Genetic Political Tendencies

I have heard it said that facts and evidence mean nothing to one third of all Americans. I’m not so certain that is true. I think that facts mean something to everyone. It’s just that one third of us accept different facts and evidence than perhaps you or I do. Or our neighbor. They accept the facts and evidence that support their world view. I believe world view has a genetic component but not in the same way the researchers do. I feel the way a brain processes information about how the world works has two variables and three genetic markers. Three markers using two variables give us four separate categories of person rather than a simple, dualist, two or a slightly more blended three.

Using X and Y to indicate the variables, a person spreading those variables over three markers could be XXX, XXY, XYY, or YYY. In this instance the percentages would breakdown to @ 25% per result. The two sets featuring three of the same would be at the opposite ends of the perception continuum and the other two would make up the middle 50%. The middle segment with 2 XXs would be inclined @ 33% to always agree with the triple X side, likewise with the two Y dominant segments. The remaining parts of the two ‘mixed’ segments would both be able to perceive the world in a combination of both X and Y. This gives us 3 segments of the population, one third of whom see the world predominantly one way, one third another, and one third a combination of both.

One might say that to divide the population genetically into three such segments one would only need two variables and two markers. This would play out as XX, XY, and YY. That would not take into consideration that politically there are those who lean left or lean right while in the middle segment. Three markers imply that there are leaners both toward the X and the Y even while considering only two variables. Our two party system is what constantly wants to push the four into two. At best it can only compress the demographics into three significant political teams

This, of course, is a crude approximation of how things really are but it does take into consideration that genetic traits are not distributed in a black/white, 50/50 manner. Certain genes are dominant, certain are recessive. Two parents, both with blue eyes, can have a brown eyed baby or a hazel eyed child. Two genetically conservative parents can have a liberal child or perhaps even an apolitical one.

The two opposing ways the brain perceives the world indicate a genetic predilection to accept informations and stimuli that support one worldview over the other and reject that which does not support it, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But not everyone is so black and white in how they interpret stimuli. If we are to accept that the brain has anything to do with how we see the world politically we must accept that none of our brains are exactly alike. We can, however, approximate how the proclivities breakdown. The one third, one third, one third breakdown can clearly be seen in virtually any political poll. Regardless of how radical an idea is there will be somewhere between one quarter and one third of the people who support it. Approximately one third of those polled with be against supporting it and the other one third won’t be sure.

The Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff refers to those people called political centrists or moderates as bi-conceptuals. Two conceptual variables spread over three demographic segments. That middle third of the continuum, the ones who can see the world somewhat from both sides of the spectrum comprise this category of moderates or centrists, Lakoff’s bi-conceptuals. It is here where the almighty swing voter lives and it is there where politicians invest most of their energy. It is this emphasis on courting the swing voter that causes those on the edges of issues and the fringes of demographics to complain that politicians don’t listen to them and only come to see them when they need their vote. 

Scientists are finding that virtually all human activity originates in and is mostly controlled by the brain. Our brains are subject to genetic coding like any other part of our physicality. Genetics shows us that the differentiation between two variables is not split fifty/fifty but is spread over a spectrum of possibilities. The fact their are only two major parties fits cleanly with the two genetic variables in how the brain perceives politics. But the diverse dispersion of political views across the continuum always creates situations where it is difficult for the major parties to present a united front to the voter. In the long term, when push comes to shove in the voting booth the two variable choice lead to a nearly even split of the vote, every time.

I have found it fascinating that genetics appears to best explain the apparent contradiction of a populace with a wide variety of political views, when asked to choose between two choices, will split nearly even over a large sample. It may seem odd to talk about political viewpoints in terms of biology but politics is not the only field of social interaction where the biology of the brain must be considered an integral part of the dynamic. Scientists have now mapped the final parts of the human genome and slowly we will begin to see even more and more definitive connections between our genetics and our day to day lives.

As we slowly unlock God’s secrets we must also hand over our own secrets lest they yet divide us.

Culturally accepted norms and the value of work.

To my mind there is an underlying issue that is not being addressed in the issue of class warfare or economic inequity. There are several major goals of the average American that are not only tolerated but respected and nearly universally desired. People are considered smart and are looked up to for success in attaining these goals. In America they are socially accepted concepts, often supported by media and familial education.

These goals are to make money without working, get things without paying for them and to use whatever means you can to avoid paying taxes. You know it’s true. Culturally accepted and praised norms based on dubious values are responsible for plenty of our problems as a society. These false premises are primarily upheld by the passing down of those concepts from parent to child and have thus become cycles that are extremely difficult to break.

