‘The Righteous Mind’ Seeks To Explain What Divides Us

I have spent much of this year researching poverty while continuing to read politics, especially with regards to why, as a nation we have proven incompetent in solving poverty. Some of these books are academic in nature so I do not review them.

But, I took a break from that subject to ‘get some fresh air’ and one of the books I recently read, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion by Jonathan Haidt is about moral reasoning.

It is a very applicable in the current era.

The book is divided into three sections with a central metaphors for each:

  • The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.
  • The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors
  • We are 90 percent Chimp and 10 Percent Bee

The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.

In this section, Haidt lays the foundation of his argument relying on various academic studies and theories of ‘where morality comes from.’ But he also deals with the concept of disgust and disrespect — giving some very — at least for me — off-putting examples. By doing this, though, he drives home his point, which is:

“People some times have gut feelings — particularly about disgust and disrespect — that can drive their reasoning. Moral reasoning is sometimes a post hoc fabrication.”

He also explains why he comes to reject a common theory that “morality is self-constructed by children on the basis of their experience with harm.”

What I found most interesting in this section is he offers real examples of study participants trying to justify their moral reasoning. In these cases, the participant was intentionally given situations designed to trigger a disgust or disrespect response.

It is in this section, that he drives home the reality that ‘intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second.’

The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors

So, the first section lays the groundwork. It is filled with plenty of theory balanced by real-life comments by individuals forced into moral dumbfounding (where they ‘know’ something is wrong, but cannot ‘justify’ their position). In the second section he explains the five foundations of moral reasoning — that everyone uses. This is also where he begins to explain the divide between conservatives and liberals because of these foundations. They are:

  • Care/harm
  • Fairness/cheating
  • Loyalty/betrayal
  • Authority/subversion
  • Sanctity/degradation

Conservatives and liberals give different ‘weight’ to each of the five foundations. Once you realize this, you can easily see on social media, what ‘triggers’ a person. For example, as a liberal, I put less weight on the authority/subversion foundation which can create an issue on social media when I, for example, post something that ‘demeans’ a person in authority. Conservatives often find this disrespectful. Conversely, when conservatives show a lack of concern, for example, of the children’s fate in the Border Crisis, it can trigger a liberal because of their foundation of care/harm.

We are 90 percent Chimp and 10 Percent Bee

In the final section Haidt ties all his theories together using the chimp and bee as metaphors. The chimp, which studies have shown, does not work cooperatively is paired with the (worker) bee, who abandons all sense of individuality for the good of the hive. It is in this section where he also tackles more of the religious aspect of the book. In one study, he explains, that many of the religious ‘do good’ not so much because of their religious beliefs, but because of their bonding with fellow members — similar to the way combat soldiers don’t fight for the country as much as they fight for each other — due to the bond that has developed.

It is the first book on moral reasoning I have read, and I found it quite intriguing. Now, when I discuss things on social media, I am more interested in why a person reasons the way they do — as opposed to their ‘final decision.’ For me, the book has made it easier to discuss, and/or dismiss, a viewpoint — and to decide who to engage in longer conversations with — and who to move on from because they are engaging in the fallacy of deciding first, justifying later.

Rating 5 out of 5.

Even though this is a ‘deep book’ with lots of theory, studies and quotes from philosophers, it is written in a ‘down-to-earth’ manner. I will warn you — as does the author — some of the passages designed to trigger disgust/disrespect will trigger it. If you are truly interested, though, in why we are so severely divided, this book does offer insight.

I was first introduced to the author’s work when I read The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Truth which is another excellent read.

Categories: My America

When Leaders Lie, And Supporters Embrace It

When you say you follow Jesus but support laws that hurt people Jesus helped – people stop believing you & you hurt Christianity. — Mark Sandlin

Regardless of where one stands on the Border Crisis issue, some facts hold up despite this era of dishonesty. The shift that created the crisis was the ‘Zero Tolerance” policy implemented by Attorney Jeff Sessions in April – a policy that has the earmarkings of Stephen Miller. And, as The Atlantic, reported,

…if the goal were simply to draw voters’ attention to the border, there are plenty of ways to do it that are less controversial (not to mention, less cruel) than ripping young children from the arms of asylum seekers and sticking them in dystopian-looking detention centers. But for Miller, the public outrage and anger elicited by policies like forced family separation are a feature, not a bug. 

As appalling as this tactic is, many Christians failed to stand up and reject the hate. It is reminiscent of the 1950s-1960s Civil Rights movement where, historians noted,

“Simply put, any suggestion that the religion of southern whites aided the civil rights struggle grossly perverts the past. While many evangelicals displayed kindness in their personal dealings with blacks, most also enthusiastically defended a system designed to advantage whites and to correspondingly disadvantage African Americans at every turn.”

