Can Hope Replace Fear?

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, June 25, 2018

Once again I’m writing a political essay that few will read. I do this when I’m disturbed about events in the news that I’m powerless to control. We liberals are horrified by what fears over undocumented immigrants are doing to this country. Trump wants to bypass the rule of law, or apply existing laws like a cold war police state. It seems like an extreme right minority will tear the country apart to stop illegal immigration. That’s very scary. It’s even scarier that tens of millions support them. But liberals have fears that scare conservatives, so I think it’s vital we work to understand their fears if we want them to understand ours. What I realized this morning is unless we can empathize with each other’s fears, we will always have a politically polarized society.

We like to think love and hate are the two primary emotions, but I they aren’t. Hope and fear are more primal. Love grows out of hope, and hate grows out of fear. Think of people you love and hate. Love comes from the hopes you have, and hate comes from the fears. Liberals hate Trump because he causes us to fear, but conservatives love Trump because he gives them hope for their fears. What we need right now is politics of hope for everyone.

Conservatives fear illegal immigration in the same way liberals fear climate change. Each perspective destroys hope for the future. All of us want health, liberty, security, happiness, family, friends, and prosperity. Our fears arise when we feel those hopes are in jeopardy. We think Trump is destroying our future, while conservatives believe he’s protecting theirs.

Liberals fear climate change will devastate the planet. Conservatives fear illegal immigration will destroy our social order. What is the practical reality of these fears? Can we ever be united if everyone fears destruction from two different threats that split us into opposing sides? Can we collectively work to give each other hope?

I use the phrase “illegal immigration” for the want of a better term. Liberals prefer the term “undocumented immigrant.” But to a conservative, that probably feels like what liberals feel when we hear phrases of climate change denial. To use the phrase undocumented immigrant is to deny the reality that undocumented immigrants are doing something illegal.

The only way to find hope is to understand each other’s fears. The only way to heal the division is to cooperate in solving each other’s fears. Liberals need to find a rational way to deal with illegal immigration that will sooth conservative fears, and conservatives need to work on environmental security to reduce liberal fears.

For decades conservatives have told liberals they sound like Chicken Little running around screaming “The sky is falling” when discussing climate change. Well, conservatives are now overreacting to illegal immigration in the same way. We need to calm each other down, discuss the realities of each danger, and decide practical solutions we can implement together. Both problems are exceedingly complex, promise slow but huge changes to society, but can be solved if we work at it collectively. But zero tolerance of illegal immigration is like asking American to give up cars to save the Earth. Extreme solutions are too simple-minded to work.

Liberals need to understand the fears of conservatives, and conservatives need to understand the fears of liberals. It does no good to justify our fears by convincing others to fear them too. What we need to do find ways to spread hope. But I’m not sure if that’s possible if we live in panic mode.

We feel stories about immigrants causing excessive crime are unjustified, and there’s plenty of proof to disprove those stories. We believe you use crime hyperbole to justify circumventing laws. We believe conservatives have genuine fears over illegal immigration that come from three actual threats to your way of life. First, you don’t want to pay more taxes to support immigrants. Two, naturalized citizens tend to vote liberal, so it’s a threat to the Republican party. And three, you want to maintain a white America.

These are hard issues to address. Hard cold mathematics tell us our society is diversifying racially. This is your big fear: “The Next America” – a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. Here’s the graph that probably scares you most:

Changes in race in America from 1960 to 2060 - Pew Research Center

Zero tolerance for illegal immigration will not change those trends. Those numbers may be conservative if they don’t take into account climate change and economic collapse. If we don’t slow climate change migration numbers will explode. It’s like the physics of gases. If you have two containers, one with low pressure and one with high pressure and you allow a path between, the pressures in the two tanks will equalize. As long as there are good and bad places on this planet, populations will migrate. No wall you build will ever be high enough to stop it. Just remember, if you lived in a bad place, you’d head for a good one too. One solution is to rebuild collapsing countries.

If the Republican party wasn’t so exclusive and strived to serve the entire population they wouldn’t have to fear diversity. By becoming the party of the white holdouts, the Republicans are forced to find solutions that only serve a minority of voters. We need both political parties to offer hope to all citizens.