One example is our basic acceptance of violence as the preferred method of conflict resolution in America. Fathers tell their sons to ‘be a man’ and hit the other guy if he hits you. While this appears to be an effective way of resolving conflict the result is often an adult for whom violence is normalized. A young person need not be told to use violence to normalize it. They often see it on a daily basis in their own homes.

So much of the economic disparity in this country stems from a distorted view of the value of work. Why is the worth of a football player’s work or a professional corporate meeting attendee so much more than that of the woman who empty the trash at the office? Because we allow it to. As long as we acquiesce to the insistence that some work is more valuable than others we will have philosophical economic inequalities.

The wealthy are so often portrayed as hard working.

What about the wealthy who hardly work?

Fear: Ideas and Things

I read an article today about several parents who pulled their children out of a freshman english class. They did not like a book the class was reading. The book addresses issues of race, with all the accompanying social and legal issues. The book ends with the death of a young black man at the hands of an off duty policeman. The parents say it is inappropriate reading for high school freshmen. They say it shows the police in a bad light and has sexuality and language they find objectionable. The school district stood up. They said it’s important for young people to know about the lives and challenges of people not like themselves. They created an opportunity for the parents to use an authorized alternative curriculum for their children. There are questions whether that effort will be successful.

This sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere across America. Parents want to protect their children. That is understandable. What they want to protect them from says a lot about who they are as parents and as people. Some people say they want to protect their children from things but they are really afraid of ideas. Others say they wish to shield their sons and daughters from ideas but they are actually frightened of things. All of these parents, with few exceptions, frankly seek to protect their children from learning how not to be afraid of the things or ideas they themselves are afraid of. They do this instead of protecting them from what can cause real trauma. This is a shame. But it is a function of being human. We all feel our fears are legitimate and it is our duty to teach our children to fear them as well.

These unfortunate ways of looking at life influences many of the ideas and things a person believes in and does, from their political philosophies and social mores to their concepts of family discipline, reward, and punishment. These sorts of suspect actions take place among all demographics. No one is spared from the consequences of distorting how they present their worst fears to future generations. We all need to honestly examine our deepest fears and how we express them. They come from our unconscious minds and are difficult to access. But if we want to evolve as a species this task must be done.

I’ve started taking an inventory of my most unfounded fears. We all should. I hope yours aren’t as challenging as mine.

Use It or Lose It

Most people, whether they are religious or not, believe in a power outside themselves that influences our existence and over which we have no or at best limited control. Call that power what you will, we understand that it is beyond any one individual’s needs, or desires, or imagination. 

Our founders knew this and sought to create a governmental power greater than one individual person, a power which we as a people might control. They strove to establish a model for governance that took everyone’s needs into account while giving us structure to accomplish it. They did not succeed.

They were imperfect, as are we all, and thus their creation was imperfect. But it shone with light, enough light to guide a people toward a new way of looking at and organizing government. It was a grand experiment that men of learning and toiling alike felt in their souls to be the best way they could imagine to “form a more perfect union”.

‘The people must rule’ was their mantra. But they knew when individual people themselves chose what they should do, for their benefit only, as individuals, there would be anarchy. After intense discussion they fashioned a heretofore unknown system, the American Democratic Republic. It featured representatives from a number of sovereign states, working together under a federal umbrella of common purpose.

Federally, its foundation was three distinct branches of government. Each branch tempered the power of the other branches and each had exclusive power over certain procedures, creating a system of checks and balances. No one branch would dominate. Returning to their original premise, they gave the people the ultimate power of choosing those of us who would represent the people in that government. They gave all citizens the right and responsibility of voting for those representatives.

State governments had a significant amount of freedom to govern in whatever fashion their voters chose. They retained control over many of their governmental functions. The people also democratically elected their state representatives as well as local and regional government officials, each having their own jurisdictions. 

To put this agreement in writing, after intense deliberation they forged a document, a Constitution, which codified federal law as the ultimate arbiter of how power should be wielded in these united states to provide both liberty and protection to the people of the union. It also addressed which aspects of government the states retained. This document, the Constitution, is the definitive law of the land to this day. Americans in power, and those they serve, accept this Constitution as the benchmark against which all American law is measured. When the elected representatives of the people’s power are sworn in they take a vow to protect and defend that Constitution.

