What Children Teach Us

I grew up in a conservative ward on the east side of Salt Lake City. It’s not the richest part of town, but it definitely qualifies as somewhere between middle- and upper-class. The houses run for several hundred-thousand dollars (in Salt Lake they’re a lot). There is one small apartment complex on the edge of the ward boundary, next to a busy street that’s pretty run-down. The neighbors are concerned about this and have been pressuring to have them torn down and rezoned for homes for a while now.

A few years ago my dear mother called the complex, with its peeling paint and lower-class clientele, "scary." I replied with the obvious: just because they aren’t nice or because the people who live there don’t dress the same, doesn’t make them scary. Her reply? "When you have your own kids, you’ll understand."

I’d long ago gotten used to this response, not just from my mother, but from many people in my ward. Wary of my apparent liberal streak, it was something teachers and leaders told me often. If I suggested R rated movies weren’t a problem, I heard about my future children. If I complained that the criminal justice system was too punative and not rehabilitative enough, my children were invoked to tug at my heartstrings. (No, I didn’t bring up these kinds of subjects in Church all the time. I was just an opinionated youth who wanted to talk about serious issues with grown-ups instead of running off to shoot squirrels–they said they were going hiking–with the other Boy Scouts.)

Now I have my own children, and not surprisingly, I haven’t morphed into the staunch Reagan-ite conservative my ward members insisted I’d become. With parenthood, I suspect you get out of it what you bring into it, just like most things. Conservatives like Sean Hannity will turn into Helen Lovejoy, screeching "Won’t someone please think of the children!" as an excuse to fry criminals in the electric chair. Quite the opposite, I remember holding my little boys and wondering why people turn out the way they do. Even the worst among us probably had someone hold them in their arms, cradle them, and look at them with love. And those that didn’t, can we be all that surprised they didn’t turn out so great?

I also look at my children and mourn the children that will starve to death today. That’s right – somewhere in the world a little boy or girl is going to die because they can’t find so much as a handful of food to eat. Some conservatives will look at their children, think about the children lost on 9/11, and insist we bomb the hell out of poor countries to ensure something like this never happens to us again. After all, we’ve got to maintain our greedy, entitlement-laden, overindulgent, lazy society or the bastards win! What would life be like if we can’t drive gas-guzzling Hummer’s on our way to shop with forklifts at warehouse stores? Perish the thought! But, I digress.

As I descend from my soapbox, I’d like to ask: What do your children teach you about the world? Do they make you feel more compassionate? Or do they make you feel guarded and concerned for their safety? A combination of both?

Comments

  1. Obviously the word Hummers shouldn’t have an apostrophe. Some editor I am.

  2. DK Landrith says:

    Frankly, John H, I do drive a very large SUV.

    Somewhere along the line, a bunch of people like you started mourning all the children that die in car accidents. When this forced people to fill their car with child seats, it reduced the effective seating capacity by 50%. You won’t hear me complaining about busybodies like you when I need to pay substantially more to buy a larger car (which means substantially higher insurance and taxes as well). But when you start saying judgmental things about the bigger car you’ve forced me into, it’s simply too much to bear.

    Even so, nobody is starving because George W. Bush or his military commanders bombed them. On the contrary, the people Bush & Co. have bombed were generally the ones starving, torturing, and mutilating their citizenry. In the context of a different war or a different enemy, your misplaced sympathy would be more obviously repugnant.

  3. Nathan Mark Smith says:

    I have gotten more conservative because of my kids in at least one sense. A few years ago, I gave an EQ lesson that was pretty much a diatribe against LDS housing choices. I found it perverse that so many of the most concientious Latter-day Saint parents decide where to live by pulling together data on where the least of their brethren live, and then moving as far from that as possible. I still think that self-selective aggregation in good school districts is a plague that hinders redress of past discrimination and obscures the consequences of bad schools from the powerful, and which squanders resources by clustering good families such that there are diminishing marginal returns on their social contributions.

    That said, I have a hard time looking into my kids’ eyes and deciding to engage in little redistributive projects with them. I’m not sending my kids to cruddy schools just to force myself to be a fighter for such schools. Also, I would never forgive myself if I chose to live in a tough neighborhood and something happened to one of them. And by the time my kids are in high school, I want them surrounded by good families. I am still working out how to square all this with my displeasure for present social organization. In the meantime, I am less critical of people who head out to the suburbs and throw up fences.

    PS I hope you don’t mind me saying that you’re right about the digression. IMHO, the strawman in that next-to-last paragraph cluttered an otherwise thoughtful post.

  4. “You won’t hear me complaining about busybodies like you when I need to pay substantially more to buy a larger car (which means substantially higher insurance and taxes as well).”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, DKL. I’m not the busybody who wants to force my own morality on others. That’d be the other side. I’m a little surprised at your outrage over carseats – but hey, to each his own. If you don’t want to put your kids in carseats, be my guest.

    No, my point (albeit off my own topic, as Nathan pointed out) was that gas guzzlers, aside from being bad for the environment, fund terrorism more than anything else.

    My little rant applies to both sides of the politcal aisle. After 9/11, we were so intent on continuing on, insisting that if we didn’t, the terrorists would win. Our President, in a great opportunity to lead and ask us to sacrifice so we could fight the war properly, stood before and told us to…shop! Hey, that’s the solution! Go to the mall!

    “On the contrary, the people Bush & Co. have bombed were generally the ones starving, torturing, and mutilating their citizenry.”

    You’ve got to be kidding, right? Hey, I can handle different points of view on the Iraqi war (which I separate from the war on terror – no matter how much conservatives lump them together, it doesn’t make it so). But you really think we haven’t caused poverty and destruction with our bombing? When early on, we heard about the four or five attempts on the Iraqi leadership, when we dropped bombs on houses in the middle of neighborhoods because we thought Saddam might be there. Do you just think nobody was home when we did that?

