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    安楽

    Posted by Sean at 05:20, January 20th, 2006

    I was going to post this immediately after putting this up about my trip to Taiwan. Then I just kind of didn’t and figured it was expendable. Then I read a few things that kept reminding me of the topic and thought–this is one of the bad things blogging does to you–Hey, I’ve still got that post I didn’t put up, and there’s still time to GIVE IT TO THE WORLD! So this is the other thing that struck me, not for the first time, over the weekend.

    I ended up staying at the apartment of the woman who runs the office there–my trip had been arranged pretty hastily, and I guess there are a lot of people trying to get things done in Taipei before the Chinese New Year. My flight was delayed by rain and fog here in Tokyo; when we got in at her building, we had a midnight supper (tortellini and green salad and beer–quick and casual but, for me, like la Tour d’Ar-freakin’-gent after the stuff on the airplane) and talked animatedly for a while before turning in. We had several other meals together in the next few days–we’ve known each other for years and have become friends, and food in Taiwan is yummy–and I went out for lunches and stuff in various pick-up groups with other people from the office. Some of it was shop talk; I was there for shop, after all. But a lot of it was just the kind of stuff you find yourself talking about with other foreigners who live in Asia (and with Asians who’ve spent time living in the West; the groups tend to be mixed).

    And I kept finding myself thinking how much I like the people I’m surrounded by and, despite my need to spend loads of time alone and my spiel about being a loner, how easy it is to talk to them.

    The sheer relief of being able to say that catches up with me at odd moments. Growing up, I never really expected to be in my element. Not that I expected to be a full-on hermit. I was a pretty unpopular kid, but I was never really, seriously, scarily isolated. I always had a few close friends. And they were real, serious friends. I’m only in consistent contact with one of them now, but there’s enough writing back and forth with two or three of the others that if by some chance I do go to our twenty-year reunion, I won’t be in the dark about which marriages and children and career paths go with whom.

    But without really verbalizing it to myself, I essentially figured I’d turn into one of those elderly bachelors who dote on their books and stuff and don’t socialize much and (needless to say) never really have even one serious romance. I genuinely love books, so I wasn’t too bothered. The implied lack of romance also didn’t disturb me, since my best efforts to get worked up over girls came to naught, anyway. And as I say, I always had a very small but genuine set of friends, and you can’t complain about that.

    Like most people who only really grew into their personalities in college and afterward, though, I found it a new experience to be able to talk to people–just people in general–without having that constant low-level hum in my head that I had to stay reined in so I didn’t give myself away somehow. Most of it, yes, was that I’d lost the subconscious fear of inadvertently saying or doing something that might make me look like a fag. (You kind of have to get over that if you’re going to call men “honey” as often as I do.) And yet it was a lot of other little general-personality things, too: Being around people who know what it’s like to want to move far away from where you grew up even though you love your family and the upbringing they gave you–that’s a big one. And having it just assumed in the background, so that you don’t have to keep explaining it all the time.

    This is turning into one of those posts that dissolve into purposelessness. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve written so many querulous this-article-SUCKS posts this week that I seem to be projecting a rather crabby mood and wanted to write about something positive. Atsushi can’t get back for our anniversary tomorrow, but we’ll be celebrating next week. Several friends of mine whose relationships ended last year are finding love…or at least fun distractions. The 300th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s birth was a few days ago. A close college friend is getting married in May. Things are good, even if a lot of people are saying dumb things about Japan.


    老後

    Posted by Sean at 23:47, January 6th, 2006

    The way I met my last boyfriend was this: A yenta-ish friend who runs one of the bars I go to showed me Ryuichi’s photograph and asked whether I’d be interested in meeting him. When I arrived, a space was cleared and Ryuichi’s friends–I swear, I’m not making this up–acted the part of his elders and protectors and interrogated me about my job, where I lived, and whether I was from an intact, respectable family! Good thing for him they were so adamant on that first point, too, since he quit his job soon after and decided to spend a year doing little but surfing.

