Tag Archives: Discrimination

#150: 2016 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #150, on the subject of 2016 Retrospective.

Periodically I try to look back over some period of time and review what I have published, and the end of the year is a good time to do this.  Thus before the new year begins I am offering you a reminder of articles you might have seen–or might have missed–over the past twelve months.  I am not going to recall them all.  For one thing, that would be far too many, and it in some cases will be easier to point to another location where certain categories of articles are indexed (which will appear more obvious as we progress).  For another, although we did this a year ago in web log post #34:  Happy Old Year, we also did it late in March in #70:  Writing Backwards and Forwards, when we had finished posting Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  So we will begin with the last third of March, and will reference some articles through indices and other sources.

I have divided articles into the categories which I thought most appropriate to them.  Many of these articles are reasonably in two or more categories–articles related to music often relate to writing, or Bible and theology; Bible and politics articles sometimes are nearly interchangeable.  I, of course, think it is all worth reading; I hope you think it at least worth considering reading.

I should also explain those odd six-digit numbers for anyone for whom they are not obvious, because they are at least non-standard.  They are YYMMDD, that is, year, month, and day of the date of publication of each article, each represented by two digits.  Thus the first one which appears, 160325, represents this year 2016, the third month March, and the twenty-fifth day.


Let’s start with writings about writing.

There is quite a bit that should be in this category.  After all, that previous retrospective post appeared as we finished posting that first novel, and we have since posted the second, all one hundred sixty-two chapters of which are indexed in their own website section, Old Verses New.  If you’ve not read the novels, you have some catching up to do.  I also published one more behind-the-writings post on that first novel, #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One 160325, to cover notes unearthed in an old file on the hard drive.

Concurrent with the release of those second novel chapters there were again behind-the-writings posts, this time each covering nine consecutive chapters and hitting the web log every two weeks.  Although they are all linked from that table-of-contents page, since they are web log posts I am listing them here:  #74:  Another Novel 160421; #78:  Novel Fears 160506; #82:  Novel Developments 160519; #86:  Novel Conflicts 160602; #89:  Novel Confrontations 160623; #91:  Novel Mysteries 160707; #94:  Novel Meetings 160721; #100:  Novel Settling 160804; #104:  Novel Learning 160818; #110:  Character Redirects 160901;
#113:  Character Movements 160916;
#116:  Character Missions 160929;
#119:  Character Projects 161013;
#122:  Character Partings 161027; #128:  Character Gatherings 161110; #134:  Versers in Space 161124; #142:  Characters Unite 161208; and #148:  Characters Succeed 161222.

I have also added a Novel Support Section which at this point contains character sheets for several of the characters in the first novel and one in the second; also, if you have enjoyed reading the novels and have not seen #149:  Toward the Third Novel 161223, it is a must-read.

Also on the subject of writing, I discussed what was required for someone to be identified as an “author” in, appropriately, #72:  Being an Author 160410.  I addressed #118:  Dry Spells 161012 and how to deal with them, and gave some advice on #132:  Writing Horror 161116.  There was also one fun Multiverser story which had been at Dice Tales years ago which I revived here, #146:  Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships 161220

I struggled with where on this list to put #120:  Giving Offense 161014.  It deals with political issues of sexuality and involves a bit of theological perspective, but ultimately is about the concept of tolerance and how we handle disagreements.

It should be mentioned that not everything I write is here at M. J. Young Net; I write a bit about writing in my Goodreads book reviews.

Of course, I also wrote a fair amount of Bible and Theology material.

Part of it was apologetic, that is, discussing the reasons for belief and answers to the arguments against it.  In this category we have #73:  Authenticity of the New Testament Accounts 160413, #76:  Intelligent Simulation 160424 (specifically addressing an incongruity between denying the possibility of “Intelligent Design” while accepting that the universe might be the equivalent of a computer program), and #84:  Man-made Religion 160527 (addressing the charge that the fact all religions are different proves none are true).

Other pages are more Bible or theology questions, such as #88:  Sheep and Goats 160617, #90:  Footnotes on Guidance 160625, #121:  The Christian and the Law 161022, and #133:  Your Sunday Best 161117 (on why people dress up for church).

#114:  St. Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles 160917 is probably a bit of both, as it is a response to a criticism of Christian faith (specifically the Roman Catholic Church, but impacting all of us).

There was also a short miniseries of posts about the first chapter of Romans, the sin and punishment it presents, and how we as believers should respond.  It appeared in four parts:  #138:  The Sin of Romans I 161204, #139:  Immorality in Romans I 161205, #140:  Societal Implications of Romans I 161206, and #141:  The Solution to the Romans I Problem 161207.

Again, not everything I wrote is here.  The Faith and Gaming series and related materials including some from The Way, the Truth, and the Dice are being republished at the Christian Gamers Guild; to date, twenty-six such articles have appeared, but more are on the way including one written recently (a rules set for what I think might be a Christian game) which I debated posting here but decided to give to them as fresh content.  Meanwhile, the Chaplain’s Bible Study continues, having completed I & II Peter and now entering the last chapter of I John.

Again, some posts which are listed below as political are closely connected to principles of faith; after all, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are inextricably connected.  Also, quite a few of the music posts are also Bible or theology posts, since I have been involved in Christian music for decades.

So Music will be the next subject.

Since it is something people ask musicians, I decided to give some thought and put some words to #75:  Musical Influences 160423, the artists who have impacted my composing, arranging, and performances.

I also reached into my memories of being in radio, how it applies to being a musician and to being a writer, in #77:  Radio Activity 160427.

I wrote a miniseries about ministry and music, what it means to be a minister and how different kinds of ministries integrate music.  It began by saying not all Christian musicians are necessarily ministers in #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect 160724, and then continued with #97:  Ministry Calling 160728, #98:  What Is a Minister? 160730, #99:  Music Ministry of an Apostle 160803, #101:  Prophetic Music Ministry 160808, #102:  Music and the Evangelist Ministry 160812, #103:  Music Ministry of the Pastor 160814, #106:  The Teacher Music Ministry 160821, and
#107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries 160824.  As something of an addendum, I posted #109:  Simple Songs 160827, a discussion of why so many currently popular songs seem to be musically very basic, and why given their purpose that is an essential feature.

In related areas, I offered #111:  A Partial History of the Audio Recording Industry 160903 explaining why recored companies are failing, #129:  Eulogy for the Record Album 161111 discussing why this is becoming a lost art form, and #147:  Traditional versus Contemporary Music 161221 on the perennial argument in churches about what kinds of songs are appropriate.

The lyrics to my song Free 161017 were added to the site, because it was referenced in one of the articles and I thought the readers should be able to find them if they wished.

There were quite a few articles about Law and Politics, although despite the fact that this was an “election year” (of course, there are elections every year, but this one was special), most of them were not really about that.  By March the Presidential race had devolved into such utter nonsense that there was little chance of making sense of it, so I stopped writing about it after talking about Ridiculous Republicans and Dizzying Democrats.

Some were, of course.  These included the self-explanatory titles #123:  The 2016 Election in New Jersey 161104, #124:  The 2016 New Jersey Public Questions 161105, #125:  My Presidential Fears 161106, and #127:  New Jersey 2016 Election Results 161109, and a few others including #126:  Equity and Religion 161107 about an argument in Missouri concerning whether it should be legal to give state money to child care and preschool services affiliated with religious groups, and #131:  The Fat Lady Sings 161114, #136:  Recounting Nonsense 161128, and #143:  A Geographical Look at the Election 161217, considering the aftermath of the election and the cries to change the outcome.

We had a number of pages connected to the new sexual revolution, including #79:  Normal Promiscuity 160507, #83:  Help!  I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body! 160521, and #115:  Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference 160926.

Other topics loosely under discrimination include #87:  Spanish Ice Cream 160616 (about whether a well-known shop can refuse to take orders in languages other than English), #130:  Economics and Racism 161112 (about how and why unemployment stimulates racist attitudes), and #135:  What Racism Is 161127 (explaining why it is possible for blacks to have racist attitudes toward whites).  Several with connections to law and economics include #105:  Forced Philanthropy 160820 (taxing those with more to give to those with less), #108:  The Value of Ostentation 160826 (arguing that the purchase of expensive baubles by the rich is good for the poor), #137:  Conservative Penny-pinching 161023 (discussing spending cuts), and #145:  The New Internet Tax Law 161219 (about how Colorado has gotten around the problem of charging sales tax on Internet purchases).

A few other topics were hit, including one on freedom of speech and religion called #144:  Shutting Off the Jukebox 161218, one on scare tactics used to promote policy entitled #80:  Environmental Blackmail 160508, and one in which court decisions in recent immigration cases seem likely to impact the future of legalized marijuana, called #96:  Federal Non-enforcement 160727.

Of course Temporal Anomalies is a popular subject among the readers; the budget has been constraining of late, so we have not done the number of analyses we would like, but we did post a full analysis of Time Lapse 160402.  We also reported on #85:  Time Travel Coming on Television 160528, and tackled two related issues, #81:  The Grandfather Paradox Problem 160515 and #117:  The Prime Universe 160930.