    No matter how people like to portray it, the fact is this: We are the richest nation in the world. We have the ability to relieve much (not all, but much) of the suffering in the world, but we don’t. It’s just that simple. Saying we give more than anyone else doesn’t cut it. That may be so, but I’m certainly reminded of the widow’s mite.

  5. John, an interesting post. I find it interesting because as someone who doesn’t have children, I’ve often wondered the validity of the “wait ’till you have children” statement. Of course it’s impossible for me to predict how having kids would change me, but I’d like to think that it would make me more compassionate and kind, rather than simply more protective and aggressive.

    It would seem that it has made you more compassionate and world-aware, which seems to be a good thing, IMHO.

  6. John, I too often wonder if having kids will change me. I remember before Sara and I got married people would tell us, “wait till you’re married for a couple years, then you’ll understand…” suggesting that our relationship would deteriorate or sex would get worse or we wouldn’t have as much fun together or whatever. We’re almost at five years and it’s only gotten better. I think you’re right that you get out of it what you bring into it.

  7. I guess what we learn is that while some priorities do change with child-rearing, political orientation usually does not. Some people simply can’t agree to disagree and try to paper over fundamental differences with the old, “eventually you’ll be won over to my side.” This is an interesting post; however, I find the idea that America can relieve “much of the world’s suffering” as ridiculous. But when you have even more kids, then you’ll come around.

  8. My other favorite is “A liberal is just a conservative who’s never been mugged.” I got that a lot too. Also the “older” thing . . . “you’ll get more conservative as you get older.”

    I think it’s comforting for my friends and family who disagree with me so fundamentally, to think that my beliefs are based in some sort of ignorance or innocence. I have not become more conservative after parenthood, nor with age. Haven’t been mugged yet, so that one is still untested.

    However one thing I have noticed is that I have more sympathy or understanding for things people will do to protect their children. Like people who sit by and watch really bad things happen and do nothing, (the easy examples like Germans and Rwandans) I always wondered how they could do that. Then I had kids. I still think people are misguided and wrong when they make immoral choices to protect their children, but I guess I can understand why better now. The impulse to protect your children is so strong, so visceral. It would be brutal beyond words to have to choose between the high road and possibly putting your children at risk.

    Being young and stupid and idealistic, I never really understood that.

  9. “When this forced people to fill their car with child seats, it reduced the effective seating capacity by 50%.”

    This brought back fun memories of me as a four year old sitting in the front seat about 2 inches from the dashboard while the car zoomed down the freeway. (I sat that close so I could feel the A/C on my face.) I’m lucky to be alive.

    I love it when people insist that they need an SUV that gets 10 MPG so they can fit the kids in the car. You can get a nice-looking and comfortable Honda Odyssey that has 255 hp, room for 2 adults and 5 kids in car seats, and gets 28 mpg. But many people won’t consider a minivan because they are not macho enough.

    Does anyone doubt that our world would be a lot safer if our “allies” in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan weren’t funding madrassas with our oil money? The most effective way to fight the war on terror is to cut their funding.

  10. Like it or not, an awful lot of innocent civilians have died in Iraq. That’s just the way it is. You can argue “the greater good” until the cows come home, and you might even have a point; but would you dare argue that with any of the parents of children who have been killed by our bombs?

    As a parent I mourn at the thought of even one innocent child dead. If that was my child I think I could never forgive. Of course, children suffered under Saddam too: this is certainly a complicated and terrible world; but like John, I do not wish evil on other children simply because I think it might protect my own.

  11. Sorry. One more thought:

    No one is saying that SUVs should be banned. But the fact that SUVs fall under a different fuel efficiency standard is ridiculous. Average fuel efficiency has not improved in over a decade because the government hasn’t required an improvement. We could have SUVs that are safer and more fuel efficient, but politicians (Democratic and Republican) want to please the car manufacturers, so they relax standards instead. Auto makers enjoy the large profit margins from SUVs while society pays the cost (poorer air quality, having to be more aggressive in the Middle East to protect our interests at a cost of 1300+ American lives and $200 billion (and counting), road damage from heavier vehicles, higher mortality in car accidents involving SUVs, etc.). Isn’t this just another form of corporate welfare? Free market, my eye.

    “Real soldiers are dying in their Hummers so you can play soldier in yours. 10 miles per gallon. 2 soldiers per day.” – from the Freeway Blogger

  12. That said, I have a hard time looking into my kids’ eyes and deciding to engage in little redistributive projects with them. I’m not sending my kids to cruddy schools just to force myself to be a fighter for such schools. though I was all for that in choosing where to bury my oldest, my wife’s heart wouldn’t take it. Now that I have three children buried in the cemetary, and not much redistribution has gone one between the somewhat segregated cemetaries, and I live far away, I realize it would have been futile. Still, I think about it sometimes.

    As for SUVs, etc., Joseph Smith already had that discussion with God where God said that we could ride in chariots for all he cared, but we need to be engaged in helping our fellow man.

    In a world were all hunger and death is the result of political issues, not food issues, there is a lot to be answered for. One at a time the great leftists (such as the leader of Tanzania) are coming to recognize their sins and the evil they shared with their brethern — and I often wonder what i am blinded to by my presuppostions about what is righteous.

    Strange, 9/11 didn’t really touch me, I didn’t meet that many people with family in the area. The latest touches people in my daughter’s pre-school, co-workers of my wife and many others who are part of our lives. Not to mention, the Albertsons I shop at hires refugees, the lastest being a group of Iraqi Kurds. I see them weekly, as a reminder of a people we failed for so long.

    Should we be back in Honda Civics? Of course the one we had floated on heavy rain, had other safety issues, wasn’t big enough and when a cement truck was having a hard time stopping wouldn’t let you just drop it down a gear and drive up the embankment next to the road. On the other hand, Hummers look ugly to me and are hard to park, the H2s are really just t’s the H3’s are just Jimmy’s/Blazers — with different skin.

