Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quick Hitters

Last political comments for awhile. I am forcing myself to go think about other topics. I used to be a fascinating person.

#1. I went to a discussion at the library about the book The True Patriot, which I reviewed a few months ago. The discussion was led by St. Anselm's professors Dale Kuehne and Meg Cronin, both much more liberal than I but not unreasonable people or unwilling to listen. Also in attendance were the very liberal, but also reasonable Tess Marts, who I knew years ago; a friend from church who is quite conservative; a fairly moderate Republican whose name I didn't commit to memory; and one of the librarians (with a "Banned Books" pin and so presumably liberal). Good discussion, actually. I spoke too much, and there were a very few testy exchanges, but mostly it was the ideas, not the people, which were provocative. The way life should be, perhaps.

#2. Lying. The people who do voice-stress analysis believe they can tell when people are lying. I am suspicious. They include a Bill Clinton clip that shows him lying at exactly where the technology said he was, which looks impressive, but you wonder whether that was chosen for PR purposes. The clips of Obama and Palin show them scoring as "lying" in bizarre places as well as a few where the content might be dubious. I'm not convinced, but perhaps it is a technology in its infancy.

I'll tell you something about lying from having to deal with it so much all day (not just my patients, but their agencies and families as well). When someone refuses to take any responsibility, blaming everything on someone else, they are usually lying. If they thought they were only 10 or 20% at fault they would pony up, lay out the facts, and trust that most observers would get it right. If they are 50-70% at fault they would admit to some responsibility and try to spin the impression on the rest. Only when people are well over 70% at fault do they have to take a reverse strategy and avoid the facts and try to construct a simple narrative of blame that they hope catches on with people. When people make categorical statements of blame, it's like Honest John's Used Cars.

A word of caution. Some politicians have perfected statements of appearing to take responsibility in their introductory comments but quickly moving on to zero blame for them.

#3. Tess, in the discussion mentioned in #1, above, was horrified by my contention that America does better than all other nations on racial issues. I would say that more clearly by grading America at a D+, which is unfortunately the highest grade in the class. We simply play at a much higher level than most nations. Most nations have fairly homogenous populations and so look more placid. But a very little scratching beneath the surface reveals how poorly they do. Scandinavia, which has a reputation for tolerance, is not doing so well with their Muslim and even Eastern European immigrants. For other European countries, you could reiterate the above, and also google their name with the word "gypsies" and get an eyeful. The mixed racial Latin American countries show strong prejudice the darker you are, and are quite horrible to their rural indigenous tribes. Most countries cannot achieve harmony among groups that are ethnically and religiously similar, for Pete's sake. America has large African American and Hispanic minorities, medium-sized Asian and Oceanic minorities, and a host of indigenous peoples as well as mixed populations and Other. We are simply playing at a much higher level than most countries, attempting harmony on a scale unknown in history.

Canada does pretty well, and likely grades out about where we do. Some better, some worse. Not being able to comfortably integrate populations descended from adjoining European countries has to count against them, though. India has a very different type of ethnic mix but is also quite diverse. Most countries are simply not even attempting ethnic cooperation on anything like our scale, and not doing that great even with lesser problems.


Anonymous said...

"I used to be a fascinating person."

AVI, can you offer us science types some proof? Just asking. :)

Anonymous said...

akafred, are you asking about proofs of racism in the US?
Here's what I know, which is anecdotal: When my beautiful baby boy married the nicest girl a week and half ago, the hundreds of people attending took no umbrage at my son being the first black person to join their extended family. Nearly all the new in-laws told me how much they admired my son.
Off-topic: When they got back from their honeymoon a few days ago, we went out to dinner and looked at photos, and then he rented a U-Haul and TOOK ALL HIS STUFF! We're rejoicing. Three more kid's stuff to go. One bought a condo last year and his stuff at our house doubled. AVI- you ought to do a column on where people's stuff lives. You know, how you're poor when you start out and live in basements (well, we did. our kids seem to think that's an unnecessary step) and you.... oh wait. We didn't have enough stuff starting to leave it anywhere. How did our kids end up with rooms of stuff? Left here, I mean.
Back to topic: Is there racism. Oh sure. But I've lived in Japan. I have Korean relatives. I've been in Africa and followed the news. Racism here, now, is nothing, save in small pockets here and there compared to the savage racism of Saudi Arabia.

Anonymous said...

About lying: I would love to have a machine that really worked to detect lying. I can never tell.

Anonymous said...

Before I worked overseas, I viewed the US as the Great Sinner regarding racial matters. Having a Southern grandmother who was against the Civil Rights Bill certainly influenced my point of view.

After four years overseas, I no longer viewed the US as the Great Sinner. Ex: I was invited to two houses in two different countries that featured prominent pictures of Hitler.

We are not perfect, but people in the US get along when their respective ancestors would have been at each others' throats.

I find it ironic that Europeans are so strong in their support for Obama, when an Obama would not have a snowflake's chance in hell of being elected President/Prime Minister in their own countries.

I am not sure that I would place us at the top of the list, but we sure as shooting are in the upper echelon.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

lelie. Akafred has known me thirty years, is in my weekly Bible study/small group, and is just being difficult.

Anonymous said...

I just happened upon your page here. Interesting. I just received this and thought I'd pass this on. Perhaps others have a different perspective towards Freedom Now in the US. Such a shame other parts of the world refuse to progress "Hard Work Towards Humanity."
AVI--do appreciate the level of balance in your contributions.

Subject: To Kill an American

Written by an Australian Dentist.... and too good to delete....

To Kill an American
You probably missed this in the rush of news, but there was actually
a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper,
an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day
to let everyone know what an American is. So they would know
when they found one. (Good one, mate!!!!)

'An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish,
Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian,
Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian,
Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan.

An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot,
Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known
as native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim.
In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan.
The only difference is that in America they are free to worship
as each of them chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he
will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs
claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world.

The root of that prosperity can be found in the
Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right
of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about
every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking
a thing in return.

When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago,
Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win
back their country!

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than
any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan Americans welcome the best of everything...the best products, the best books, the best music,
the best food, the best services. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America , The Statue of Liberty ,
welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores,
the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people
who built America.

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of
September 11 , 2001 earning a better life for their families.
It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least
30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those
that aided and abetted the terrorists.
So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did.
So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other
blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just
be killing yourself . Because Americans are not a particular people
from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit
of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

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