(The article is an interesting read as it sheds light on the way evangelicals pervert the teachings of Jesus)

But, Trump, who less than a week earlier stated he could not solve the problem (a lie) — Tweeting CHANGE THE LAW — decided, in fact, he could. So, he signed an Executive Order on June 20, ending the process of separating children from their parents.

Congressman Warren Davidson, a self-professed Christian who represents Ohio’s 8th Congressional District where I live, wrote on Facebook:

“I’m glad the President acted swiftly to resolve the crisis on our southern border today.”

He wrote this, despite knowing that the crisis was, at minimum one or two months old, and also knowing the Trump administration created the situation by implementing the Zero Tolerance tactic.

When Is A Lie, A Lie?

As NPR, reported, calling a statement a lie is a matter of determining intent, which may be splitting hairs, but it does speak to where we have fallen in our political discourse. In the essay for NPR, the writer takes exception to the organization’s definition and concludes,

More important is that the media and the public register a fundamental fact: Top people speaking for the United States aren’t telling us the truth — starting with the president.

Davidson, who held his cards close to his chest concerning his opinion of Trump, when Davidson ran for election in 2016, has proven to be one of the President’s loudest cheerleaders. Recently he posted on Facebook an article about how great the economy is doing (although none of this goodness has trickled down to Preble County), and when I posted an article with an opposing viewpoint, in response to his assertion, a reader immediately denigrated the article because it was from ABC.

So, in response to the man’s denigration, I posted some Preble County stats which demonstrate the economy is not so great here, followed by the same ABC article edited by Fox News. As a former reporter, I knew the article ran across all news agencies because it was not a commentary, it was just a ‘straight up, hard news’ story. Both versions of the article attested to the reality that many are not sharing in the economy’s ‘goodness’.

But, what I found most interesting, is the ignorance concerning information dissemination that exist in parts of the Trump camp — ignorance that politicians are exploiting. Even though small, rural communities are seeing little, to no, improvement as Wall Street rages – because Wall Street and Main Street are two distinctly separate economies — for fans, there is little faith in information outside their echo chamber. And, if these fans live in more affluent regions, that reality is projected onto all of America.

For politicians, as the saying goes — it’s like taking candy from a baby — making spoon feeding ideology to their base child’s play.


Some of the most comical news I read on Facebook this past week came from my local commissioner who seemed giddy with excitement after getting to shake hands with Vice-President Mike Pence. Pence was in Ohio on Friday touting the greatness of the GOP tax cut (and booming economy). On Facebook the Commissioner said:

My mind went immediately to the song choice because “We are the Champions” feels like an odd selection for the homophobic Pence. The man singing the song, Freddie Mercury, was bisexual and married to a man at the time of his death.

It feels like a Southern rock anthem with some subtle racism would have been a better choice.

Categories: 8th congressional district, My America, Preble County, Religion

Separating Children From Parents In Current Border Crisis Needs To End

Politicians love to keep things murky, it makes rallying people to a cause simpler.

It is why in the current Border Crisis there is confusion over who these people are. Are they: illegal immigrants, undocumented workers or asylum seekers? They all get lumped into one big group.

For clarification, these are asylum-seekers. These are families leaving violent regions of the world seeking safety for their children.


Those who know me know I read a lot of history and I recall a story I read about some asylum seekers.

They lived in a region of their country where lawlessness existed. Children as young as 14 and 15 were gunned down in cold blood. Women were raped. Livestock was stolen. Houses were burned. Children was shot dead in front of their parents and parents killed in front of their children.

Some of the atrocities was committed by gangs. Some of it was committed by the local law enforcement community.

The asylum seekers were Alexander and Polly (Hull) Beaty my maternal grandparents of the Civil War era. They left their belongings in northern Tennessee and headed north with their children to save their lives.

But, like many asylum seekers, their story is not a happy one. Three of their sons, and a nephew, were captured by the CSA. One of the men escaped with his life — the other three starved to death in a CSA prisoner-of-war camp. Those men are buried in graves with only a number to identify them. Their parents were never able to properly grieve their deaths.

The current Border Crisis is about parents trying to protect their children, something any decent person would do. The United States is abusing the situation for political aspirations. The kids are human shields in some ill-conceived negotiating tactic by Mr. Trump to fund a border wall (that he promised Mexico would fund).

Call the Department of Justice at 202-353-1555 and demand they end this state-sponsored abuse. Let your elected official know — this is not acceptable.

For Genealogists

  • A more complete telling of the Polly and Alexander story can be found here.
Categories: 8th congressional district, Civil War History, My America