    And aside from a “value” dealer having taken over the place we used to buy Hondas from, the minivans don’t give you that break-out view of the highway you get from a taller vehicle, though I don’t drive an SUV myself.

    Have children changed me? Of course. I know that the death penalty results in fewer deaths due to violent crime, I’ve seen the studies, and I know that opposing the death penalty means I’m engaged in human sacrafice to satisfy my own feelings, but I can’t bring myself to endorse killing someone else’s child. I volunteer more, serve on the board of a free children’s medical clinic and find good schools more important than anything else.

    Though, in Plano, I also find avoiding expensive housing areas (and the resultant groups of people who preach in Church that “it is all about money” and similar things) very important. I love my children and do not want them damned for giving up God for Mammon and social status. The surviving children I have are heartbreakingly beautiful and intelligent and guarding them against that sort of corrosion seems more important than anything else.

    Well, wish there was a spell checker, but otherwise, those are my thoughts (typos and all, I guess).

    Stephen
    http://adrr.com/living/

  13. Thanks for the laugh, DKL. Drive your SUV if you wish–you won’t get applause from me, but that won’t matter to you–but be honest with yourself about your motives for doing so (I’d expect nothing less from you, of all people); to blame it on the car seats is absurd (but very funny!).

    Not having a highly developed sense of the political, I haven’t found my children to change my politics. I think being a parent, like most intense experiences, makes one simply *more* of oneself, drawing out and amplifying both good and bad qualities of character. I can’t escape the sense that having children marks a great divide in one’s life and in the larger population, but I’d be hard pressed to say what exactly lies on either side of the divide. My life is much less self-focused now than it was before I had children, naturally, but I can’t say with confidence that it will remain that way after my children are out of the time-intensive high-maintenance stage.

  14. Jonathan Green says:

    In case anyone is wondering, you can fit three carseats abreast in the back seat of a Nissan Sentra. It might involve shopping carefully for the narrowest models, but it is definitely possible.

    Although I know people that have become more conservative with age, marriage, and kids, it hasn’t happened to me.

    Having kids has changed me in some ways, though: where I used to have a sense of privacy and decorum, that has all fallen by the wayside. I used to be too embarrassed to use common baby words for elimination and medical terms related to reproduction, but enough time spent explaining where babies come from has changed all that.

  15. DK Landrith says:

    Whew! Rosalynde, I’m glad somebody took my car-seat critique to be tongue and cheek. John H seemed to think it was rather caustic (and after re-reading it, I can understand why—sorry John H). Thanks for getting me off the hook.

    Even so, Jonathan Green is right that several sedans do hold 3 child-seats/booster seats abreast in the rear seat (including the one that I drive), but no sedan fits four. And unless one has their front passenger air-bag disabled, young children cannot ride in the front seat.

    Moreover, Massachusetts does require parents to keep their kids in booster seats until they’re 8 years old and 80 pounds. Thanks to CAFE standards (another lousy, liberal policy), there is no very good selection of station wagons with optional 3rd rows. Quite simply, unless they own a mini-van, van, or a large SUV with a 3rd row, no family will be able to travel by car in Massachusetts if they’ve got 4 kids under 8 years and 80 pounds. And even without car seats, there’s the question of seatbelts; do any sedans have 4 seatbelts in the rear seat?

    (It’s all fine, John H, to say that you don’t care about car seats, but it remains part of the liberal, not the conservative, agenda. And I laughed out loud at your insistence that you’re not trying to lord your morality over others. The entire idea of enforcing laws entails lording some morality over people—the question is merely whose.)

    For the record, my wife drives the huge SUV and I drive a sedan—not because I’m conservation minded, but because I don’t usually drive around with the kids and the sedan I drive has nice, big engine at any rate. But we didn’t own an SUV until she got pregnant with our 4th daughter, and we don’t spend tons of money on cars (we bought the SUV on eBay). In addition to an NRA window sticker and a “W is for Women” bumper sticker, my wife also has a bumper sticker that reads “My gun has killed fewer people than Ted Kennedy’s car.” She’s the best!

    The things that I’ve learned from my kids are more practical than political or philosophical. For example, they’ve taught me not to flinch when people spill things on me. Also, thanks to them, I’m much better at removing stains from my clothing. It’s simply inaccurate to say of me that my kids bring out my worst, since that implies that there’s somehow something better that could be brought out.

  16. DK Landrith says:

    ronan: Like it or not, an awful lot of innocent civilians have died in Iraq.

    Like it or not, this is true of every war. The question in war isn’t whether civilians will die, since it’s a given that they will. The question is whether the war justifies the destruction that it inevitably brings. Some do; some don’t. If the Iraq War is not justified, it has nothing to do with the number of civilian deaths (which, incidentally, are admirably low).

  17. I suspect that I may be one of the “people that have become more conservative with age, marriage, and kids” that Jonathan Green knows. I had a friend predict that I would leave BYU, get married, go off to grad school, have kids, and become Republican (or at least more conservative). I haven’t taken the plunge and become a member of the GOP, but I have become an independent voter, and I did vote for Bush in 2000. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve become more conservative, or the Democrats have become more incompetent. It’s hard to tell.

    Having flirted with the right, I’ve since moved back left, although not as far as I used to be. Having kids has definetely changed the way I view our society, but not much on national political issues. For one, I find the general change in the way parenting is approached in this country to be pretty appalling. There’s a whole generation of kids whose parents have no clue how to discipline them. I’m not talking about corporeal punishment — I’m talking about simply putting one’s foot down. Too many people are interested in being their kids’ best friend, instead of their parent.

    I’m too tired to make much of a coherent comment here. I’ll just add that a 1996 Mazda Protege can also fit three car/booster seats in the back seat.

  18. DKL,

    You should buy a taxi cab! Kids can ride in the back of a cab without carseats in MA. Plus, you could bring in some serious dough driving a cab!

