Archive for January, 2006

Here’s Some Controversy For You

January 31, 2006

Check out this Washington Post article from yesterday (I think you have to register, but it’s free). It’s about social psychologists who study bias, and the findings of a new study that purports to show that biases influence political views.

Whew, doggie.

I encountered this topic and researched it in more detail than the average bear last summer when I was preparing to second-chair a deposition of an expert witness for a company my law firm is suing. It’s a race-discrimination case involving claims about compensation and promotions. The thing about all employment discrimination cases these days is that they’re murky. There are no blanket exclusion policies anymore, and there usually are no smoking guns (i.e., written documentation that a person was fired, not promoted, or not hired because of a forbidden characteristic like race or sex). So we rely on social scientists who analyze the “social framework” of a workplace and elucidate how discrimination can come into play, often because of what we call “excessive discretion” and “subjective decisionmaking.” This is necessarily overly simplified, but suffice it to say that discrimination is largely unacknowledged and even unconscious on the part of decisionmakers.

Dr. Philip Tetlock, a professor at the Haas Business School at Berkeley, was hired as the expert for the other side in this case. He has made part of his career (he’s too prolific for me to say all) out of trying to maintain the classical definition of prejudice — hatred, malice, conscious bias — and arguing against fellow social psychologists who have done extensive work on how the nature of racial prejudice has changed in the late 20th century because the public mores about acceptable levels of prejudice have changed. Tetlock particularly hates the test discussed in this article — the Implicit Association Test — for various reasons too complicated to delve into here. And he even more particularly hates the proposition, which the test purports to show here, that, not to put too fine a point on it, Republicans are more likely to be racists than Democrats.

I’m agnostic on the scientific merit of the Implicit Association Test and on what the relationship is between racial prejudice and being a Republican. I’m interested to hear others’ thoughts on this issue. Go forth and engage!

Moving Forward

January 31, 2006

Some of you may remember that there was an unpleasant incident on this blog a little over a month ago that I unfortunately and unwittingly caused. I shared my story of having had an abortion a few years ago, and one of the responses on the comment board completely sent me over the edge. In retrospect, I probably overreacted slightly, although the response in question was harsh and unkind. But at the time I also thought that my reaction (my e-mail to Al) would be private – i.e., that only my husband, close friends, and Al would know about it. I’m not upset with Al for making it public, necessarily, just pointing out that I didn’t expect that.

Time has passed, I kept posting, but now no one will engage anything I write, probably for fear that I will sic Al on them again. (smiley face) Or maybe no one finds my stuff engaging, who knows. But I wanted to just say that I hope people take something from my rambles, and should feel free to challenge me or ask questions. I’ve tried to be present on the comment boards to facilitate that, and I have been impressed with the respectfulness of the conversations I have been part of. The internet, unfortunately, often frees people to say things that they wouldn’t say to someone face to face. I mostly see that in other forums and only occasionally here. But I recognize the difference between reasoned debate and personal attack, and I have no problem engaging in reasoned debate.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way … I will try to get another post up today or tomorrow.

Picture of the Week

January 28, 2006

A pelican at Inner Harbor Park in Ocean Springs yesterday afternoon.

First day on the job

January 26, 2006

What follows passed my desk yesterday. I’m often handed things for mass distribution and usually my toughest job is making any one care about the administrivia we’re touting.

Not this time.

I don’t know the fellow’s name that penned the narrative below. I feel comfortable sharing it here since it was intended for public dissemination.

I’m not sure if fits the mold of Thursday’s intended topic — inspiration, but it was written by a Chaplain. However, there’s not much religion … just one person’s reality.
Friday, January 20, 2006

Just 14 hours after my arrival at Kirkuk Regional Air Base in Iraq, I was awakened and startled to hear the rapid bursts of 50 caliber machine guns. It was 0430 and pitch black in my pod and I laid awake, suddenly realizing the gravity of the situation I had been thrust into.

