Archive for the ‘#culturaldivide’ Tag

Interesting Take on Society   Leave a comment

Have you seen the latest Joker movie? I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. There’s the money – about $18 a ticket here in Fairbanks — but Brad convinced me to go since it isn’t yet cold enough to worry about needing to warm our car mid-movie. (Yes, Alaska – a very challenging place). Brad knows me, though. I love to analyze films, to figure out what they’re trying to say to their viewers. So Friday night date, movie. And while in the line to buy tickets, we ran into our son and his girlfriend who were going to see the same movie.

Image result for image of joker

The reviewers of the movie all seemed to cite it as “dangerous,” fearing it might inspire insurrection groups to identify the character as a hero and imitate him. Others condemned the film’s “willful unpleasantness” and “rare, numbing emptiness” (we call that nihilism). Still others draw a connection between Joaquin Phoenix’s depiction of the character and the validation of “white male resentment” seen on the political right.

As an observer of social psychology, however, I saw Joker’s commentary on the phenomenon of collectivism (what another commentator called “de-individuation.”) The film’s true evil (the Big Bad, if you will) is a broken, frustrated society that latches onto random, almost purposeless acts of violence, imbues them with deeper meaning, and uses them as justification for mass violence and brutality. On the way to the car, Brad asked me “What was the political message?” and I didn’t find Joker to be a political movie. It’s a psychological one, showing the dangers of group action and the power of group narratives. Our son’s girlfriend was so impressed with my answer that the young folk asked the old folk to hang out and discuss it. This is a synopsis of about three hours of drinking coffee and three thinkers and a construction worker psycho-analyzing a fictional character.

In Joker, Gotham City is broken, but no one class or group shoulders the blame for the dysfunction. Arthur Fleck is failed by every level of society – mugged and beaten by a street gang, brutalized by rich young bankers, abandoned amid the de-funding of the public mental health care system, and permanently scarred by his own family. Lots of blame to go around. And yet, every class in Joker seeks to shift the blame for society’s woes. The rich denigrate the working class and the working class dehumanize the wealthy. A TV host (played by, ironically, Robert DeNiro) mercilessly teases Arthur, and all classes share the same glee at his televised failures.

In their desperate need to find someone else to blame, the masses of Gotham condemn “them” (I think they were “the one percent”). Society then elevates Arthur’s purposeless act of murder into kind of social rebellion. The populace knows zero significant details about the killing — no motive, circumstances or even the identity of the perpetrator — but imbues it with shared meaning. They’ve already constructed their narrative and will fit a random event to match it, and thus declare Joker a hero.

When Arthur’s identity is revealed in the movie’s climax, hordes of protesters are already ready to revolt. Another purposeless murder by Arthur sparks riots. On the brink of public suicide (akin to suicide by cop in mass shootings, perhaps), Arthur issues a rambling rant where he blames the elites for the state of Gotham, claims credit for the earlier killing, and decides to enjoy one last bit of senseless violence.

From a psychological perspective, Joker is an incredibly realistic and damning depiction of group dynamics. Unlike previous versions of the Joker by Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker has no plans, no real motives, and no overarching point to make. He’s a victim of both circumstances and his own impotent rage. He doesn’t manipulate or use other people to achieve his ends, probably because he has no actual ends to achieve. In this version of Gotham, everyone is awful to everyone, and it is society that makes Joker what he is, not by their treatment of him, but through their mythologizing and romanticizing of his purposeless actions.

De-individuation is a phenomenon where crowds assume a collective identity and become willing to commit even the most heinous acts, as seen in the Stanford Prison Experiment, but also Nazi Germany, Communist China, the old Soviet Bloc states, and Southern slave plantations. De-individuation is seen when crowds assume a collective identity, diffuse individual responsibility among themselves, and become willing to commit mass riots and lynch mobs because they come to believe that simple numbers equate to moral action. The collective identities of de-individuated groups result in biased recollections and interpretations of events that devolve into horrifying violence.

This is exactly what happens in Joker. All Arthur Fleck does is commit relatively aimless murders and issue a relatively incoherent angry rant on television. The true villain of the movie is the broader society that latches onto these actions and words and imbues them with nonexistent meaning to justify their own crimes.

As a novelist, I recognize that fiction reflects reality. In the search for meaning amid an increasingly polarized and hostile political climate, groups come together and lionize monsters. While the mass murderers Che Guevara and Mao Zedong are praised by many on the political left, their self-aggrandizing brutality ignored in favor of the mythologized virtues of socialism and communism, the nationalist ideologies responsible for mass tragedy in the past are lauded by those on the political right. Feelings of disenfranchisement and resentment produce violent mobs on both ends of the political spectrum, hence Antifa and the Proud Boys.

