The unchangeable mind

Can’t I be upset about Cecil AND X, Y and/or Z?

bike laneI met this guy the other day, and he made me rethink my answer to Jaquandor regarding his recent Ask Roger Anything question about this: “In this age of increasing partisan division, I am finding it harder and harder to even empathize with the ‘other side'”.

There was this rally I attended a week ago about protected bike lanes and a road diet for Madison Avenue in Albany. Lots of people spoke, fortunately very briefly, as it was HOT. Afterward, this one guy apparently approached one of the speakers, expressing his objections.

As I’m riding off, this same guy says to me, “Let me ask you something.” Hey, I’m a librarian, people ask me things all the time. “I asked this other fellow ” well, something about how, if bikes were going 20 miles per hour, and cars were going 30 mph, the accidents would be worse than if bikes rode on the sidewalk and negotiated around pedestrians going 10 mph. Thus, he concluded, bicycles should ride on the sidewalk.

I told him I agreed with the other fellow he talked to. But, because he really wasn’t interested in a discussion, just agreement, I was unable to actually address the fallacies of his argument, 1) that pedestrians would be more vulnerable on the sidewalk, 2) that the bikes WOULDN’T be going 15-20 mph BECAUSE they would be avoiding pedestrians. Or, and I’ve seen this personally, some of the bikers going through pedestrian traffic, just ringing their bells or shouting for pedestrians to get out of their way, which, as a pedestrian, I hate.

One can make legitimate complaints about bike lanes, in terms of costs and priorities. “When I was a kid” is not one of those explanations that I find useful. I also couldn’t get in a mention that there are places within the city of Albany limits without sidewalks.

Then the guy said, “Don’t you people have anything better to do?” Unsurprisingly, this has NEVER a compelling talking point to me, ever, nor its variant, “you must have too much time on your hands.” Did the people who designed this Bach ball thing, or deconstruct dominoes to put on YouTube, or write a blog every day not have other, more noble pursuits to engage in?

This blog post, Outrage and The Theory of The Universal Double Standard, touches on this. Why are you more distressed about the killing of Cecil the lion than about X, or Y, or Z? Wait, can’t I be upset about Cecil AND X, Y and/or Z?

This guy at the rally continues, more animatedly, “What’s wrong with this country? They spend too much time on unimportant stuff, like that environmental crap” and a litany of other things. What? Dealing with the environment’s a waste of time? A statement just too broad to counter.

“Four Marines died the other day, and nobody’s talking about that…” Except for people all over the country, including more than a few who temporarily provided armed protection to military recruiting stations. The false narrative was jaw-dropping to me.

“Meanwhile, a black kid gets killed and everybody…” At this point I rode away, knowing full well that he believes he’s “won” the argument, whatever that means. And I don’t care.

I got lectured on my Times Union blog about the Socratic method, which I’m not opposed to. But this conversation was not that.

Related: I continue to be fascinated by the means people use to gather news. Recently, someone on Facebook posted something about Sandra Bland, the Chicago-area woman who died in police custody, purportedly by suicide, after an unpleasant encounter with a police officer at a traffic stop. “Did anyone know about this?” Only for the last five days. “I didn’t read anything about it on the Internet.” This librarian doesn’t think “the Internet” is a source, only a conveyance. In any case, the story was on NBC, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, USA Today, etc., including on their online platforms. The story was by no means buried.

That’s not the first time I’ve seen that phenomenon, and it’s often couched in terms of the press “suppressing” the story. I’m perfectly aware of underreported stories, and one should kvetch about that fact when it’s actually true.

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