A few hours later, I was grateful to discover that the gunfire I heard was the sound of soldiers going out on patrol testing their weapons. Serving at a Forward Operating Base alongside the 101st Airborne would definitely be a stretching experience for me, but I was relieved to know that our perimeter had not been attacked that morning. My relief was short-lived. A few minutes later a call broke out on the radio indicating that there were casualties inbound. Chaplain Mark Barnes, Chaplain Bob Gallagher, TSgt Trish Winters and I rushed over to the Expeditionary Medical Squadron just in time to witness SSgt Bill Spencer, one of our chaplain assistants, helping transport two patients off the UH-60 medevac chopper.

As I watched the scene reminiscent of the television show, MASH, the adrenaline flowed and prayers for stamina and courage screamed upward as I entered the emergency room and stood by as our valiant medical professionals attempted to save the soldier’s lives. They were partially successful. One lived, one did not. The deceased soldier’s right leg had been blown off and the blood spilled generously onto the starkly white emergency room floor. They tried for what seemed like an eternity to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful. Just 10 months earlier, the USAF sent me to Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, for a Professional Continuing Education designed to expose students to “Crisis and Trauma.” I honestly believe that if I had not had that training, I would have been totally unprepared for the graphic nature of what I was witnessing. But God, in his providence, knew that I would need His strength and all the training I could get for what lie ahead.

The mood was somber as the doctor pronounced the soldier dead and medical technicians placed him in a black body bag. Chaplain Mark Barnes, a familiar face around the medical tent, was flying to Qatar next day after over 130 days of phenomenal ministry at Kirkuk. He confidently stepped forward and offered a prayer for the victim, his family and the troops he served with. He demonstrated a confidence I didn’t feel, and inspired me to put my feelings of discomfort aside and to focus on the patient and the staff. Little did I know that I would need that level of confidence just a few minutes later.

A rumor that there was a third victim was whispered around the emergency room tent, but we quickly discovered that it was tragically false—there were three other victims—all three “KIA.” As details emerged, we discovered that they had been blown up by an Improvised Explosive device (IED). I joined a seasoned captain and a young lieutenant from the mortuary affairs team and we drove over to the mortuary together.

Like many of the bases in Iraq, Kirkuk had served Saddam Hussein’s air force before we took over, and remnants of his influence pervade the base. The mortuary was a tiny stone building with two-toned paint peeling off the walls, naked lights hanging from exposed wiring and a variety of stainless steel carts lining the walls. As I arrived I quickly met the senior installation Army chaplain, Ch, Major Scott, and we walked in together. We stood and watched as eventually four bodies were carried in. I saw images too awful to describe that afternoon as soldiers and Airmen removed the personal effects from their fallen comrades. A family picture with a young wife and child, blood soaked dollar bills, ID cards, “dog tags” and pocket knives were removed and placed in clear plastic bags. Each soldier had to be positively identified by a member of his unit and one young identifying soldier took one look at the body and stormed out of the morgue with tears and rage in his eyes. Chaplain Scott hurried out the door after him, obviously delivering crucial ministry in a time of desperate need—precisely what chaplains are called to do…

As they finalized the preparations of the first body, I placed my hand on the body bag and prayed over him in the presence of the joint mortuary affairs team. I thanked God for the soldier’s faithful service and prayed that God would grant divine peace and comfort to his family as they soon heard the dreaded knock on their door from a US Army Casualty Notification Team. While serving in Washington DC, 6,085 miles from Kirkuk, I ministered at the Army’s national casualty notification center in Crystal City, Virginia, and remember my heart sinking as I looked at long tables filled with neatly stacked manila folders bearing the names of soldiers who had perished. The notification center had probably already received the call about this incident and would soon dispatch teams to the soldier’s homes. Those same heart-sinking feelings were coming back to me now with a vengeance…

As I concluded my prayer with a plea that the soldier would rest in peace, “Amen’s” echoed through the small room and the body was lifted onto a cart. Within 24 hours, it would leave Kirkuk and would be transported to Kuwait, then Germany, on to Dover AFB, Delaware, and finally home to meet a grieving family.