Brad walked away from the film with a deep sense of discomfort. Call him “Everyman”. Like most American moviegoers, he prefers simple, somewhat cartoonish evil villains who he can assume are “the other” because they don’t prompt any self-reflection. None of us want to identify with the villain. We prefer to see a message against our ideological opponents rather than our own potential for immoral behavior. Brad served as our “normal” control as Keirnan, his girlfriend and I analyzed the movie at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant afterward.

We agreed that like the hordes of Gotham, we seek to villainize those who disagree with us while excusing the behavior of our in-groups. Such circumstances make instances of mass violence and de-individuation all the more likely.

Joker is not about Trump and the alt-right any more than it is about Antifa and the radical left. It is about the apolitical dangers of group de-individuation. We need such examples outside the psychology classroom because otherwise, the examples will be on the news. We’ve already seen it in the Antifa riots and Charlottesville. We need uncomfortable films like Joker to show us the dangers of grouping up and allowing apolitical psychological forces dictate our interactions with our fellow humans and, heaven forbid, our government policies.

Pyrrhic Victory   4 comments

There’s a young man who attends our church (a student at the University of Alaska) who fled Malaysia after his parents were killed by a mob who insisted his mother had cast sorcery spells on a man who died in their village. After seeing his parents machetied to death, Daniel (yes, the name his Malaysian Christian parents gave him) had to flee Malaysia to save his own life.

Image result for image of violent Kavanaugh protestersThat’s just an example of the mob violence Western civilization crawled free of through the establishment of principles like the presumption of innocence.

To millions of Americans, Brett Kavanaugh seems just as guilty as Daniel’s family seemed to their accusers. They sincerely believe that Kavanaugh has all the signs of a abusive male — afterall, he’s an affluent, white, elite Catholic school attendee, conservative and nominated by the “serial rapist” Donald Trump. Millions of people have repeated this so often that it feels deeply true and who can deny the “corroborating” accusations? And, thus you see the power of groupthink on the human mind. It is possible they’re right and Kavanaugh is guilty as charged, but it is equally possible they are wrong and are unfairly attacking a man who is being lied about. Without corroboration of Ford’s statements, there’s really no way of knowing … but his children will grow up thinking Daddy’s might be a sex offender, regardless.

Daniel’s parents met the profile of “witches”, according to their accusers. When a missionary couple who came to Daniel’s aid went to the authorities, they were told charges of sorcery are fairly common against Christians in Malaysia and may seem absurd to third-party observers, but it is a near-universal belief in that part of Malaysia. Sorcery has power there because people believe it has power and so the accusation of sorcery is likely to result in death by machete-wielding mobs…especially if you’re so foolish as to call yourself a Christian.

Western society fought a long battle with ourselves to establish personhood. It’s a relatively new idea that an individual person has a right to their own life and liberty regardless of the passions of the collective. For most of history, the individual accused by a crowd or community had no ability to escape its destructive path.

When Potiphar’s wife accused her Hebrew slave Joseph of trying to rape her (it was she who tried to seduce him), Joseph was thrown into prison without any need for corroboration beyond the shirt she’d ripped off him.

“Believe our women!” was the slogan of lynching organizers during Jim Crow. The “justice” crowd felt as sure about their scapegoats’ guilt as new partisan crowds do about their conservative targets. To mobs, a person’s wealth (or poverty) or race, religion, gender or whatever makes them other is sufficient reason to ignore their humanity and cast shame or even kill. There’s a zeal that posses the minds of people who think that dressing out of fashion, having opposing political opinions, or bearing a “guilty” skin color makes one suspect for non-corroborated accusations.

Image result for image of a pyrrhic victoryVictim-garbed political stunts are growing. Yes, we should take the survivors of assault seriously, but allowing them to be used as props for political power is not how we go about that.

Daniel knows the dangerous of witch hunts because he’s a survivor of a witch hunt. Had he and his parents been afforded the presumption of innocents, his parents might still be alive and he might not have such horrific memories. The presumption of innocence should be a cultural norm practiced outside of the courts because winning in a court of law (or the Senate), but losing the court of public opinion is a Pyrrhic victory.

Do You See the Matrix?   Leave a comment

I don’t generally watch TED Talks. They just seem slick and superficial to me. I prefer to read and the only visual media I really interact with is long-form discussions similar to what Jordan Peterson, Dave Ruben and Joe Rogan do. But Brad enjoys visual media, so sometimes I’m in the room when he’s consuming them.

Thus, I watched this TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who has researched morality and culture for 30-odd years. He’s spent a large pat of his career trying to understand and explain the foundations of human morality. Not too surprisingly, he’s noticed that humans often struggle to agree on what morality is. It’s to his credit that he hasn’t thrown up his hands in disgust and walked away from the topic.

