightened and hurt. We managed to get him into a carrier and get him to one of those late night emergency clinics. He now has a splint on the paw. We must keep him confined and medicated for nearly two months.

Seeing the response to a wounded animal is an interesting study in human nature. My wife is not a huge fan of the cat. He is chronically lazy even when healthy and sometimes does not relieve himself where he should. However, she has been very comforting to him because she generally loves animals. Even the dog has been comforting to him as they share space downstairs.

At this point, you might be asking what this has to do with Ginsberg. Simply put, the liberal wing of the country is like the wounded animal. We have retreated to our corner and are looking to regroup. It’s not a fatal injury at this point, but we are certainly in a weakened position. The GOP and the president are in a position of being the observer in all of this.

You could imagine that the wounded animal in the corner is not your pet, but instead a wild animal you never wanted on your property. You have three simple options when dealing with such a wounded animal. You can leave it alone and hope it leaves on its own eventually. You can attempt to put it out of its misery and kill it. You can also try to help it.

I would say the president holds the cards, but I don’t know if he would have any compassion for a real wounded animal mich less a metaphorical one. This is where Mitch McConnel needs to step up. I know hearing those words is enough to put a chill down anyone’s spine, but this is where we’re at. Give McConnel credit, he is a master of political calculation even if the humanity isn’t necessarily there.

If he moves to fill the seat it would be akin to attacking the wounded animal. Liberals and progressives aren’t merely an injured raccoon. We make up roughly a third of the country. If you come after us you better kill us quick. Otherwise, such a move would backfire horribly. In terms of reality, if you move to fill the seat you better make sure you win the next election. That kind of move could be the spark that mobilizes people to vote against you. He is himself on the ballot after all.

His best option is to pledge not to fill the seat until after the election. If Trump loses then the next president appoints the next justice. If Trump wins then he gets to appoint one in November. That would be similar to the home owner leaving the wounded animal to heal itself and move along. Dealing with wild animals is unpredictable, but I can tell you how our cat has reacted. He has become more lovable after the care he has gotten. He trusts us more.

The third option only gets done in fiction on shows like the West Wing. That would involve putting Merrick Garland on the bench. Some of you may recall that was the judge that never got a hearing from McConnell in Obama’s last year in office. It was the so-called Biden rule. That would be a master stroke just because it would be a move that would create reconciliation and engender a level of trust from the left that the right has never enjoyed.

I think we know that’s not happening. So, the realistic choices are to go for the kill and appoint a right-wing judge now or to practice mercy and hold off until after the election. No one is quite sure how November turns out and each of these major events puts the issue more in doubt. I don’t think Trump voters are changing their tune, but with each blow comes the realization to everyone else that we are in this together. If you manage to unite them it could be game over.