When Everyone Looks, Acts, And Thinks The Same

“A 2009 study out of Ohio State found that people spend 36% more time reading an essay if it aligns with their opinions. In the 2016 US Presidential election, a majority of those who voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton did not have a single friend who was voting for their non-preferred candidate.

. . . In general, we flock to those with whom we share a cultural, religious, political or ideological identity. In doing so, we surround ourselves with a chorus of yes people who reinforce the validity of our opinions. Given the emotional wrangling involved with confronting conflicting ideas, immersing ourselves in an ideologically homogeneous pool is infinitely easer than alternative. If everyone with whom we associate looks, acts and thinks like we do, we are able to ‘successfully’ skirt a number of tough internal struggles.”

Daniel Crosby on confirmation bias in The Behavioral Investor.

Who Does Halsey Think She Is?

Thanks to the “invisible enemy”, today, like everyday I cycle now, I traded Olympia’s finest athletes for Khalid, DaBaby, Drake, Billie Eilish, Alice Phoebe Lou, Grimes, the Biebs, Post Malone, Roddy Rich, and Halsey. A pop, hip hop, pop, and more hip hop full meal deal.*

Where does Halsey get off repeatedly singing to me . . .

‘Cause you’re not half the man you think that you are
And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs and cars
I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you
‘Cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you

A line-by-line deconstruction . . .

‘Cause you’re not half the man you think that you are—Who do you think you are being all judgy?! Humility is one of my best qualities so I’m probably twice the man I think I am.

And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs and cars—Okay, I will give you this one, but if you were a regular reader of the blog you’d know I’m down with Stoicism, so that little bit of life coaching wasn’t all that necessary.

I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you—Presume much? I don’t ever recall proposing such.

‘Cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you—Aren’t ulterior motives lurking just below the surface for most mortals, most of the time?

Since this is a family friendly blog, the lawyers have asked me to ask you to not, like tens of millions other people, go watch Halsey’s racy “You Should Be So Sad” video.

*The airpods are in only when not in congested areas that require all the senses all the time. Do not try this at home.

 

 

 

Black Lives Matter’s Leadership Dilemma

Black Lives Matter is an interesting social protest movement case study of leadership dilemmas. Co-founded in 2013 by three female organizers, BLM has no governing board, instead it coordinates with more than 150 organizations.

Laura Barrón-López of Politico” explains the decentralized structure in Why the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t want a singular leader”.

“Instead of a pyramid of different departments topped by a leader, there is coordination and a set of shared values spread across a decentralized structure that prizes local connections and fast mobilization in response to police violence. Over the last eight years, the movement has steadily built a modern infrastructure on top of decades-old social justice institutions like the Highlander Center.”

. . . local connections and fast mobilization in response to police violence. More specifically:

“When George Floyd’s killing at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer was captured on film, hundreds of organizations and thousands of activists were ready to launch protests in their cities. They pushed policy with local legislators and police departments and rallied people who hadn’t previously engaged in BLM protests. . . .”

One of the most compelling arguments for a decentralized, horizontal, or flat structure:

“There is no chairperson or candidate calling the shots in private or serving as a public rallying point. With no singular person to attack in tweets, President Donald Trump instead directed his ire and threats of violence at mostly peaceful protesters.

‘In terms of strategy — and this is very real that we have to be honest about this — it makes it harder for those who are against us to do what they did in the ‘60s, which is to target one leader,’ said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, a voter engagement nonprofit.”

BLM activists prefer “leaderful” to leaderless. Is it working? In some ways, definitely.

Barrón-López:

“Activists in cities all over the country are trading notes through the network as they pressure local officials to explore new public safety options, from doing away with police in schools to slashing budgets or reimagining police departments entirely.

Meanwhile, other portions of the movement are organizing bigger national actions. Woodard Henderson, along with the SEIU, the Fight for $15 advocacy group and other unions, orchestrated a strike for Black lives on Monday, with thousands of workers in more than 25 cities walking off the job.”

“But,” Barrón-López notes, “other national policy pushes growing out of the movement have inspired dissension within it.”

For example:

“One of the most widely known policy plans to come out of the Black Lives Matter movement is the “8 Can’t Wait” proposals from the racial justice group Campaign Zero. The package is composed of “restrictive use of force policies” for local police departments — including banning chokeholds, mandating de-escalation and warning before shooting — which the group argued would decrease killings.