During a TED Talk that I think is a few years old, Haidt shared his discovery that human beings don’t begin as a blank slate. I know … that’s contrary to common mythology, which Haidt calls “the worst idea in all psychology.” According to Haidt, humans are born with a “first draft” of moral knowledge, possessed of innate but malleable sets of values “organized in advance of experience.”

If the slate isn’t blank, then something is on it. What?

These are not new concepts to Christians. The Bible has asserted for time immemorial that mankind is created in the image of God. Since God is a Spirit and doesn’t have a body, this is not a physical image, but a spiritual or moral one. So, this Ted Talk didn’t surprise me in the least, though it may have come as news to Haidt and his team.

To find out what is on our moral template, Haidt and a colleague read the most current literature on anthropology, cultural variations, and evolutionary psychology to identify cross-cultural matches. They found five primary categories that serve as our moral foundation:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and community. (As a Christian, I suspect it’s part of the innate code God gave us before the Fall).
2) Fairness/reciprocity: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, when Haidt reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, his team emphasized proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives.
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: According to Haidt, this foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions and it underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions. (I attribute it to our original relationship with God, now damaged by the Fall.)
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions…just ask vegetarians and athletes).

Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity values. Liberal-minded people, however, tend to reject the three remaining foundational values—Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation—while conservatives accept them.

I was so stunned by overhearing that as I wrote in the living room while Brad listened to the video, that I watched it again — twice. That’s a striking difference, which helps explain why many liberals and conservatives in America think “the other side” is delusional.

Now, a lot of liberals will contend that the three extra values are not proper morals at all but base human traits responsible for xenophobia and religious oppression. Haidt rejects this thesis. Through a series of historical illustrations, psychological studies, and cross-cultural references, he explains that many liberals often fail to appreciate a timeless truth that conservatives usually accept: order tends to decay. (If that sounds familiar, google the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

Haidt isn’t suggesting conservatives are superior to liberals. He’s actually pointing out that conservatives tend to value order even at the cost of those at the bottom of society, which can result in morally dubious social implications (or, as Brad pointed out, more robust church charity programs). In contrast, liberals often desire change even at the risk of chaos and the associated damage that accrues from it. A friend I shared the chart with pointed out that it makes conservatives look like the more open-minded ones, which is an interesting take on the usual condemnation.

If your head is exploding, you might want to reach for the duct tape. You can certainly refuse to accept Haidt’s explanation of moral reality. The human inclination is to believe in one’s own understanding of morality, and many people will live their entire lives without seriously attempting to understand their ideological counterparts, but of course Haidt (and I) don’t recommend living in reality bubbles.

“If you think that half of America votes Republican because they’re blinded… then my message to you is you’re trapped in a moral matrix,” Haidt said. “You can either take the blue pill and stick to your comforting delusions. Or you can take the red pill, learn some moral psychology, and step outside your moral matrix.”

So what to make of all this? I found Haidt’s explanations pretty insightful, but I already knew it. He was just catching up to writings from Francis Schaefer I read 30+ years ago or with the Bible itself which was written millennia ago. But for those who like their cultural and philosophical analysis to be more timely, it certainly helps explain America’s  current contentious culture. Intelligent and reasonable people will have a difficult time agreeing on anything if they view the moral underpinnings of society through vastly divergent lenses and it is no stretch to contend that American liberals have largely abandoned the latter three values (exceptions exist, of course), or that conservatives are highly influenced by them.

If you really hate this theory, it may just be evidence that you’re living in a moral matrix of either stripe and you might need to take the red pill to wake up and see your neighbor as he truly is rather than in the role your worldview has cast him into. And, maybe, having done that, we can sit down to coffee and have a pleasant conversation in which we discover that we can find common ground if we’ll just stop totally rejecting what the other person sees and believes about reality.

Candace Owens: Voice of a Generation   Leave a comment

I apologize for the boring white dude at the beginning, but if you get through that, it’s well worth listening to Candace’s speech. Lela rolled her eyes at the Trump endorsement at the end, but the rest of it is an extremely important message that anyone who wants to understand the world as it is today ought to at least listen to before they reject the message out of hand. Brad

Is it Time for the Great Dissolution?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of national secession as a divorceHello. This is Brad. Lela is editing a book preparatory to launching in November. After spending the last few weeks watching Americans scream at each other, I received this funny in my email, sent to me by a friend with an odd sense of human. We don’t know where it comes from, but it’s funny and it makes a point that maybe needs making in these days of hate and rage.