We have a number of other posts that we’re categorizing as Logic/Miscellany, mostly because they otherwise defy categorization (or, perhaps, become categories with single items within them).  #92:  Electronic Tyranny 060708 is a response to someone’s suggestion that we need to break away from social media to get our lives back.  #93:  What Is a Friend? 060720 presents two concepts of the word, and my own preference on that.  #112:  Isn’t It Obvious? 160904 is really just a couple of real life problems with logical solutions.  I also did a product review of an old washing machine that was once new, Notes on a Maytag Centennial Washing Machine 160424.

Although it does not involve much writing, with tongue planted firmly in cheek I offer Gazebos in the Wild, a Pinterest board which posts photographs with taxonomies attempting to capture and identify these dangerous wild creatures in their natural habitats.  You would have to have heard the story of Eric and the Gazebo for that to be funny, I think.

Of course, I post on social media, but the interesting ones are on Patreon, and mostly because I include notes on projects still ahead and life issues impeding them.  As 2017 arrives, I expect to continue writing and posting–I already have two drafts, one on music and the other on breaking bad habits.  I invite your feedback.

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#143: A Geographical Look at the Election

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #143, on the subject of A Geographical Look at the Election.

For most of my life, I remember presidential races which ended sometime late on the night of Election Day when one of the candidates took the stage, conceded the election, and congratulated the opponent; then the other candidate took a different stage, thanked his supporters, said a few respectful words about his opponent, and started working toward his term in office.  Politics was still something of a “gentleman’s game”, and the losers lost gracefully and the winners won graciously.

This time, the losers refuse to accept their loss.  It is one of those elections–not for the first time–that majority of voters supported the losing candidate, and so there has been blame cast on the Electoral College system, and calls for recounts, and most recently suggestions that the Russians hacked the election process.  With the Wisconsin recount actually increasing the margin by which Trump took the state, the Michigan recount discovering massive fraud in many of the precincts won by Clinton, and the courts blocking the vital Pennsylvania recount, they are getting desperate.

For myself, I am worried that the polarization of America is going to lead to some sort of civil war.  I look not so much at the population but at the geography of the matter, and have reason to worry.

This electoral results map of Illinois, copied from Politico, is typical of "blue" states taken by Clinton:  a few patches of "blue" in the populous areas within a sea of mostly red.
This electoral results map of Illinois, copied from Politico, is typical of “blue” states taken by Clinton:  a few patches of “blue” in the populous areas within a sea of mostly red.
  • In Alabama, Trump took fifty-four of sixty-seven counties–over eighty percent–leaving just thirteen for Clinton.  Perhaps more significantly, he had over seventy-five percent of the vote in twenty-three of them–Clinton successfully doing so in only two.  Of course, Alabama was a strong win for Trump overall, with 62.9% of the vote to Clinton’s 34.6%.
  • Alaska was not so strong a victory for Trump, with only 52.9% of the vote, but a lot of voters went to third-party candidates there leaving Clinton a paltry 37.7%.  The state apparently has only one county, so while the state is not massively for Trump, it does seem to be massively against Clinton.
  • Arizona was a close one, with only 49.5% of the vote going to Trump and a strong 45.4% going to Clinton.  Eleven of fifteen counties went to Trump there.
  • Arkansas was another strong Trump win; of seventy-four counties, Clinton took only eight–under eleven percent–leaving sixty-six for Trump, along with 60.4% of the vote to her 33.8%.  He also took more than seventy-five percent of the vote in nine counties–more counties than she took total–with her best about sixty-two percent in one county.
  • California of course went strongly for Clinton, with 61.6% of the vote to Trump’s 32.8%.  However, of fifty-eight counties, Trump actually took the majority of the votes in twenty-five–about forty-three percent, leaving thirty-three for Clinton.
  • Colorado was a close win for Clinton, with 47.2% of the vote to Trump’s 44.4%.  However, Trump had majorities in forty-one of sixty-four counties, almost two-thirds, leaving Clinton only twenty-three.  Further, in eleven of those counties Trump took at least seventy-five percent of the vote, a feat Clinton only achieved in one of them.
  • Connecticut was a bit better for Clinton–she took 54.5% of the vote to Trump’s 41.2%.  She even took most of the small state geographically–six out of eight counties.  She did not get as much sixty percent of the vote in any one of them, though.
  • Delaware also went to Clinton, with 53.4% of the vote to Trump’s 41.9%.  However, only one of the three counties went for Clinton, the other two supporting Trump, one of them very strongly.
  • The District of Columbia is not a state and has no congressional representation, but it does get three electoral votes; 92.8% of its tiny population went for Clinton, 4.1% for Trump.  Obviously it does not have counties, so like Alaska it is a single unit.
  • Trump took a slight edge in Florida, with 49.1% to Clinton’s 47.8%; I’m surprised Jill Stein didn’t call for a recount there, but that might be a politically sensitive issue there.  However, the geographical disproportionality is tremendous there:  Of sixty-seven counties, Clinton took only nine–a little more than one eighth–leaving fifty-eight for Trump.  Further, he took better than seventy-five percent in eleven counties, and she did not approach that level in any.
  • Georgia was Trump, at 51.3% to Clinton’s 45.6%.  Again, though, the geography is overwhelming:  Clinton had thirty of one hundred fifty-nine counties, giving one hundred twenty-nine–over eighty percent–to Trump.  In forty of those–a quarter of all the counties in the state–he took over seventy-five percent of the vote; Clinton reached that mark in only two counties.
  • 62.3% of Hawaiian voters went for Clinton, and only 30.1% for Trump.  Here Clinton had a strong showing, taking majorities in all four counties, all between sixty and sixty-five percent against Trump’s twenty-five to thirty-five percent.
  • Idaho was 59.2% for Trump, 27.6% for Clinton, but it is even worse than that.  Clinton only placed first in two of forty-four counties, and there were seven counties in which she placed third behind an independent candidate popular in the western states named Evan McMullin, coming out of the Republican party and thus reducing Trump’s support.
  • Clinton took Illinois with 55.4% of the vote to Trump’s 39.4%, but the geography again is against her:  of one hundred two counties, she took only eleven, giving ninety-one–almost ninety percent–to Trump.  He took nineteen of those with better than seventy-five percent of the vote; Clinton’s best showing was just shy of that.
  • Indiana went to Trump with 57.2% of the vote to Clinton’s 37.9%.  On top of that, only four counties favored Clinton, the other eighty-eighty going to Trump, and her best showing was not quite sixty percent, while again Trump took more than three quarters of the vote in nine counties.
  • Iowa has ninety-nine counties, of which ninety-three went to Trump, only six to Clinton.  He took the state with 51.8% of the vote to her 42.2%.  It was a more moderate victory–he took three quarters of the vote or more in only four counties.
  • Trump not only took Kansas with 57.2% of the vote to Clinton’s 36.2%, he took one hundred two of its one hundred four counties, fifty-three of them–more than half–by at least three quarters of the vote.
  • Kentucky has one hundred twenty counties, and Clinton took the majority of votes in two.  She did take 42.7% of the total vote, losing to Trump’s 62.7%; he took more than three-quarters of the vote in fifty-seven counties.
  • Trump had another strong win in Louisiana, with 58.1% of the vote to Clinton’s 38.4%.  Louisiana doesn’t actually have “counties” because it calls them “parishes”, a throwback to the fact that it was originally organized as a French territory, but they serve the same function, and Trump took fifty-four of sixty-four, leaving ten for Clinton.  He took thirteen of those with seventy-five percent or more of the vote; Clinton took one of hers at that margin.
  • Maine is one of the two states that apportions its electoral votes according to the percent of voters, and so Clinton’s 47.9% of the vote got her three of those votes, Trump’s 45.2% garnishing him the remaining one.  Although the map looks a lot “redder” than “blue”, it’s because the seven coastal counties Clinton took are a lot smaller, geographically, than the nine much larger inland counties that when to Trump.  All of these were close.
  • Maryland strongly favored Clinton, with 60.5% of the vote going to her, 35.3% to Trump.  The map, though, shows that Clinton’s support was localized to the suburbs of Baltimore and of Washington, D. C.–she took six of twenty-three counties plus Baltimore City (counted separately from Baltimore County, which she also took), leaving seventy percent of the counties for Trump.  She had strong victories in two of her counties, taking at least three quarters of the vote, but he did as well in one of his.
  • Massachusetts is entirely blue–Clinton took every one of fourteen counties.  She got three quarters of the vote in one of them, and state-wide took 60.8% to Trump’s 33.5%.
  • As we noted, the recount in Michigan has uncovered massive voter fraud in many districts taken by the Democrats.  However, the numbers before the recount gave Trump 47.6% of the vote to Clinton’s 47.3%, and despite the claim that it is supposed to be a “blue” state, the map is mostly red–seventy-five of eighty-three counties went to Trump, leaving Clinton with eight.
  • Clinton squeaked out a victory in Minnesota, with 46.9% of the vote to Trump’s 45.4%–but again the blue state looks very red.  Of eighty-seven counties, only nine went to Clinton, seventy-eight to Trump.
  • The geography is not quite so lopsided in Mississippi, where Clinton took twenty-four of eighty-two counties, not quite a third, four of them with better than three quarters of the vote; but Trump took the other fifty-eight counties, seventeen of them with at least three quarters of the vote, and took the state with 58.3% to her 39.7%.
  • Show me Missouri, and I see a solid Trump win with 57.1% of the vote to Clinton’s 38.0%.  Geographically I see an even stronger showing, as Trump took majorities in one hundred twelve of one hundred fifteen counties, leaving Clinton to claim only three, plus St. Louis City (counted separately from St. Louis County, which she also took).  Trump took at least three quarters of the vote in sixty-six of those counties, more than half; Clinton did so well only in St. Louis City itself.
  • Montana also went to Trump, 56.5% to 36.0%, and again even more dramatically looked at geographically.  Clinton took only five of fifty-five counties, about nine percent against Trump’s ninety-one percent, fifty counties.  He took eighteen of those by at least seventy-five percent of the vote, one of them by over ninety percent.  In two of the five Clinton won she actually took less than fifty percent of the vote, but beat Trump due to strong showings by Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
  • In Nebraska, Clinton took majorities in only two of ninety-three counties, and in both she had less than fifty percent of the vote, Libertarian Gary Johnson making a strong showing.  She took only 34% of the vote to Trump’s 60.3%, and he sixty-three counties by at least seventy-five percent of the vote, four of them by over ninety percent.
  • Clinton took Nevada, 47.9% to 45.5%, but she only took two of the seventeen counties in Nevada, the other fifteen going to Trump–and she didn’t actually have a majority of the voters in one of the counties she took, while Trump had at least three quarters of the votes in four of his counties.

