Monday, May 9, 2016

Trump, Calculus, and the Evolution of the Squirrel

I feel bad for the women who asked for her aircraft to return to the gate because she felt sick.  She felt sick because the guy next to her was scribbling math equations that she didn’t understand. Since she didn’t understand what she was observing she immediately characterized it as a threat. She thought he must be a terrorist.  

The man, an economics professor, was simply writing down differential equations. The women has not been identified.  I suspect she will be and I fear that over the next few weeks she will be the exploited party in the punchline of every conversation and comedian’s  joke.  She will be the poster child for Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy”.  That is of course unless Donald Trump and his supporters haven’t already taken that honor.

Even this blog, to some extent, will exploit her unbelievable stupidity, and of course, bad luck. In her defense she is not the only one who would have reacted that  way given the same circumstances.  It’s not her fault.  It’s the fault of 200 Million years of evolution which tells us to be wary of things we do not understand.  We should, in fact, fear them.  We should consider them a threat.  Being leery of the snake in the grass or the color red keeps us safe.   When the hair stands up on the back of our neck it does so for a reason.  We should listen to our instincts and react accordingly.  Don’t get in the elevator is what they teach women to avoid the would be rapist. If you feel something terrible is about to happen trust your instincts.  Our instincts have evolved to the point that we have these visceral feelings, they help us survive. And no I’m not expecting my daughter to get into the elevator.  But I also don’t want her delaying my next flight.

It’s only in the last century that we’ve been flying in airplanes.  Think of how odd that is to our evolution.  Flying in an aircraft you are sealed in an aluminum tube of death traveling at 500 mph 32,000 feet in the air. That’s  not something that we’ve evolved to cope our wits are already seriously confused.  We are in a strange place.  So when something else strange happens it’s perfectly natural for our bodies to react viscerally.  We are swimming in a sea of strange.  The women on the airplane reacted viscerally.  Sadly for her the results have hit the front page although as of this morning her identity seems to have been protected.

I think Sergeant Friday, played by Dan Aykroyd, said it best in the silver screen remake of Dragnet, when he said, “...there are two things that separate us from the animals. One, we use cutlery. Two, we can control our sexual urges”  With those two exceptions, the rest is pure instinct.   How then do we keep from deporting all those we are unfamiliar with?  How then do we keep from building a wall to keep out so  many more?  How do we live on this cosmopolitan planet earth, with the first black US president, and now (God willing) our first female President.  As of two days ago we have witness the election of the Muslim mayor to the city of London England.  How can we live this way with 200 Million years of evolution telling us to kill the next tribe that lives on the other side of the  hill? We need to kill them, before they kill us.  Isn’t that what our bodies are really telling us?  

In my most recent blog I lamented the death of the republican party and placed the blame on the Tea Party republicans and their leader Ted Cruz.  While I’m not ready to  issue a retraction to my lamentations, perhaps I am ready to say that it is time for the republican party to die.  Evolution determines survival, and if the characteristics of the organism inhibit it from surviving, extinction shortly follows and it must exit the gene pool.  When I became an independent during the Bush W administration, I was exiting the gene pool thereby exhibiting my own right to political life  Since the republican party has split three ways all the variants will not survive.  With the Tea Baggers, the Trumpeters, and the RINO all vying for their political lives it’s fitting that they all will not make it.  If I were to guess which party the women on the aircraft was from, of course I’d be stereotyping, she is a Trumpeter.  Only Trumpeters show fear outright.  She demonstrated fear sufficiently public to have an airliner return to it’s gate!  That’s an amazing public exhibition and worthy of a Trump pep rally.  The Tea Baggers might feel the same  fear, I suspect they do since they cling tightly to their guns for phantom reasons.  But instead of quietly signaling the flight attendant to return to the gate, Tea Baggers would argue that had the women had a concealed carry permit she could have handled the issue from her seat.

The question, however, remains. What is to become of the GOP?  Is it dead?  Or will remnants of it evolve into something that can survive the current political climate where a Hillary Clinton can be considered conservative alongside a Bernie Sanders?  But I digress.  What I really want to examine is how to prevent the coming Idiocracy.  Since evolution is in God’s hands we don’t really have too much of a say, or do we?  Does God want the coming Idiocracy?  Or is it possible to beat God at his own evolutionary game?  The answer is simple.  Whereas we might not beat God at evolution, it is possible to pick a path where he favors our survival.  Recall the parable of the sinking ship.  The victim swimming for their life rejecting the three row boats and a helicopter that offered salvation in favor of God’s providence.  God will save me was always the reply.  Of course at the Pearly Gates, the victim began chastising God for not providing His saving hand.  God’s reply, “I sent three row boats and a helicopter”.
Those who believe the Constitution of the United States to be inviolate, fail in their understanding of both this parable and of course the intention of our forefathers to create the Constitution as a living document.  To create a country that could survive the human condition. From the very first days that the America’s became a beacon of freedom around the world, the world has heard the call and immigrated here to live the American dream.  Donald Trump has lived the American dream.  Further, he intends to live out the American promise that anyone can be President.  When Bush W was elected I thought we had already proven that promise but I digress. He will do so, in part, by denying others the right to live the American dream.

If we are to survive as a species we must recognize danger and embrace that which we find different. Perhaps the women on the flight should have asked the man seated next to her what he was doing?  But that will never happen on the flight.  I’ve already given her the out.  By the time that question could have been asked the women was already fraught with worry.  No, the time to embrace our differences is now, not when we are seated next to different. The 200 Million years of evolution cannot be overcome easily when your survival instincts kick in.  Just like the squirrel that has evolved to turn back for the safety of the tree when attacked by car tires, not understanding the threat, or lack of threat,  has resulted in the death of far too many squirrels.  The squirrel is thinking, “Those tires are out to kill me”. Just like the women believed the math equations were out to kill her.   Fortunately God has given us the capacity to think clearly about what is and what is not threat.  A squirrel cannot reason in this way when at a full sprint.  Neither can we.  

What is happening is we are giving into fear.  We are giving into terrorism.  We are letting groups like DAESH win.  We are being terrorized.  Instead of rationally understanding that DAESHoles can be defeated and that immigrants don’t want our jobs. The scared women on the plane is the perfect indicator of what happens when we let irrational fear win.  I suggest whenever we react foolishly to a threat that isn’t real we call it doing the squirrel.  When the car is approaching the squirrel's  heart is pounding like a freight train. The squirrel doesn’t understand the threat. The squirrel dies because fear drove instincts that don’t work on the highway, not because the threat was real.  If you cross the road twice, you have twice the chance of getting stuck by  car tires.  The squirrels that have less of a quick twitch to return to the tree sprint straight ahead.  They have twice the chance of survival on the open road. The squirrels that survive in an urban environment will evolve this characteristic eventually, or they will go extinct..

Trump intends to win the election by hoping we do not evolve.  He want’s to play to our fears.  He knows many will run for the safety of the tree. Today we all live on the open road, not in the woods. Unfortunately since we lived in those  woods, alongside of those same squirrels for 200 Million years,  we all have hard habits to break. Now that we live in traffic it’s time to evolve.   It’s time to recognize our differences and stop being afraid of them. We need to do that now, not when we are seated next to them.  If Trump does get elected on fear, that still doesn’t mean we should move to Canada . Squirrels with the characteristic to run straight need to remain in the gene pool. So do the rest of us. No matter what happens the United States is still a safe final destination to live, work, raise a family, grow old, and live out the American dream, we just have to be a little less fearful of things that are different like someone else's religion, the color of their skin, their gender identity,  or, as it turns out, their math...

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