Dear American liberals, leftists, statists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, etc:

We have stuck together since the late 1950’s for the sake of the kids, but this latest election has made me realize that we should get a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.

Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let’s just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

Here is a model separation agreement:

–Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking an appropriate portion. We’re happy to give you New England and the West Coast. The good people of New Hampshire obviously will need some time to pack up and move to flyover country, and we’ll give the tenured professors in university towns ample time to relocate in your share of the country.

–We don’t like redistributive taxes and the IRS, so you can keep them.

–You are welcome to the left-wing judges and the ACLU.

–Since you hate guns and war, we’ll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.

–We’ll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel.

–You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O’Donnell. You are, however,  responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.

–We’ll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street.

–You can have your beloved welfare grubbers, food stamp recipients, homeless, hippies, druggies, and illegal aliens.

–We’ll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO’s, and rednecks.

–We’ll keep the Bibles and give you the networks and Hollywood.

–You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we’ll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.

–You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we’ll help provide them security.

–We’ll keep our Judeo-Christian values.

–You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness and Shirley McClaine. You can also have the U.N. but we will no longer be paying the bill.

–We’ll keep the SUV’s, pickup trucks, and full-sized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru, Volvo, and Prius you can find.

–You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors.

–We’ll continue to believe healthcare is a product of the marketplace and not a right.

–We’ll keep “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The National Anthem.”

–I’m sure you’ll be happy to substitute “Imagine”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, “Kum Ba Ya” or “We Are the World”.

–We’ll practice trickle down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.

–Since it often so offends you, we’ll keep our history, our name and our flag.

I’m from New Hampshire. I grew up there. So I’m going to argue for it to remain with the red states. And, I think Alaskans will demand visitation rights with the Subarus. But otherwise — yeah, it’s about right.

When a marriage devolves to this much vitriol, it really is time to consider dissolution before and as an alternative to a murder-suicide.

Price of False Witness   2 comments

I don’t know who is lying and it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to point out what God has to say on the subject.

Related imageYou shall not give (answer as in a court of law) false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

The faithful witness tells what is right, but a false witness speaks deceit. Speaking recklessly (rashly) is like the thrusts of a sword, but the words of the wise bring healing. The one who tells the truth will endure forever, but the one who lies will last only for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.  Proverbs 12:17-20

A false witness (a witness of lies) will not go unpunishedand the one who spouts out (breaths out lies) lies will not escape punishment. Proverbs 19:5

(Jesus said) “I tell you that on the day of judgmentpeople will give an account for every worthless word they speak. For by your words you will be justifiedand by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:26-27

Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoraland the murderersand the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood! Revelations 22:14-15

So, whoever is lying — and they know which they are — might want to pay close attention to what real judgment on their behavior will look like because God promises there is punishment not just for lying, but for the disruptions caused by lying.

Posted October 7, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide, Uncategorized

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Why Not Talk Together?   2 comments

Coffee Table TalkWelcome to the Land of Extremes! The US (indeed most of the Western world) is rapidly splitting into two political extremes that each see the other as the enemy in a potential fomenting war. If you’re in the middle … or a libertarian … they want to force you to choose a side and, it seems likely, if one side wins, it will try to eliminate the other point of view and probably yours as well.

You can blame it on a lot of factors. I try not to jump on President Trump’s every childish tweet because I am trying hard not to take sides. It can’t be easy to be a Trump supporter these days, but they are right that there’s been no solid evidence produced against Trump himself for anything that would have gotten the slightest notice during the Obama and Clinton era. Meanwhile, the news outlets have discredited themselves with their respective mudslinging and cheerleading.

Those are symptoms of our conditions that make it extremely difficult to find reliable, unbiased information about anything political. Almost everyone has taken a side. CNN is an unrelenting wall of anti-Trump semi-news every day all day. Fox News bangs the drum for Trump unless he makes a huge error and they try to minimize those. Facebook, Google et al show a clear bias to the the left and appear to be stifling some conservative viewpoints. Interesting, the folks I talk to on both sides of the divide insist the media outlets they prefer are just telling “the truth” while all the others are biased.

For the record … I think they’re all biased. Some are more biased than others.

Watching from the outside and largely trying to stay out of the political battles, I’ve seen hostilities escalating to where people truly view the other party as evil, prompting Jordan Peterson (a Canadian centrist with some libertarian views) to ask what American liberals think should happen to Trump supporters when the liberals overthrow the elected government. Speaking of Peterson … violent protests break out over invitations to even moderately conservative speakers … in effect limited college campus viewpoints to liberal only.