Finally, illegal immigrants do raise taxes, but to remove them would be even more expensive. And they contribute a giant chunk of change to the economy. We actually benefit economically from both legal and illegal immigration.

But this probably doesn’t alleviate your fears. If you could only let go of your hangups over skin-color your fears could be reduced. Maybe reading “Southern Baptists Call Off the Culture War” might help.

Conservatives need to accept that diversity is already here. Liberals will have to accept that immigration must have limits. Liberals need to accept that capitalism drives the economy. Conservatives must accept that the cost of preserving the environment is essential to healthy capitalism. Conservatives must accept that immigrants are key to future growth. Liberals must accept that too many immigrants can destabilize the economy.

Fear destroys our morals and ethics. Fear makes us do things we wouldn’t do if we were hopeful.

Climate change is going to drastically alter all societies on this planet. Mass movements of people around the world are going to alter all those societies too. In fact, there are many trends that are changing every society on Earth going on simultaneously right now. We can’t stop them. But to keep our hopes we must learn to adapt and control them.

When reading or watching the news, pay attention to its emotional impact. Does the story offer hope or fear? All too often stories provide an extreme example. Not only do we need to become savvy over the fake news, but wary of sensational news. If a story scares you, research it on Google. The more you know the less you’ll fear.


Genetics Versus Choice in Politics

Charles Gibson, from ABC News, interviewing Sarah Palin asked her about homosexuality, giving her the choice between genetic or learned.  Palin dodged the question, but I got to wondering about the implication of that question.  I assume Gibson was using it as a touchstone question for gauging just how conservative Palin might be.  Conservatives want to believe everything in life is a choice and that we’re morally judged by our behavior.  Liberals consider some behavior genetic and believe that changes how society should be run.

What if some behavior was absolutely proven to be genetic?  How would that affect politics?  Scientists often say they have found a genetic link to various diseases and conditions, but I don’t think all people accept science at this level as being true.  To many people it’s as vague as understanding the theory of evolution.  What would it take for science to convince the majority of people that genetics is a fact of life?  Most people accept the science of aerodynamics even though they don’t understand it because they buy airline tickets.

If the science of genetics evolved to the point with near 100% accuracy to predict future behavior from pre-natal testing would that be convincing?  If all pregnant women got a blood test and one of the factors given was a 75% chance of having a homosexual kid, and studies later showed that 75% of those kids did indeed turn out to be homosexual, would conservatives accept the science of genetics and its implications?

We know that conservatives can radically alter their positions – Sarah Palin is proof of that because accepting her as suitable for commander in chief asserts an acceptance of radical feminist ideals from forty years ago.  If homosexuality is proven to be part of nature, will conservatives accept that and love their gay and lesbian kids?  Or will their loathing of homosexuality change their position on abortion?

What if the science of genetics goes further.  What if genetic testing could predict that children will become atheists, criminals, terrorists or even Democrats or Republicans?  Will fundamentalists be willing to abort Democrats as fetuses, or a family of Yellow Dog Democrats want to abort a young Republican?

Am I an atheist because of genetics or choice?  Growing up I thought at age 12 I was making a decision on my own to abandon primitive superstition, but as I’ve grown older I’ve sometimes wondered if atheism isn’t just my nature.  I went to the same schools as my peers, and went to church with them too, so why do 90% of boomers think about God, and us other 10% don’t?  Maybe there’s a constant 10% of skeptics in every generation, no matter what the educational system is like.  Would pro-life fundamentalists accept abortion if they thought they could stomp out atheism in a few generations?

Or would conservatives feel less threatened if they knew that homosexuals and atheists were just weird breeds in the population like Calico cats.  I’m not the kind of atheist that wants to convert religious people.  I believe that genetics makes some people religious and it does no good to try and make them scientific.  To me, atheists who try to convert for their cause are like religious people who try to shanghai people into their belief systems.  I’d like to believe if people read and study enough on a subject they will come to their own conclusions, but I don’t know if that’s a scientific truth.

What I would like is a political system that allows everyone to pursue their on beliefs as long as they don’t interfere or harm other people and their beliefs.  And I think that was what the American founders intended for our American way of life.  The problem we face today is some people think their personal beliefs, maybe genetic in origin, should be how 100% of people should believe and those beliefs should be codified into law.  Some of the extremes of this thinking would like to get rid of homosexuals, atheists, liberals and environmentalists.