    Are you noticing a pattern here?

  • Our “new” states start, alphabetically, with New Hampshire, where Clinton took 47.6% to Trump’s 47.2%.  Although it is a lot closer, again geographically Trump is favored, taking six of ten counties.  All of them were close.
  • New Jersey was 55.0% for Clinton, 41.8% for Trump, and for once she got the slim majority of counties–twelve of twenty-one, leaving nine for Trump.  Most counties were close; in none did either candidate take three quarters of the vote.
  • In New Mexico, the vote went for Clinton, 48.3% to 40.0%, but the geography slightly favored Trump.  He took the majority in nineteen counties, Clinton in fourteen.
  • New York, where Clinton was once Senator, went for her by 58.8% to 37.5% for Trump, who considers it his home state.  Still, of sixty-two counties, Clinton took majorities in only sixteen, leaving Trump forty-six counties, less than one percent shy of three quarters of them.  She took three quarters of the vote in four of those counties, all of them containing parts of New York City.
  • By the population, Trump edged out Clinton in North Carolina with 50.5% of the vote to her 46.7%.  She did better here geographically, taking twenty-four of the one hundred counties, not quite a quarter.  Trump took at least three-quarters of the vote in nine counties; Clinton did so in only one.
  • Further north we have North Dakota, which Trump took with 64.1% of the vote to Clinton’s 27.8%.  Trump also took all but two of fifty-three counties, twenty-one of them with at least three quarters of the vote.
  • In Ohio, Clinton took only seven of eighty-eight counties, and 43.5% of the vote against Trump’s 52.1%.  In a dozen of his eighty-one counties Trump took at least three-quarters of the vote.
  • Where the wind comes whistling down the plane in Olklahoma, it blew solidly to Trump, with 65.3% of the vote to Clinton’s 28.9, and every one of seventy-eight counties, and in more than half–forty-three of them–he took more than three quarters of the vote.
  • Clinton took Oregon, 51.7% to 41.1%, but again the map is mostly red–she took eight of thirty-six counties, two ninths, less than a quarter.  Clinton took at least three-quarters of the vote in one county, Trump in three.
  • Pennsylvania looks very close by the numbers, with Trump’s 48.8% squeaking past Clinton’s 47.6%, and a court ruling preventing a recount, but again geographically it does not look close at all.  Of sixty-seven counties, Clinton took only eleven, leaving fifty-six for Trump.  Clinton took one of those counties by better than three-quarters of the vote; Trump did so in seven.
  • Rhode Island, the smallest state geographically, where Clinton won with 55.4% of the vote to Trump’s 39.8, has only five counties; Trump took only one.
  • The geography is also better for Clinton in South Carolina, although still there she took only fifteen of forty-six counties, and only 40.8% of the vote to Trump’s 54.9%.  Clinton took better than seventy-five percent of the vote in one county.
  • Not so far south in South Dakota, sixty-one of sixty-six counties went to Trump, five to Clinton, as he took the state with 61.5% of the vote to her 31.7%.  He took sixteen of those counties with three quarters or more of the vote–more than three times as many at that rate than she took at all, although she did take three quarters of the vote in one of her counties–and one of his he took by better than nine out of ten votes cast.
  • Three of Tennessee’s ninety-five counties did not go to Trump, who took 61.1% of the vote in that state to Clinton’s 34.9%.  He took forty-eight of those by at least seventy-five percent of the vote.
  • It sounds good to say that in the next state Clinton took the majority in twenty-five counties, and with at least three-quarters of the vote in three of them–until you say that the state is Texas, and of its two hundred fifty-four counties that’s slightly less than ten percent, leaving two hundred twenty-nine for Trummp.  He took one hundred thirty-eight of those with at least seventy-five percent of the vote, eight of them with at least ninety percent.  He took the state with 52.6% of the vote to her 43.4%.
  • To say that Clinton placed first in only three of Utah’s twenty-nine counties is to understate how poorly she did there.  In only one of those three did she get more than half the votes, and that barely, and in fourteen of the twenty-six Trump won she placed third, behind that previously mentioned independent candidate popular in the western states, Evan McMullin, who also did well in Idaho, and who also tied her in a fifteenth second-place position here.  Despite this three-way race, Trump took five counties by at least seventy-five percent of the vote, and took 45.9% of the total against her 27.8%.
  • Clinton did manage very nearly to sweep the small state of Vermont, taking 61.1% of the vote to Trump’s 32.6% and holding a majority in all but one of its fourteen counties.
  • She also took 49.9% of the vote in Virginia, where Trump got 45.0%.  Virginia counts most of its cities separately from the counties in which they are situated.  She took twelve of the ninety-four counties and twenty-eight of the thirty-nine cities–generally small blue dots on a largely red map.  That’s ninety-three voting districts going to Trump, forty to Clinton, and he took sixteen of his counties by at least three-quarters of the votes, which she accomplished in five of her cities.
  • In Washington, they stopped counting after just over ninety percent of the precincts had reported; only seven of the thirty-eight counties were complete, of which Trump took six.  If we include all the counties, unfinished, Clinton took about twelve, Trump about twenty-six.  (One county, counted as for Clinton, is close enough that the uncounted votes may be about sixty times as many as the difference between Clinton and Trump there, so it is being generous to say she took that county.)  Of the votes counted, 54.4% went to Clinton, 38.2% to Trump, so although almost nine percent of the state remains unreported, it would not be sufficient to reverse the state outcome–only the national total.
  • West Virginia went strongly for Trump, 68.7% to Clinton’s 26.5%.  It is not surprising that he took majorities in every one of its fifty-five counties, twenty-two of them with at least three-quarters of the vote.
  • The recount in Wisconsin, as mentioned, reportedly found a few more votes for Trump; the originally reported totals gave him 47.9% against Clinton’s 46.9%.  Clinton’s strength gives her only thirteen of the state’s seventy-two counties, fifty-nine going to Trump.  She did take better than three-quarters of the vote in one of the counties on her list.
  • The last state on an alphabetical list, Wyoming, is also the one in which Trump had the best showing at 70.1% to Clinton’s 22.5%.  He did not take every one of the twenty-three counties–only twenty-two, leaving one for Clinton.  He did take fifteen of them with at least three-fourths of the votes.

So what’s the point of all this?  If you did the math (of course you didn’t, that’s my job), you noticed that if we count by reporting counties/cities, Trump took two thousand six hundred twenty eight, to Clinton’s four hundred eighty-three–84% of all the places in the country where voting was counted.  You might also note that if we average the percentage of votes each took in each state, Trump took 48.97% to Clinton’s 45.24%–that is, a greater percentage of people counted state by state preferred Trump.  He clearly is favored geographically.

So who cares?  Why should it matter if more places want Trump to be President, if we live in a democracy, and more people want Clinton?

And that is exactly what the Democratic party wants you to think:  all those people in all those places which are mostly outside the cities don’t matter and should not really be considered in how we, the urbane people from the urban centers, want to run the country.

They are actually counting on this for the future of their party:  the demographics say that people who live in these high-population-density areas tend to vote Democratic, and they are increasing in numbers faster than those in the more sparsely populated Republican areas, and so using the fact that we are a democracy they can bully the outnumbered rural and light suburban people into their plans.  As one of my rural friends commented, “How rude”.

But the fact is that we are not a democracy.  We are a federated republic–and the difference is important.  This is not you, me, and some maybe one hundred fifty million other voters deciding how to run our country.  We are not, first and foremost, a union of individuals, but a union of states, of political entities comprised of individuals.  This is about New Jersey and Utah, California and Colorado, Florida and New York, about three thousand counties in fifty states and one political district, coming together to agree as to how they, as separate political entities, will govern themselves collectively.  It says, inherently, that the people in the boondocks will be heard, will have a say in how they are governed.

Yet the people who want to cancel the Trump victory want to disenfranchise these people in the name of “democracy”.  These are the same people who complain that the country has tried to disenfranchise blacks, women, and other minorities.  Their entire political strategy is based on disenfranchising those with whom they disagree–despite the fact that these are the people who, in the main, provide our corn and our beef, our potatoes and our milk, our national petroleum, even to a large degree our fresh water.  Do you really want to tell these people that you don’t care about them, that they should not have a say in how their country is run?