The days of the compassionate, tolerant liberal are over, replaced with an “us or them” mentality that labels libertarians and nonpartisans as “the enemy” because you can only “be with the correct side” or you’re most assuredly with the wrong side. And being on the “wrong side” increasing means it’s okay to encourage violence against conservatives, justified because they’re supposedly racist, sexist, homophobic, “intolerant” Nazis. If a conservative wants to reduce welfare or even just eliminate waste and fraud in the program, they “hate the poor” and minorities and are therefore racist. If a person of faith feels that homosexuality is not a faithful lifestyle, they are “homophobic”. Either way, they’re Nazis and, since Nazis are the worst kind of people, violence against them is deemed perfectly acceptable. No other solutions are reasonable anymore. You couldn’t simply use your free speech to disprove their point of view or fund alternative organizations to influence the political process and there’s no time to write convincing articles showing why they’re wrong — no, you must physically assault them, then have them jailed for refusing to stand still while you beat them to death.

For decades, the conservative response to being labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., was to withdraw from the debate. Tufts University research shows “conservatives are more fearful than liberals of discussing politics with people with whom they disagree, because they dread being called a bigot. When asked how they feel about talking politics, every single conservative respondent raised the issue of being called racist.” Liberals expressed no comparable fear.” That indicates that conservatives are not allowed by liberals to value certain polices over others for responsible reasons. If bringing up valid reasons to, for example, support welfare reform, immediately brings charges of racism, it shifts the discussion to whether you’re a racist and away from the valid reasons for supporting welfare reform.

This is not a one-sided battle. Polarization has motivated both sides to force one another to comply with its worldview. Conservatives tried for yours to force their morality on the public by trying to completely outlaw abortion. You once couldn’t get a divorce in this country and there are Republicans in my home state of Alaska who still fight for marijuana prohibition.

But Democrats aren’t blameless. They’re actively working to punish free speech and religious beliefs, to make it illegal to have anything other than the liberal point of view about how to behalf in society. They are quite comfortable with using public intimidating to suppress ideas they disagree with.

Last week, I suggested we are headed toward a war and I had people angrily tell me I was wrong. I don’t see where I am. We are no longer the United States of America. We have become blue versus red, us versus them, and we’re all engaged in a fight for the survival of our beliefs and values. The fight contradicts everything America was founded on — freedom of speech, of differing idea, of the right to believe (or not believe) in religion. If either side wins this war, trends suggest they will force us all to bow to their ideology.

We all lose when that happens.

There’s a solution and it lies in refusing to see those who disagree with us as the enemy. Open your mind to the possibility that you’re not right about everything. Republicans/Democrats are not the vanguard of a crusade against the forces of evil. We can stop the war from happening if we simply start being reasonable, calm our emotions and lay aside our prejudices, and be willing to listen and learn from each other.

It’s Not Freedom if You Can’t Exercise It, Pt. 2   Leave a comment

I like to believe that nothing really shocks me anymore, but that Elena Kagan concurred with the majority in the Masterpiece Cake case surprises me. I’m even somewhat surprised that Justice Breyer joined in her concurrence.


“It is a general rule that (religious and philosophical) objects do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law” … unless state actors show hostility toward religious views, which the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did.

Image result for masterpiece cakeshopKagan noted the came of William Jack, who sought cakes with images that conveyed dispproval of same-sex marriage, along with religious text. Bakers refused to make them and their refusal was upheld by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In the case of Jack Phillips the Commission deemed his beliefs to be offensive, but a “principled rationale for the difference in treatment cannot be based on the government’s own assessment of offensiveness.”

Kagan found that the proper basis for distinguishing the cases was obvious. “The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) makes it unlawful for a place of public accommodation to deny ‘the full and equal enjoyment’ of goods and services to individuals based on certain characteristics, including sexual orientation and creed.” The three bakers in the Jack case would not have made a cake denigrating gay people no matter who requested it. Mr. Jack was not signaled out. Phillips did refuse the bake the cake for the gay couple because of their sexual orientation. Kagan reasoned that a plain reading of the Colorado law would have allowed the Commission to rule against Phillips on that basis, but they didn’t avail themselves of that option.

Okay, Kagan is a statist who is fine with using government to force people to violate their beliefs so long as government doesn’t show its underwear in the process.

Justice Gorsuch has a different view and we’ll get to that in a moment.

Offensive is in the eye of the beholder and forcing someone to compromise their religious beliefs curtails their freedom of conscience. Why is that somehow something we think is a good idea?

Under this argument, you could arrive that the idea that a black hip hop cover artist is required to sing Slim Shady songs for a bunch of skinheads unless the government fails to correctly cite its own law requiring that. Is the proper citing of the law somehow magic? Does it turn that which is sin into something that doesn’t mar the soul of the participant?