    While I’m at it, will someone tell me why all the cabs in Boston are rear wheel drive? This last week we’ve got over three feet of snow on the ground, the only vehicles on the roads are snow plows and cabs, and the cabs are fishtailing all over the place because the Crown Vic isn’t FWD or AWD.

  19. Looks liek a lot of our friends here at BCC seem to get their news and analysis from uber-lefty, America-hating blogs and sites like Kos, DemocraticUnderground, Atrios, Wonkette, and the list goes on……..
    And John, if you think American consumption of petroleum is what causes terrorism, it is quite evident that you know absolutely nothing about what Islam is, especially what the Wahabbi, Salafist, and Deobandi have to say and teach their follows. read Sam Harris’s book “End of Faith”.

  20. Jonathan Green says:

    Yup, Bryce, you’re the one I was thinking of. Oddly enough, I was reliably Republican until I got married and had kids. As for society at large, I haven’t noticed parents trying to be their kids’ best friends in large numbers, but I’m probably the world’s worst disciplinarian. Having kids has probably given me more sympathy for people trying to do the best they can with limited resources.

    DK, you really don’t want to put a family of six in a sedan, especially for long-distance vacation travel. As a veteran of multiple summer trips up and down the length of I-15 in a Pontiac LeMans, I can confidently say: don’t. If you love your children, if you want your children to love you, just don’t. The scars are still healing.

  21. It’s all fine, John H, to say that you don’t care about car seats, but it remains part of the liberal, not the conservative, agenda.

    Well, now, that certainly turns pro-life/pro-choice on its ear, now doesn’t it! What happened to protecting those who can’t protect themselves?

    Also, it’s a mistake to conflate minivans and SUVs in terms of gas mileage. My 7-seater minivan lists at 19/24 mpg. In order to get in an SUV with the same seating capacity you have to bypass the small and midsize SUVs with decent mileage.

    my wife also has a bumper sticker that reads “My gun has killed fewer people than Ted Kennedy’s car.”

    I thought conservatives stopped using that tired old line when this bit of news came out.

    Incidentally, I’ve got one that reads: “I’ll admit that Clinton inhaled if you’ll admit that Bush sucks.”

  22. DK Landrith says:

    Thanks, Jeremy. I love it when Democrats play the moral equivalency game. Apparently when a teenager causes an accident from careless driving, Democrats consider it the same as when a sitting Senator picks up a chick for an adulterous fling, driving her off drunk, leaves the scene of the accident, abandons the chick to die, and finally reports the accident 8 hours after it occurred.

  23. I love it when Democrats play the moral equivalency game.

    I only invoked it (recalling it for the first time since the 2000 election, I think, since democrats have largely avoided bringing it up since then) to protest your playing the right-wing outraged irrelevancy game: what light does a tasteless joke about Ted Kennedy’s car wreck shed on the issue of gun control?

  24. DK Landrith says:

    It’s more than just a joke, Jeremy. It’s mathematically correct. You say that it is irrelevant, but I ask, irrelevant to what?

  25. DKL, both sides (lamely) play the moral equivalency game. I know that any counter-examples will likely not sway you, so I won’t bother.

    Civilian war deaths are “admirably low”? Why, yes, I do admire this administration for only killing a few tens of thousands of innocents in my name. Multiply the number of deaths by the number of grieving children, siblings, etc., that now want to kill me and my family and you have the makings of a terrorist’s recruitment dream.

    So it’s apparently ridiculous to tie oil money to the fundamentalists’ power. But if we can score a point with our anti-drug message, we’ll fund PSAs about how you are funding terrorism because of your heroin habit. (I bet that was effective.)

    Fuel efficiency standards are a joke because everybody knows that pollution is caused mostly by power plants. Oh, but if you want to cut power plant emissions, it’s pointless because most pollution is caused by cars, lawnmowers, and volcanoes.

    And what is the point in caring for the environment since in fifty years, to quote the president, “We’ll all be dead”? Oh, great. Policy is being formulated by someone who thinks we’ll all be dead in fifty years. Maybe he could show some pity on all of us sinners who will be “left behind”.

    And if my arguments don’t hold sway, I’ll just throw in a word like Wahhabism. That has to count for something.

  26. BTW, just to be clear, I wasn’t claiming equivalency in comparing Clinton’s smoking pot in college to Bush’s being such a lousy president.

  27. DK Landrith says:

    A few tens of thousand, Pheo? That’s just so much alarmist silliness.

  28. It’s mathematically correct. You say that it is irrelevant, but I ask, irrelevant to what?

    Trying to taint gun control advocacy by invoking Kennedy is a cheap attempt at guilt by association. “Stalin loved bacon, so eat sausage instead!”

  29. john fowles says:

    Where’s Kaimi with his criticisms of straw men arguments on this one? It’s only when I rant about liberal excesses at the University of Michigan law school that Kaimi pulls out his guns and ridicules the absurdity of the supposed straw men in such an argument, not when John H. resorts to straw men in defense of such blanket statements about all conservatives. I’m not surprised, though.

  30. A few tens of thousand, Pheo? That’s just so much alarmist silliness.

    A statistical projection by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Columbia, published in the medical journal The Lancet, estimated around 100,000 civilian deaths. That number has been widely disputed because it was extrapolated probabilistically from a limited sample – even though that sample didn’t include, for example, data from the intense fighting in Fallujah. The Iraq Body Count project, which uses the most stringent criteria and gives the most conservative estimate (based on morgue records and double-verified press reports), puts the current number at over 17,000, with this caveat: “We have always been quite explicit that our own total is certain to be an underestimate of the true position, because of gaps in reporting or recording.” So, even by the most conservative estimate (conservative enough, in fact, that conservative media outlets routinely accept IBC’s numbers, often putting them next to Lancet’s to make them seem small), Pheo was only exaggerating slightly, if at all, in saying “a few tens of thousands.”