    This post from the always-interesting Cathy Young a few days ago isn’t about Japan, or about gay life, but it illustrates the kinds of questions I was alluding to here–things Western journalists tend to neglect while cooking up Hamburger Helper articles about the evolution of Japanese household patterns:

    Is anyone going to seriously argue that a man’s resources–income, power, status–are generally irrelevant to women’s preferences in the mating game in modern-day American culture? That doesn’t mean most women are calculating golddigers (as some men’s rights folks like to depict them), but yes, women generally prefer not to “marry down,” and not just in terms of money but also in terms of prestige, education and intelligence, for which a college degree is considered a marker. To deny this fact is, shall we say, not very reality-based. Unlike many conservatives, I’m not saying that this is the way it should be or the way it always will be. But for now, such a trend is definitely there.

    Japan’s post-War constitution, interestingly enough, defines marriage as between a man and a woman not because of any prescience about the fight over gay marriage (there isn’t any here) but in order to outlaw forced arranged marriages. Family elders could no longer use marriageable young adults as instruments by which to carry out politicking or feuds, at least legally.

    But the practice of finding a spouse through お見合い (o-miai: lit., “looking at each other,” a meeting between two eligible people, usually arranged by their families through a matchmaker) lingered on, and though people date freely now, it’s still common. While marrying “for love” is much more the norm now than it used to be, a good job is still recognized up front as the major criterion when a man is under consideration as a potential husband. And that certainly would have been the case thirty-five years ago, when the women whose husbands are now retiring and driving them crazy around the house were sizing up the available men.

    You don’t get a sense of that or its implications as spouses aged together from the recent Reuters article:

    “Japanese men’s life expectancy falls by about 10 years if they divorce late in life,” said Nishida, who now runs regular discussion days to help couples overcome the hurdle of retirement. “That’s because they can’t do anything for themselves.”

    She did not divorce but insisted her own husband at least learned to cook for himself.

    “Couples need to rebuild their relationship,” Nishida said. “Retired men still tend to act like the lord and master.”

    Not all men see a need for change.

    “Mature Divorce” star Tetsuya Watari said in an interview on the program’s Web site that he never cooks and has not bothered to give his wife a birthday present in decades.

    “I don’t think Kotaro’s way of life is wrong,” he said of the workaholic character he played in the drama.

    Some viewers agreed with him.

    “I can’t agree with the wife’s point of view,” said one poster on the Web site.

    “She says Kotaro works all the time and doesn’t help around the house, but that’s normal for someone devoted to his job — I think it’s admirable. At least he’s not a talentless loser.”

    The above passage gives every appearance of an effort at scrupulous fair-mindedness. But even in giving both the he-said and the she-said, it leaves a lot out. Retired men may act like the lord and master, but it’s equally true that plenty of married women of that generation–and this is hardly a phenomenon unique to Japan–regarded the home as their turf alone and would hardly have encouraged their husbands to poke around in “my” kitchen cabinets or work less overtime if it meant a decrease in money and prestige for the household. True, one hears of wives who begged their husbands to trade down in employment so they had more time with their families, but that was not the norm in the era of post-War economic hypergrowth.

    The viewpoint ascribed to the men–and I should take the opportunity to point out now that how much of the superficiality of the final version is due to Isabel Reynolds’s reporting, as opposed to, possibly, an editor who was bent on giving the paying customers what they want out of their stories about the aging society in workaholic Japan–is just as reductive. The Japanese have been known for working long hours, but, especially before the end of the Bubble, the time spent away from home “for work” often involved a few hours of carousing with coworkers at the end of the day. Sure it was basically mandatory if you wanted to advance, but the reason it was possible to make it so was that men let the women take care of the household in its entirety. There were undoubtedly husbands who worked stone-cold sober at their desks right up until they had to dash for the last train and then collapsed wordlessly into bed and started snoring away when they got home; but most offices, at least, were not set up that way.

    Also, a funny thing happened on the way to the year 2000: Japan became super-rich. It remains rich despite the bursting of the Bubble. When today’s retirees were getting married, Japan was on its way to becoming a global economic power, but war and rice rations were still in living memory and made certain kinds of sacrifices seem fair enough, even necessary. Now that the Japanese are accustomed to the choices available to consumers in a First World country, those sacrifices are less palatable.

    All of which is to say, it takes two to do the dysfunctional marriage tango. The bargain struck in Japanese marriages after the War was that the men worked themselves to death (sometimes literally–the word is 過労死 [karoushi: “death from overwork”]) until retirement, thereby earning themselves the right to do nothing but play golf from then on. Women were supposed to satisfy their desire for work by rearing the children and keeping the house, but they also had money and time to spend on flower arranging classes, movies, and lunch at trendy restaurants with the girls.