The Constitution has held up as our organizing document for nearly 250 years. It is the true source of the unique American way of life, of both our freedoms and our limitations. It is the real thing all Americans should revere, not symbols or institutions. Symbols, like our flag and institutions like our military help us remember what is good about America, but the constitution itself is what we are to uphold and treasure. Our freedoms originate in the Constitution, not in the flag or the national anthem. These symbols simply remind us of how to honor our unique American experiment. There is no one way to honor the Constitution. That right to choose is protected by the words of the first amendment.

Americans are called, as are their representatives, to honor and respect the Constitution. The symbols of America, the flag, the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance, exist to focus our hearts and minds on the promise enshrined in the Constitution. The institution of the military, protectors of the people’s power, do so to uphold America against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, as is directed by the Constitution. There is no one way to honor those who volunteer to protect American interests around the globe. This right is also constitutionally protected.

It is our founding document, our Constitution, which deserves our reverence. The symbols, the flag and anthem, as well as the uniforms of our cherished military protectors, are to be honored only in so much as they reflect the people’s power as written in the Constitution. They are not the people’s power itself. They are not America. The Constitution is America. The people are America. Those other things are symbols, signs and signals that point us alway, to the real idea of the rule of the people. They are institutions, means created in the Constitution to serve the people. They are worthy of our respect but nowhere in the Constitution is that respect demanded. We give it freely through our liberty. The symbols’ and institutions’ value is given to them by the Constitution and not the other way around.

The founders’ means of balancing power was unique in its wisdom. There were formed three branches of government, each separate but equal contributors. The Legislative branch, Congress, is elected to represent the people, measured by population, the House of Representatives, and also by the equal representation of each sovereign state, the Senate. Its purpose is to create laws based on the designs of the Constitution. The Executive branch is headed by the President, who is elected and appoints an administration of leaders for the primary departments of government, his Cabinet. This branch’s vitally and necessary function is to execute those laws. The Judicial branch consists of the federal legal system, federal judges, appellate judges, and the Supreme Court. They act act as arbiters of the law. They determine a law’s relevance to the Constitution. They are not elected but appointed by the President, who is given advice by and with the consent of the Senate. It is the Senate that holds this specific power because of its equal representation from each united state. The purpose of the court is to determine if the laws created and passed by Congress and signed into law by the President follow the Constitution’s edicts.

The judiciary is specifically designed to not be elected, so as not to be subjected to the whims and desires of politics. We elect the President and Senate to appoint judges for us. The founders were insistent that the court not be politicized. The reason for the Court’s impartiality is significant. The Judicial branch exists as a check on the people. Even the people’s power must be balanced and regulated. The people or their representatives can sometimes make laws that do not clearly follow the Constitution, out of neglect or by design. The Supreme Court protects us from this “tyranny of the majority” through impartially adjudicating conflicts between a law and the Constitution. This requires impartial justices. 

For most of our history an unwritten law was honored by our elected officials that justices should be chosen and appointed only through an appraisal of their suitability for this incredible honor and responsibility. Their knowledge of the law and their non partisan dedication to the Constitution were to be the only considerations used to select them for nomination. Over time this honor has deteriorated. A flaw exists in the process of appointing judges, in particular Supreme Court justices, and is now being exploited more than ever.

Justices are meant to be non partisan, impartial, using only the Constitution as their guide, and not a political ideology. Presidents, who nominate Federal judges and Supreme Court justices for appointment, slowly began to appoint them using the criterion that a justice must practice a political philosophy in line with the president who nominated them.

Application of this partisan plan relies on there being one political party which controls both the Presidency and the Senate. In this situation a Supreme Court justice, who is appointed for life, becomes not a politically neutral advocate of the law but a tool of that party, giving that party a better chance of seeing Constitutional law decisions on cases that come before the court determined from a partisan political standpoint. Their standpoint.

This politicization has slowly deteriorated the Judicial branch’s ability to check and balance the power of lawmakers and the executive from a non partisan position. One political party could ‘stack’ the court with justices who have a political bias toward interpreting the constitution. By appointing comparatively young justices, that party’s philosophy could dominate the Court’s decisions for a generation or more, even after those politicians lose the elected power of their offices. 

Perhaps the primary partisan division of judicial interpretation rests in the competing philosophies of perceiving the document as ‘living’ versus ‘dead’. A more liberal interpretation of the Constitution says the document was wisely designed to account for the inevitable changes in the evolution of society and continued advancements in technology and knowledge of the world. The document is living. The meaning of its words can change with the times. 