  31. “A few tens of thousand, Pheo? That’s just so much alarmist silliness.”

    DKL, how many people have been killed in Iraq? You seem to know the number, or at least what it isn’t.

    I know, I know. Morality is what conservatives tell us it is. It’s gay marriage (because that’s done *so* much harm!) It’s stem cells, abortion, and porn. Going to war and then changing the reasons why we went (I forget, was Saddam a threat or were we trying to liberate the Iraqis?) is a-okay.

    I’m certain Jesus approves. Wasn’t it him that said, “Hate your enemies, and if someone hits you on the cheek, beat the hell out of them.” Or better yet, why bother to wait until they hit you at all. If they look like they’re going to hit you, you make sure you hit them first. Just give them a band-aid afterwards.” Apparently conservatives seem to think He’s no longer the “Prince of Peace,” He’s the “King of Kickin’ Ass and Takin’ Names.”

    And with the recent elections conservatives are pigs rollicking in crap, patting themselves on the back and grinning from ear to ear. Because the elections change all the lies and bring back all those dead American soldiers, and the dead Iraqis (apparently half-a-dozen or so people, according to DKL).

  32. I’m only a casual reader but this exchange sets a new low for this blog.

  33. DK Landrith says:

    Jeremi, far from being “widely disputed,” the lancet numbers are sheer propaganda. It’s interesting that the reasons you site for disputing it are the same ones that were sited in the press release that announced the study, and they do not even scratch the surface. I suggest that you read the report yourself—it’s not very long.

    First, let’s be perfectly clear about what the report claims: Lancet’s 100k number estimates that Iraq’s post-invasion mortality rate (Mar 2003 to Sep 2004) has been higher than Iraq’s pre-invasion mortality rate (Jan 2002 to Mar 2003). Based on this estimate, Lancet calculates that an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 more people died during the 18 month posts-invasion period than during the 18 months preceding the invasion.

    Thus, the report includes presumed combat deaths, but talks primarily about homicides and infant mortality. Nowhere does the report claim that Americans killed anywhere near 100,000 Iraqis.

    Moreover, this is a very tenuous type of claim even given the most rigorous research methods imaginable. The method’s in the Lancet report, however, were far from rigorous.

    The pre-invasion (Jan 2002 – Mar 2003) and post-invasion (Mar 2003 – Sep 2004) mortality rates were established by largely unverified reports from households in Sep 2004. It’s not clear to me that this report provides evidence of anything more than people’s tendency underestimate the passage of time since the another person’s death once it has receded into the indefinite past. The report certainly does not control for any such underestimation.

    At any rate, the mortality rates that they arrive at strike as wildly inaccurate. The report itself appears to imply that we can estimate a 0% mortality rate among interviewers during the period that it took to design and execute the report, and everything I can tell from the report would indicate that this should be considered a statistical aberration.

    A couple of quick issues with the report:

    We obtained January, 2003, population estimates for each of Iraq’s 18 Governorates from the Ministry of Health. No attempt was made to adjust these numbers for recent displacement or immigration.

    And

    When violent deaths were attributed to a faction in the conflict or to criminal forces, no further investigation into the death was made to respect the privacy of the family and for the safety of the interviewers.

    And

    Within clusters [of which there are 30 of 30 households each], an attempt was made to confirm at least two reported non-infant deaths by asking to see the death certificate. Interviewers were initially reluctant to ask to see death certificates because this might have implied they did not believe the respondents, perhaps triggering violence. Thus, a compromise was reached for which interviewers would attempt to confirm at least two deaths per cluster.

    In any case, I’d encourage anyone who is inclined to think that these are real numbers to read the entire report. One think it makes very clear: If they have to struggle this hard to make up civilian death numbers, then there have been very few civilian deaths.

  34. Apparently, it is wrong for us to be upset at the state of the world. The moment someone expresses distress at the current situation, he is being shrill, or a whiner, or he is bringing dialogue to a “new low”. Whether we “liberals” are right or wrong about all this, have the decency to let us be angry over something that is clearly not a good thing, whatever the eventual ends may be.

    Like I’ve said, judging by what people in the church stress most about, home teaching is way more important than the war. (I think that people in the church aren’t generally pro-war, but many have expressed to me that it all was inevitable, given the coming of the Rapture and all. Home teaching is something over which they have much more control, so they pay more attention to it. But it’s still messed up.)

  35. DK,

    Certainly our disagreement is based on different ways of counting civilian deaths. You seem to only want to count verifiable civilian deaths resulting as collateral damage from combat. I want to count the increase in civilian deaths from the war, whether they are due to RPGs, criminal activity resulting from increased lawlessness due to the war, or infectious disease from disruption of the Public Health system. That’s where the Lancet was coming from. But I did my best not to site their numbers; they probably aren’t accurate.

    I heard the number 10,000 months and months ago, so I don’t think 20,000 to 30,000 civilian deaths is an unreasonable number. It is silly for you to assume that because the deaths aren’t verifiable, they didn’t happen.

    Even if the number was 6,000 civilians, that’s two 9/11’s in a country one tenth the size of ours.

  36. DK,

    I’ve read the rebuttals of the Lancet report. That’s why I put it out there alongside the much lower — but hardly comforting — IBQ report of 17,000, which its own researchers insist is much lower than the actual count.

  37. Guys, it’s OK to be angry–not so much OK to haul out the “King of Kickin’ Ass…” and “pigs rollicking in crap” rhetoric. Keep it civil.

  38. DK Landrith says:

    Jeremy, I wasn’t quoting rebuttals of the report. I was quoting the report itself, which speaks for itself. (For my part, I haven’t actually read any rebuttals.)

    Even so, with no accurate estimate of emigration or pre-invasion mortality, there is simply no reasonably or reliable way to estimate civilian deaths.

  39. here is simply no reasonably or reliable way to estimate civilian deaths

    But again, if IBC’s numbers are inaccurate, they are inaccurate in being too conservative, since they’re based on morguge and hospital reports. I don’t see how those sources would be ambiguous.