. . . the release of ‘8 Can’t Wait’ in early June was met with swift criticism from a number of activists who felt the proposals did not go far enough in a climate where calls to ‘defund the police’ were gaining wider acceptance. Within a week, Campaign Zero co-founder Brittany Packnett Cunningham announced her departure from the organization in response to the backlash. Campaign Zero issued an apology on its website, saying its campaign ‘unintentionally detracted from efforts of fellow organizers invested in paradigmatic shifts that are newly possible in this moment.'”

To add to the complexity:

“The ‘8 Can’t Wait’ package has also faced opposition from the other direction, though: In Atlanta, the city council passed the package after the killing of Rayshard Brooks by police in a Wendy’s parking lot. But Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms — a Democratic vice presidential contender — vetoed the package, to the frustration of local activists.”

The New York Times reporting on Portland’s protests, “Cities in Bind as Turmoil Spreads Far Beyond Portland” makes me think more identifiable, individual leadership may be needed.

Again, some context. What are people protesting about in Portland?

“The latest catalyst was the deployment of federal law enforcement agents in Portland, Ore., whose militarized efforts to subdue protests around the federal courthouse have sparked mass demonstrations and nightly clashes there. They have also inspired new protests of solidarity in other cities, where people have expressed deep concern about the federal government exercising such extensive authority in a city that has made it clear it opposes the presence of federal agents.”

For example:

“In Oakland, what had been a peaceful protest led in part by a group of mothers proclaiming ‘Cops And Feds Off Our Streets’ devolved after dark as another set of protesters smashed windows at the county courthouse and lit a fire inside.”

The President is using images of nightly property damage and related violence to demean Democratic leaders and scare undecided voters.

Again, The Times:

“President Trump has seized on the scenes of national unrest — statues toppled and windows smashed — to build a law-and-order message for his re-election campaign, spending more than $26 million on television ads depicting a lawless dystopia of empty police stations and 911 answering services that he argues might be left in a nation headed by his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

. . . The situation has left city leaders, now watching the backlash unfold on their streets, outraged and caught in the middle. Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle said in an interview Sunday that the city is in the middle of a self-fulfilling prophecy, with protesters infuriated by the federal presence in Portland smashing windows and setting fires, the very images of ‘anarchy’ that the president has warned about.”

Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, has been even more blunt:

‘I’m furious that Oakland may have played right into Donald Trump’s twisted campaign strategy. Images of a vandalized downtown is exactly what he wants to whip up his base and to potentially justify sending in federal troops that will only incite more unrest.'”

Biden’s campaign team doesn’t appear too worried about this because they believe the police issue is “being treated by many voters as a distraction by Mr. Trump from his faltering coronavirus pandemic response and the struggling economy.”

Scott Jennings, a veteran Republican strategist sees it differently, “If there is a danger for Democrats generically, it is if the Republicans are able to define them as being on the side of the anarchists in Portland.”

The Times adds, “For city officials, the challenge is more immediate than the November election — it is bringing an end to nights of clashes on their streets.”

The most recent protests add urgency to the leadership challenges:

“The focus on the federal agents in Portland has frustrated some activists who see the pushback against their presence as a distraction from the racial injustices that had been the focus of protests in May and June.

In Portland on Saturday night . . . some participants urged the marchers not to forget earlier protests against local police.

‘It’s complicated, it’s chaotic, and it’s a little hard for us to stay focused. We need to stay focused. We cannot forget this is also about the Portland Police Bureau.’ Kinsey Smyth told the crowd. ‘This is not about destruction, this is about rebuilding.'”

Illustrating confirmation bias, conservatives focus on the most violent protestors convinced they are the majority. Their more general criticisms of protestors demonstrate a depressing lack of appreciation for our nation’s history. Do they prefer the masses blissful apathy because they benefit from it?

BLM is an important extension of the American tradition of taking to the streets to highlight the glaring gaps between our stated ideals about equal opportunity, level playing fields, and most people’s daily realities.

BLM activists have made a positive difference and will continue to; especially, I think, if they reconsider their “leaderful” idealism and consider more conventional forms of organization.

But I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.

 

 

 

 

I’m More Than My Politics, You’re More Than Your Politics

Political partisanship is intensifying mostly because we surround ourselves with people and tune into news sources that affirm our political philosophies. And so they harden. The technical term is “confirmation bias“. Conservative versus Liberal. Red versus Blue. Believing in American exceptionalism or not.

I’m a little weird in that liberal friends of mine marvel that I regularly engage in political discussions with conservative friends. Relationships are frayed because of political tribalism. Not just casual workplace ones, relationships with neighbors and family members.

