I went shopping yesterday with a friend. Normally, I ride the electric carts or someone pushes me in my wheelchair.  However, my friend and I figured we could get my wheelchair out of my car, but probably not back in.  So I decided to rely on the kindness of the stores.  At Bed, Bath and Beyond, there is no cart to ride on, not even a manually operated wheelchair.  So I toughed it out and trekked through the store leaning on a regular shopping cart.  At the end of a circuit of the store, my knees were killing me.  The next stop was Randall's, who, God bless them, have several electric carts available for shoppers.  Here, the only problem I encountered was other customers.  You see, like many stores now, Randall's had some moveable stands in the aisles.  The problem was that one of them was placed right by the product I was shopping for..  You may also not realize that a  pair of bifocal wearing eyes has to be positioned just so to be able to read the labels on the shelves.  Unfortunately, that position is more or less right in the middle of the aisle.  Between my cart and the freestanding displays, I was blocking traffic..For the first minute or so, I was alone on the aisle, so there was no real problem.  Then along comes a woman with her cart, in a hurry.  She walks up right in front of my cart, purses her lips and stands there, waiting for me to get the hell out of her way.  Now, for my shopping purposes, it would have been better if I could have pulled forward.  No, I had to put down my shopping list and coupons and back the cart up since she was firmly planted in front of me and clearly not in the mood to back up herself.   Once I moved, she sort of flung her hair, huffed and pushed past me, making her displeasure at having to wait on me abundantly clear.  I wanted to wheel around and run my cart up her ass!  OK so she's gone.

I moved back into position and resumed my interrupted shopping task.  The next person comes up along the aisle behind me.  Oddly enough, I didn't see her as soon as she pulled up behind me.  Instead of saying "excuse me"  she must have stood there a bit waiting for me to move out of her way.  Since I was consulting my coupons and the labels on the shelves, I was unaware of her presence until she coughed.  Sort of the disabled shoppers version of having the person in the car behind you honk if you don't jackrabbit forward as soon as s light turns green..  Again, I put down my list and coupons, interrupting my task again and move out of her way.  For the next fifteen minutes, I experience this sort of thing at least a dozen times, including a time that someone had gone around me and was now purusing the shelf in front of me as someone again comes up behind me and eventually loudly clears her throat.  The woman in front of me seems completely oblivious to what is going on, so I turn around in my seat, and smile sweetly and say "I'll be happy to back up and get out of your way, but you will need to back up and give me some room so that I can."  She looked at me like I had just pointed a gun at her and demanded all her money and the groceries in her cart.  I won't even attempt  to describe the incident with the woman on her cell phone.  The point of this is that what would have taken me a maximum of two minutes to do ended up taking over 15, because every woman who came down that aisle clearly expected the disabled person to get out of their way.  Only one woman who came down the aisle was at all polite to me, saying "no no, I was looking at something, you're fine." when I said "Oh, sorry, let me get out of your way."  Strangely enough, the few men who came down the aisle were exceedingly polite.  One of them, as I stretched to reach a product, took it down from the shelf and said "Is this what you were trying to get.?"  On almost every aisle, this scene was repeated.  On the frozen foods aisle, a woman barged up and opened a door that was clearly blocked by my cart, slamming it into my cart while she reaches in through a 2" crack and tries to extricate an item that's wider than 2"!  At least she didn't glare at me.  She didn't even meet my eyes, just stood there, holding on to the selected item, until I moved out of her way.  

One of the advantages of a liberal arts education, is that one learns about the behavior of rats left to breed uncontrollably in a closed cage, and how they react to each other when resources such as food and water become artificially scarce.  My friends, we have become a society of such rats.  I am convinced.  What was scarce during my shopping trip was not food or water, but time.  Everyone is in a hurry, and the weak are just climbed over by the strong.

Of course, it goes beyond my shopping trip last night.  It is in our social policies and practices, where the poor, the poorly educated, the traumatized young, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill are seen as inconveniences and blamed for their situation. While nobody is yet crass enough to say it, the body language and the attitude is clearly that we should just die and get the hell out of the way of the strong.  How dare we hope for financial help.  We should just get jobs and quit feeling sorry for ourselves.  You know what?  I don't feel sorry for myself.  I feel frustrated by people who don't acknowledge reality.  There aren't enough employers willing to make enough concessions, and many of the ones who do make concessions offer inadequate pay as the price for making those concessions.  Why?  Well, there are plenty of healthy rats they can hire!  Healthy rats who will do the jobs of 2-3 rats and take their stress out on....the unhealthy rats like me.  The employers are also in a hurry to get their work done, get their product out on the shelves and sold, under pressure to maximize the benefit for the cost.

