Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The unpleasant surprise

Have you tried looking up friends from your past on Facebook? Maybe old girlfriends or boyfriends? Recently I wrote down a list of names I could remember from high school (Class of '65), and from my two years in the Army (November 1966 to November 1968). I had no success whatsoever finding anyone. It could mean that the people I am looking for are uninterested in social media, or worse, that they are incapacitated, or even deceased.

Warren was one of the guys I tried to find on Facebook. No luck.

We were friends for only a few months, 1967 into 1968. Warren was a guitarist; he bought a guitar near where we were stationed in Germany. We sat in Warren's room where he would play old songs and I would sing along. That seems pathetic, but if we didn’t have passes to go to town we were stuck on base and had to entertain ourselves. As you can see from the only photo I have of Warren he rocked a pompadour hairstyle. I don’t remember what songs we tried to sing, but they were probably along the lines of Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly.

When I didn’t find Warren on Facebook I went to Google, and that is when I found him. That was the unpleasant surprise. Warren was not only deceased, but he had died on July 29, 1968, just a couple of months after he got out of the Army. That seems unfair to me. A guy spends two years away from home and family, and then lives only a couple of months after returning to civilian life.

Warren was a motorcycle guy. My first thought on seeing that Warren was dead at age 21 was that he wrapped his motorcycle around a tree. But there was no information on cause of death.

Something else I remember about Warren is that he was always broke. He was usually tapped out five days after payday. He borrowed from me quite often, but he always paid me back. This little blog posting is a poor remembrance, because it has been so many years, but in some ways it is my payback to Warren for those nights smoking, joking, laughing, singing along while he played the guitar. It made the barracks almost livable.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Trump victory: Shock and “awww, sh!t!”

”We won in a landslide!”

It’s been a month now since the presidential election. Are you over it yet? I guess I am, although it was a shocker to my family and friends. On election day my next door neighbor was in Italy with her daughter. She said they couldn’t sleep all night after they heard the news. That seems like a fairly typical reaction; certainly the reaction of my wife and me.

Why did so many vote for Trump? Not forgetting that as I write this about 2.7 million more votes were cast for Hillary Clinton than Trump, yet the election results hinged on Trump’s wins in three states. In the popular vote he lost, in the Electoral College he won. Such is the American system, as screwy as it seems to everyone. Except the winner, of course. Trump has recently been touring, in what looks like a victory lap to thank his voters. He said to one crowd, “We won in a landslide, folks!”  — an untruth so brazen only the most loyal of his followers would believe it.

Early in the campaign it seemed obvious to most of us that reasonable people wouldn’t fall for a huckster, and we expected his fans to fall away once these truths were revealed: he doesn’t pay taxes; he stiffs building contractors; he uses bankruptcy as a business tactic; he treats women horribly. The stories went on and on. In the end it didn’t matter. His fans liked him and what he said, and ignored stories to the contrary.

A piece of commentary in the Sunday, December 4, 2016 Salt Lake Tribune, gave what I thought was a good reason why people voted for Trump.* Kristy Money, a psychologist specializing in relationship counseling, faith journeys and women’s mental health, wrote about “confirmation bias,” which is seeing only what we want to see.

Apparently Trump fans’ confirmation bias was enough that they looked past all of his worst traits to see what they wanted to see.

Yet how was it they were able to accept Trump’s outrageous conduct? You would think that religious types on the right who supported him would have been put off by stories of his immoral behavior, but another paragraph in the Kristy Money commentary explained to me how his true believers could accept a man with Trump’s character flaws: “Decades of social science research attest to how the human mind resists deliberate attempts by others to change our opinions and beliefs. In fact, there is a corollary phenomenon to confirmation bias, known as the Backfire Effect: Simply put, when someone with deeply held beliefs is presented with a counter-argument, their beliefs are strengthened rather than weakened. So there’s a very practical reason to stop trying to convince others: it has the opposite effect.” [Emphasis mine.]

So there you go. The Backfire Effect in action!

*I cherry-picked Ms Money’s commentary for psychological insight to use for my own purposes.Her article was actually about giving support to people who leave the Mormon church. You can read her original op-ed here.