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Smart people saying smart things (11.30.21)

Smart people saying smart things (11.30.21) November 30, 2021

Dahlia Lithwick, “When Everything Is ‘Self-Defense'”

The Rittenhouse jury should not be held responsible for the ways in which gun owners may be emboldened to vigilantism by the outcome of this trial. You can provoke violence and reasonably be afraid of violence at the same time. The jury should not be held responsible for the potential proliferation of armed citizens taking it upon themselves to enforce the law, or the defenses those citizens will increasingly feel entitled to use to explain their actions once things go wrong. The jury must confine itself to the facts of this case. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is poised to ensure that in the future, juries will be asked, again and again and again, to decide how things should go when everyone had a gun, everyone else wanted to use it, everyone knew their intentions were good, but suspected everyone else was a danger. How do we act as a society when absolutely everyone is always in fear of their life? Welcome to the future. It’s already here.

Ed Yong, “Why Health-Care Workers Are Quitting in Droves”

Some call this burnout, but Gerard Brogan, the director of nursing practice at National Nurses United, dislikes the term because “it implies a lack of character,” he told me. He prefers moral distress — the anguish of being unable to take the course of action that you know is right.

Health-care workers aren’t quitting because they can’t handle their jobs. They’re quitting because they can’t handle being unable to do their jobs. Even before COVID-19, many of them struggled to bridge the gap between the noble ideals of their profession and the realities of its business. The pandemic simply pushed them past the limits of that compromise.

Sarah Smith, “We’re Losing Our Humanity, and the Pandemic Is to Blame”

On a societal scale, one of the fastest ways for two deeply entrenched, opposing groups to start seeing each other as fellow humans again is to give them something bigger to fight against together. It’s an “Independence Day” sort of scenario, Chester, the Virginia Commonwealth University professor, said: If aliens invaded, countries who hate each other in normal times would suddenly work together against an external threat.

But the external threat with the potential to unite a deeply polarized country, he said, should have been the pandemic. And it didn’t happen.

Daniel King, “Dear White People: Here’s How to Honor Native Americans”

The enormity of my family’s trauma is simply too deep to be reduced to the indignity of a benign synopsis offered to a gathering of blissfully ignorant and well-intentioned, always well-intentioned, White people. In the end, those intentions remain firmly centered in a White world where White saviors pave the way for healing and reconciliation on terms that don’t look too deeply into their own culpability and benefits associated with colonialism.

There is a childlike quality to the White fragility and entitlement, even among the most woke persons, that almost fills me with pity. Until I remember how much power they hold and how, if they really wanted, they could make an enormous difference in the world.

For this year’s Native American history month, therefore, I have a modest proposal. Help us bring out our dead.

Michael Hobbes, “The Methods of Moral Panic Journalism”

Nothing remotely analogous exists on the institutional left. Democrats control the house, senate and governorship in 15 states. They have made no effort to ban conservative books or “cancel” racist professors or outlaw microaggressions. The reason right-wing media constantly highlights obscure documents and non-mandatory corporate trainings is that they cannot find legitimate examples of Democrats using their power to install illiberalism.

Articles about the “illiberal left” feel like dispatches from the Upside Down, a parallel universe where American political life looks nothing like it does in reality. Why are readers of national publications constantly being told that they should worry about the left potentially, sometime in the future, becoming as bad as Republicans are now?

Jill Filipovic, “A Consistent Ethic of Life (Until Birth)”

Most Americans don’t actually believe that a fertilized egg is the same thing as an infant or a five-year-old or a 65-year-old. If we did believe that — if abortion opponents actually believed that — they would be trying to solve the problem of more than 50 percent of fertilized eggs never turning into infants, because they naturally flush out of a woman’s body before implantation. Imagine if half of all five-year-olds were dying of a mysterious illness — that would be a big problem, and it would command a whole lot of resources. And in fact, human beings have spent billions and billions over many centuries to decrease child mortality rates. If abortion opponents actually believed that a fertilized egg was the same thing as a human being, they would be protesting at IVF clinics as much as at abortion clinics; they’d be demanding a womb for every frozen embryo (I suppose I shouldn’t give them any ideas).

If a fertilized egg is a person, we should be investigating every period as a potential death. If a fertilized egg is a person, men should be on the hook for child support from the moment of conception. If a fertilized egg is a person, then any woman who gets pregnant in the United States is carrying a US citizen. If a fertilized egg is a person, then it should get a social security number and be entitled to a whole slew of benefits. If a fertilized egg is a person, then global mortality rates just more than doubled, and life expectancies have plummeted.

But of course virtually no one actually believes that a fertilized egg is a person.


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