The rural people won this time; they’ve lost a few over the past decade, and that’s the way the system works, passing the lead back and forth between the progressives and the reactionaries for a while, eventually (usually) settling to a middle ground which is more progressive than we were and not as progressive as the radicals wanted us to be.  But if you take this victory away from them, it’s going to hurt in ways that are likely to come back–not, perhaps, a civil war, but certainly a change in the way the producers of our necessities regard the massed consumers who are living in the urban areas and pretending that the people on whom their lives depend are inconsequential.

I don’t think that it will happen, that Trump’s victory will be overturned, but I thought all of those calling for it should give some consideration to what they are really saying.

The statistics in this article were compiled by hand from Politico; I apologize if there are any mistakes.

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#135: What Racism Is

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #135, on the subject of What Racism Is.

This began as a Facebook thread, but found its way here for several reasons.  One is that the issue is important, and in the hierarchy of ephemera that comprises the Internet a web log post has a longer life than a Facebook thread, and so reaches more people over a longer period of time.  Another is that most (not all) of those participating in the Facebook thread disagreed; either I failed to communicate the essential point adequately, or there is a fundamental disagreement about the nature and definition of “racism”.

President Clinton's Initiative on Race
President Clinton’s Initiative on Race

An “ism”, generally, is a set of beliefs or sometimes attitudes expressing itself as a world view and thus impacting the actions of the “ist”, that is, the one embracing the “ism”, or tending toward “ist” actions, those which express the “ism”.  There are many–Marxism, socialism, and Nazism; legalism, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Taoism.  The one perhaps nearest in kind to racism is sexism, and they share some similar features.  Both involve using a biological category as a basis for distinctions that are generalizations about the group applied to individuals within it.  Sexism is the belief or attitude that one sex is better at some things than the other, when those specific supposed advantages are not specifically linked to the essential elements that are the basis for the distinction between the two sexes.  The statement that only women are designed to carry and deliver offspring is not in itself sexist because that is part of the definition of what it is to be female, in humans; the assertion that they therefore should stay home and have babies is sexist, because it places a different obligation on women than on men which is separate from that biological distinction.  (It is different in sea horses and some other aquatic life, in which once the female has handled the fertilization of the eggs she provided, she passes them to the male for safekeeping until birth.)  It is sexist to assert that men are smarter than women, in part because that is not one of the defining distinctions but in larger part because it is simply not true–men are better on average at certain cognitive tasks (especially space relations), women at others (especially linguistic abilities), and overall intellect is about equal at both the means and the extremes.  More difficult is the assertion that men have greater upper body strength–a statement that is true at the means and the extremes, that the male torso is built slightly differently than the female with upper body strength in view, but which is not true in every individual case.  So sexism is the attitude that one sex is better than the other in specific ways which are not actually linked to sexual differences, and it can point either direction–the statement that men are terrible at relationships and commitments is sexist not because it isn’t true as a generalization that women are better at such things than men, but because it is not universally true either that all men are bad at these nor that all women are good.  A misandrist is just as much a sexist as a misogynist.

Thus a racist is someone who thinks in racial categories and believes that everyone who shares a common racial ancestry automatically has specific traits universal to that group which are not part of the defining traits of that group.  Obviously it is true that there are some genetic factors that unify individual races; it is equally true that the pure genome of every race is vanishing from the world (blue eyes have become more rare as a percentage of the population than ever before).  It is not sexist to state that blacks all have high quantities of melanin in their skin, hair, and eyes, because that is part of the biological definition of negroid anatomy.  It is racist to say that all blacks have great rhythm and musical ability, even if it is intended in a complimentary or admiring sense, because it is an untrue generalization based on race.

There is, however, an attitude or notion that only whites can be racist, and that all whites are.  Part of my point is that this attitude is itself racist:  it generalizes about a group based on racial distinctions to assert that some defect is true about all individual members of the group, and further asserts that it is not true about anyone who is not a member of that group.  Racism is seen as a specifically and universally white characteristic.  That is not true.  Ask any Mexican in the United States whether there are racist blacks.  Hispanic subgroups–Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans–are often racist toward each other.  There has long been racism between various white racial subgroups.  The grandmother of a college friend of mine was known to have said, “Ya, but vat is a Svede but a Norvegian vith his brains knocked out?”  All those Italian jokes we heard as kids are racist; the obstacles they and other immigrant groups such as the Irish faced in employment were expressions of racism against whites–and to the black radio commentator who once opined that all they needed to do was change their names, even those who at that time were not racist could identify ethnic backgrounds by everything from idiolect to pigmentation.  The racism against Jews seemingly knows no racial barriers, as they are stereotyped by people of every national and ethnic background, often to the point of violent persecution–and in the main, Jews are white.

In Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, in the chapter in which Lauren Hastings meets Joe Kondor, when he opines that the reason she failed to notice that the bird people populating their new world were segregated based on the colors of their feathers is that she is white, it surprises her that he would think it discriminatory of her not to have noticed such a connection, but not to have thought it discriminatory to suggest that it was because she was white.  That was because she was not racist–racial categories do not matter to her at all–and he is, but does not recognize it about himself.

When Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States, many thought this marked the end of racism in this country, because a black man had been elected President.  Unfortunately, that assessment is itself, once again, racist:  if it were true that racism had ended, no one would have observed that the man was black.  My children were not at all racist, and my wife and I often found it difficult to elicit from them whether their schoolteachers or classmates were white or black without asking directly, because it was not a category by which they identified people; they offered height, weight, age, hair and eye color, but not race.  Not being racist means that in your own mind race is not more than a category of biology which is irrelevant outside of a few mostly medical matters (for example, sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder specifically linked to the black genome).  Yet after his election racism continued, even demonstrated by his own family.  We have previously observed how Michelle Obama’s Target story demonstrates her own racism, that she believes a short white woman would have asked her to get something off the top shelf not because she, at five foot eleven inches, is tall, but because she is black.  The assumption was, once again, that the woman was racist because she was white, when any child would have recognized that the only racism here comes from that assumption, not from a short person asking a tall person for help.

All of which brings us to the West Virginia story which started this.

I am old enough to remember that it was fairly common, at least in my part of the country, to refer to someone as a “big ape” to mean that he was large and physically awkward or clumsy–lacking physical grace would be a polite way to say it.  That’s what the expression means to me, and if I were to call someone an ape–which is, frankly, just plain rude to call anybody anything insulting–that would be my intent.  I don’t think that were I to use that particular insult, I would make any distinction based on race, because the expression does not mean that to me and never did.

I am educated enough to know that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was generally believed, even by many abolitionists, that Negroes were not human, but were the most advanced primates to come out of Africa, eminently trainable and even able to understand and mimic speech.  It was as it were an article of faith among the slavery faction, to the point that one Civil War Confederate general wrote in his journal that were it to be demonstrated that blacks could fight in the armies of either side, the South would lose on principle, as that would prove they were in fact human, not domesticated animals, and that it therefore was morally wrong to enslave them.  I know that the epithet of being an “ape” or a “monkey” was still in use in the early twentieth century to convey the belief that blacks were sub-human.  I have never in my now somewhat longish life actually heard anyone so use it.  I would not first think of that meaning were I to hear someone call someone an “ape”, because in my experience the other meaning is still in common use and this one is not, any more than were I to hear someone identified as a “bitch” I would take that in its early meaning of a profligate woman instead of the modern sense of a nasty one.

It might, I suppose, matter that I have lived much of my life north of the Mason-Dixon Line–but only because the men who drew the line had it turn south from the southern edge of Pennsylvania along the western border of Delaware, and so placed New Jersey on the northern side completely.  The line along the southern edge of Pennsylvania, if continued eastward, would pass through our state; we are in that sense on the border, and there are enough “rednecks” in the southern reaches of the state that the Confederate flag is not completely absent from personal displays.

Yet it should equally be noted that that same line follows along the northern edge of West Virginia–it, too, is a border state, albeit a southern one, and part of it extends north of that line as defined by the southern edge of Pennsylvania.  Where I live in New Jersey today is south of a substantial portion of West Virginia.  Historically West Virginia was a slave state and New Jersey a free state, but that was over one and a half centuries ago.  West Virginia is not “deep south” like Alabama, and New Jersey is not “remote north” like Vermont and Massachusetts.  An expression that is common or uncommon here is probably similarly used as near here as West Virginia.  There might still be people in the country using the derogation “ape” to refer to someone as sub-human, but it is the less likely usage.

From this, it appears to me to be at least plausible that the woman in West Virginia who described First Lady Michelle Obama as “an ape in heels” did not mean it in a racial sense, but only in the sense that the nearly six foot tall basketball-playing woman lacks the sort of grace we had in Jacqueline Kennedy or Nancy Reagan or Betty Ford.  I can imagine that after she said it via Twitter an electronic gasp passed through the audience and she thought, as many who accidentally say things they did not realize had sexual implications until after the words were out of their mouths, “What did I say?”  Maybe someone had to call her attention to the racial meaning of that slur, which was not in her thoughts at all.  Then, realizing how people would take what she said, she blushed brilliantly and retracted it.