Because freedom of conscience is probably the most fundamental right we have. It is the right to be us and to have the fruits of our creativity to reflect what we want them to reflect and not what others demand we respect. And it’s not freedom if you’re afraid to exercise it.

Part 3

Victims Everywhere   Leave a comment

Image result for image of victimologyOne thing that really struck me this week in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting is how much victimhood has permeated this country. Yes, several people were shot and/or killed in that shooting and, yes, they are victims of a horrible tragedy. But to hear the media and the people they chose to interview talk, it would seem that half the nation’s population are victims of this incident that happened in one location. One woman on PBS talked about how her teenager, who attends a school in another state, was very concerned about how someone with a gun could come into her school and the mother wept that her child was being “victimized” like this. A man on another program said all parents with children in public school and their children have PTSD over this incident. Then there was someone else talking about how the shooter was a victim of bullying, almost as if that excuses shooting a bunch of people.

Wow! Is the embrasure of victimhood just an American phenomenon? It seems as if this country is the only place where people get so excited about the idea of being a victim that they will even fake hate crimes against themselves to get that status.

We’ve got women publicly crying that they were sexually assaulted and traumatized because a 93-year-old, wheelchair-bound President groped them. Maybe he was just trying to keep his arm around her for the photo op. He does have Parkinson’s Disease, you know?

Feminism (as in women having the same rights as men) has been so widely accepted in society that it made feminism irrelevant, so liberal feminists reinvented feminism as a combination of man-hating and victimization … a reason to keep bringing up patriarchy and rape culture and complain how men hold doors open for them and compliment their appearance. Disgusting!

Liberal feminism falsely makes women think they could have it all if those awful men weren’t getting in their way. It makes many guys unsure of what reaction they’ll get from women when they behave like men. Forget about the old “Women should be women and men should be men” philosophy; liberal feminism is about women being men and men being shamed for existing at all.

Progressive liberals (as opposed to classical liberals) work incessantly to split Americans into ever smaller groups that are at each other’s throats. If you want to get a sense of how bad it has gotten, we’re having ferocious public debates about transsexuals who, depending on how you define it, make up less than 0.25% to 0.75% of the population. Increasingly, the attitude is moving from the annoying, “You just can’t understand because of your race/color/gender” to “You HATE ME and that justifies ME HATING YOU” because of differences that are often unchangeable. This is incredibly dangerous to our future as a country because you can’t hold any group of people including a nation together long-term when people no longer believe they share the same goals and values as their neighbors.   Our nation’s motto is E pluribus unum (Out of many, one), but what happens when liberals insist that the many never become one?

Image result for image of victimologyThere was a time in America when people wanted to feel strong, capable and able to handle their own problems instead of being victims. There was a time in this country when the goals of oppressed minorities were to compete with white males on an even footing. Today, we’re told that, because of something intrinsic in our biology, we can never compete on even footing with white males who have received their position because of something intrinsic in their biology. They have white privilege, so unless we kill them all off (or at least take away their means of competing with us) we’ll always be victims. That sure sounds an awful lot like the old racism that said something intrinsic in our biology made one race superior to all others.

So what happens if we achieve this utopia? Do we honestly believe that a generation raised to be victims will be able to make use of power that sets aside their victimhood? Because once you’re in the cat-bird’s seat, you’re no longer a victim … right?

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About three decades ago, my husband and I met his now-best friend, a Native fella – half-Eskimo – who introduced us to Alaska’s gun culture.

Image result for image of talking to opponentsTo be fair, I had been on the fringes of that culture my whole life. Growing up in Alaska, guns had always been. They were like frying pans or cars … a useful tool that just were. I wasn’t afraid of them because I was taught how to shoot — first rifles and then handguns — when I was young. I was way more afraid of my parents if I touched a gun without their permission than I was of guns themselves. That was back in the days when parents expected to be obeyed. So guns were always around. I knew not to touch them without permission. I knew how to use them and I knew what sort of destruction they were capable of — kind of like a car or the stove or matches.

When we met Ray, I still hiked into the Alaska wilderness without a gun … this was before I knew someone who was mauled by a bear after he shot bear spray into the bear’s nose and discovered that doesn’t disable bears … it mostly just pisses them off. So, while I had inherited my mom’s 357 for home defense, I just didn’t see the logic (yet) of carrying the extra weight to go hiking. I’d need to see Johnny after his encounter with the bear and then I would grasp the logic.

Ray, however, was raised in the gun culture. He owned several guns then. He owns more now. He’s never felt like shooting up a shopping center, although as a teacher in the public schools, he wishes he could carry concealed because he dislikes being helpless in the face of someone else’s murderous rampage. Basically, it’s a hobby that he thoroughly enjoys and — should a zombie apocalypse breakout — we all know whose house to go to for the weapons.