  40. “No matter how people like to portray it, the fact is this: We are the richest nation in the world. We have the ability to relieve much (not all, but much) of the suffering in the world, but we don’t. It’s just that simple. Saying we give more than anyone else doesn’t cut it. That may be so, but I’m certainly reminded of the widow’s mite.”

    John H.: I am delighted to learn that solving the world’s problems was so simple. And here I wasted all of this money studying political science and law because I thought that these were difficult issues that required sophisticated thought. It is such a relief to know that a little moral outrage at SUVs and the East Bench is all that is required.

  41. DK Landrith says:

    Kristine: [it is] not so much OK to haul out the “King of Kickin’ Ass…” and “pigs rollicking in crap” rhetoric.

    Since I am both the King of Kickin’ Ass and a pig rollicking in crap, I cannot help but feel you’re desire to keep people from using such terms is, in fact, an unfair effort to muzzle me and my point of view.

    All of this reminds me of the time when Lou Midgley showed up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners.

  42. Returning to the original subject, I have found, interestingly, that having and raising children has moved me to the left politically.

    Of course, when it comes to issues like abortion and pornography, I continue to be on the right of the spectrum. But on issues like war, availability of health care, progressivity of taxes, the safety net, education and similar issues, I have gravitated to the left. Some of that comes from caring about the kind of world my children, and other peoples’ children (here and abroad), will live in. Some of it may come from my children’s being to the left politically, and having persuaded me.

    Or it may just be that I am contrarian, and favor the underdogs.

    Who was it who allegedly said that a person under 40 who is conservative does not have a heart, and a person over 40 who is liberal does not have a brain. Perhaps I lack both.

  43. It was Winston Churchill, but he said something like this:

    “To be conservative at 20 is heartless and to be a liberal at 60 is plain idiocy.”

    Of his many aphorisms, this is one of the most ridiculous.

  44. Aaron E. writes: I’m only a casual reader but this exchange sets a new low for this blog.

    Mathew responds: A more serious reader would know that we have hit lower lows many times. This stuff is strictly amateur.

  45. john fowles says:

    DavidH wrote when it comes to issues like abortion and pornography, I continue to be on the right of the spectrum.

    If this is true, then you are not “left” at all, your other views to the contrary notwithstanding. You can’t be taken seriously as a “liberal” if you don’t buy into the straw man of “choice” and thus view abortion as an inalienable right (completely ignoring the real issue about (1) whether it kills a human being, and (2) if it does, whether a woman should have the right to kill a human being based on her “choice”). Similarly, being “against” pornography means, ostensibly, that you want the government in everyone’s bedroom and dictating where to put their genitals.

    When someone like John H. asserts that conservatives want to kill everyone and don’t care about the poor etc., he is setting up classic straw men (Kaimi, where art thou in our moment of need for someone to expose the abundant straw men?) to shoot down and set up a caring, left-wing ideology in its place. It ignores the fact that “conservatives” also want to alleviate suffering and poverty, but have different ideas (based in more realistic economic assumptions, in my opinion) of how to achieve this progress and bring people a better way of life. John H. apparently want to think that all conservatives want to kill kids in Iraq and are “pigs rollicking in crap” (Animal Farm, anyone?). Pheo wants to think that all conservatives are heartless and have some kind of conscious, hidden agenda to ruin the world. But these are, in truth, straw men, because if either of these two would actually listen to what conservatives are saying, they would see that conservatives have equally noble goals as liberals. What makes liberals really mad is the methods that conservatives use and propose to achieve these goals.

    I agree with Nathan Mark Smith that the questions this post poses are valuable and interesting. I also agree with him, however, that it is almost impossible to engage in a goodwill discussion about these questions based on the inflammatory and fallacious rhetoric used to lead up to the question. It was, in truth, difficult and an effort of sheer goodwill to even read through the original post to the end to see what was meant by the title.

  46. I have found that my political leanings have been much less affected by my fatherhood than they have by my mission experiences in the Third World and by my education at that most liberal institution, BYU. The common thread with these two influences is that I was exposed to the plight of the poor both in and out of the country. Maybe I’m just a wuss, but these experiences affected me deeply. Having children has strengthened my political leanings because I think that the principles I believe in will make their world better. But I imagine that most conservatives feel the same way.

  47. “Pheo wants to think that all conservatives are heartless and have some kind of conscious, hidden agenda to ruin the world.”

    Give me strength…

    It know that conservatives are trying to do what is best for this country and I never said otherwise. I think they are going about it the wrong way, but that wasn’t your point. If you want to address points I’ve made, feel free to do so, but no need to portray me as an unthinking idiot.

  48. john fowles says:

    Pheo wrote, Having children has strengthened my political leanings because I think that the principles I believe in will make their world better.

    I can see how these experiences would make you more compassionate for the poor, etc. (which doesn’t imply that conservatives are any less compassionate about the poor than you are), but it is highly debatable whether liberal, entitlement-based principles will actually make the world a better place for the poor. That is my point with the above comment: that the most effective means by which to achieve progress and prosperity are up for debate. But arguing that conservatives aren’t interested in progress and prosperity for poor people doesn’t contribute to the debate about the merits of the different means by which liberals and conservatives propose to achieve such ends. At least conservatives have the support of history for the means by which they pursue progress and prosperity (i.e. regulated capitalism generally works to achieve these ends where socialism has generally failed or has created cumbersome, inefficient econonmic situations). Still, if liberals were indeed to focus more solidly on the economic issues that concern them (despite the questionable merits of the left’s solutions to such economic issues), then I see them having more success in the current American political landscape than they are having through this conflation of liberal economic views and the liberal social-values views that a majority of Americans seems to find questionable. In other words, if someone could consider themselves a liberal because, like DavidH, they are concerned about the economic issues and espouse the liberal solutions to achieve a resolution of those issues, but still reject the licentiousness involved in the social issues like abortion and pornography (the examples DavidH used), then that would help the liberals’ political cause. Instead, however, one must, it seems, also be on board with this social agenda, and that turns many people off.