I could be entirely wrong.  People who know this woman might be aware of facts unknown to us, perhaps that she is terribly racist and probably would call a black woman an “ape” in the sense of “sub-human primate”.  They might as easily know that she is not at all racist and would have said something like that completely oblivious to its racial implications.  We cannot know whether this white woman made a comment she knew was a racial slur, or whether she meant something differently insulting about a first lady who is perhaps athletic but not graceful.

Which brings the second half of the point.  Most readers, and indeed the media generally, leapt to the conclusion that because this was said by a white woman about a black woman, it must have been a racial slur.  That, though, requires thinking about the situation in racial categories–that is, judging it from a racist perspective.  If the comment had been made by a black woman, would we not conclude that she meant awkward?  If it had been made about a white man, would we be shouting that calling him an “ape” was clearly a racist attack on his status as a human being?  In point of fact, to reach the conclusion that this comment “must have been” racist, you must work from the assumption that because it was said by a white person living south of the Mason-Dixon Line (as it was actually drawn) about a black person, the white person is by default racist and intended it as a racial slur.  However, the statement “all whites are racist” is the attribution of a negative characteristic to all members of a class defined by race–and thus a racist statement by definition–and you do not cause it to cease to be racist by limiting it to “all whites living south of the Mason-Dixon Line”.

So I do not know whether the woman who stated that Michelle Obama was “an ape in heels” is racist–but I do know that all the people who, knowing no more than that a white woman in West Virginia made such a statement are insisting that it must have been intended as a racial slur because of who said it, certainly are.  If they were not, it would not have occurred to them that the race of the speaker in any way impacted the intent of the statement.

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#130: Economics and Racism

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #130, on the subject of Economics and Racism.

When I was in law school, one of my fellow students explained to me how he got his masters degree by proving something everyone already knew.  As I read a recent article, I couldn’t help thinking that the several cited studies were guilty of exactly that.  They demonstrated that the prevalence of racism in a society is inversely proportionate to its economic health:  as unemployment rises, so does racism.  That doesn’t say that economics are the cause of racism, but that they are a contributing factor.  I really hope that doesn’t surprise you.


It is inherent in our human existence that we want to survive.  We see this survival instinct in creatures as low as cockroaches.  Linked to that notion of survival is the desire for comfort and abundance–if we have better shelter, we are safer, and if we have more food, we are protected against hunger.  Thus almost every one of us wants more than he has.  That is not limited to poor people, or even middle class people–wealthy people usually find that there are things they want that they can’t buy.  It is a phenomenon known as rising aspirations:  the more money you have, the more things you want to buy with it.  And it’s actually easy to understand why that is.

Economies fluctuate.  They get better and worse.  This happens globally, nationally, and even on the individual level.  You have a job, and you make enough that you can afford to splurge on lunch out twice a week.  Then you get a raise, and now you have more money.  Now you eat lunch out three times a week.  Your personal economy is booming.  But then the price of bread goes up, there’s a new gas tax–the extra money is no longer extra, and you have to cut back to eating lunch out once a week.  You feel like you’re going backwards, and in a sense you are.  So is everyone else, of course, but you don’t feel the pinch on anyone else.  You think you should have more than you have, that you should be able to eat lunch out three times a week, or even every day, because you work hard and you deserve it.  You want to know why you aren’t doing better than you are.

You also think that your children should be able to do better, and your siblings, your family generally; and that sometimes extends to your ethnic group, particularly if you are in an ethnic group that has faced discrimination in the past–the Italians, the Irish, people who arrived in America poor and struggled in the working class to rise to a higher level.  We deserve better, is the mantra.  It extends beyond to “people like me”, and becomes contrasted against “people who are different”.

And what you see is that there are some people who are not part of your group who are doing well, doing better than you are.  You are out of work, and these others have jobs.  You are struggling to pay your bills, and these others have nice cars, nice houses, jewelry, meals at restaurants.  They have it good.

It doesn’t matter whether most of those people who are not part of your group are in situations as bad or worse than yours; the fact that some of them are doing well means that those “different” people are getting the money, the food, the jobs, that “should” be going to you and your people–because you deserve better; and that means that people who have what you don’t have have taken it from you.  It’s not fair, and it’s their fault.

And it is so comforting to have someone to blame, to be able to say to yourself that it is not your fault, not some deficiency in you.  It’s because those Jews cheat to get ahead, or those Hispanics are taking all the jobs, or those Chinese are willing to work for a substandard wage.

Racism, seen thus, is our own attempt to view ourselves as better than someone else.  The details are trappings, added to justify our judgments.

Thus when the economy is poor, when unemployment is high and money is not going as far as we remember, racism rises as we blame those who are different from ourselves for putting us in this situation.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s whites deriding Hispanics for taking jobs at low wages, or blacks blaming whites as oppressing them and keeping them out of work, or Hispanics accusing blacks of mistreating them, or everyone blaming Jews for continuing to be successful in hard times.  Our racist attitudes increase when we need someone to blame for our own hardships.  Yet even if it is true that our economic hardships are not our fault, that does not mean they are someone else’s fault:  economies fluctuate, and not everyone can be on the top of the curve.  The fact that you are not reaching your aspirations does not mean it is anyone’s fault, even if it clearly is not your own.

It would be so much better if we could pull together and get out of this economic slump.

If only it were so easy.

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#126: Equity and Religion

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #126, on the subject of Equity and Religion.

I saw an article online, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, entitled Amendment 3:  A Stealth Attack on Religious Freedom  The title intrigued me, since I had no notion of what was happening in Missouri, so I skimmed the piece–and was rather surprised at what I found.  It struck me that the author did not have a very good grasp on exactly what “religious liberty” is, so I decided to pursue the matter here.


The purpose of “Amendment 3”, apparently Missouri’s version of what we in New Jersey now call a Public Question, is to create a cigarette tax and use the money to fund early childhood education.  The tobacco industry has not made a lot of noise about it, at least directly–they have learned that people who smoke are very unlikely to stop simply because the amount of money they burn increases.  It seems like a positive idea, that if people are going to kill themselves slowly at least they can help fund the education of our children.

At issue is text that says the disbursement of funds raised will not be limited or prohibited by the State of Missouri Constitution’s “Prohibition of public aid for religious purposes and institutions” clause.  That means that if whatever method of distributing the money to help with preschool education would otherwise mean that a Lutheran- or Baptist- or Muslim or Jewish-run facility would qualify for some of that money, that facility is not automatically disqualified simply because it is administered by a church, mosque, synagogue, or other religious organization.  Opponents of the measure say that this is an attempt to bring funding of religious organizations in through a side door, and so force people to pay for religious education with public money.

It is not at all clear that that is what this is, and in fact from the description it sounds rather as if it is an attempt, not to show religious preference, but in fact precisely not to show it.  It is saying that the fact that a group of people trying to provide early childhood education happen to be believers of a particular religious philosophy will not disqualify them from being funded by this program–exactly what freedom of religion means, that we will not discriminate against you on the basis of what you believe.  As long as the program is administered impartially, part of that impartiality has to be that a program is not disqualified based on religious connections.

That is important for multiple reasons.

Social programs and particularly education have always been spearheaded in the Anglo-Saxon world by Christians and Christian organizations.  Our Ivy League colleges and many other schools and universities were originally founded by Christians to educate doctors, lawyers, and ministers.  Christians were the first to attempt to help the poor in England through education of their children.  In America, many settlers would arrive in a new location and build a church and a school as the fundamental institutions of society.  Meanwhile, the Jews have long put a heavy emphasis on educating their children, going back more than centuries, possibly millennia–a Hebrew boy became a man by proving he could read from the Torah, at least as early as the first century.  Religious people have been proponents of education, and education for all, even when the approved thinking was that education was for the privileged and powerful, to maintain their power and privilege.

Encouraging a group to do what we want them to do and they want to do anyway is good politics.

Besides, if the objectors are saying that it is a violation of the principle of freedom of religion to fund any organization that promotes a religious position, they’re going to have to stop funding public education as well.  St. Louis is a particularly interesting case, as it is the home of the headquarters of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church–not the most conservative Lutheran group, but conservative enough that they honestly believe in a six-day creation.  You might disagree; I don’t know that I agree.  However, whenever the State of Missouri uses its collected tax money to teach the scientific views about the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution, it is spending money to promote a religious idea–the idea that the Missouri Synod Lutheran belief in six-day creation is wrong.  Our objectors say that they do not want their tax money spent to fund organizations that will promote religious notions with which they disagree; now they know how their Lutheran neighbors feel.

The only way to treat religious people and their organizations fairly is to make the question of religious belief irrelevant to the question of funding social efforts.  Otherwise, it would be the same as saying that the government will not fund a day care run by a black man, or a preschool run by a woman.  Not discriminating on the basis of religion means that religious views are not a factor in the decision.  That’s what the amendment is saying.

How those programs are going to work has not yet been determined.  The simple way, though, is for the government to provide scholarships or tuition reimbursement for needy families trying to send their children to whatever preschools are available.  Some have argued that this kind of “voucher” system unconstitutionally funds religious schools because the parents can give the money to those schools and the government winds up paying the church, as it were.  However, to do otherwise unconstitutionally discriminates against religious groups, requiring that parents send their children only to schools which reject religious views entirely–itself a religious view–or forego the government assistance they cannot afford to be without.

It would be akin to refusing to provide food stamps to any family that says grace before meals.