But that’s really a side discussion. My reason for bringing up our friendship with Ray is that, prior to him introducing us to his collection (what some folks might call an “arsenal”), I always figured that anyone who owned more than a single 22 for bird hunting, a single 300 cal for large game and a single handgun for home protection was something of a gun nut who sort of creeped me out. I would go once a year to practice shoot, but the idea of reloading my own bullets so I could afford to kill dozens of (paper) targets in a single afternoon had never occurred to me.

When Brad first moved to Alaska he was absolutely freaked out while working in an Alaskan village to realize that EVERYBODY there owned guns … carried them with them … left them loaded while leaning in the corner. Later, when we started dating, he realized that gun ownership and treating it like a tool was normal in Alaska. His terror of people randomly going postal with their rifle gradually dropped away. And, then we met Ray and we both changed our definition of normal.

Brad grew up in a culture (Northeast) where no “nice or normal” people owned guns or enjoyed doing anything with them. He never knew anyone who was “nice and normal” who had any (or at least admitted to having any) guns.  Even when he lived in Texas, he didn’t know anyone who (admittedly) owned guns. I don’t think that’s strange. We tend to run in certain circles (bubbles) and to associate only with people who are like ourselves.

Many decent people who have no interest in guns simply can’t imagine what it must be like to be someone who is passionate about something whose primary purpose is (from the perspective of the observer) to kill people. My handgun was a surplus Alaska Trooper weapon that my dad bought at auction when my mom wanted a gun for home protection when he was working remotely, so it is possible that it has been used to shoot someone, but in the 50+ years that it has belonged to our family, it has been fired at practice targets and, once, over the head of a moose who was stampeding through a hunting camp where there were children. I planned to shoot the moose in the head if she continued her course, but the warning shot caused her to turn aside, so I didn’t need to kill her to protect my fellow campers. In other words, most gunowners are rational people who only kill if they have to. How do I know that? I have a lot of friends who own guns.

While we endless debate gun ownership and concealed carry using words, logic and fact — each taking our respective sides in the issue, the arguments constructed using these three tools of intelligence are not what brings people to their pro- or anti-gun position. For most people, that position is derived of from emotional or intuitive beliefs. Brad grew up in a city where guns were used to kill people. I grew up in a wilderness where guns were used to defend against carnivorous animals. We employed the tools of logic retroactively in defense of our personal position and so does everyone else. Most of our political views are arrived at by emotional or intuitive discovery.

And as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives his tenets; it is in vain to expect that any logic, which speaks not to the affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder principles. David Hume


What most anti-gun people are really feeling (rather than thinking) is that there has to be something strange about you if you like guns. They see the gun as an instrument fit only for killing people … or maybe animals (which they often feel emotional about as well). If you like this instrument of death, you are sufficiently different from an anti-gun person that you are viewed as dangerous, mentally ill or culturally inferior. You’ve become the “other”. You are now allowed to be denigrated, segregated and subjugated by having your individual rights taken from you “for your own good” and “the good of society”.

Image result for image of integration on gun issuesWe’ve been here before with other subcultures within our society. Think blacks between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. Yes, we are discussing cultural segregation here. Anti-gun culture believes it has the high moral ground because “those gun nuts” are different from them, so therefore must be avoided and controlled, but this belief is based on ignorance. Meet an anti-gun person and you will almost always learn that they don’t know anyone on any real level who is not an anti-gunner. Like all such cultural segregation, the barriers can be broken down by getting to know those on the other side of the gap.

This, by the way, works both ways. People who favor more gun regulation are not actually motivated by taking away our liberty. They don’t see it as a liberty issue like they do smoking pot, having sex with whomever they want or the question of what to do with their Sunday mornings. They feel unsafe around guns, so they see gun control as a move toward more safety. Conversely, people who favor robust 2nd amendment protections do not have a higher threshold for the acceptance of violence or aggression. In fact, they probably carry because they have a LOWER tolerance for aggression and they want to protect themselves and others (maybe you) from the violence of others.

If you made some friends on the other side of the issue, you would know that those who think differently than you are not evil. They may be sincerely deceived because they’ve never actually talked to anyone on your side of the issue. And you might learn something too. Brad, especially, became much more accepting of guns from having become Ray’s friend and Ray eventually came to accept trigger guards and gun safes as a good way to keep his kids from accidentally shooting a family member.
Image result for image of integration on gun issues

Cultural identity differences are often erroneously attributed to political identity affiliations, but studies show it’s really the other way around. What is important to us in our culture drives the political choices we make. Not understanding this empowers political partisans who have a vested interest in maintaining power by keeping us divided. The last thing they want is for us to become committed to protecting all of our individual rights, including the ones we ourselves do not exercise.