When it was all over, the entire mortuary affairs team walked somberly across the street to a run-down building identified by the Army now as the “Bastogne Chapel.” Chaplain Scott and I informally debriefed the team and told them what sort of psychological, emotional and spiritual reactions they might expect in response to what they had just witnessed. The brigade surgeon, Doc Henry, shared about the physiological dynamics of stress and then talked about his own feelings following the incident. His openness encouraged a few more comments from the team and then we shared a moment of silence and prayer together.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had been on the ground in Iraq less than 24 hours. What did God have in store for me this tour of duty? What would the ministry of a chaplain look like in a combat environment? I can’t explain it, but I know now that the power of the “ministry of presence” in times of combat crisis is phenomenal. This is what the chaplaincy is all about and I am honored to play a tiny role in this heroic institution.

At 0315 the next morning I watched a blacked-out C-130 Hercules from Pope AFB taxi and park in preparation for a 45 minute “Ramp Ceremony.” Over 400 Airmen and Soldiers stood facing each other in formation and saluted as four flag-draped body transport cases were loaded onto the plane in before their eyes. As the C-130 lifted into the night sky, our prayers were lifted with the brave men who paid the ultimate price today while securing freedom for a people halfway around the world. And, mercifully, our first 24 hour duty day ended. May God guard and guide us all as we serve here and may God bless “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Coming Soon

January 25, 2006

The thing I love most about life in the academy, other than teaching, is the breaks. Contrary to what most people think, most professors actually work during the break. I happen to be one of the ones who enjoys the work I do during breaks, which is read. And I love it that I get to go home and have my reading interrupted by my nephews. I successfully taught them to tell everyone that “Michael is Handsome.” They added “and burpy” to the end of it at some point, which makes it even better. Joshy, the 4 year old, is apparently worried about my not being married, which led to a few interesting conversations. Finally we decided that he would marry Elastigirl from The Incredibles and I would marry Syndrom’s helper, whose name I can’t remember, but the platinum blonde girl. That seemed to settle his worried mind. So, I read quite a bit, but I didn’t finish much. I started five or six books and finished only one. It’s hard to read after playing construction all morning.

But here’s some of what I’ve been reading and will try to review soon.

John Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. I bought it last summer but just got around to reading it, and I might try to do a proper review of this at some point. The skinny of it is that an encrypted copy of a novel written by Lord Byron was discovered and un-encrypted. It had been encrypted by Byron’s daughter, a daughter he had never seen and who had been raised (or reared, to be grammatically correct) to hate her father. The novel is discovered by a young woman in the 21st century who had also been raised to hate a father she never saw. Crowley is an amazing writer. He is able to write distinct voices in astonishingly well. In this novel, he writes in the voice of Byron, Byron’s daughter, and then a few modern characters. Crowley does a great job of creating Byron’s novel. That part of the book is great. The surrounding story (the modern one) is less interesting. This is a slow reading book, and it’s not Crowley’s best (Little, Big is a classic), but it’s worth browsing through in the bookstore.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods: This is a very popular novel. My students even read it without someone telling them to. I’ve been itching to read Gaiman’s work. But I was very much let down. It’s a book of cliched conversations. The story is interesting, and if I review this book later, I’ll focus on that, but the dialogue is horrible. And the characters are cliches as well.

Bill Flanagan’s U2: At the End of the World: For U2 fans, I’d say this is a must read. It chronicles their lives during the recording of Achtung, Baby, which is my favorite album of theirs, and then the tour that follows. There is a lot of insight into the creativity of the band, but there is also a lot of insight into the intelligence of the band. This is a band that does their homework in literature, music, politics, art. They aren’t just some guys who happen to play good music. It’s also just a fun read for people who have dreamed of being a rock star.

