ICYMI McWhorter: Too often, we fail to credit our political opponents’ morality

Where his arguments break down is with respect to the political tactics involved and the moral bankruptcy of some who are more concerned with abortion than supports and programs after birth. But valid points on the dangers of assumptions regarding those who one disagrees with, whether on the left or right:

One year, when I was a graduate student, I ate twice a day with a group of other students that included about a half-dozen Republican law students. What I learned that year informs my take on the looming overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court — assuming something close to the draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, leaked to Politico, becomes final — affecting my reaction to it, despite remaining pro-choice and being, in the grand scheme of things, alarmed by the impending developments.

As an undergraduate, I had been minted under the idea — as prevalent on college campuses then as it is now — that Republicans are just wrong about most things. Then and perhaps now, there were, especially, middle-class and affluent people who sneered at and about them, even if not knowing or caring much about partisan politics.

But some years later, after having spent hours on end listening to these law students discuss issues political, against my inclination I could not help starting to notice that they usually made a kind of sense.

Mind you, none of them were talking about taking their country back, nonexistent voter fraud or conspiracy theories about the basements of pizza shops. The late-Reagan-early-Bush-41 era was different from this one. These were earnest, intelligent people who simply processed the world through a different lens than mine.

I didn’t become a Republican, but I considered my immersion in their worldview a part of my education. I’m glad fate threw me into getting to know them, and, indeed, it was part of why I felt comfortable being a Democrat working for a right-leaning think tank, the Manhattan Institute, in the aughts. A major lesson I took from those law students was to avoid a tempting, all-too-common misimpression: that if people have views different from yours, then the reason is either that they lack certain information or are simply bad people — that they’re either naifs or knaves.

This assumption hobbles a great deal of exchange on college campuses and beyond. As sociologist Ilana Redstone notes, “when we fail to recognize the moral legitimacy of a range of positions on controversial topics, disagreements about these issues inevitably become judgments about other people’s character.” In “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt describe this as the wrongheaded view that “life is a battle between good people and evil people.”

In the late 1990s, I started coming out, if you will, with my views against certain tenets of the traditional civil rights orthodoxy, such as the continuation of racial (as opposed to socioeconomic) preferences, or the insistence that racism and economics are the only determinants of performance gaps, and that it is meaningless to discuss culture. As a result, assorted people in my orbit assumed that there must be something wrong with me.

First came the naïve part: In my grad school days, many at first thought that I must be unaware of certain truths. A concerned sociologist pointed me to books about the racial wealth gap, assuming that, after reading them, I would understand that this was the sole reason for the gap between Black and white kids in test scores and grades. A kindly administrator came by my office to explain how determined her immigrant parents had been to succeed in the United States, pushing her and her siblings “tiger mother”-style, with the goal of showing me that it was unfair to expect that kind of drive from American-born Black people. When conservative and libertarian think tanks started inviting me to speak, a friend’s spouse invited me for a beer, which turned out to be a casual teach-in, warning about the histories of some of the Republicans in the Bush 43 administration.

Then came the evil part: When I would let such people know that I was aware of what they were telling me and that my views were unchanged, they were often quietly appalled. Hence the idea out there that I and people of like opinions on race issues are just plain baddies, out for bucks and attention.

But so often, the real issue in these situations is less ignorance or ill will than differing priorities. Take the common idea that to be a Donald Trump supporter is to be, if not a racist, someone who tolerates racism. Yes, some polls reveal that Trump voters were more likely than others to harbor unfavorable views about nonwhites — a 2016 Reuters-Ipsos poll found that Trump supporters were more likely than supporters of Hillary Clinton to view Black people negatively. But the idea that anyone who’s ever pulled the lever for Trump carries the odor of bigotry is facile.

I have known too many Trump voters, of various levels of education, to whom the “racist” tag could be applied only in a hopelessly hasty fashion. Too many of them have worked for civil rights causes in the past or are married to or seriously involved with people of color or are of color themselves, for the racist label to make any real sense. They, rather, do not rank Trump’s casual bigotry as being as important as others do. To them, this trait is unfortunate and perhaps even off-putting, but not a dealbreaker in comparison to other things about him. I see nothing evil in that. It puts me off a bit. It often seems a little crude — I sense some people being swayed, purely, by Trump’s podium charisma. But that is not the same as malevolence.

I feel the same way about those who are opposed to abortion. I am disgusted that the Supreme Court seems poised to make it more difficult in many cases, and practically impossible in others, for American women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I am aware of how opposition to abortion has been entangled in the nation’s history of racism, classism and sexism. I understand the fear that the reversal of Roe could be a prelude to future decisions threatening other rights involving private life.

However, I am also aware that opposition to abortion is often founded on a basic idea that it constitutes the taking of a human life, with many seeing a fetus at even its earliest stages as a person-to-be that morality forbids us to kill. I know people of this view of all races, classes and levels of education. For them, all the negative effects of doing away with Roe may fade in importance. To them, those things are a lesser priority than preserving life.

