Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is That A #Fact?

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I'm back with another post about politics today. You knew the hiatus wouldn't last, didn't you? ;-)

The other day I was speaking with a neighbor who happens to be a Trump supporter. I, frankly, find this unfathomable. How could anyone support a racist, misogynist, narcissistic moron like Donald Trump?  Well, me being me, I asked my neighbor that question. And I found the answer to be both disturbing and thought-provoking.

Don't misunderstand, much of my neighbor's answer was pretty close to what I would have expected.  I live in a rural part of the southeast and many forms of bigotry--racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc--are still common, blatant, and socially acceptable.  Which is frightening in the 21st century but true, nevertheless.

And, no, I'm not implying that the same forms of bigotry don't exist in other parts of the country, because they do.  But I've lived in several parts of the United States and, while prejudice exists all over, it tends to be more flagrant and tolerated in more isolated areas, like where I currently live, than it is in more cosmopolitan areas.   Also, my neighbor is a little older than I am, and so part of a generation where bigotry is even more common and acceptable than it is in the general population.  All of which is just to say that a large part of my neighbor's answer centered around irrational railing against Muslims and Mexicans.  But not all of it.

I understand some people may think that I'm belittling the problems caused by bigotry or dismissing how disturbing it is that such a large part of the US population still holds such views. That's not my intent at all. I've written several posts on my thoughts about why it's so difficult to eradicate prejudice and why people insist on clinging to ideas that are so obviously not supported by evidence and are equally obviously harmful. Prejudice is a serious, far-reaching, multifaceted issue that has been the subject of debate by people far wiser than me. I don't in any way mean to underplay how important it is to combat bigotry, but it's not the focus of this post.

What I would like to focus on for this discussion are the two parts of my neighbor's answer that stood out because they didn't center around bigotry, and which I still found disturbing on several levels.  First, my neighbor said that Donald Trump's commitment to promoting the coal industry was appealing.  And they also said that Donald Trump's opposition to the TPP and trade agreements was appealing.

Now, the area I live in has traditionally been coal country, so my neighbor's concerns about the coal industry are understandable. A substantial portion of the local economy is tied to coal mining, and mining companies are some of the largest employers for miles around.  So my neighbor's answer makes sense in that regard.

But I felt my neighbor was ignoring something obvious when they spoke about coal, so I pointed it out. Coal mining has many deleterious effects on the environment, both in the actual mining of it and in the disproportionate amount of carbon emissions produced by the burning of it for energy.(1)  Given the effect these emissions have on climate change(2), the dangerous consequences of which we are already experiencing and which will only get worse(3), it is imperative that the use of coal as an energy source be phased out as quickly as possible!

My neighbor's response to this argument is what I found troubling. At first, my neighbor conceded that climate change is a problem, but they consider the effect of mining regulations and mine closures  on local employment opportunities to be a bigger concern. Since the area I live in is largely economically depressed, and many people live paycheck to paycheck and are just one unexpected financial expenditure away from insolvency, it's understandable why my neighbor's priorities are what they are.

But when I pointed out that the development and implementation of green-energy alternatives will need a labor force as well.  And that, given the unsustainability of the coal industry, it would make more sense to work to attract developers of green technology to the area rather than hold on to companies that cannot continue to operate at the same level and in the same manner as in the past, that's when I became most concerned about my neighbor's answer.

My neighbor informed me that, "This is coal-country. And anyone who doesn't like it needs to leave." When I pointed out that climate change is a global crisis, and that it affects everyone everywhere, my neighbor informed me that people who were bothered by it would just have to go somewhere that wasn't affected.  Frankly, I was flabbergasted and again tried to explain that the only way to go somewhere that climate change doesn't affect would be to leave planet Earth. My neighbor's only response to this was a shrug.

Now, please understand. My neighbor is not a stupid person. Nor are they an evil person with no concern for anyone but themselves.  In spite of our many differences, my neighbor and I usually get along and have even helped each other on occasion.  That's why I find it so troubling that they seem to be incapable of comprehending what climate change is and that it is a problem that exists on a global scale, which no one on this planet can afford to ignore.  I'm not sure why this disconnect exists in an otherwise intelligent person, but it obviously does.

The other aspect of my neighbor's answer that I found most troubling, that they believe Donald Trump is opposed to the TPP and trade agreements, is another example of the same kind of disconnect.  I've already discussed my thoughts on the TPP and what I think Donald Trump's real position on it will turn out to be, and why, in my How Scary Is The TPP post, which you can read if you'd like to know more.  In short, if you believe that Donald Trump is opposed to trade agreements, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

When I pointed out how unlikely it was that Trump, who exports most of the labor he uses to make his products, would actually be against the trade agreements that allow him to do so, my neighbor informed me that he makes 95% of his products in the US.  When I pointed out that that's simply untrue, that while some of his products are made in the US, the majority of them are manufactured in other countries, including China(4,5,6), the only response I got was another shrug and a statement that they and I will never agree about politics. The problem is, the points I raised weren't a matter of opinion, with which one might agree or disagree, they were a matter of fact. And facts don't require agreement. They simply are what they are.

As I said, my neighbor isn't a stupid person, in spite of this apparent vacation from reality, so I find their attitude baffling.  The only explanation I can think of is that it must be some type of personality cult phenomenon. This is speculation, of course. I'm not a psychologist and I can't read other people's minds. But I can't think of another reason why an otherwise intelligent person would ignore facts.

I've notice the same thing among supporters of Hillary Clinton who I've debated with. When I point out all the inconsistencies between her stated positions and what she actually does and all the flip-flops in her record, my debate opponent will often simply state that Bernie Sanders endorsed her. As if that's a drop-the-mike moment. It isn't.

While I certainly admire and respect Senator Sanders, and I'm willing to take into consideration his words and recommendations, that doesn't mean that I switch off my brain and follow blindly wherever he may lead.  I may listen when he speaks, but I will not necessarily obey. I'll take what he says under advisement, do my own research, and draw my own conclusions.

At least, I think that's what I do. It's what I've always tried to do. But this conversation with my neighbor has made me wonder where my own blind spots may be.  Have I simply accepted the statements of a supposed authority and assimilated them into my worldview as fact when they aren't?  I have to admit, I probably have. Which makes it important to constantly challenge my assumptions and continuously check that my views align with reality. And that's something I'll need to work on remembering.

At any rate, this experience has highlighted for me the importance of confirming or debunking through fact-checking what I hear in the media, reading all sides of any debate, and finding out not only what the experts in the relevant fields are saying, but why they are saying what they are saying and what data they are basing their conclusions on.  I'll continue to do that throughout this election and beyond, and I hope you'll do the same.  Hopefully, if we all put in a little more effort, as a society we can start acting based on facts, instead of reacting based on rhetoric.


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