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#120: Giving Offense

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #120, on the subject of Giving Offense.

A couple days ago I was asked whether I had again offended a Specifically Named Person by writing another piece on homosexuality.


I had no idea how to reply to this.  I was unaware that I had offended this individual previously by my writing; I have no reason to believe he identifies as homosexual.  I obviously know that some people in my circle of relationships disagree with me on any subject you care to name, and this is one on which there are some significant disagreements–but I don’t keep track of who holds what positions on which issues, so I could not have told you that he disagreed with my views on this one.  It does not surprise me if he does; I know he disagrees with me on some issues, but then, everyone disagrees with everyone on some issues.  As the anonymous wise Quaker is quoted as having said to his closest friend, “Everyone’s a little queer ‘cept me and thee, and sometimes I’m not so sure of thee.”  I know of no one with whom I am in complete agreement about everything.  That does not bother me.  After all, I know that everyone is wrong about something, and I know that that includes me, but it also includes everyone who disagrees with me.  The trick is figuring out where you’re wrong and where you’re right, and not being more certain of it than you can justify.

What bothers me is that he would be offended by my opinion, or perhaps by my expression of my opinion.

I have probably written about tolerance before.  Being tolerant does not mean not caring about an issue.  It means having a strong opinion but treating others respectfully who hold a different opinion.  Many people who are not religious believe that they are tolerant when they are actually indifferent and condescending.  That is, their attitude is “all religious ideas are nonsense, so it really does not matter what nonsense you believe.”  However, changes in society are forcing these people to recognize that this is not true–that it really does matter what one believes about God, because that in turn controls what one believes about many practical issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, and the “norms” of society.  The criticism is that some religious people–those who disagree with the current attitudes on specific issues–are intolerant; the truth is that those who hold to those current attitudes are proving to be less tolerant.

Being tolerant does not mean that we all agree.  It means that we agree to disagree amicably, and to allow each other to hold differing opinions, to live by them as our own beliefs dictate, and to discuss them openly.  That’s all First Amendment:  the absolute protection of religious and political opinion.  Today those who hold certain viewpoints also hold the opinion that to disagree with those viewpoints ought to be criminal.  We encounter it in the homosexual marriage debate; it is rampant in the environmental field; it appears in issues related to reproductive choice.  If you do not agree with the approved opinion (whether or not it is held by the majority), you will not be tolerated.

On the specific issue of homosexuality, I agree that homosexuality is “natural”; it is as natural as heroin addiction:  you can encourage it, and once you’ve got it you probably can never really be fully rid of it.  There is sufficient evidence that homosexuality is not fixed in the genes, but involves environmental factors and choices on some level.  The position that the unborn are as human as their mothers and deserve equal protection equal to that extended to their mothers–and probably then some, as they are the more vulnerable class–is certainly defensible.  The issue of whether global warming is heading us into an environmental disaster, or whether it is instead staving off potentially disastrous global cooling and an ice age, can also be debated.

I hold some opinions which are apparently minority viewpoints, but I hold them honestly because of what I consider solid rational bases.  To say “I am sorry if that offends you” is not really an apology; it is more an expression of compassion for your disability, that you are such a person as would be offended by the expression of an opinion with which you disagree.  I think better of you than that.  I respect you and your opinions, even, or perhaps particularly, where I disagree.  I am willing to hear your evidence and your arguments.  I expect only the same courtesy in response.

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#112: Isn’t It Obvious

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #112, on the subject of Isn’t It Obvious.

I keep a beverage cup on my desk–usually root beer, usually Barq’s® (I joke that I once had a terrible Coke® habit–two to three liters per day).  It has a lid so that when I inevitably upset it any spill will be minimal.  I recently acquired a replacement for a worn cup, this one with a threaded lid and an airtight stopper.  Twice, maybe thrice, when securing the lid I managed to force beverage out through the threads down the side of the cup and over my hands.  I thought, there must be a way to avoid that–and then I immediately recognized what caused the problem and how to prevent it, and implemented the solution.

A few days later someone was visiting who fancies himself rather intelligent, and he poured some of our coffee into a very similar cup, tightened the lid, and squirted coffee on his hand and the counter.  Helping him clean it up, I gave him the solution to the problem.  To my surprise he responded, “I don’t think I ever would have thought of that.”  Then I recounted all of this to someone I think intelligent (who also has the same kind of cup and admitted having the same problem), who replied, “I don’t think I would have thought of that, either.”

I thought the solution obvious, but I’ll delay telling you what it is in case you want to think about it for a moment.


When I was in law school, sitting in Professor Lipkin’s Jurisprudence seminar (I have mentioned him before, and have since learned that he has died), he asked a question, and immediately pointed at me and said I was not permitted to answer.  The question was one concerning a problem consistent with my experience, so maybe it’s just because the other students, almost a decade younger, did not have the same experience.  That experience was an enigma about whether or not to hold a door for a girl (or group of girls).  Some girls at that time still believed that gentlemen ought to hold doors for ladies, and were very offended if you were rude enough not to do so; others believed that it was chauvinistic for a man to give special treatment of that sort to a woman, and would be very offended if you did.  The question was how to avoid offending anyone.  When the class was stumped, I provided the same answer he had found.  It just seemed obvious to me.

I have spent a lot of time answering questions about time travel and writing analyses of time travel movies over the years, and sometimes I simply don’t understand why a correspondent or reader does not understand.

When I was about twelve or thirteen I met a kid who wrote songs, and I learned how to write songs from working with him.  I eventually became very good, but I have always had this attitude that anyone can learn to write a song if they apply themselves to learning how to do it.  That might be true.  I think I write some very good songs; I think I’ve written some very bad ones, and that through practice I got better.  Writing music and lyrics seems easy.

I realize that this might sound like I am saying, Look how smart I am.  I don’t feel smart.  I think it was Freeman Dyson who once when asked if he ever wondered why he was so smart answered not exactly, what he wondered was why everyone else was so stupid.  I’ve not had that experience.  Rather, I recognize that there are some things which come quite easily to me and others which I cannot do well at all.  I am awed by people (like my sister) who become fluent in multiple languages, because I struggle with languages despite my grasp of English and of grammar and syntax in the abstract.  I have no skill with the visual arts; my drawings are always warped and out of perspective, and when people ask my opinion of their work I always tell them they are asking the wrong person, they should talk to one of my artists.  I have also learned over time that for all of us, the things which come easily to us we suppose are easy, and the things with which we struggle we think are difficult.  Math is a good example.  Someone–a machinist at a factory where I worked as a security guard–once suggested to me that I could with very little practice add a column of two-digit numbers in my head.  I’d never tried, never even imagined that I could do that, but it wasn’t really that difficult once I got it in mind to do it that way (instead of adding the right column, carrying, and adding the left column).  Simple math seems simple to me; I have no experience with calculus and none worth mentioning with trigonometry.  Yet many people struggle with math, while others enjoy it and like to play math games.  (I don’t like math games; they feel like busy work to me.)

That is, it is easy to think that the things which come easily to you are simple things anyone could do.  It is not necessarily true, and it is not necessarily true that the people who easily do that at which you struggle are smarter than you.  They simply have a abilities and practice in those things.

What seems obvious to me might be completely opaque to you, but I would wager that there are things that seem obvious to you that are just as opaque to me.  I actually am as smart as all that, but there are many things I can’t do, and probably you can do many of them far better than I.

The reason the beverage is pushed out through the threads as the lid tightens is that the pressure in the cup is increasing and has nowhere else to go; if you leave the plug open while tightening it, the air (and possibly the beverage if it’s really full) will come out through the top of the lid instead of through the threads.

Hold the door for everybody.

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#87: Spanish Ice Cream

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #87, on the subject of Spanish Ice Cream.

My sister has what I call a facility for languages.  She was, for a time, a United Nations translator.  Before she finished high school, she sometimes dreamt in French.  When she worked in Taiwan, sometimes people speaking with her on the phone would use a word she did not know, and when she explained in Chinese that her vocabulary was limited because she was an American, they would argue with her that she could not be an American because she spoke Chinese too well.  Her Taiwanese-born husband told us that we should ask her, not him, about Chinese pronunciation, because he had what he called the equivalent of a “Brooklyn accent” and her pronunciation was much better.  She also knows smatterings of Italian and I don’t know what else.

I do not have that.  Our parents spoke French at the dinner table not because they were French (my father was Nth generation Southern) but because they wanted to be able to discuss things in front of the four children without our understanding them.  I took two years of French, but when I get mail in French I reply Je parle un tres petit peux de fran├žais, and ask if they can send again in English.  I have written several articles which have been translated into French, and I can’t read them.  I remember fewer than a dozen words of Romanian from my three-week concert tour there decades ago (thank-you, you’re welcome, what does this cost), but I never knew more than a score and don’t know the syntax or grammar at all despite being rather good at the linguistic side of languages.  I struggle with Koine Greek to teach New Testament, have picked up a bit of church, law, medical, and logic Latin, know probably less Hebrew than Romanian (and to quote a character in my wife’s favorite movie, “Who would ever bother with Romanian?”).  Most of the Spanish I know I learned from not watching Sesame Street when the kids were watching it–numbers through ten, open and closed–plus a few words that I’ve picked up in funny stories.  I use to tell people that I couldn’t speak enough Spanish to say “I don’t speak Spanish” in Spanish.