I find the scientific aspect of this position a bit unreflective. I also sense, in many who take this view, less interest in how humans fare in their lives as children and adults than in the fate of humans as fetuses. I have to work to imagine prioritizing a fetus as a person in the way that they do.

But I think I manage it, and with a deep breath, even though it’s not where I stand, I cannot view the equation of abortion and the taking of a life — or even, as some suggest, a murder — as an immoral position. For many, including me, the priority is what a woman does with her own body. As such, many suppose that to be against abortion is to be anti-feminist. But for pro-lifers, a woman’s right even to controlling her own body stops at what they see as killing an unborn child. To many of them, being anti-abortion is quite compatible with feminism.

I deeply wish that we were not on the verge of Roe being overturned — a decision that, if it came to pass, would be opposed by a majority of Americansand would disrupt or even ruin lives. It would represent further and grievous evidence of our broken political system, with the Electoral College a keystone anachronism, having put Trump into a position to recast the Supreme Court according to priorities unshared by most of the population. However, I cannot see opposition to abortion, in itself, as either naïve or evil. As much as I wish it were not, it is a position one can hold as a knowledgeable and moral individual.

Source: McWhorter: Too often, we fail to credit our political opponents’ morality

Cohen: U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling throws away a half-century of law

Good column:

Well, why should we be surprised? Who on God’s green earth did not expect — given the ideology and origins of the majority of justices on the United States Supreme Court — that it would, at its first opportunity, vote to end a woman’s right to abortion? Do you think this just fell from the sky?

It didn’t. The decision — a draft of which was leaked Monday, confirmed Tuesday and will be issued in June, perhaps in different words with the same effect — has been a generation in the making. It is a triumph of the conservative movement that never supported Roe v. Wade, the judgement that established a woman’s right to abortion in 1973, and has denied it ever since.

One by one, judge by judge, social conservatives put in place the majority that will, this time, reverse the decision. First came Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by George H. W. Bush; Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush; then Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by Donald Trump.

Conservatives cheered their nominations, if not proposed them, knowing that one day they would get their wish. They were aided by Republicans in the Senate happy to deny a Democratic president (Barack Obama) his opportunity to fill a vacancy, and later to jam through another nomination (Barrett) days before a general election that ousted a Republican (Trump).

Of course, when asked about abortion, those nominees said they would not touch precedent. They persuaded moderate Republican senators who supported abortion that it was safe to put them on the bench.

The most gullible was Susan Collins of Maine, who was under pressure in 2018 to oppose Kavanaugh. She voted for him. She believed that Kavanaugh would not overturn the abortion ruling because, after all, he’d told her “many times” the decision was settled law. She said the same about Neil Gorsuch.

We don’t know with certainty whether Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will rescind the right, but we certainly assume they will vote with their conservative colleagues.

Poor Collins, as naïve as her critics said, who got up on her low horse Tuesday and said, gee, if the draft ruling stands, it would “be completely inconsistent” with what they told her personally in her office and in the hearings.

Well, yes, it would be, but it would reflect their judicial philosophy, which is the reason they were appointed by Trump, applauded lustily by the Federalist Society and opposed mightily by Democrats and pro-choice women’s groups. All knew what Collins did not.

Now we know the old rules no longer apply. A high court of the United States no longer seeks consensus, or honours precedent or a half-century of law. It ends a constitutional right with a leak — and a shrug.

A president rejects the results of a democratic election and foments an insurrection and walks away unpunished. He is twice impeached and twice acquitted. Senate Republicans eviscerate a black jurist of impeccable credentials, turning her nomination for the Supreme Court into a circus. Their unhinged cousins in the House of Representatives attack America’s support for Ukraine.

All this is tolerated. All is normal. Meanwhile, Republicans in the states put in place the people and rules to overturn the vote in 2024, beginning with the mid-term elections in 2022. Trump awaits, America’s strong man, vowing to make Joe Biden’s presidency an interregnum. (His man, author J.D. Vance, who wants to fire federal bureaucrats and replace them with Trump acolytes, won the GOP nomination Tuesday and is likely to be the new senator from Ohio.)

It may be that ending abortion will send angry women into the streets. It may be that this is the moment a somnolent people sees the threat from a reactionary court, which may now undo contraception and same-sex rights. When Americans understand minority rule is creating an autocracy. It can happen here.

Maybe. If so, and there really is a struggle of values between red and blue states, then the end of legal abortion this spring will be seen as the Fort Sumter of America’s new civil war.

Source: Cohen: U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling throws away a half-century of law

Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women

Important and disturbing study.

It would be interesting to know if second-generation Indo-Canadians continue this practice or not and I understand the researchers are planning to do just that:

Fewer girls than boys are born to Indian women who immigrate to Canada, a skewed pattern driven by families whose mother tongue is Punjabi, according to a new study.

One of the most surprising findings of the study, to be published Monday in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, is that the preference for boys does not diminish, regardless of how long women from India have lived in Canada.

“It’s counterintuitive,” said Marcelo Urquia, a research scientist at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Health Policy and lead author of the study. “We know that the longer immigrants are in Canada, the more likely they are to align to the host country.”