    Of course their husbands never learned how to take care of themselves. Not only have they not been taught to, they’ve been taught not to. BY WOMEN. Mother did for them all through childhood; if they didn’t live at home after college, they lived in a corporate dorm with a dining hall; and once they were married…well, see the above. (As someone who’s dated three first-born sons of Japanese households, I could say a lot more about that, but it would be unseemly.) You can certainly point out plenty of ways that the system is unfair to women, but it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable for a sixty-year-old man whose wife decides she wants a divorce to say, essentially, “Just a minute here–I fulfilled my end of the deal, and now you want to welsh on it and still have me support you!”

    One final thing worthy of note: Reporters understandably cover conflicts and tensions and things because they’re interesting, and the resulting problems tend to drive developments in society and policy. Unfortunately, if the only Japanese people you ever read about are homicidal teenagers, consumers of manga porn, and geriatric couples who hate the sight of each other, you can start to get the sense that the entire archipelago is utterly bonkers. Those problems and others do exist, and they’re serious. I talk about them myself. But Japan is a great place that, in the main, does right by its people. Walk in Tokyo parks on weekends, and you’ll see plenty of old couples who have an easy, if amusingly bickersome, intimacy and are clearly devoted to each other. Not the sort of thing that gets media attention, perhaps, but an important part of the picture.


    善いお年を~!

    Posted by Sean at 07:46, December 26th, 2005

    Exactly one year ago today, I posted this:

    Fat lot of good that did, huh? So I figure, as we go from the Year of the Cock to the Year of the Dog–stop that sniggering, you bitches in the back!–I may as well solicit resolutions from even more people this year. If the elements are going to dash your dreams, make ’em work at it, I say.

    In 2006, I would like liberals to decide whether they believe in protecting (1) assertive individuality, even when it has sharp edges and raises uncomfortable questions or (2) the right of the government to adjudicate every potentially offensive manifestation of religious beliefs, sexuality, and even dietary choices. I don’t really care which one they pick–though I’m hoping they go with (1), of course. They just need to knock it off with the cynical, opportunistic toggling back and forth between the two, depending on which tack happens to suit the finger-wagging point they’re making at a given moment.

    In 2006, I would like conservatives to decide whether they believe America’s material prosperity and staggering array of consumer products are (1) evidence that our way of life is the best in the world or (2) evidence that we’ve lost our spirituality and are hung up on the trivial at the expense of the transcendent. I don’t really care which one they pick–though I’m hoping they go with (1), of course. They just need to knock it off with the cynical, opportunistic toggling back and forth between the two, depending on which tack happens to suit the finger-wagging point they’re making at a given moment.

    In 2006, I would like everyone to forgo the opportunity to be an asshole sometimes. Say, every third opportunity to be an asshole. Yes, I know–your opponents don’t make or respond to arguments, they just parrot the same empty talking points over and over and they ignore counterarguments and they suck and you’re not going to put up with it anymore and you’re willing to be a nice person but they force you to play offense all the time. I know, I know, I KNOW. I know because you’ve told us that about a million times. What I don’t know is what you think you’re accomplishing by adding one more uncharitable jerk to the din. Fearlessly offensive, gusty expressions of free thought can be a bracing corrective to namby-pambiness in the public discourse–within reason. When they become the public discourse, we’re in trouble. If you want people to be respectful, rational, and fair-minded, you might want to get the ball rolling by setting them an example.

    Best to everyone in the new year.


    Made possible by a grant from Mobil Corporation

    Posted by Sean at 05:42, November 28th, 2005

    There’s a post at Right Reason about gay marriage. I know–the topic has been flogged to death already, but Steve Burton’s post brings the topic back to some of the underlying social-fabric issues that can sometimes get lost as the debate gets pickier. The commenters also don’t suffer fools gladly, so if you can still stand the topic, it’s worth a read.

    There’s also a post that links to this piece about Julia Child as culinary conservative. Interesting, although if all cooks had followed known tradition and authority and been afraid to jump off a few cliffs, we might not have, say fugu in aspic. Or–generalizing beyond cooking–countries, such as ours, populated by venturesome immigrants.

    The Julia Child thing reminds me of when I was growing up. We’d come home from services on Saturday evenings, and Julia Child and Company would be on PBS some time around sunset. Later, there would be Mystery!, which I loved even as a small boy. I’m not sure what it says about me that I was that keen on watching a show where people were murdered all the time, but I maintain that the draw was the restoration of the moral order at the end of every episode.