One possible solution to this problem is to deemphasize politics by avoiding political topics, to talk about any and everything else, like Taylor Swift’s surprise new album, the weather (cloudy and 61 degrees farenheit in Olympia, WA) or the superiority of the metric system.*

But more kitten videos and fewer Trump ones is not the answer because political discussions are about power and privilege, fairness, and whether we’re going to realize our ideals, topics far too important to delegate to elected officials. Some whites who think they’re especially enlightened say, “I don’t see race, I’m colorblind.” To which most people of color say, “Must be nice, never having to think about the color of your skin, because we have to all the time.” Colorblindess is another form of white privilege.

Attempting to be apolitical is similarly flawed. Ignoring questions of power, privilege, and fairness does not make them go away. So how do we engage in policy discussions with people whose politics are so different than ours? Without losing our minds and jeopardizing our ability to live peacefully with one another?

By treating others the way we want to be treated. There are a boatload of descriptors that I’d like on my tombstone. Husband, father, friend, educator, writer among them.** I do not want to be remembered as a Liberal Democrat. “Remember Ron, yeah, he was an amazing Liberal Democrat. Really consistent on the death penalty. Always right about the social safety net. Impeccable voting record.”

And here’s the key take-away, I’m guessing that’s equally true for my Conservative Republican friends. We can go all in on specific political philosophies without our affiliations dominating our identities. We’re all humans, parents, siblings, friends, citizens, first, second, and third.

Consider a dystopian future, in say 22nd Century (dis)United States, where tombstones in cemeteries lead with deceased people’s political parties. Name, birth year, year of death, Moderate Republican. Name, birth year, year of death, Social Democrat. At times it feels like we’re headed down that path.

Social consciousness necessitates political engagement; but political engagement should not detract from multi-layered, nuanced, constantly evolving identities that begin and end with our common humanity.

*upon further thought, each of which could turn political

**I’m going to be cremated and spread liberally (not conservatively) in nature

 

 

It Could Be Far Worse

The worst financial decision you ever made? When you watched real money permanently slip through your fingers?

Don’t sweat it. It could be worse. Far worse.

“The new filings show just how much Mr. Trump’s campaign paid to rent the arena itself: $537,705.44 in “facility rental” payments to the BOK Center. But that fee was just the start. The campaign paid nearly $1 million in “event staging” fees between June 16 and the end of the month to eight companies. It made another two payments totaling more than $426,000 to LMG for “audio visual services,” before and after the rally. And it paid $148,981.25 for “event supplies” to AW Medical Supplies.”

Thanks to the King of Bankruptcy for putting our worst financial decisions into perspective.

Tuesday’s Required Reading

1. Eddy Binford-Ross, a high school journalist, reports on protests in Portland.

2. Whales Get A Break As Pandemic Creates Quieter Oceans. Silver lining.

“The drop in noise could be helpful for endangered killer whales that live in the area, known as Southern Resident killer whales, which rose to national attention two years ago when a mother orca carried her dead calf for days.

The whales use sound to hunt Chinook salmon through echolocation, much like a bat does. They also make a wide array of social sounds. Each pod actually has its own distinct dialect of calls. But ships make noise at some of the same sound frequencies as the whales.”

3. Why Some Young People Fear Social Isolation More Than COVID-19.

“It might be tempting to think that FaceTime and Zoom provide substitutes for in-person social outlets, especially for a generation of digital natives who grew up with smartphones. But, therapists say, talking by small screen offers no replacement for a calming hug and can miss the subtleties of a compassionate expression.”

All is not well. Eight percent of American teens attempt suicide each year. Is there a more telling, damning statistic?

4. An FBI hostage negotiator explains how to persuade people to wear masks. His insights are highly relevant to bridging most of our intensifying divides. Don’t you think?

Too Much and Never Enough

Thank you Dahlia Lithwick for explaining the key insight of Mary Trump’s new book so well and saving me from having to read it. Day one, a million copies. To quote Adam Sandler, “Not too shabby.”

“Mary Trump’s Book Shows How Donald Trump Gets Away With It.”

“. . . what she reveals is a devastating indictment of all the alleged adults who stick around Donald Trump, who came together to fail America, to leave vulnerable populations to fend for themselves, and who continue to lie and spin to pacify his ego. They do it because they can’t admit the payoff is never coming, and to save themselves from the embarrassment of having to admit they were catastrophically wrong.”

But let’s not forget the conscientious objectors.