Write in

July 26, 2016

I’m thinking of starting a write-in campaign for Michael Jordan. Or maybe for Dallas Police Chief David Brown. Either one strikes me as an improvement over anyone who’s been nominated.

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Acculturation

July 19, 2016

One of the issues that has helped Trump win the nomination is immigration. Immigration isn’t the problem, though, it’s the failure to assimilate. Instead of expecting people who come here from other countries to embrace American ideals and values, most of the leading voices in our nation tell them that such an expectation is racism or imperialism, and that immigrants should cling tightly to their foreign identities. This sort of thing just enhances the tribalism I worried about in my last post.

In contrast, consider this by Sarah Hoyt, an immigrant from Portugal:

Here’s the thing: acculturation is not easy.  As much as I was in love with American ideals, getting used to the way people do things every day; getting used to the way people interact, when I came from a highly formal gender/class divided society; getting used to the food; learning the history; learning the popular culture; learning why and how and when things were done — all that was massively difficult.  Not intellectually but at a baseline, gut level.  It was important and difficult, and sometimes I felt as if I were being mentally torn about.  There weren’t many days the first five years that I wasn’t homesick to the point of pain for the familiar sights and the big city I’d left behind, while I was stuck in Rock Hill South Carolina.  (And yes, part of that is that I am and will always be a city girl.)

If there were any way to avoid acculturating while reaping the benefits of being American, I’d have done it.  But I wanted to BE American and so I put myself through untold pain.

Change is hard, but if you make a change in where you live you should also expect to make other changes. Why did you leave, if you didn’t see something better in the place you left for?

Tribes

July 10, 2016

3 Nephi 7:2–3:

And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.

And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes.

It feels like our society is following the same path as the Nephites. We’re relating to people more according the identity groups they belong to than as fellow human beings. This won’t end well unless we reverse it.

We see this in the tragic shootings this past week. There are bad cops out there, in two different senses of “bad”. There are evil cops, people who enjoy asserting authority over others, or who are corrupt, or who judge people by their skin color or other characteristics. There are also incompetent cops, people without the temperament or training to choose well in the kind of stressful situations police often find themselves in. There are undoubtably cops that fall into both categories. The burden of bad policing, like most bad things in this imperfect world, falls disproportionally on the Black community, but if we treat all cops as oppressors the resulting chaos and lawlessness will also disproportionally harm the Black community. The appropriate response to bad policing is to improve policing (as the Dallas police chief—who is black—has been trying to do) and not to target cops indiscriminately.

Another example of tribalism is what I was discussing in my last post. Too many Democrats see Republicans as the enemy, and support Hillary Clinton out of fear that their rival tribe will come out victorious. Too many Republicans support Trump for the same reason, with the tribes reversed. Neither side sees the other as fellow humans and judges them as individuals by their actions instead of by their affiliation.

There’s a famous Peanuts cartoon where Linus says, “I love mankind. It’s the people I can’t stand.” However, we need to love people as individuals, and see them as more than just members of groups.

Rule of law

July 8, 2016

It’s pretty clear from what Director Comey said that the evidence indicates that Hillary Clinton violated the law in ways that would get almost anyone else indicted and probably convicted. After consideration, though, I think he made the correct decision to not actually indict her. There’s no way that whole thing wouldn’t have become horribly politicized by both sides.

It’s a pretty sad commentary on where our country has ended up, though. Once upon a time people looked for integrity in political leaders, and didn’t make excuses for crooks just because they happen to be on “our side” of the political divide.

If you’re considering voting for Hillary Clinton, realize that you’re at least partially endorsing the idea that powerful politicians should get a pass on obeying laws that apply to everyone else. And think also how demoralizing it will be to the brave people who actually risk their lives to protect their country to be led by someone who places her personal convenience and ambition ahead of their safety.

[Update] Jonah Goldberg has a similar take.

Law and Gospel

July 3, 2016

Our text in Sunday School today was Alma 13–16. One of the things noted was about how many people, in response to the preaching of the gospel, try to use the law to persecute the preachers. This hasn’t happened much in the United States, but that seems to be changing.

Current popular legal theories seem to require, in fact, that believers be forced to change their beliefs:

It’s not that the New Gnostics are an especially vindictive bunch. It’s that a certain kind of coercion is built into their view from the start. If your most valuable, defining core just is the self that you choose to express, there can be no real difference between you as a person, and your acts of self-expression; I can’t affirm you and oppose those acts. Not to embrace self-expressive acts is to despise the self those acts express. I don’t simply err by gainsaying your sense of self. I deny your existence, and do you an injustice. For the New Gnostic, then, a just society cannot live and let live, when it comes to sex. Sooner or later, the common good—respect for people as self-defining subjects—will require social approval of their self-definition and -expression.

I recommend reading the entire article. Note, also, that if your defining core is the self you choose to express, then calling for repentance is similar to advocating suicide.

That this attitude is becoming more common is not an accident:

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

The result is a tribe that doesn’t realize it’s a tribe, and looks down on all other tribes:

Genuine cosmopolitanism is a rare thing. It requires comfort with real difference, with forms of life that are truly exotic relative to one’s own. It takes its cue from a Roman playwright’s line that “nothing human is alien to me,” and goes outward ready to be transformed by what it finds.

The people who consider themselves “cosmopolitan” in today’s West, by contrast, are part of a meritocratic order that transforms difference into similarity, by plucking the best and brightest from everywhere and homogenizing them into the peculiar species that we call “global citizens.”

This species is racially diverse (within limits) and eager to assimilate the fun-seeming bits of foreign cultures — food, a touch of exotic spirituality. But no less than Brexit-voting Cornish villagers, our global citizens think and act as members of a tribe.

They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions (social psychologists call these WEIRD — for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and of course their own outgroups (evangelicals, Little Englanders) to fear, pity and despise. And like any tribal cohort they seek comfort and familiarity: From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at home.

Have a happy 4th of July, while you still can.