Friday, May 30, 2008

Texas as Big Brother

As y’all may know, the Texas state government raided a fundamentalist religious compound and took all the kids away, running the whole show in a sort of kangaroo-court fashion (why are governments so stupid?) that has been repudiated by the higher courts. Among the side issues is one of why the feminists of the country haven’t rushed wholesale to the defense of the women involved. A reason put forth by conservatives is that they aren’t the right sort of women. They’re, well, tacky. Those dowdy hairdos, for instance. If you are going to rush to someone’s defense, wait for the right kind of person. So, we cheer for Anita Hill and ignore Monica Lewinsky.
That’s partly right, I think. But there’s probably more to it than that. Some psychologists look at “core concepts” to explain much of our attitudinal behavior, and that might work here. Imagine yourself standing in a circle. That circle is also inside a larger circle, which is inside a still larger circle. It’s as if yo were in the middle of a target. Those things inside the smallest circle are the things that are closes to you. Let’s take animals, for instance. Inside the smallest circle are familiar animals, cats and dogs, gerbils and parakeets. In the next circle are animals that are more distant, horses, cows, sheep, goats. In the third circle are animals more distant still, iguanas, snakes, lemurs. Our attitudes change from circle to circle. We don’t eat animals in the first circle because they’re family. We do eat the animals in the second circle. We don’t eat animals in the third circle because they are too weird.
Let’s apply this to feminists. In the first circle are people like us, educated, hip, passionate about causes and justice. In the second circle are people like the women in Texas, barefoot, pregnant, on the edge of town. In the third circle are third-world people, exotic, mysterious. So, we skip circles: help those like us, don’t help those not like us but recognizable, help those who are utterly different.Everybody loves a lovable child. The hard thing to do is to love an unlovable

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