The Lesser of the Two Evil Argument

This is personal and might be emotional. It’s about Trump’s travel ban. Growing up I read how conservatives fall in line, while liberals want to fall in love. No one is good enough for them. Or how liberals eat their own because no one can stand up to their self-righteous morals.

We want new faces. When new faces have no responsibility we like them. When they actually rise up and become party leaders or get elected to executive positions, we turn on them because sloganeering and governing aren’t the same.

I was reading that for last 50+ years in every election this lesser of two evils argument comes up, mostly among 10-15% of young liberals. In 2012 Hillary had favorability ratings in high 60s and a third of Democrats wanted her to primary Obama. In 2016 she was the lesser of two evils. What changed in 4 years? In 2016 Biden had favorability in the 60s and he was more loved by liberals than Obama for pushing him towards supporting gay marriage, and today he is the lesser of two evils for 10% of liberals. What changed in 4 years?

Or is the lesser of two evil argument more to do with the inherent disappointment of our options or choices? Where something is more attractive when its a potential than a reality. The potential or perception of Obama was different from the governing reality of Obama. Where the perception of Hillary and Biden when not running are always different from when they are running? And when reality hits, we say this universally across the planet – politicians are all the same.

I am not arguing that we must resign ourselves to shitty politicians. We must hold the feet of public officials to fire. They must be criticized when appropriate. But governing is different from campaigning. Protest votes, even in Congress, is easy compared to making decisions in leadership. That’s something young idealists should not lose track of in a democracy. I also realize that I am reaching an age where pure idealism is starting to clash against harsh realism. Yes, there can be two truly evil choices. But if it becomes a pattern over decades for a certain age demographics, that’s something to think about.

Why do I care about those 10%? I had said before that some of us cannot afford “there is no difference between Trump and Hillary/Biden”. Once the Muslim ban happened, some lives were ruined forever. In immigration, it doesn’t take much for someone to lose access to United States forever. With the virus travel ban, some people were stuck outside. Now with the visa ban, some might not be able to come back ever. Someone very close to me got stuck, and now had to ship everything back to home country from New York. Don’t know if they will ever return. They had gone only for a short holiday to visit family overseas. Some of us don’t have the luxury of expecting the absolutely perfect world today. We hope to reach it through incremental progress. But we still have to face a daily existence that isn’t privileged.

Thoughts of Increasing Diversity

I have been wrong about the diversity vs merit debate. I support policies to increase diversity, but I used to think merit should be the final determining factor in admissions or hiring.

I am not arguing for hiring unqualified candidates, nor does the word diversity referred here means only skin color.

Diversity to prevent homogeneity of thoughts. Diversity so we don’t talk in an echo chamber. The 10 brighest people in the world might miss a different viewpoint if all 10 come from the same background.

We need diverse backgrounds in boardrooms, government, and policy centers. Today I believe that in certain places diversity should be forced, especially in places where decisions about future of societies are being made. And diversity does not mean grouping anyone with more melanin in their skin into a single monolith. Based on raw numbers, there is far more diversity within darker skin people than those of western European ancestry.

We need to educate ourselves about the infinity diversity of the human existence, thoughts, and experiences. Diversity should be an end goal, not homogeneous purity, including purity of thoughts.

Voting in Kentucky

Access to voting is a dear topic to me and I donate money towards expanding voting. But lazy outrage is one of my huge pet peeves. Because of the pandemic, 60 days before today’s primary, Kentucky announced that all registered voters can request mail-in-ballots. Nearly 900,000 such ballots were sent out. And because of the pandemic, the state had trouble getting poll workers to work polling booths. Therefore, 40 days before the election it was announced that individual polling stations will not operate in Jefferson County but voters can vote at the Kentucky Exposition Center that will have hundreds of voting booths. Parking was free, and public transportation to the Expo Center was offered every 30 minutes for free. Early voting was allowed every day last week and yesterday at the Expo Center without an appointment. Early voting was allowed at a second location from June 8 till yesterday, with an appointment strongly recommended. None of these are signs that Kentucky is suppressing the vote for today’s elections. And from all accounts, it seems that today’s voting went as smooth as can be hoped, with traffic being the biggest issue in Louisville to reach the Expo Center in the evening. It didn’t take me more than 15 minutes yesterday to read what exactly happened. Yet, voter suppression in Kentucky blew up in social media and blogs. We want mail-in-voting so people don’t have to go out and vote. We ask for expanded voting days and people got 12 days to vote in person, including today. Sometimes outrage just feels so good and consumes so little time compared to just taking a few minutes to read the context.  

Retraining Police

We expect police to do too much and without enough training. In Georgia, to be an officer requires a high school diploma and 11 weeks of training. In Germany, police training is 2.5 to 4 years. We can screen better in applications. We can train and teach better, including ethics, psychology and sociology. In Germany, visiting a concentration camp is mandatory for a police officer, and their federal police union organizes two annual trips to the Holocaust memorial in Israel.

This past Sunday I was invited to a panel discussion of the Odia Society of the Americas, to bridge the gap between the youths who support Black Lives Matter, and their parents who might struggle to understand it (I guess being 35 puts me in that age where I am 12-18 yrs older than the kids and a similar age younger to their parents 🤷🏻‍♂️😂). Some of the questions were similar questions we read in news – violence in black communities, the model minority myths, etc.

Centuries of subjugation, mass incarceration from a young age leading to poverty, lack of jobs, they all contribute to crime. Marijuana usage is same across skin color. But when a black youth is arrested, that record will stay in every job application, mortgage application, rental application. When parents get sent to prisons at a disproportionate rates, who will guide the youths? That is the term “systemic” that suppresses a population over generations. It was slavery, then Jim Crow, then war on drugs, and now voter ID laws. We have private prisons and states that take away a convict’s the right to vote for life. That is systemic racism. How will we fight mass incarceration that destroys a life when we authorize for-profit prisons?

Defund the police is a reductive hashtag. But policing reform is urgent and necessary, for the safety of the public and to help the police officers who are asked to do things beyond rational scope or training. Police have the power to take lives. Their training should be as much, if not more, than a physician’s training. And yes, they should be compensated as much (notwithstanding my earlier posts). They should be specialists for certain purposes, but their responsibilities and numbers should be reduced and redistributed to social workers and to address other needs. Not anyone should be a police officer.