Jack Finney’s Time and Again: Buy this book. This book was written in the early 70s. I have no idea why I picked it up, but it is incredible. I will do a review of it soon, so I’ll just say that Finney is an incredible writer. He’s easily accessible (talks about Einstein’s theories in a way that I’m pretty sure anyone could understand) and the story is great. It’s a book about time travel, but in a way that is completely different than other treatments of time travel — no machines involved at all.

Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo: I somehow managed to go through my graduate studies without reading this book. It is an absolute page-turner. Of course, there are 1400 pages to turn. I’m a third of the way through it and it makes me stay up late and get up early just to read more of it. Of all of the “classics” I’ve read, this is probably the one I’d recommend to people who don’t like to read.

Dan Chaon’s You Remind Me of Me: Chaon is a very good writer. This is a story of several “white trash” people and the ways some of them try to break the cycle of poverty and the ways others try to find ways to be content with their lives. So far, it’s good stuff.

I am just SHOCKED…

January 23, 2006

that President Bush took a picture with someone at a White House event.

It’s scandalous I tell you. Bush should have just turned his back upon being placed face-to-face with such a nefarious character as disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. These photos demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that a close personal relationship between the two must have existed, and that the President must have been privy to Abramoff’s illegal dealings.

Of course that’s how Bush opponents are spinning the situation now that TIME magazine claims to have proof that Bush and Abramoff have been within 5 feet of each other.

The article is disingenuous at best, and more likely intentionally misleading. The first three paragraphs read like a major expose, while the rest of the article goes on to explain how the Bush/Abramoff relationship really raises no red flags. It’s just another “gotcha” piece in a never-ending string.

I doubt that Bush will get much as much of a pass on these photos as the Clinton Administration got on these.

Uppity Cultural Prudes Unite!

January 23, 2006

[Hi all — I’m publishing a day early because I have jury duty tomorrow and will be nowhere near a computer.]

One of the more effective conservative tricks of the last couple of decades is the accusation that progressives are in bed with Hollywood and the purveyors of popular culture – the movies, television shows, music, and video games whose graphic violence, profanity, and explicit depictions of sexuality are causing the moral decline of our nation. It is probably fair to say that almost anyone who is a parent is concerned about the quality of the entertainment her children consume. And it is unquestionably true that a lot of what’s out there is negative and potentially harmful. But is it true that progressives, and “liberalism” in general, are to blame for the race to the bottom in popular entertainment? Or, alternately, that progressives don’t care about the harm that this stuff may cause?

In my view, it’s no on both counts, the second a bit more qualified than the first. This is an issue that crosses party lines, and on which trying to divine a person’s position based on how they vote is imprecise at best.

Progressivism as I know and understand it could not possibly be responsible for the rise of trash culture, which is so bound up in backlash against feminism that it’s impossible to mistake it for being left-anything. (Exhibit A: Howard Stern; Exhibit B: The Man Show; Exhibit C: Maxim, FHM, Stuff, and the fifteen other soft-core porn magazines competing for the 15- to 30-year-old male market). No, if anything, the rise of raunch is driven by the love of money, and the protection of the right to make money, above all else. This is a value that I associate with the right. The desire to objectify and dehumanize women is certainly not at all progressive. Reality tv, as I read it, promotes competition over cooperation and takes pleasure in publicly humiliating people. This is antithetical to the values that I hold as a progressive. These are just a few examples of the ways in which toxic culture does not scream “Liberal!” to me.

But the way in which the left (and I use the term advisedly, as there is no left to speak of in the United States outside of universities and the Bay Area) has screwed this up royally is to equate speaking out against bad entertainment with censorship. For example, I am mostly horrified by pornography – and even more horrified by the fact that men who consume it daily walk by me on the street each day. That the stuff must contribute to misogyny and general moral rot cannot be any clearer to me (see Pamela Paul’s recent book Pornified for reflections from real men about how porn affects them – it was eye-opening reading). But when I have asked friends on the left about their views on it, all most will say is, “I don’t believe it should be censored.” End of story. And these are people who, mostly, would never consume pornography themselves! But they have bought the pornographers’ lie that saying something is morally wrong is tantamount to saying it should be subject to prior restraint, that those two things cannot be separate questions. This fear of (right-wing) government intervention has caused the left to be silent on a lot of things about which it might have something to say.