For example, the addition of the Bill of Rights and the opportunity for the people to amend the document gave us the power to reflect in the Constitution changes in the will of society such as ending slavery and giving women the right to vote. This more liberal philosophy also allows for new interpretations of the language of the original document as it pertains to modern times and the evolution of our citizens.  

Conversely, a more conservative bias sees the document as being strictly interpreted, literal and rigid, unchanging. These literalist constructionists see the Constitution as, in essence, dead. It can only be interpreted using what they consider to be the original intent of the founders. But who is to determine what was their original intent? That is still interpretation.

Interestingly enough we see a similar division in interpretation of religious law between conservative, fundamentalist Christians and more progressive denominations. Thankfully, it is no longer legal to stone to death an adulterer or force a widow to marry her husband’s brother. Human values change with time. Regardless, the Constitution will be interpreted according to the philosophy of Constitutional jurisprudence of a predominance of justices.

The politicization of the Supreme court is, in my estimation, the most significant factor in the slow but substantial movement of American government toward a place that looks less like a democracy and more like an authoritarian state. The grooming of vulnerable Americans by advocates for the theft of power from the people into the hands of moneyed interests, has been facilitated by their hand picked, bought and sold politicians. Mesmerized  Americans, like the frog in the boiling pot, have given away their power and freedoms, slowly, over time, almost invisibly. It has been accomplished through psychologically powerful propaganda, pandering to our most selfish interests. This deliberate erosion of our power through the efforts of these same moneyed oligarchs serves their ultimate goal, retaining their power at all costs.

It is interesting to me that as in physics the two opposing ends of the political continuum have come, in the eyes of their most radical liberal and ultra conservative factions, to the same conclusion. They posit that the country is being dominated by a somewhat secret and financially powerful cabal. The only difference being each side blames a different complex of culprits. It’s as though the strategies and tactics behind the goals of both sides are exactly the same and only the names have been changed.

In all of this it is easy for the individual common citizen to despair of having any power at all, unable to exert any influence over the decisions that critically affect their lives. But despite the machinations of those who think their vast wealth gives them license to run roughshod over the people, we still have one, and only one, power remaining to us which we can use to regain the ruling power granted to us by our founding document. That is the power of the vote. 

For any of us who think that our vote doesn’t count, or that all politicians are crooks and liars, or that both parties are the same, or that certain of our particular pet policies and issues are more important than the failing health of our democratic republic, I have this to say. Those are all illusions dreamt up in the backrooms of think tanks and the secret meetings of powerful white men designed to disillusion us and trick us into giving up our power, begrudgingly or willingly. They know our power, as given to us clearly in our sacred founding document, is the poison that can bring them, choking, to their knees, foiling their corrupt, degenerate plans for dominance. They will do anything, illegal and immoral, to diminish the real power of the American citizen that they fear. 

Our only remaining power lies in the accumulated will of our individual votes, in concert with what we know to be good for all peoples and not for only those few white men, rich in wealth but poor in spirit, desperate to hold on to their last gasp of dominance in a changing, evolving world.

Our only remaining power is in our vote. If we abrogate our responsibility to govern, a responsibility the founders intended we wield, we will deserve the dire fate we will so clearly suffer. One of my great fears is to know that many of my fellows stayed home, feeling proud of upholding their principles and not voting for either of the “corrupt corporate parties” they despise only to find out that one party IS actually worse, and has won, and is taking away their freedoms daily, one by one. Their pride lasted only until they realized the American experiment, the government they are privileged to live under, is being destroyed before their eyes, and they can do nothing to stop it. 

This fate can be diverted if only we can gather with single minded courage to ‘citizen’ and defeat those we know in our hearts to be the destroyers. It is said that the destroyers come to destroy that which is rotted and create a space in time for new ideas to flourish and new grown to thrive. That may be so. But I am not ready to give up American Democracy to rot.  To ‘citizen’ is a verb. (Thanks Aric) It means taking one’s civic responsibilities seriously. It means taking action, taking one for the the team, the team being the real idea of the America envisioned by the founders, through that still viable tool of the Constitution, our right to vote. It means doing absolutely everything we can to save our democracy, including dragging our friends, family and neighbors to the polls if we must. 

We don’t need to ’unite’. It is a sad and myopic concept. There are too many and diverse factions extant to come together singing Kumbaya. But we all have single minded purpose. We can go our separate ways and do our hard work after we have removed the cancer from the body politic; the rot that threatens us existentially. Only if we, all of us, citizen, will we fulfill that clear and true vision of our founders.

Know your power. Feel your power. Use your power.

It’s all we have.