    Anyway, the Mystery Channel in Japan has just launched and is part of my cable subscription, so I’ve encountered the odd nostalgic rerun–A Touch of Frost and the Joan Hickson Miss Marples and the like. (Not all of them are nostalgic. P.D. James couldn’t plot her way out of a paper bag, so I quickly bail if I realize I’m watching a dramatization of one of her coherence-free Dalgliesh porridges.) The other day, it got me thinking about a Mystery! series–one of the many British imports–that was broadcast when I was in elementary school. Since I had the laptop here open, I decided to see whether that nice Mr. Google could tell me anything.

    Man, there is nothing you can’t find on the Internet now. All I’d remembered was that it was about a writer whose wife’s Mini Cooper crashes, and that she’s taken to a place called the Meadowbank Clinic and held there while her alkie husband tries to figure out what’s happening to her. Looking for it, I came upon this page, which not only described the whole thing in impressive detail (“The Limbo Connection”–that‘s right!) but also reminded me of another series I’d completely forgotten.

    It was called “Quiet as a Nun.” In it, there’s a convent being stalked by a phantom nun who blacks her face out with a fabric mask. The site has a video clip of the climactic moment when the protagonist, your typical girlie but plucky suspense-story heroine, decides to go up into one of the towers looking for the Black Nun. She finds her, all right. shivers Watching it again thrilled every fiber of my gay being.


    I feel love

    Posted by Sean at 01:16, November 16th, 2005

    A friend says he thought I might enjoy this bit of a Houston Chronicle editorial (which is fileted by James Taranto in the 15 November Best of the Web). I assume he means “enjoy” approximately in the sense of “be driven to punch through the monitor by.” This is the operative paragraph from the editorial:

    Inner city black voters in Harris County, many of whom have long experience with the denial of civil rights, favored the marriage amendment by an even higher majority than the general Harris County voting population. Black discomfort with homosexual marriage is rooted less in conscious discrimination than in religious belief, but support for the amendment brought blacks into incongruous accord with members of the Ku Klux Klan, whose members rallied in Austin in support of Proposition 2.

    I don’t agree that the civil rights and gay rights movements are comparable all the way down–and what civil rights have black people been denied for the last three or so decades, one wonders?–but I do think that gays and other minorities are very similar in the ceaseless way our soi-disant allies manage to patronize us. As Taranto says, “If you’re a person of pallor and you oppose same-sex marriage, you’re guilty of ‘conscious discrimination,’ whereas if you’re black, you’re following ‘religious belief’ and presumably discriminating unconsciously. Oh, and does this mean people who favor same-sex marriage are religious unbelievers? Seems to us the Houston Chronicle has just managed to insult pretty much everybody.”

    As a homosexual unbeliever who doesn’t favor same-sex marriage, I think the most insulting part is unmentioned by Taranto: the attribution of any opposition to that boneless PC animating force, “discomfort.” People can’t believe things are right or wrong, or constructive or destructive, anymore, apparently–the only opposition sympathetic characters are to be permitted is decorously vague unease.


    He’s the warmest chord I ever heard

    Posted by Sean at 09:00, November 15th, 2005

    At Romeo Mike’s Gumption, Ross notes an example of psycho-PC-ism via the Telegraph:

    “Paintings of traditional wedding scenes have been removed from a register office in case they offend gay couples, it has emerged.

    The pictures at Liverpool Register Office are being replaced with landscapes ahead of the introduction of “gay weddings” later this year.”

    Two problems with this. If homos are supposed to be genuinely equal then we should be able to meld in with the mainstream. Ditching traditions to humour us defeats the purpose, so the removal of the pictures is actually the offensive part.

    Secondly, it’s also offensive that the Telegraph has to include a pic of a couple of queens kissing to illustrate gay marriage. Ordinarily, news photos of newlyweds have them smiling proudly at the camera. That photo only serves to reinforce the stereotype of minorities’ ‘differences’ requiring ‘special’ treatment.

    Question 1: Did the guy on the right burst into tears immediately after the photo was snapped and yell, “It’s our wedding, darling–couldn’t you have worn something more dignified than a turtleneck?!”