In short, I understand that some people have trouble learning a new language.  I certainly do.  Fortuitously I speak what is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, and the language of my homeland, quite fluently.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Leon’s Frozen Custard, in the south side of the city since 1942, has gotten in serious public relations trouble for what on the surface seems a very foolish reason:  the owner does not permit his employees to speak to customers in any language other than English.  Hispanics and liberals called for a boycott, but current owner Ron Schneider has stuck to his guns.  Not all of his employees are bilingual, and he does not want customers to expect bilingual service.  That’s the simple response; there are a lot of other reasons why an employer might have such a policy.


The protestors are certainly correct that offering multilingual service is a competitive advantage.  I joke with the guy who is probably the best person for computers in the area, because he is co-owner of a small but busy shop that does mostly cellular phones plus computer equipment, and he genuinely is the only guy in the place who is not fluently bilingual (English and Spanish).  They hire no one out front who cannot deal with both the English-speaking customers who come from outside the small city because they know he’s the best and the local Latino population who come because they can ask questions and get answers without a language barrier.  It is an advantage for the store; it translates into a marketable skill for the potential employee.  I could not get a job there, even if I learned a lot more about computers and cell phones than I care to know.  Leon’s could attract more business by serving Spanish-speaking customers with Spanish-speaking employees.  That is a choice he makes.  On the other hand, he’s a landmark, and people in the suburbs drive into the city just to get his ice cream and sandwiches, and apparently hire him to cater weddings and parties.  More business is usually a good thing, but one weighs the costs against the gain in such questions.

The protestors are also right that they don’t have to buy ice cream there.  That’s a cost against benefit analysis, too, as their protest by boycott means they are sacrificing what some claim is the best food of that category in that area, accepting lower quality in the name of principle.  By the same token, though, doesn’t Leon’s have the right to establish the terms on which they will serve customers?  If they have to allow people to order in Spanish, why not Farsi?  Cantonese?  Japanese?  Russian?  Romanian?

If I were invited to sing in a Spanish-speaking church, I am not certain how I would handle that.  On the one hand, I am of the opinion that the lyrics to songs matter, and when I sing I want you to hear and understand the words.  On the other hand, I don’t think it would enhance the performance to have a translator standing next to me trying to repeat everything I sing in another language–even if he doesn’t disrupt my focus he’s going to be talking over the music.  I wouldn’t trust myself to try to sing a translated version of my lyrics–I might wind up calling myself a jelly donut, which does not put me in bad company but is still embarrassing.  You cannot expect everyone to speak every language, or do business in every language.  To do so is to demand that those who cannot speak multiple languages not be permitted to speak at all.

In this case, though, the argument is made that Leon’s already employs some bi-lingual servers; the rule is that those employees who could talk with customers in Spanish are not permitted to do so.  What possible reason could there be for that?

There are quite a few possible reasons, actually.  We’ll begin with the one advanced by Leon’s’ owner, that he does not want customers to expect to be able to order in Spanish.  Not all of his servers can understand an order in Spanish, and if someone comes to the window and no one is working who can take a Spanish order, that customer has to be chased away; and if that customer does not understand enough English to understand that they cannot help him, that slows the line.  On those days, the line is further slowed by the fact that there will be numerous customers in it who cannot be helped because the servers cannot understand what they are saying, the longer line moves more slowly with fewer sales, and people driving by are less likely to stop to queue onto a long line, which is more lost business.  If Leon’s cannot serve you in English, you become a problem for the business, because they can’t serve you every time you come, and you’re scaring away real business by taking space in the line.

Of course, some days some of the servers can speak Spanish.  Why not just let them do so on those days?  Apart fromn the fact already noted, it is clear that not all of the servers speak Spanish.  If some of the customers expect to do business in Spanish, that fouls the queue when they reach the window and have to wait for the bilingual server to be available to help them while the English-speaking server is now trying to find someone else in the line who wants to order in English without giving anyone the feeling that the service is unfair.  Service is now inefficient again.

There is also the problem of management.  I don’t know whether owner Schneider speaks Spanish, but he probably does not make it a requirement for his management staff to do so.  Even the best of employer-employee relationships are a bit adversarial; your employer might be a friend, but he is not a buddy, and he is watching to ensure that you do the job right.  Customer service is a vital part of any business, and particularly in the food industry.  If I’m running the store, I want to be able to understand what my employees are saying to my customers, and it is important to do so for a lot of reasons–easily illustrated by giving a few ideas of things I do not want to hear my employees saying to my customers.

  • You’re ugly, go away.
  • Hey, can I see you Friday night?  Great movie showing, and a hot girl like you shouldn’t sit home alone.
  • That’s the large cone; pay me for the small, and later you can make it up to me.
  • You don’t want to eat here.  The food here isn’t worth what they charge; you’re better off at the place down the street.
  • My boss is a jerk and the pay is a joke, I’m quitting just as soon as I can find another job.
  • I hate this place and everyone who works here.  By the way, the AR-15 assault rifle I ordered arrived yesterday.
  • They’re going to make the deposit at three-thirty, and that blonde girl will walk across the parking lot to the bank across the street; you can ambush her by the clothing drop.

You get the point–or do you?  Remember, the store is responsible for what its employees say to its customers.  To exercise that responsibility, the managers have to be able to understand what the employees are saying.  In order both to meet the demands of the protestors and protect the interests of the business, Leon’s would have to fire any employees, and particularly any managers, who are not fluently bilingual–a mistake for any business that has been running so long, because they undoubtedly have some excellent and trusted people working there who would be out of work, and would create a lot of disgruntled employees and former employees.

And what happens when the immigrant Middle Eastern population insists that they should be able to order in Farsi or Arabic?

I saw the list a few years ago; I believe that official government publications in these United States come in over a hundred languages.  Every court of law in New Jersey has a Spanish interpreter on staff, and in most jurisdictions they earn their money translating for defendants who do not adequately understand English.

In the Roman Empire, every province had its own language, and people spoke that language with each other locally, much like Italian neighborhoods of the last century and Hispanic neighborhoods today, but on a larger scale.  Yet business was usually conducted in the international language Greek, and legal proceedings generally in the official language Latin, and almost everyone was tri-lingual.  There’s nothing wrong with being multilingual, and there’s nothing wrong with offering multilingual customer service to attract customers who do not speak English.  However, when we attempt to force people who do not speak a foreign language to use it in their business transactions, we are being unfair to someone.  The customer can always find a merchant eager to accommodate his language requirements to make a sale.  The businessman can only work in the languages he knows.  It is therefore the choice of the business what languages will be spoken in their business transactions, and if the customer doesn’t like it he can bring an interpreter or shop somewhere else.

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#83: Help! I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body!

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #83, on the subject of Help!  I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body!

The new view of sexual identity has me examining myself, and wondering if I have been misunderstood all these decades.  I have always perceived myself to be a boy (well, I grew up to be a man, I think), but perhaps that’s only because in those years everyone assumed that if you had male, er, parts, you were male.  We did not then understand that you could really be one gender inside and a different sex on the outside.  Now, apparently, we do, and that might really change things for me.  I might be a girl.  I have the attestation of most of my peers in my elementary school, who repeatedly asserted that I was a girl:  I ran like a girl, fought like a girl, threw, batted, kicked, did everything like a girl.  And I liked to sing–how girly, to like music class.  I might have had a boy’s body, but I didn’t use it like a boy; I was obviously a girl hiding in a boy’s body, pretending to be a boy.

Yet even then, I was always attracted to girls.  Starting in second grade I had a terrible crush on Christina Newcomb (I’ve always wondered what became of her).  By fourth grade I was spending a lot of time at her house down by the brook on Broad Street up near Lambert’s Mill Road.  She was particularly fond of The Beatles, and had a stack of Beatles cards between three and four inches thick.  There were other girls who caught my attention before that, and many more thereafter–moving away from Scotch Plains separated us, although our relationship had fizzled by then.  No other boys were attracted to girls–in fifth grade they used to dare me to wait for her outside the school and try to kiss her, which is what I wanted to do anyway so I usually took that dare and listened to their peals of disgust when I succeeded (although at least as often she ran away laughing).

So then the conclusion is inescapable:  if I am a girl, as all the boys thought, I must be a lesbian.


I think this understanding might have changed my youth significantly–maybe not then, when people always thought that someone in a boy’s body was a boy, and to be a girl you had to have a girl’s body.  But Society has recognized, now, that this is not always the case, and the Girl Scouts of America are doing their level best to keep up with progress:  you can be a Girl Scout if you are a girl on the inside, even if you, like me, are trapped in a boy’s body.  I can’t tell you how much different my teen years might have been had I actually been able to go camping with the Girl Scouts instead of the Boy Scouts.  Not that I don’t treasure the hundreds of miles of canoeing and hiking, the places I saw and things I learned in scouts, but really, every Boy Scout I knew wished we could go camping with the girls.  I certainly saw advantages to the idea.

So I think were I that age today I would simply explain it to them.  I’m not really a boy, I’m a girl in a boy’s body, but I’m attracted to girls, so that makes me a lesbian.  Trapped in a boy’s body.  I should be allowed to be a Girl Scout.  From what I understand of their present policies, I think they would agree and let me go camping with the girls.  I think we would have a wonderful time–and since I am, after all, a lesbian, I can’t promise that other things wouldn’t happen on those camping trips, since I would be bound to find all those girls attractive, and particularly whoever wound up as my tent-mate.  She might find that she, too, is a lesbian, attracted to another girl, at least when the girl in question is trapped in a boy’s body.  I know some girls are uncomfortable, being naked around a lesbian, but it might be different if the lesbian has the body of a boy.