On the other hand, I can’t say that the fears of government intervention are wholly ungrounded – and I lay the blame largely at the feet of the right for dumbing down political debate to the point at which any view that takes more than 30 seconds to voice goes unheard, and distorting it so that any word can be twisted, taken out of context, and used to slander its utterer with no regard for honesty, integrity, or the principles of fair dealing. (That some Democrats have started to emulate this technique does not make it right, nor change the fact that it originated in its current form in the Republican party). So some on the left have felt that they had no choice but to say, “no censorship,” because what they might like to say is too nuanced for much of the public to be able to understand. Or that it might be called “inconsistent,” or, God forbid, “flip-flopping.” Which is not to say that there are not those who call themselves Democrats who could care less about, or even embrace, the coarser aspects of our culture. This has been facilitated by Democrats’ waltz to the center on economic issues, allowing libertarians to feel at home in the party. These folks are not progressives in my view. Which is why it is impossible to pigeonhole people on this issue by party affiliation or self-proclaimed place on the political spectrum. I can’t count on people who otherwise generally agree with me politically to agree on this issue, and the Religious Right can’t count on much of their party to feel exercised enough about it to do anything concrete.

Another thought: this issue is a divide between people who have kids and people who don’t. It’s easier to filter the bad stuff out or understand it on a sophisticated level when you have more years of life experience and education behind you. But kids are more prone to take entertainment literally, and therein lies the problem. Some people would say that parents should exercise more control over the entertainment their children consume. That’s an admirable goal, but difficult to achieve when both parents work 50 hours a week and children go to school, where they learn of things from friends with more permissive parents. Short of not having cable and never allowing your child to visit friends’ houses without having done a full background check on the parents first (which I have considered!), it’s almost impossible to totally shelter your child from toxic entertainment. Parents understandably want some help with this. People who don’t have children, or whose children are now grown, often display little sympathy for their plight.

In short, this is only a “left” and “right” issue in a very attenuated sense of those words. The popular understanding of the divide is not really accurate, but persists. On the left: the First Amendment is a good and important thing, and free speech is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. On the right: filth purveyors are filling our children’s heads with immoral ideas and poor values. Both of these things are true. Both of these things are believed by a majority of people on both sides. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

A Photo For the Week

January 21, 2006

A picture taken on Front Beach of Ocean Springs back in October of 2003 with the sun setting over the old Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge – back when it was able to be used!

A Word From Dr. King

January 19, 2006

On a blog day set aside for “inspiration,” and in a week set aside to remember him, I thought I’d give some time to Dr. King. It’s a little long compared to normal blog entries, but if you’ll imagine his voice, it will fly by just as it would if he were right here with us. I’ll just post this speech and let us all – including me – post any thoughts on the comment board.

Martin Luther King’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
December 10, 1964
Oslo, Norway

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award in behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeing to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation.

I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.

If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama, to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity.

This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a superhighway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

“And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.”

I still believe that we shall overcome.

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.
Every time I take a flight I am always mindful of the man people who make a successful journey possible — the known pilots and the unknown ground crew.

So you honor the dedicated pilots of our struggle who have sat at the controls as the freedom movement soared into orbit. You honor, once again, Chief (Albert) Luthuli of South Africa, whose struggles with and for his people, are still met with the most brutal expression of man’s inhumanity to man.

You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth.

Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live — men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization — because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners — all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty — and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.