  49. “That said, I have a hard time looking into my kids’ eyes and deciding to engage in little redistributive projects with them. I’m not sending my kids to cruddy schools just to force myself to be a fighter for such schools. Also, I would never forgive myself if I chose to live in a tough neighborhood and something happened to one of them. And by the time my kids are in high school, I want them surrounded by good families. I am still working out how to square all this with my displeasure for present social organization. In the meantime, I am less critical of people who head out to the suburbs and throw up fences.”:

    The problem with this argument is that it conflates the problem into one simple choice
    1) Urban- “responsible” but poor schools and gang violence,
    2) Suburbs – “you’re a sheep” but great schools, wonderful ward, and all around nirvana.

    There are certainly GREAT schools and wonderful neighborhoods in more established neighborhoods. I grew up in Central Phoenix. We had a great elementary school, with wonderful teachers and a great curriculum (but a 60 year old building). We lived in a good neighborhood, but had homeless people living under the tree behind our home occassionally. My elementary school encompassed the local country club neighborhood as well as several low income housing apartments. I played in both locations.

    My Father’s coworkers wondered why we didn’t move out the ranchettes in the suburbs. He certainly could have afforded it. But they made a concious decisino not to. My parents choice exposed me to the diversity that exists around us. It helped me to not be judgemental regarding the outward appearance. Besides teaching me the Gospel, this is the lesson I am most greatful for.

    A lack of Diversity of housing is one of the largest problems that we have today in our society. By isolating ourselves from people who are different we lose a sense of perspective. Besides the loss to ourselves, lack of diversity disrupts the formation of neighborhoods and community. For example Mr & Mrs. Doe move into the neighborhood with their children. Their children grow up, and they need a bigger home (Why? That is a topic for another section). They can’t stay in the same neighborhood, as the homes are likely all the same size (more or less). So they move. The kids move out and the grandparents decided to down size. Same problem, so they move. If their were a variety of housing in the same location, a family would have the opportunity to remain a part of the community further strengthening the neighborhood bonds. This urban planning argument aside, insulating ourselves with like people runs counter to the gospel’s imperative to care for our brother. By exposing ourselves to people in a variety of socioeconomic positions we can gain great perspective and combine resources to obtain the maximum social yield.

  50. John,

    Perhaps you are right, that in many respects I am a conservative. For some time, my eldest daughter has referred to me as a “bleeding heart conservative.”

    I voted for Bush in 2000 because I believed him when he said he was a “compassionate conservative.” In four years, I have seen lots of conservatism, very little compassion. One of the few areas with which I agree with the president is immigration. His proposals have been stymied by the hard core conservatives in Congress. He has not pushed them very hard. Similarly, in my judgment, he has not pushed hard on abortion or same sex marriage issues. He has pushed hard, though, on war and business issues.

    I realize that there are republicans and conservatives who genuinely care about the poor, and who in good conscience believe that the poor and needy may directly or indirectly be benefited by privatizing Social Security, eliminating the estate tax, virtually eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends, adopting a more assertive or bellicose foreign policy, seeking to dismantle much of the public school structure and/or shifting to privatized education, clamping down on civil liberties through the Patriot Act, lifting FCC restrictions on ownership of broadcast stations, adding a bizarre and prohibitively expensive Medicare presciption drug benefit without federal bargaining with drug companies, and the like. I do not agree with that analysis. I think the Administration is wrong on those issues. My views are much more consonant with those of Jim Wallis and Sojourners and other religious “lefties”.

    I would not say, necessarily, that I am a liberal. But my views have shifted markedly to the left (or perhaps it is just that the political compass of the country has moved sharply to the right).

  51. http://www.comics.com/wash/candorville/archive/images/candorville20050131046200.gif

    btw I have to admit I wish I had said:

    “No matter how people like to portray it, the fact is this: We are the richest nation in the world. We have the ability to relieve much (not all, but much) of the suffering in the world, but we don’t. It’s just that simple. Saying we give more than anyone else doesn’t cut it. That may be so, but I’m certainly reminded of the widow’s mite.”

    John H.: I am delighted to learn that solving the world’s problems was so simple. And here I wasted all of this money studying political science and law because I thought that these were difficult issues that required sophisticated thought. It is such a relief to know that a little moral outrage at SUVs and the East Bench is all that is required.

    Yep, there we are in Iraq using our ability to cure suffering. If only it were that easy.

  52. DK Landrith says:

    David H: there are republicans and conservatives… who in good conscience believe [in]…clamping down on civil liberties through the Patriot Act

    The Patriot Act was designed by Bill Clinton and backed by Democrats during his administration. And most of the Patriot Act is uncontroversial. I’m curious what you think it contains that threatens civil liberties.

  53. Interesting to discuss Clinton, he has been getting more and more press rescently, getting credit for things.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6859893/#050131

  54. john fowles says:

    DKL: the Patriot Act is one of the ultimate straw men of liberals. Only drug dealers and their ilk can make a plausible argument that it infringes on civil liberties (because the identities of such people can now be shared between different departments). Other than that, as you pointed out, it really is quite benign and logical. Everyone moans about how the government needs to act to defend better against terrorists. It acts and passes the Patriot Act and people complain that it obstructs civil liberties (which it does not). Go figure.

  55. Guys, STOP NOW! Steve asked me to help babysit you while he was gone, and I am a fierce disciplinarian. This is not going to be a free-for-all airing of every point of contention between “liberals” and “conservatives.” We’re not going to fight about the war, the Patriot Act, SUVs and carseats, public schools, housing segregation and the redistribution of income all in one thread. If anybody wants to post some gentle personal musings on how his or her political views have changed since having children, please go ahead. Otherwise, I think this thread can die a well-deserved death. And I can turn off the comments if it doesn’t.

