I have a lot of conservative relatives: doctors, engineers, landholders, etc. I come from conservative stock. Mostly older conservative relatives…the younger ones are nearly all liberal, at least the college educated ones. A lot of the older, more rural relatives voted for Trump, or cast a hating-Clinton-protest-vote for Gary Johnson if they couldnt stomach Trump. So at a recent family reunion I thought to try to understand my conservative kinfolk in their support for Trump and Kavanaugh, not holistically, but just one small piece of the puzzle. A terrible thing had happened 3 or 4 years ago to one of my younger second cousins…she attempted suicide. Fortunately her family saved her life in time, and she was hospitalized and underwent therapy– in therapy the reason for her attempt came out. Three months before the attempt she had been raped by her date after a high school function. She never told anyone at the time, but instead began cutting herself in secret, a progression to the suicide attempt. When this surfaced her parents involved the police who contacted the young man, but took no action. There was no evidence…no rape kit, no witnesses. It was a he said-she said situ.
I asked one of my older relatives who had a Kavanaugh bumper sticker if what had happened to our kinswoman affected at all what she thought about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, in that Dr. Ford hadnt come forward at the time either. She said not, and gave examples of men she knew of that had been falsely accused and even convicted. Then she proceeded to tell me a truly horrific MeToo of her experience as 15 yr old who was molested by her high school principal. She did the right thing, had gone right to her counselor, and told her parents– other female students had had the same experience– and nothing happened except the principal was moved to another school district. He was only a few years from retirement it seems.
Even with two personal experiences of potential reasons for why Dr. Ford took so long to come forwards, reasons that Dr. Ford explained as not wanting to go through the hellish attacks mounted on her and her family, and not believing coming forward would change anything or stop the nomination from going through…my relative still supports Kavanaugh.
But the other thing Dr. Ford’s relevations have accomplished is that other witnesses and victims are coming forward. Obviously that is why McConnell was pushing the nom through at top speed, and why Trump refused to request an FBI investigation– the window of opportunity is closing. MeToo is strength in numbers.
I was a conservative when I started college…i gradually became liberalized through educational attainment. I think that is pretty common. But my road to Damascus moment really came when a science blogger I vastly admired made a comment online at the Crooked Timber blog– Razib Khan mused of the conservative base “How to tell stupid people they are stupid…”. He immediately deleted the comment, but it was an epiphany for me– the raw sneering contempt for my people shocked me to my soul.
I loved Jon Haidt’s first book, The Righteous Mind. It explained my people to me very elegantly, not with sneering or condescension. So I was looking forward to his new book…The Coddling of the American Mind. It was bitterly disappointing. This book is a cheat. “Opening Minds” will do nothing to improve traction for conservative ideology in academe for two reasons– 1) conservatism is past its sell-by date, it cant compete on college campuses, and 2) Trump has turned the GOP from the party of small government and free trade into the party of Big Government and Protectionist Tariffs. I argue that Haidt knows this, and his championship of this sillie non-troversy is a cheat– both sides know this wont fix the imbalance in academe. Its just radar chaff, designed to manipulate the Rube Nation. Like Trump says, he “loves the uneducated” — increasingly they are the only ones that will vote for him.
Because there are so many things we could do. Jeffrey Sachs proposes making campuses more conservative friendly by nuturing conservative family values– family student housing, campus childcare.
My proposal is more radical– why cant we all go to school on Ludus? The Virtuality is our next big frontier– lets do a better job of making it egalitarian than we did with the Internet. We need a national infrastructure project for robust internet access all across America– since 50% of universities are projected to be online by 2027– lets make sure the rural heartland gets equal access to quality online education.
In the recent past, conservative phenotype was equally successful with liberal phenotype– common sense and hard-work could increase social-class mobility…but those days are gone. My people are being offered a pretty stark choice– embrace fascism to survive or collapse. I think that just isnt fair, when there are so many things we could be doing better.
So please, if you dont actually want to help my people, if you just want to push their hot buttons to cling to power by any means available, farm their outrage and shame to shore up ur crumbling majority, and further divide this country into the educated and the uneducated…or even just sell books! please, just step on. Dont pander to them and tell them they dont have to change, dont have to adapt to a 21st century fitness landscape, or that the other side is just as bad or worse so theres no responsibility for anyones actions. There is a War on Stupid People— but its really a war on uneducated people– and you seem to want to have my people fight unarmed.
I’m begging you… either genuinely help them or… let my people go.