Freedoms and Liberty

Let’s have a chat about freedom and liberty. Are they the same thing? No, they aren’t.
A freedom is a right that everybody has, something that everybody wants. For example, we all want to be able to speak our minds, and in America we have enshrined in the Bill of Rights freedom of speech. We can say what we want, free from persecution, unless our speech directly and imminently threatens someone, like in the common example of shouting fire in a crowded theater.
Liberty, on the other hand, is a right everyone has, only it’s about what an individual wants. Each of us has their own wants and desires. For example, I might want to rob your house but you probably don’t want your house to be robbed. Liberty creates conflicts of desire.
Where freedoms and liberty come from and what we can legally do about them is somewhat counterintuitive.
The Declaration of Independence states clearly that we all have the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These rights are considered to be given, by God, at birth, to everyone. Most people take this to mean that these are rights that can never be taken away, which is true. These rights cannot be legally taken away. But, because they cannot be taken away they must be regulated by law. This is because one person’s liberty may conflict with another person’s liberty. It is one reason that we have laws. Disputes about people’s liberty happen all the time and limits to our behavior are established by law. The rights to life and the pursuit of happiness also lead to conflicts between citizens, and also must be limited by laws.
Freedoms, on the other hand, are not inalienable. They are granted, by government, in their governing documents, through laws, or by the courts. For example, the Bill of Rights was added to the constitution, after the fact, because people realized there were freedoms all Americans should have that, unlike liberty, were not God-given and had to be granted by government.
Freedoms cannot be limited except by strict judicial examination and interpretation of the Constitution or through other governmental means. Our constitutional rights and freedoms have limitations that are written into the constitution, or are limited by law, or through judicial rule. And, because they are granted by government and not given by God, they can be taken away by government. Granted, it is difficult to take away a constitutional freedom. It can only be done by amending the constitution or by the edict of a dictator. But it can be done.
The constitution has been amended only 27 times with the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights, having been ratified in 1791. That there have only been 17 amendments since then shows how hard it is to amend the constitution. The United States has never had a dictator, elected or otherwise. Our rights have yet to be taken away by force.
The ninth amendment in the Bill of Rights states that there are other rights not specifically mentioned in the constitution. Those rights are determined through legislation and ultimately by the courts. Because of their non-constitutional status, these rights can be much easier to take away.
A common misconception about both freedoms and liberty is that they confer upon the individual carte blanche to do anything they want and be protected by the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. This is not true. Both our freedoms and our liberty can, have, and will be limited and regulated by law and through the courts. It is often overlooked that along with each right we have a corresponding responsibility. It is an important part of being a citizen that we not only know our rights but also our responsibilities. All too often I hear angry citizens complaining that their rights are being trampled on without understanding that limitations on those rights are in force. They had not considered, consciously or otherwise, that they had responsibilities associated with those rights.
This is a significant issue in today’s America. There are individuals and organizations that present very serious threats to the survival of our democracy, based on false and/or skewed interpretations of our founding documents. Many Americans misinterpret the intentions of our founding fathers, through ignorance, by succumbing to propaganda, or on purpose. There is an assumption that they have rights that cannot be limited by anyone, especially government. The threats these forces present to the nation, to our unique philosophy of governance, both from outside and inside the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, are tangible and powerful. We are right to fear them. We are also right to believe in our power as citizens.
Some tell us that the power and strength of the American way of life lie in our capitalist, free-market economy, which has accumulated the vast wealth required to bend the world’s nations to our will. This is not true. America’s strength resides in her people, now and always. Perhaps our most important right, the right to vote, is still ours. We can use it to guide the path of American life, economically, socially, politically, and with equity of race, sex, gender, religion, ethnicity, class, etc. To do so we must be mindful of our differences and develop the skills of listening and humility. We must remember that our freedoms, which include the right to vote, can be taken away, if not through the vote, through the whim of a tyrant.
We can no longer take it for granted in America that we are free from evil in our government, that we are still protected by the checks and balances built into our constitution. We are no longer safe from military action against our citizens or false imprisonment or any of the other horrors of totalitarian rule. Think long and hard before you assume that those who promise prosperity and glory are saviors. Make certain they are not leading us off the cliff and into the abyss of total subservience. This audit of America takes time and active discernment. We have need to start right now. It is by no means easy. It takes eyes and ears and tongues, hearts and souls, and brains. We will not survive if we remain frogs in the slowly heating pot. I can see the steam rising. I don’t pray often, but I pray we can save our democracy.
We have precious little time.