    Question 2: Given the Telegraph‘s generally approving spin, what’s up with the scare quotes around “weddings”? Does it (editorially) agree that gay ceremonies aren’t genuine weddings? I’m just wondering.

    Question 3: Why is the word gay so listless and dull, ending in that irresolute diphthong, while the insulting words for homosexuals can be written and spoken with such flair? Ross is presumably being sardonic in using homos and queens, but stripped of meaning associations and possible playground resonances, aren’t they just cooler words? Personally, I’m very partial to faggot–I just can’t help it. It’s one of those words you can eject from the mouth with a little explosion, whether of playfulness or of anger. It is impossible to utter the word gay in an aesthetically pleasing manner. A real pity.

    BTW, not quite on the same topic, but along those lines, an acquaintance asked me–very earnestly, which was what made it funny–a little while ago, “So, Sean, you call everyone ‘honey.’ And [my close friend, who’s English] Alan calls everyone ‘darling.’ Is that, like, some kind of American-vs.-British thing?”


    Placeholder

    Posted by Sean at 00:04, November 10th, 2005

    Dale Carpenter finished his guest-posting on same-sex marriage at the Volokh Conspiracy nearly a week ago. I tried to read everything, including the comments, but rapidly started to get the feeling I’d been hanging out a little too long at the corner of Lawyerview Boulevard and Old Libertarian Pike, if you know what I mean. I suppose I’m only posting this about it myself so that I’ll have a link in my own archives if I ever want to go back and look at what was written. My own mind isn’t changed. The gay marriage advocates, however articulate and sober they are, still always sound to me as if they were casting us as First Runner-up straight people, which is kind of humiliating. It just doesn’t bother me that homosexuality and heterosexuality aren’t the same thing and therefore may not have the same requirements or social effects.


    Sometimes you need a little finesse

    Posted by Sean at 22:22, November 2nd, 2005

    Another Gay Republican links to this post by Chris Crain at the Washington Blade blog. As A.G. Republican says, it’s a “justified bitch slap.” As Crain says:

    HRC strategists will claim in their defense that the public needs to be educated first on the issue, but how can we educate if we shirk from opportunities to talk about our lives?

    Last year, when Laura Bush was pressed on whether she supported her husband’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, her innocuous answer was that the issue was “something people should talk about and debate.” Rather than welcome such a rare invitation, HRC’s then-leader Cheryl Jacques released a letter criticizing the first lady, saying there were more important issues — like the economy! — for Americans to discuss.

    When our biggest gay rights lobbying group is ducking opportunities to actually lobby for our equality, and then makes excuses for those who oppose us, is it any wonder we aren’t winning?

    This is, of course, a staple topic of gay conversation. The more loyal Democrats tend to frame it as “How far should gay advocacy groups go in compromising to help our DNC friends gain power so they’re less politically vulnerable and can later effect the real change on our behalf that they desire with such obvious sincerity?” The rest of us tend to frame it as “Aren’t these jackasses supposed to be working for us?”

    Single-issue activism on the part of an individual often produces tunnel vision; but at the same time, if a group is going to exist for the express purpose of representing the interests of gays, then that’s what it’s supposed to do. Most of our organizations seem to veer between soft-pedaling anti-gay practices on the part of Democrats and implausibly claiming a gay stake in some favorite lefty sure thing or other (opposition to the war comes readily to mind, but so do Social Security privatization and the like).


    Marriage-go-round

    Posted by Sean at 06:39, November 2nd, 2005

    This time around, it’s Dale Carpenter guest-blogging (Here is the first post; I’d link the rest, but you can find them yourselves, and PowerBlogs sends an automatic trackback for every link.) Carpenter makes the best case I’ve seen–for example, he does a better job, I think, at arguing that community pressure will be brought to bear on gay marriages than Jonathan Rauch himself did in his book.

    Well, Carpenter isn’t perfect on that point, either:

    In our culture, marriage is the way couples signal the ultimate commitment to one another; and through marriage they communicate this deep commitment to their families, to their friends and co-workers, and to their communities. That commitment is then reinforced by the web of familial and other relations, created by marriage, that they have around them. This reinforcement helps strengthen their bond, and therefore their family. It helps keep them together, especially in tough times.

    Gay couples need this sort of reinforcement and suffer for the lack of it. As of now, no gay relationship can reach the cultural pinnacle signified by the words, “Will you marry me?” Telling your families and friends that you are “partnered” will not, usually, signal the same depth of commitment that marriage would. And if they doubt whether you have invested heavily in your relationship, why should your families, friends, and communities invest heavily in it?

