Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Response to Nothing to Fear

(See: Just Above Sunset: Nothing to Fear)

It's a rare day that I find myself disagreeing with Kevin Drum, but today is indeed one of them. Here he is, responding to Democrats blaming GOP candidates for "Exploiting Working-Class Fears":

Here’s the thing that liberals tend not to want to accept: different people evaluate threats in far different ways. This is not right or wrong. It’s just human nature.

Okay, this takes me back to my favorite study by John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

"We know that liberals and conservatives are really deeply different on a variety of things," Hibbing explains on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast [See #88 on list.] "...We can measure their sympathetic nervous systems, which is the fight-or-flight system. And liberals and conservatives tend to respond very differently." 
For example, startle reflexes after hearing a loud noise were stronger in conservatives. And after being shown a variety of threatening images ("a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it," according to the study), conservatives also exhibited greater skin conductance — a moistening of the sweat glands that indicates arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which manages the body's fight-or-flight response. 
It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli — and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.

But Drum, who lives in California, continues:

In my case, I never even bother getting out of bed if I feel an earthquake. I just roll over and wait for it to stop. 
This is, by almost any measure, stupid. ... Wouldn’t it make sense to at least hop out of bed and get ready in case my house starts to collapse? Yes it would. I’m putting my life in danger by underplaying the threat.

Not really, he's only acting like a conservative, by giving into his fears instead of dealing with them rationally.

First of all, concerning earthquakes:

Like Kevin, l've lived in California (I was born there, and lived there from age four to twelve). I "experienced" several earthquakes -- and I put that in quotes because, although they happened, I never once felt one. I remember several times in class, everybody would stop talking and the teacher would say, "You feel that? It's an earthquake!" I would sit there and look at everyone sitting still, looking fearful. 

The topper was the time that I woke up one morning and the family all said, "Boy, that was something last night!" My older brother said it shook him out of bed (the top bunk!) onto the floor. I told everybody I never felt it and they took me out back to show me the swimming pool, which was 20 feet by 40 feet and eight feet deep, and it was half-empty, the water having shlossed out into the gully behind our property.

I guess I was a born liberal because it didn't scare me. Or maybe I just figured the big one would kill me in my sleep, so I wouldn't suffer.

But I think Kevin is wrong on this:

Not only do I, as a liberal, accept that, because of human nature, liberals and conservatives evaluate threats in different ways, but I also think liberals are right, which means that conservatives are wrong.

In National Review, there's Jim Geraghty, answering that Saturday Night Live skit with a faux Chris Christie, pronouncing that, “Mothers are putting their kids on buses, and these buses are being driven off cliffs by terrorists!", by quoting, I guess as a corrective, the real Christie,saying this:

America has been betrayed. We’ve been betrayed by the leadership that Barack Obama and Hilary [sic] Clinton have provided to this country over the last number of years. Think about just what’s happened today. The second largest school district in America in Los Angeles closed based on a threat. Think about the effect that, that’s going to have on those children when they go back to school tomorrow wondering, filled with anxiety, to whether they’re really going to be safe. 
Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop wondering whether their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound. 
Think about the fathers of Los Angeles, who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children. 
What is it that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country? That the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people.

(Did you get how Obama and Hillary supposedly caused the thing in Los Angeles to happen? Me, neither, but never mind that.)

Better yet, think about the senseless fear that the leadership of Los Angeles propagated by closing down the second-largest school system in America in the face of the same threat that the wiser leadership of New York, the first-largest, were able to see was a hoax. Yes, New York took a chance that could have backfired on them, but it wasn't "rolling the dice", it was using their brains and showing leadership in combatting terrorism, since closing down a school system for every fake threat that comes along is expensive and cowardly, and just hands the bad guys an easy victory.

So instead of fear-ridden New Jersey Governor Chris Christie running for president, maybe courageous and proven-capable New York Mayor Bill De Blasio should take his place? (No, never mind that. The Democrats are not in need of capable candidates. Although maybe De Blasio could run as a Republican?)

What Obama is trying to say, although probably not with the specificity that's required, is that although ISIL (that's what he calls ISIS) will continue trying to attack us, and although a few of them will get through and kill some of us here and there, we have been successful over the years of thwarting many such attacks, and they will not come anywhere near to destroying our country, much less taking us over and making us part of their so-called "caliphate". So since the chances of you or anyone you know being an actual victim of terrorism are minimal, you will only be a victim of your own exaggerated fears if you allow yourself to give in them. So don't.

Think of Britain during the Blitz. Even though German bombs killed close to 40,000 of them, they stayed calm and carried on, and finally ended up the victors. We're not suffering anywhere near those casualties, and yet the conservatives seem to be quivering in their boots. Remember, the real question is not whether you're afraid, it's how you are able to handle your fears without losing your sense of direction.

So yeah, our fears differ, but that doesn't mean conservatives aren't scaredy-cats. They are, and they should be ashamed, and should just man up and try to control themselves!

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