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Vote for the Luckiest

Back when I was in graduate school, I was an RA for the book Reading Bernard Williams. During that time, I edited a paper by Martha Nussbaum called “The Women of Trachis.” In that paper, Nussbaum discusses political luck. She notes that there’s luck and then there’s luck. What she means by that is that there are some things out of our control and some things within our control when it comes to politics and our well-being. Some things, like (currently) whether one gets certain cancers, is out of one’s control. Other things, like how much women get paid versus how much men get paid, are within our control. Nussbaum implies that the goal of politics is to maximize good outcomes as much as we can.

Given all this, I have advice for those in the United States who have not voted yet: Vote for the luckiest.

Don’t vote based on looks, personality, or the rumored character of a candidate’s supporters. Instead, look at each candidate’s policies and make your choice based on who is more likely to get good outcomes for Americans. This, following Nussbaum, is the goal of politics.

Currently, there are many things the government can do and can do better, in all likelihood, than the market. Think about affordable housing, the minimum wage or health care.

Cast your vote based on who would produce the best outcomes for Americans.

Should We Be Mad at Elizabeth Warren?

Today, there was some news cycling in Indian Country. A group of over 200 Native Americans demanded Elizabeth Warren come out and say is not and never has been Native American.

This story keeps popping up, so I thought I’d address it. I think, if Elizabeth Warren comes out and says anything, it should be to clarify who and what a Native American is.

Unlike other so-called racial categories, being Native American–or, rather, being Cherokee or Choctaw–is a political affiliation. When you are Cherokee, you are a citizen (member) of a Cherokee tribal nation. This is different than being a racial group. Tribal nations have political sovereignty and citizens enjoy the rights and responsibilities of belonging to a particular nation.

When I queried a Native person I know about whether he was mad at Warren, he said, “No. Do you get mad when people claim to be white?” I said I didn’t, but I might think they are mistaken.

To my friend, getting mad or upset about such things seemed like a waste of time and energy.

Warren can address these issues by clearing up not only the fact that she is not a tribal citizen but also defining what it means to be Native American to a large audience. This way, she can clarify these things to people, many of whom also think, as the saying goes, that they have a Cherokee great-great-grandmother, which makes them Cherokee.

If Warren is the nominee, I will vote for her. As a white person, I know all too well the urge, especially for some and particularly in the recent past, to say one is Native American. Everyone seems to have a Cherokee great-great-grandmother. But I am not pissed off at Warren. I just think she’s mistaken. She should take this opportunity to clarify things to the masses. There’s too much misinformation about Native Americans as it is.

Politics from a Distance

This election season is the first time in a while when I have no personal contact with the people running for president.

I have seen Bill Clinton talk in Daytona Beach. When Hillary was running, I told the story of how, when she came to Tallahassee as First Lady for Children’s Week, I hiked up my ankle-length dress, climbed over rows of chairs, and shook her hand. I have also met with Jeb Bush when he was running for governor of Florida.

But this time, I have no personal relationship in any way to any of the politicians. I have not seen any of them speak in person, have not taken a selfie, or shaken their hand.

From my standpoint, this is a good thing. For me, at least, politics from a distance make me a little more sober and objective. When I’ve had a personal connection with a candidate, my views have been tainted by how I was treated by them or how they reacted to me. With politics from a distance, I have none of that.

I am enjoying this cycle much more than others, too, and am able to absorb more policy information rather than personal character impressions. This is a good thing.

The Thing About Boomers

Tonight, I got to thinking: What is it about Baby Boomers?

This is not a generational debate. I’m not anti-boomer. Instead, I wanted to think about how we ended up in the mess we are in. How did anyone ever believe in trickle down economics? How did racial injustice keep going well into 2020?

I posit that, were it not for COINTELPRO, we’d be living in a nation much like the one Bernie Sanders wants. I posted as much on Twitter:

Bernie’s America is exactly where we would be if COINTELPRO never happened. @JennieLLawson

You can’t look me straight in the eye and tell me that COINTELPRO didn’t work. It worked very well, in fact. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be prone to the very same way of thinking if you were subjected to so much misinformation about the left.

As a former student of psychology, I know not to discount these things about myself. We are all prone to biases in our thinking. That’s a basic fact. Weeding them out, as much as possible, is another issue altogether.

If you are a boomer reading this, be gentle with yourself. But ask yourself, too, if COINTELPRO worked on you. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably answer in the affirmative.

For the rest of us, we can learn to be kinder to boomers, knowing we’d probably be the same way, with the same voting and policy habits, if we were subjected to mass disinformation.

