What's on my mind.

02 January 2008


My friend Honu-Girl invited me to join this blogging challenge thingy where we pick three out of four topics to write about each week. So here goes - Something that makes me sad.

This morning of Morning Edition, they were continuing their series of talking to people along I-10 about the election. One woman in Sorona, TX was saying that immigration was an important issue for her because it is so hard for Americans to get on welfare or food stamps, and she knows because she's been on welfare in the past. While I don't doubt that when she had to jump through a fair number of hoops to get aid its not because of illegal immigrants. (Or for that matter legal immigrants either.) I am sorry that this woman has hit rough patches in her life and had to deal with the frustrations and, sometimes, humiliations of getting public assistance. It saddens me to know that she thinks the difficulties in getting that aid were do to immigrants. And because it was her personal experience it will be much harder to convince her otherwise.

It is an unfortunate part of human nature that we often put extra weight on personal experience over the experience of others or measurable facts. It is understandable but unfortunate. For example, I avoided red velvet cake for years because a friend of my grandmother's made one for her birthday one time and it was awful (rancid butter was the best explanation we could come up with). Now I'm not a fan of cream cheese icing, which is traditional on a RVC, but that's never stopped my from eating carrot cake, so I can't really use that as an excuse. I was just afraid to try it again. Then I found out it was basically devil's food cake with red food coloring added and decided it was probably worth a second try. I knew the bad taste of that cake had nothing to do with the type of cake but rather a bad ingredient but I still avoided red velvet cakes. I'm an intelligent well-educated science-y person but I could still rationalize it away. How can I expect someone who is possibly less educated or less used to thinking in terms of dry facts and numbers to ignore personal experience? Particularly when we are dealing with something as complicated as immigration (or taxes, oil independence, climate change, the Economy,...).

Every four years I hear people talk about "the issues" and which candidates they prefer and listen to journalist talk about how different groups of people vote. And I wonder why do people not vote in their own best interest? And my answer is always single-issue voters (i.e. nut-sos) and lack of understanding.

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