To these thinkers, that’s the path to a successful government and a happy population.  But think about this.  If GM and Ford, and the auto unions had supported conservation and environmental recommendations from back in the 70s and 80s instead of seeking to politically change laws to meet their own self interests they wouldn’t be heading down that steep economic decline towards bankruptcy.

I know this illustration might sound like it’s coming out of left field, but hear me out.  What I’m saying is government laws that were meant to protect all people would have been much more beneficial to the special interests of the auto industry if they had not interfered.  The American auto industry inflicted it’s own near mortal wounds by getting laws customized for their way of thinking.  If they had had to compete with world auto makers under the laws that were meant to help everyone, they would still be prosperous today.

Whether our behavior is learned or programmed by genes, it should not matter to our laws.  We need laws designed for the common good that ignore special interests.  We need to accept diversity and account for it in our legal system.  Gays getting married should not affect fundamentalists who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, if we have a system that allow for both.  To me the solution is simple.  Have two kinds of marriages, the first, a basic legal marriage that meets state and federal laws, good for all people, and a second marriage within churches that meet the laws of their gods, for those people that have extra special interests.

My mother-in-law never believe my wife and I were properly married because we weren’t married within the Catholic Church, but the laws of the nation believe we are married.  If I believed like my mother-in-law, I would have converted and gotten married in the Catholic Church.  The law of the land would have no affect on that.

By the special interest beliefs of Catholics, anyone not married in the Catholic Church is not married.  Should that be the law of the land?  See my point.  This world will never know which religion is right so we have to create laws that work for all religions.  We need generalized rules for laws, and let people pick their own specialized beliefs that they keep to themselves.

I don’t know if our behaviors are programmed or created by our free will, but should that affect the political system?  We need a system that works either way, or any combination of the two.  As long as I can be an atheist I don’t care if other people are Christian, Jew, Muslin, Pagan or Hindu.  Governor Palin should have said to Charlie Gibson, “It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is learned or genetic, the American way should protect them to the fullest extent of the law.”  Our only enemies that we should abort are those that threaten us physically or interfere with our ability to pursue happiness through American ideals.  Those are the true terrorists, whether from outside of the country that want to attack our way of life, or criminals that want destroy our system from within.


Number One on the Runway

I am reminded of that great song title from Timbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.”  With economic chaos and skyrocketing oil prices, the future is looking a bit overcast – no need for shades now, huh, but what if that’s an illusion?  In China, the future is so bright that a billion people are putting on sunglasses.  I’ve read that there is more peace and prosperity now than anytime in the history of the world.  Global warming may only be the foot that kicks us in the ass and forces humanity to get its shit together.  A new President could clear those dark clouds on our horizon and brighten up U.S. prospects for decades to come.

We’re all on a jet that’s about to take off for the future, but who is in the cockpit, and what’s our destination?  My generation are all thinking about retirement and I’m wondering if we’re all flying down to Florida to play shuffleboard or dominos all day.  I can remember summer of 1968 like it was tomorrow.  We wanted the Vietnam war to end so we could start building a bright future.  We wanted a lot of change.  We lived on great expectations.  Many of the young felt like they were part of a movement, a movement for change.  Barack and all Democrats worked to sell the same sentiments forty years later.  Is this election the last chance for the Baby Boomers to get it right and achieve their dream?

Protestors used to chant “The Whole World is Watching” and I think our generation felt it was true, even though most of the world lived off the radar of mass communication when we were growing up.  During those mythical years of the 1960s our generation always felt we were number one on the runway taking off for the future, but now, we’re seen as being the generation number one on the runway to retire.  Is it now time for us to be quiet?  Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both Baby Boomer Presidents.  We may get another boomer, with Barack Obama, or the Silent Generation may have its last chance to have their only President, with John McCain.