I won’t say more about that, because I’m sure there are millions of Boy Scouts wishing they had already thought of this.

I expect that some of the parents would object; parents can be so old-fashioned, insisting that their children be protected from such situations.  They don’t understand that the world has changed, that what you are on the outside is meaningless, it’s the person on the inside that counts, even for such matters as which bathroom you should use, which Scouting organizations you can join, for what social services you qualify, and everything else, really.  If I say I am a lesbian inside a man’s body, how can anyone argue with that?  It could well be the real me.

And if it would have gotten me into those Girl Scout tents, I could have been very comfortable with that idea.

Shame on me?  Is that because you think I’m mocking a very serious matter, that someone could be one gender inside and a different sex outside, and ought to be treated as the kind of person he or she supposes him- or herself to be?  Or is it because you actually do think that girls and boys are different because of biological and physiological characteristics defined by their bodies, and society needs to make that distinction for the protection of its girls and its boys?

I think those peers of mine were wrong, that I was never a girl at all, as much as I was different from them.  This business about really being the other gender on the inside has nothing to do with biology or psychology; it has everything to do with gender stereotypes.  We think some man might be a woman inside because his interests go in directions more common to women–because we have created definitions of male and female “personality types” and then tried to fit people into them.  We persuade people that they are really not the gender of their body’s sex because their character does not fit our stereotypes, and they believe us.  Boys will be boys and girls will be girls, and we need to recognize that the first difference is biological.  Otherwise we lose some basic structures of human interaction, and face some serious social problems.  From there, we need to understand that a man does not have to conform to what we think are manly traits, nor a woman to womanly traits, and understand that bodies are sexually defined but people are individuals.

Without that, talk of sexuality devolves into this kind of nonsense.

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#63: Equal Protection When Boy Meets Girl

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #63, on the subject of Equal Protection When Boy Meets Girl.

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not like the Roe v. Wade decision.

To many, that will sound like nonsense.  Ginsburg is the anchor of abortion rights on the United States Supreme Court, and Roe the seminal case which recognized, some would say created, such a right.  Yet Ginsburg does not disagree that there is such a right; she disagrees regarding the basis of that right, and thus with the reasoning of Roe which is its foundation.

Roe v. Wade is in essence a Right to Privacy case.  Beginning with Griswold v. Connecticutt, in which the court found that the state could not criminalize the act of teaching couples how to use contraceptives in the privacy of their own bedroom, the court inferred that the First Amendment protections of freedom of expression, Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, implied a right to keep one’s personal matters private.  There were several intervening cases which extended that, and there have been others arising since Roe, but in Roe the argument was that the decision to have an abortion was a medical decision between a woman and her doctor, and as such was a private matter in which the government should not interfere without a very compelling interest.

Ginsburg disagrees.  That argument, she claims, makes a private and personal decision a matter to be discussed with a doctor–a paternalistic oversight that according to Ginsburg violates the fundamental right at stake.  She claims that a woman’s decision should be autonomous, something she decides without involving anyone she does not wish to involve.  She makes it an Equal Protection right, covered largely by the fifth through tenth amendments.  Her assertion is that a woman should have the autonomous right to decide whether to bear a child, unimpeded by any considerations including medical ones, because it is solely the woman’s problem.

Ginberg’s reasoning presents serious challenges for those who oppose abortion.  If her line were adopted, current efforts to regulate abortion providers and facilities would be unconstitutional.  As the decision stands, if abortion is a privacy right as a medical decision on the advice of a medical professional, it is completely reasonable for reasonable regulations of the medical profession to restrict access to abortions based on the government’s regulation of health care.  If it is an autonomous right under equal protection, then a woman in theory should be able to have a doctor or anyone she chooses perform one in the privacy of her own bedroom without any government involvement at all.  Yet Ginsburg’s position suffers from some other problems.  She believes she is defending the concept that a woman should be treated exactly as a man would be in the same circumstance, but (apart from the fact that men would not be in exactly the same circumstance) the treatment of men in this circumstance is already worse than the treatment of women, viewed from the perspective of individual autonomy and equal protection.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg official United States Supreme Court portrait.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg official United States Supreme Court portrait.

Let’s look at the situation:  boy meets girl.  We’ll call our girl Ruth, for Justice Ginsburg, and we’ll name the boy Tony, in memorium of the recent passing of her good friend, colleague, and adversary Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ruth and Tony meet, maybe at work, maybe at a party, maybe at school or in the neighborhood.  They like each other, and start seeing each other.  They find themselves attracted to each other.  Human physiology being designed to promote reproduction, at some point they have desires to have sex.  At this point they are just about equal, as far as reproductive rights are concerned.  Some argue that Tony is disadvantaged in that his drives are stronger than Ruth’s, but there aren’t many ways to test that.  Ruth might have more resistance to those drives because the consequences are more direct for her, but in essence it is within the power of each them them to choose, autonomously, not to engage in sex.  It is also within their power to choose, jointly, to risk a pregnancy.

Yes, Tony could rape Ruth; Tony could coerce Ruth by some other inducement.  Women are raped fairly often, usually by men, sometimes by women.  Men are also raped, by men and sometimes by women, but considerably less often–although more often than reported.  Men are more embarrassed about being raped than women are, and so less likely to report it; and they are taken less seriously when they do, partly because some people think a man can’t really be raped by a woman, and partly because men who have never been raped by a woman somehow think they would enjoy it.  Rape, though, is a separate issue:  anyone who has been raped has had rights fundamentally violated, quite apart from the problem of potential pregnancy.

If Ruth and Tony agree to engage in sex, suddenly the entire picture changes:  they no longer have equal reproductive rights.  A significant part of that is simply technological.  Either of them could have an operation rendering him or her permanently infertile, which is generally a drastic step few want to take and is a considerably more expensive and difficult (but ultimately more reliable) procedure for Ruth than for Tony.  Barring that, though, Tony is limited to the question of whether or not to use a condom–a prophylactic device with a rather high failure rate.  Ruth’s equivalent, a diaphram, is a bit more difficult to get (must be fitted by a gynecologist) but considerably more effective; she also has several other options.  Usually she would use spermicide (sometimes known as “foam”) with a diaphram, but she can also use hormone treatments, usually in pill form but sometimes as implants, that disrupt her ovulation cycle.  All of these options have varying probabilities of preventing conception; there are other options.  Intra-uterine devices (IUDs) usually reduce the chance of conception but also prevent or sometimes disrupt implantation, causing a spontaneous abortion–what in popular jargon is called a “miscarriage”, but at so early a stage that pregnancy was not suspected.  In all these ways, all the reproductive rights are on Ruth’s side:  if she chooses not to become pregnant, she has an arsenal of ways to prevent it.

However, young lovers are often careless.  Birth control is so unromantic, so non-spontaneous.  The young suffer from the illusion of invulnerability, that they are the heroes of their own stories and everything is going to work according to their expectations.  People have sex and don’t get pregnant; some couples try for unsuccessful years to have a baby.  A pregnancy is often a surprise, even for those who want it.  People take the risk, and Ruth and Tony might lose.  So now there is a baby on the way, as they say, and again Ruth’s reproductive rights are more than equal to Tony’s.  She can choose to carry the child to term, or to have an abortion.  He has no say in the matter, even if he is her husband.  She might include him in the decision, but it is her decision; she does not even need to inform him that there is a decision.  She can end the story right here.  He cannot.  He has no say about his own reproductive rights.  He cannot say, “I do not want to be the father of a child; terminate it.”  Nor can he say, “I want this baby, keep it.”  He does not, in that regard, have equal protection.

Maybe he does not care; maybe he figures it is her problem.  However, it is not just her problem–it is also his problem.  The inequities are not yet quite done.  If Ruth decides not to have an abortion–exercising her reproductive rights and overriding his–the child is born.  At that moment Ruth has yet another choice:  she can keep the child, committing herself to the difficulties and expenses of raising it, or she can absolve herself of all further responsibility, agreeing never to see the child again, by putting it up for adoption.  I do not want to minimize the agony of that choice, but it is her choice–it is not his choice, and he has no say in the matter.  His reproductive rights are not equally protected.

In most cases, if she chooses to surrender the child for adoption, he has no say in the matter; he cannot say it is his child and he wants to keep it.  That, though, is only half the problem.  If she decides that she wants to keep the child, she can sue him for child support–and indeed, if Ruth is poor enough that she files for public assistance from the state, most states will find Tony and force him to make child support payments, and jail him if he fails to do so.  It is his responsibility to support the child if she says it is.  He can claim that it is not his child–the tests can be expensive, but there is an avenue to avoid false claims–but we already agreed that it is his, so he is going to have to support it.  She had a choice; he has none.

So by all means, let’s think of abortion as an Equal Protection issue.  Men are not protected in this nearly as well as women.  A lot of things would have to change to get there.

In addition to web log posts with the Abortion, Discrimination, and Health Care tags, see also the articles Why Shouldn’t You Have Sex If You Aren’t Married?, and Was John Brown a Hero or a Villain?

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