On the Cusp of a Dream

I just finished watching the Democratic Debate in South Carolina and I feel like I’m on the cusp of a dream.

Think about it: What would you do if public colleges were tuition free? What would you do if we had healthcare for all Americans? What would you do if your student loan was wiped away? What would you do, in other words, if Bernie Sanders were president?

These are dreams I have been waiting for. I have grandchildren now and I think about the kind of world I want them to grow up in.

I want a world with racial justice. I want a world where governments work together on climate change.

I want to live in Bernie Sanders’ America.

Let Andrew Yang Go.

There’s still some stragglers who are adamantly voting for Andrew Yang even though he dropped out of the Democratic primary.

I’m here to tell you: Just let him go.

I like Andrew Yang. Quite a bit. But he just isn’t ready to be president. His major line was for UBI, which he called a Freedom Dividend.

I’m for UBI and have said as much for several years.

But Yang didn’t answer all the policy questions people have. Would the Freedom Dividend stack with other benefits or not? What would Yang do with SSI and SSDI? Did he even have a disability policy?

These are granular issues that people need to know.

UBI could be great, but it doesn’t solve everything.

In the end, Yang was a one pony show. It’s time to let him go.

Should People with “Intractable” Mental Illness be Able to End Their Own Life?

I’m not one for Twitter wars. However, mental health columnist Andre Picard tweeted an article about assisted suicide for people with “intractable” mental illnesses. You can read the article for yourself, but I had a few things I wanted to say about this.

First, I think advocating for assisted suicide in general, including for people with mental illness, entirely gives up on finding proper cures and treatments. One of the goals, we might think, of medical research is to find treatments and cures. The goal is not to give up because something is currently deemed “intractable.”

Second, I can think of very few cases in which a person meets the competency requirements, has an intractable mental illness, and chooses to die. In other words, most people, when competent and sane, want to live. It would be exceedingly rare to find people in reality who meet all the requirements. Why make it an issue, then? If a minuscule number of people meet the requirements and want to die, why give the issue much traction at all? Why write Op-Eds about it?

There are many people with mental illness who struggle with suicidal ideation as it is. Why feed that? The goal is to get these people better, not end their lives.

In the end, I do not support assisted suicide for people with intractable mental illness. I support finding treatments and cures.

Schizophrenia and Self-Love

Tonight, I was talking with a friend of mine. We are very different, but I’m at ease with that.

There was a point at which time this friend wanted me to be more like them.

I couldn’t do it. And when I tried, I ended up doing stupid things.

But tonight, when our differences came up, I simply concluded, “To each their own.”

I’ve been feeling a sense of peace recently. Peace with who I am. It’s not tied to my achievements, status, wealth–or anything external. It’s a peace with myself for who I am.

You wouldn’t necessarily think a person who has experienced what I have experienced would love themselves. After all, I’m poor, didn’t finish my MA degree, have schizophrenia, and am lacking in a bunch of areas most American adults think are required (for example, I don’t own a car right now).

This feeling of peace is a long time coming.

I’ve had a hard road. It has been incredibly tough. Yet, I sit here at peace with myself.

I think back, a couple of years ago, when my counselor wanted me to have self-love and joy, which she differentiated from mere and fleeting happiness.

I have finally come to those places in my life.

It’s an awesome feeling of calm to actually, finally, love yourself. And, to me, at least, it makes the fleeting things of the world–the things most people spend so much time and energy chasing–fall away.

If you have schizophrenia, some other mental illness, or are perfectly healthy, I wish self-love for you. I honestly think the world would be a much better place.

In Defense of Florida’s Baker Act

Florida’s mental health law–the Baker Act–was in the news recently, when a 6 year old girl was forcibly hospitalized after an incident at school.

Although this case is odd, I think there are some redeeming things about the Baker Act.

I speak from experience. I have been involuntarily hospitalized over 10 times in Florida. I have, many, many times, hated the Baker Act.

But–here and now–I sit typing after having been in recovery for about a year. I wouldn’t have gotten the wonderful medication I am on if it wasn’t for the Baker Act.

At no time were my rights taken away. At no time was I recommended for long-term inpatient stays. At no time, in 10 years of battling schizophrenia, did doctors give up on me.

Instead, doctors tried medication after medication, hoping each time this would be the one for me.

It’s true. I hate going to the hospital. It has often felt like a violation of my rights. But every time I went inpatient, I was in an emergency crisis and really needed help.

It’s better than the alternative, too, which is jail. When we throw people with mental illness in jail, no one wins. I’d much rather be appropriately seen as having an illness that needs treatment and go to the hospital.

Psychiatry is not the enemy. Neither, when properly executed, is the Baker Act.