But for many Indian immigrants who express a strong desire for sons, the study found, the practice of sex selection remains entrenched. Women who already have two female children are most at risk for abortions in the second trimester, when parents can learn the sex of the fetus. The study builds on previous research led by Dr. Urquia that found a deficit in Canada of more than 4,400 girls over two decades.

The latest study shows that women born in India who already have two daughters gave birth to 192 baby boys in Ontario for every 100 girls. The sex ratios are so distorted, they cannot be explained by natural causes, Dr. Urquia said. Across the globe, by comparison, the odds of having a boy over a girl are slightly higher: 107 boys for every 100 girls.

The preference for boys among many Indian immigrants reveals underlying gender inequities and will not change without intervention, Dr. Urquia said.

Amanpreet Brar, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto who worked on the study, said gender-selection abortion was talked about openly in India’s Punjab province, where she grew up, but she was surprised to learn that it also happens in Canada.

Ms. Brar, who immigrated to Canada with her family when she was 14, remembers the traditional celebration called a Lohri in India for celebrating the birth of a boy.

“It was rare to hear about a girl’s birth being celebrated,” she said.

But some steps have been taken in Canada to end gender-based customs and celebrate the birth of girls. In Brampton, Ont., where 40 per cent of the population is South Asian, one hospital has started handing out Ladoos, a sugary Indian sweet, when a baby girl is born, Ms. Brar said. Traditionally in India, Ladoos were just for moms who delivered boys.

The study analyzed 46,834 birth records for Indian-born mothers who delivered up to three live births in Ontario hospitals between April, 1993, and March, 2014, and who immigrated to Canada between 1985 and 2012. Mothers who gave birth to twins or triplets were excluded. The study also looked at the mother’s birth place, her mother tongue and how long she had been in Canada.

Among all the mothers having their third child, nearly twice as many males were born compared with females if the previous two children were girls. The ratio was even higher among women whose mother tongue was Punjabi: 240 boys to 100 girls. The ratio of males to females did not differ according to when women arrived in Canada.

Source: Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women – The Globe and Mail

In Justin Trudeau’s world, Christians need not apply

An odd post by Rex Murphy on religion and politics, prompted by Justin Trudeau’s decision that Liberal party candidates and MPs must toe the party line on abortion:

What kind of politics are they which require an MP to renounce his deepest moral commitments; indeed, to go beyond renunciation and declare himself positively in favour of ideas and actions that his faith condemns, his Church forbids, and his conscience cannot abide?

Religion, under these conditions, cannot survive political engagement. An understanding of politics based on an exclusion of thoughtful and engaged religious people — on the rejection of ideas and understandings offered by the great religious teachers and the massive legacy of thought our churches have to offer — is radically incomplete.

As things now are, a truly religious person must actually stay out of politics — must forgo an active role in democratic government — because in our brazen and new age, he or she will be faced with irreconcilable moral choices. If elected, he or she will be required to betray their faith and themselves, and on those very issues that matter most: issues of life, family, autonomy and the dignity of persons.

Whatever one’s views on abortion, the broader issue, as Rex points out, is the relationship between religion and politics. But his view breaks down when we look at other religions, where I suspect he would be less absolutist.

Would Rex support a party allowing an Islamist candidate opposed to equality for women? Advocating for sharia?

What about traditional Sikh or Jewish candidates who disagree with equality for LGBT persons?

What is different about Catholic orthodoxy compared to other orthodoxies that makes it more unchallengeable?

In the public arena, one has to temper one’s personal religious beliefs with the reality of living in a diverse, multicultural and pluralistic society. Most leaders get this and it is no accident that PM Harper has kept his social conservatives in line on abortion and other issues.

This is not to diminish the moral, ethical and faith dilemmas that abortion and other social issues pose for politicians, but it’s part of the “job description.” And there are plenty of ways to live your faith on a wide variety of other economic and social policy issues.

Rex Murphy: In Justin Trudeau’s world, Christians need not apply




Stop using ultrasound to determine sex of fetuses, urge doctors, radiologists

Interesting article on sex selection ultrasounds (seems to be an issue in the Indo, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Philippine communities). Sad combination of cultural preferences for boys, enabling technology, and the usual self-serving justification by the entrepreneurs offering the service:

Alla Boulavkina, a registered diagnostic medical sonographer and owner of Tri-Cities 3D Sono Image in Vancouver, which offers non-medical fetal ultrasounds, said the scans improve bonding between parents and babies, and that she limits exposure times. “I know how to do it correctly.”

Boulavkina offers gender determination, starting at 20 weeks’ gestation only. Demand for the service, she said, is growing.

“Everybody wants to know, ‘boy or girl?’ Not just to start shopping … it takes time to be mentally ready for the baby,” she said.

“It’s very important to know. It helps people to prepare and be happy. Because sometimes daddy wanted a boy, and then he sees girl, and he’s not happy, and it’s no good for the family. In this case, it gives time to slowly be prepared.”

Stop using ultrasound to determine sex of fetuses, urge doctors, radiologists.