I was reminded of my Baby Boomer status when Piers Fawkes at PSFK tagged this site as 1 of 14 blogs he monitors for information about Baby Boomers.  Maybe the whole world is no longer watching us, but at least the marketing people are still keeping an eye on us.  For those who need a generational timeline, see below:

I find it tremendously hard to imagine the mindset of the generations that have come behind us.  First of all, they never demanded to be heard, and as a result of that, they never got the press the Baby Boomers did.  The Greatest Generation are famous for living in historically epic times and their generation was defined by the events they faced.  The Silent Generation made the world for the Baby Boomers and influenced them.  The Baby Boomers embraced rock and roll, but Elvis and the Beatles were from the Silent Generation – an odd nickname, huh?  And as resources such as oil become problematic, will we have a new Greatest Generation that solves those problems?

Signs are everywhere that the young are ready for the boomers to retire, for instance, read “TV Viewers’ Average Age Hits 50” over at Variety, where they whine that the damn people watching TV are too old for their precious 18-49 demographics.  What’s the matter, are the young TV execs afraid their whole industry is a Baby Boomer fad?  The whole world probably didn’t have their eyes on us, but we certainly had our eyes on TV.  Are the newer generations less mass-media oriented?  I’ve read males of certain ages have stopped watching TV altogether.

Is the Baby Boomer’s hour in the spotlight about over.  Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both born in 1946, making them the two Baby Boomer Presidents.  Strangely, John McCain, born in 1936, a year after Elvis, is from the earlier Silent Generation, so that generation is still hanging in there, and suggests there’s time for the Baby Boomers to cling to the spotlight for another decade or two.  Barrack Obama was born in 1961, making him part of the rear end of the Baby Boomers.  We’ve now had a hippie President and jock President, so it would be great to have a minority President, and hopefully there will even be time for a female Boomer or even a gay Boomer in the White House.  Evidently, our time is not up until the overweight boomer sings.

I’m reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, a tail end boomer himself, born in 1964.  Zakaria’s wise assessment of current world affairs suggests our generation can still have influence for years to come as political pundits.  The Baby Boomers might be moving into their retirement years, but we dominant politics, journalism and opinions, and probably will for awhile.  I can not recommend The Post-American World enough, because Zakaria puts us Baby Boomer Americans in our place by letting us know what the rest of the world was seeing when we thought they were watching.  Our self-centered perspective has blinded us to what was happening with the 95% of the Baby Boomers in the rest of the world.

When you read Variety’s listing of the average age for various TV shows, and see “How I Met Your Mother,” a show about people in their twenties, has an average viewer age of 45, then you start to wonder, where the hell are the young people?  You do see them.  The news is reported by a vast array of beautiful young people.  Movies and television shows are all about the young.  You see them standing behind Obama and McCain, they fight our wars, and they direct movies, write novels, create music, and they fill jobs all around us.  But what do they want?  Where are their spokespeople?

When Generation X taxis out on the runaway where are they going to take us?  When Generation X campaigns for the Presidency, what will be their issues?  You’d think they’d make Global Warming their issue.  Maybe their generation speaks loud and clear and I don’t hear them because I’m insulated by the thickness of my generation.

If Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman are right, not only do we need to hear from Generation X and the Millennials, but we need to hear from their ranks from all over the world.  That old saying, “Think globally, act locally” is more important than ever.

I hate to say this, but maybe the numbers at Variety are more damning than they are suggesting.  If the average age of TV watchers is 50, then television is a has-been media.  What mass media has an average age of 25?  Video games?  Text-messaging?  FaceBook?  I’m sorry, but tuning into Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 seems like checking out of this world in the same way that Timothy Leary advocated dropping out.  Virtual worlds don’t count, only reality.

China and Dubai are growing at speeds and magnitudes that outpace any boom in U.S. history.  The whole world should be watching them instead of “How I Met Your Mother” or whatever equivalent show or video game you’re using to escape from reality at the moment.  Where is this generation’s Bob Dylan that’s writing “Because something is happening here, But you don’t know what it is, Do you, Mr. Jones?” or Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth?”

There’s heavy stuff going down, but where are the young protestors?  2008 is going to be an important election.  It is time for change, just like we thought back in 1968, but this time the biggest issues are more pressing than ever, and if we want a future where we need shades, we all need to be watching.  Whether our plane is taking off for retirement city, or the big city to start a new career, we’re all sailing on the same Spaceship Earth.  Whether you’re 15, 35, 55, 75 or 95 there are some shows on TV we should all be watching, but they ain’t escapist shows, but documentaries about what’s going on around the real world.


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