A Response to Linda Hirshman on SAHP

January 17, 2006

Are You In, or Out?
by Judith Warner

Linda Hirshman had a very thought-provoking article in The American Prospect last month on the phenomenon of wealthy, highly educated and once-ambitious women of the post-baby-boom generation leaving work to stay home with their kids.

Hirshman argues that the “failure” of 1970’s feminism wasn’t that it was too radical and ended up alienating younger women, who reacted by embracing the traditional sex roles their elders had rejected, but that it wasn’t radical enough. Over the decades, she says, feminism left the basic gender patterns of the nuclear family untouched, and when it began to pander to the clichés of mainstream society by subsuming all larger goals to the easily palatable idea of preserving women’s “choices” (wherever those choices might lead them), it completely lost its revolutionary potential — and women have been left holding the bag.

That’s a thumbnail simplification of an intellectually complex argument, but I want to get quickly to the point at which I will add my two cents to the debate, which has, since the article’s publication, been kept alive by David Brooks , Judith Stadtman Tucker and others.

Hirshman is ideologically opposed to stay-at-home motherhood. The crux of her argument is as follows:

The family — with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks — is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”

My problem with this is that not all women — or men — are the same.

Some women — and men — find “repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks” mind-numbing and stultifying; some don’t. Some thrive on the competitive effervescence of the marketplace; some feel crushed by it. Many, in fact, now feel exhausted and, perhaps, dehumanized by the increasingly crushing, competitive and nonstop demanding marketplace of the turn of the 21st century, where Americans work the longest hours of any people in the industrialized world yet have less and less job security, shrinking benefits and essentially stagnant wages.

Given the nature of work today, I don’t think it’s all that surprising that women who don’t take any particular pleasure in their work or have a particular sense of a professional calling or a particular need to make money should choose to opt out. I think that many men in similar circumstances would love to do the same thing. In fact, the very real phenomenon of men resenting their wives for choosing to stay home has, to date, been consistently underreported.

Work stinks for most people. Given the financial opportunity to Opt Out, a great many men and women alike, particularly those outside the upper middle class, would gladly do so.

The sociologist Philip Slater once put in a very funny way what I’m trying more flat-footedly to say here. This is from his 1970 book “The Pursuit of Loneliness: American Culture at the Breaking Point’’:

Many people would object that most women don’t want careers. I suspect that women themselves would agree, but I also wonder if deep inside they don’t feel the kind of puzzled uneasiness that we always experience when obliged to accept a formulation that makes us lose either way … When we say ‘’career’’ it connotes a demanding, rigorous, preordained life pattern, to whose goals everything else is ruthlessly subordinated — everything pleasurable, human, emotional, bodily, frivolous … Thus when a man asks a woman if she wants a career, it is intimidating. He is saying, are you willing to suppress half of your being as I am, neglect your family as I do, exploit personal relationships as I do, renounce all personal spontaneity as I do? Naturally, she shudders a bit and shuffles back to the broom closet. She even feels a little sorry for him, and bewails the unkind fate that has forced him against his will to become such a despicable person …

A more effective (revolutionary, confronting) response would be to admit that a “career,” thus defined, is indeed undesirable — that (now that you mention it) it seems like a pernicious activity for any human being to engage in, and should be eschewed by both men and women.

This quotation basically sums up the attitude that both my husband and I have to work — which, as you might imagine, has led to a certain amount of tension over the years. (Health insurance must be secured, and, by God, it isn’t going to be by me.)

It’s my belief that, with the exception of people with extreme Type A sensibilities, “full human flourishing” requires a certain kind of slowness in life, a certain kind of stillness, a great degree of relaxation, time for reflection and, at the risk of sounding downright nauseating, for meaningful human connection. Those things, however, are now a luxury for most people, given the nature of life and work in our time.

Whether Opting Out is ultimately good for women in the long term (after all, Divorce Happens) or good for their sons and daughters or good for the gender is another matter entirely. Hirshman’s article is primarily focused on the latter concern. My concern here is more purely human.