    Fine, but if people don’t believe gay marriages are authentic, they’re not going to invest in them heavily anyway. Some of these will be ignorant folks who don’t believe there’s genuine commitment within gay couples; others are the most gay-friendly types imaginable but believe the purpose of marriage is to ensure, as best we can, that children are provided for. In either case, I don’t think the chicken-egg question is resolved as well as Carpenter appears to.

    Be that as it may, Carpenter argues carefully, and his presentation is orderly. Of course, Britney Spears has already been mentioned in the comments, and embarrassingly, Eugene Volokh has been driven to gently pointing out the following [his emphasis]:

    Folks, let me mention something that I hoped I didn’t need to: If you don’t like reading arguments that condemn homosexuality or homosexual relationships, don’t read a debate on same-sex marriage. Conversely, if we were to exclude all arguments that you think of as “bigotry” against homosexuals, or that convey “moral disapproval” of homosexuality, it wouldn’t be much of a debate, would it?

    A few years ago, when Connie’s site was in one of its former incarnations and Dean was still in his old World, I joined in a few discussions about gay marriage that frightened me in a big, bad way. One of them rattled me so much that I unloaded on Dean in very raw terms. (And cheese and crackers, was I PISSED that he printed some of it when I asked him not to. It was over two years ago now, so I don’t really care anymore.) Several of the gay commenters that I disagreed with were people whose writing on other topics I’ve really enjoyed and been inspired by. I’d never liked lockstep gay leftism, but this was the first time that it was borne in on me how much question-dodging a lot of otherwise-reasonable gays were willing to do in order to get the Marriage seal of approval and have their relationships (glory be!) validated. Or they probably weren’t dodging questions; they just didn’t seem to understand what they were being asked, so they weren’t addressing it.


    The low expectations of soft bigotry

    Posted by Sean at 01:35, October 27th, 2005

    Cathy Young has posted a long and very, very good response to Maggie Gallagher’s guest-blog entries at the Volokh Conspiracy. Gallagher has also responded to Young. Something near the end of Gallagher’s post took me aback in a big, bad way:

    I too share your hope that we can have SSM and simultaneously figure out how to increase the likelihood that children in this country are born to and raised by their own married mom and dad.

    That first part came out of left field for me–I assume it means that Gallagher figures that SSM is inevitable, anyway, so she hopes we can make the best of the change. But she’s been saying for some time, unless I’ve read her incorrectly, that she thinks support for gay marriage has been slowly starting to wane lately. In that light, it doesn’t seem likely that she would be regarding it as an inevitable development. At the same time, while I’ve never read her as anti-gay, she can hardly mean that she’s looking forward to the advent of gay marriage. I don’t quite know what to make of that bit.

    Young is also right that Gallagher didn’t present her arguments very fluidly, but it’s hard not to sympathize with her. The crux of the pro-gay marriage argument, on the part of many of its supporters, can be delivered in a snappy sentence: “Conventional marriage isn’t always about pro-creation, and gays fall in love and want to provide for their families just like straights–what justification is there for not treating their relationships the same legally?”

    The crux of the argument against gay marriage is not as easy to put succinctly, involving as it does all the messy hormones and impulses and choices and things that are involved in taking a child through the two-decade transition into someone who’s healthy, self-reliant, and ready to assume a place in adult society. Half of the evidence involved is probably boring even to the research psychologists and demographers who generate it. But that doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate.

    Eric has also addressed–I hope I don’t sound self-infatuated linking this, since the post in question begins by citing me approvingly; I’m not really going to deal with that part–some of the issues raised during Gallagher’s guest-posting stint:

    I think this “if you disagree with me, you’re a bigot” meme has gotten really, really tired. The problem is, the more time people spend talking only with each other and not with people they disagree with, the more likely they are to be convinced that not only are they right, but that their opponents are more than wrong; they are evil, bigoted, and analogous to Nazis.

    The irony involved in reflexively dismissing people with opposing arguments as “bigots” would be delicious were it not for the fact that the practice has so coarsened public discussion of…well, just about everything. I sometimes think it should be banned, the way your ninth-grade English teacher banned the passive voice from your first few expository essays–not because it was incorrect in and of itself incorrect but because it was too easy to get lazy and overuse.