Gun owners are just one kind of subculture. It’s a highly porous subculture made up of people of all walks of life who largely agree on this one issue. There are many others, which are topics for another blog post. The thing about judging a subculture from the outside is that we frequently can’t imagine how people can think the way they do. At the best, we feel condescending toward them. You may even feel justified in being disgusted by or terrified of members of the gun owning subculture.

Yeah, “disgust” is a very strong word that we usually don’t want to admit to feeling, but if the idea of my owning a gun hits you on a visceral level, then your reaction is probably not rational, though you may apply reason later to justify your emotional position. And, I’m going to right here acknowledge that I feel “disgust” when I think about people who want to disarm ordinary citizens and let criminals and government thugs have complete control of the culture. And that’s even knowing people like my sister-in-law who opposes guns.
Image result for image of cain killed abel with a rockAnnie is a good, decent person who was raised back East and knows nobody (save her brother and sister-in-law) who owns guns. She could not imagine why anyone would need one. When we took her hiking in the Alaska wilderness, she threw a fit when I donned my sidearm, certain that it was going to leap out of the holster and shoot one of our party. I “compromised” by going behind the truck and switching the configuration to a back holster under my shirt so we were a full day into the trip before she realized I was still armed and nobody had died. She realized it when a moose stormed out of the trees and I pulled the gun when the moose didn’t swerve to avoid us. I didn’t shoot the moose, but the shot I fired over its head convinced it not to continue in our direction. We don’t know for certain what it was running from, but we found fresh bear scat and tracks in the direction it had come from … which helped Annie to understand why we brought a gun.

Prior to that experience, Annie would have said that my arguments for allowing people to be armed were wrong. “Guns are dangerous. They harm people. Nobody needs a gun.” But stop and think about this. I’ve never shot anyone. I’ve never had an accidental discharge of one of my guns (because there’s no such thing as an accidental discharge if you’re handling your guns properly). I’ve never had a kid get possession of a gun of mine and be able to do anything harmful with it (my guns have trigger guards that I barely have finger strength enough to disengage, let alone a kid, so if putting them out of reach doesn’t work, they can’t be fired by a child anyway). Ray has never had any of these things happen either. And neither have the vast majority of the millions of gun-owners who exist out there. Yeah, we hear about it in the news, but it’s news because it’s really rare.

LelaSo, knowing that, just consider this. Ray is your friend and you must tell him to his face that “You should not be allowed to own a gun to protect your family. I would rather the mentally ill guy who lives next door to you be able to stab your entire family to death than you be able to protect your loved ones with that gun.”  How would you feel delivering that message? Could you imagine yourself telling me and my family that we should stay out of the woods or accept that being mauled by a bear is one of the risks? Could you imagine yourself attending my son’s funeral and telling me that we should have simply stayed out of the woods if we didn’t want him to die that way?

No, really! Let yourself imagine what that conservation would be like. I’ve got tears on my cheeks and snot running out of my nose and we’re standing over the closed casket of my son because you were so opposed to my son owning a gun that you’d rather he be mauled by a bear than able to protect himself.

Image result for image of integration on gun issuesBecause, if you’re going to take the disarmament stance on guns, that is actually the argument you’re making and you should have the moral courage to say it to the faces of the people you’re advocating to disarm and leave helpless in a dangerous world. To me, that makes the world more dangerous than it was when I had a gun to protect myself and my family. If you’re advocating for the government to do the disarmament for you so you can avoid the discomfort of that conversation, then you’re a moral coward who doesn’t want to own up to the implications of your own positions. And if you knew anyone in the gun culture, you might be able to put a face to the people you are segregating, denigrating and subjugating. It then becomes a whole lot easier to both imagine that conversation and imagine attending the funeral of their kid or wife who maybe would not have been stabbed to death or eaten by a bear had they been armed. In other words, you would grow some compassion and empathy for the “other” PEOPLE you are judging.

I know Ray to be a sane, kind man who would never shoot up a shopping mall. I know that because I know Ray. Because I know him, I think the rest of us are better off when people like him have a few of the guns. I’d rather have the guns in my hands or Ray’s than only in the hands of criminals or our political masters. That’s because I see people in the gun culture as people, not as opponents. If we can challenge ourselves by focusing on nurturing our human connection with our political opponents by relating to them as people, we’d see increased success in getting our opponents to see the world our way.

Collapsing the subculture barriers in our society through actual human relationships dissolves our political differences rather than simply negotiates them. By interacting with those who hold different viewpoints from us, we discover that our differences of political principle are really rationalizations of our bigotry toward those whose experiences, activities and pleasures we simply cannot imagine sharing.

Posted December 15, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide

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