    Thank you very much.

  56. DK Landrith says:

    Kristine, your list doesn’t include communism, gay marriage, polygamy, Divorce, or McConkie’s New Testament Commentary. Does that mean that all of those are fair game?

  57. Feel free to discuss McConkie’s Commentary, but only if every comment includes page and paragraph citations.

  58. I leave you all for ONE DAY and already the Johns are at each others’ throats, with straw men and the ethics of SUVs being bandied about. Gentlemen, ladies, I expected more from you than these heckneyed arguments — on both sides! Extremist language helps no one’s cause, be they liberal or conservative.

    I agree whole-heartedly with Kristine’s sentiments, and while it’s kind of fun to see threads disintegrate into madness, it’s too bad that John H.’s original topic has yet to be explored.

    Now that I am in Provo, I feel a resurgence of political conservatism surging through my veins…LDS chapels everywhere…I passed a Dutch Oven restaurant on I-15…my rental car is an SUV…! What hope is there for me?

    Peace out, y’all — play nice till I get back.

  59. Steve,

    I commend the Dutch Oven Buffet off the Lehi exit to you. Some months back I took my dear wife there and we are still in awe at the variety of deserts you can extract from a cast iron pot.

    Incidentally, did anyone else get a Dutch Oven for a wedding present? Unfortunately ours still sits in my parent’s basement because we didn’t have room to bring it on the plane along with the microwave.

  60. Speaking of carseats, since becoming a parent I have learned that it is actually rather difficult to install a carseat correctly. It should be in there so snugly that it barely moves. It is simply impossible to get the seat belt or latch system straps tight enough. It needs a winch or something.

  61. JayS,

    North Central Phoenix is still a great area, but the number of LDS families with school age children continues to decline. It is too bad, because the education available here is quite remarkable.

  62. Nate Oman says:

    Steve: At least part of John H.’s original topic was a contrast between his own concern for starving children the heartless conservative concern for driving gas-guzzling Hummers and shopping with a fork-lift. What makes you think that the thread has gotten off topic?

  63. Having children didn’t make me more conservative, but, strangely, after I bought a Dutch oven set I took a sharp swerve to the right…

  64. DK Landrith says:

    Now that we’re back to having a conversation about what we’ve learned from our kids, I think it’s time to repost this.

  65. David H.
    I understand about NCentral phx. I grew up off of 17th ave. between indian school and osborn. My dad grew up at 32nd and Camelback (when it was the boonies). Many of my cousins still live in the East Stake (I have been to the Cheery Lynn building Many MANY times). Before deciding on a job offer here in Vegas we looked at homes in the area.

    Even when i was in Central phoenix it was a unique ward. Big primary, lots of old people.

    But getting back to the post, I think the biggest change is on my patience level. In many things I am more patient and more tolerant of, in other things I am more judgemental of. Basically the whole “wait until you have kids” etc excuse doesn’t hold as much water with me, but I am less likely to critize generally. Thus less breadth to my disdain, but more depth.

    I would say the isolationist/cocoonist philosophy is one of the biggest problems in today’s world. You can’t escape problems with raising kids by running to the suburbs or semi rural area. In vegas many LDS people seem to want to live in Overton or Logandale (rural towns about 1 hour outside) on the 1/2-1 acre lot to get the small town lifestyle. I don’t think it works. Some of my worst mission companions were from small towns (as were some of the best). Also, with the advent of the internet, tv and instant communication, physical distance does not prevent the world from coming in. In some ways it is better to innoculate your children earlier, so that they can see the down sides of negative behaviors. My parents explained to me why the people walking through the parking lot smelled funny, and how alcohol is bad. Alcohol didn’t seem very glamorous in the hand of the wino leaning against the dumpster. Perhaps if all I saw about alcohol was the fun portrayed in the media I would have tried it. Of course this is all supposition, but it forms my personal philosophy.

    Even without this innoculation effect, the supposed benefits of the suburb are reduced when we consider todays society. Just as freeways reduce the distance between us and work downtown, enabling us to live in the suburbs, it reduces the distance between the “good” and “bad” areas of town. While living in Central phoenix, we never had any thefts. Since my parents moved to the suburbs they have had 2 cars stolen, 2 garage thefts, and a robbery. Of course this is only my own personal experience, but I would guess it is not uncommon.

    Moving to the suburb is also thought to prevent the infiltration of drugs, alcohol, and other negative influences. Again, i don’t think discussion is necessary to prove this false. The biggest factor is a strong family and a good group of peers.

    Also as a nod to the Johns, what value do the labels Liberal and Conservative provide? Do they provide a useful shorthand for analyzing arguments? Or do they needless reduce issues to a dualistic choice and blind us from fully evaluating arguments.

    Well that was a wandering post.

    Also re the gas guzzling SUV – lets repeal the special tax exemption for large SUVS or treat the Hummers and such as other trucks are (special licensing, forbidden as overweight on certain roads). I think there was a slate article on that…

  66. Random: “It is simply impossible to get the seat belt or latch system straps tight enough.”

    I learned a pretty cool trick with this if you have you are putting the car seat into an adjustable seat. Just move the chair all the way back, buckle the car seat in, and then move the chair forward. Gets it pretty tight. If the seat doesn’t adjust, I have to get on top of the car seat while I am buckling it in.

    And thank goodness most car manufacturers put in locking seat belts so we don’t have to use that clip thingy anymore. That was a pain.

  67. DK Landrith says:

    At the end of day, it’s just a lot easier to put the kids in the trunk.

  68. I can remember all those trips to Utah riding in the back of the station wagon made into beds… can;t imagine that today

  69. Pheo,

    My method is to bounce up and down on the carset while trying to pull the seatbelt tighter with each bounce. I am sure that it is amusing to people walking by.

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