When I look out at the wider world, I see the same thing happening in other nations.  I can't help but think it has something to do with the population growth.  If you look at it, Earth is a "closed cage."  Now while I grant that God has the power to suddenly make its surface double in size, He has yet to take any steps in that direction. I am the kind that asks "What does He want of us?  We were commanded to love Him, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be stewards of earth."  I don't think He wants us to be a society, or a world, of rats, scrambling over each other to make sure each of gets "MY ___"  (money, food, water, dream estate, etc).  To me, the real signs of Christian commitment are how one treats the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly, the disabled,, the damaged -- regardless of whether they have served in the military or not., whether they are "just like me," belong to the same political party, race, age group, economic class, etc.  Perhaps it is also time to ask ourselves if God really wants us to breed without limit and overwhelm this earth to the point that we live in a constant state of war over water and food.  Forget oil.  You can live without oil.  Humans did so for thousands of years.  You cannot however,live without clean water to drink, food to eat and air to breathe.  Think about it, and get back to me. And be warned, the next time I go shopping and am treated the way I was yesterday?  I won't get out of your way.  I'll make you wait, because my time is just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I am worth every bit as much as you are -- mobility impairment and little electric cart and all.  I am God's child just as much as you are, and while you may not love me (and I 
 
 
Don't get me wrong.  Politicians from both parties say idiot things.  The reason I'll be talking about Republicans today is that the Republicans are the only party with a Presidential primary this go round, and we are bombarded almost daily with  their idiot comments.  

The first idiot thing I want to mention is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) saying that disabled children are "punishment from God" for earlier abortion(s) by the mother.  First, it's pretty clear that Marshall knows NOTHING about the causes of birth defects and disabilities.  Many birth defects are in fact, GENETIC, caused by an error in the DNA.  Many others, if they are punishment for anything, are the result of drug or alcohol use use during pregnancy or getting the measles!   Down's Syndrome is related to the aging of the parents and the physical decaying of their components of the embryo (egg and sperm).  Some are caused by combinations of things, including lack of proper pre-natal nutrition, and mother 17 or younger.  Still others have not been definitively assigned a cause.

Second, Marshall throws out a statement saying the number of disabled children born subsequent to an earlier abortion has risen "dramatically."  Since what year?  What is his source of data for this allegation?  How does he know the mothers of the disabled children had earlier abortions?  I don't know of any study which has asked motehrs of disabled children if they had earlier abortions nor of a study that follows women who obtain abortions to their next pregnancy to see if that child is disabled.    If such exists, Marshall should be able to provide the source, and indeed, a responsible user of statistical data would supply the source of data for such an allegation.  If there WERE such studies, wouldn't they violate the women's privacy rights?  OK possibly someone has conducted such a study on women WILLING to participate.  The question then becomes how much self-selection warps the data.   What are the odds a woman who doesn't want to tell anyone about her abortion(s) who has a disabled child would participate?  And what are the odds women who had an abortion but don't have disabled children would be included, or participate if they were somehow invited to participate   As it is, it appears that Marshal is either practicing MSU  (Making S..T Up) or he fails to comprehend the basics regarding unbiased research design and statistical analysis, or both.  Why would any voter accept this kind of assertion, give no data to back it up?  Unless they are intellectually or educationally disabled themselves?  (If you suspect you don't understand statistics, or you just don't trust them, please read my "Liars, D***d liars, and Statisticians essay under my The Language of Math page.  If that doesn't help, contact me directly and I'll become a  Statistics Instructor just for you. :)  I did that for years and published in international Statistical journals.  

The second idiot thing I wish to discuss is Rick Santorum's call for higher birth rates and his assertion that cjhildren are our greatest resource and create wealth. Is he attributing the US's post WWII growth with the baby boom?  More babies means more GDP?    Apparently Rick leaps his logic right over the devastated European economies who needed American goods to rebuild, as well as over the shuttered American factories which don't make anything any more.  In Research Methodology, this is called confusion of correlation with causality.  The classic example is the old joke about "100% of people who smoke marijuana drank milk as infants, therefore drinking milk as a baby must CAUSE marijuana use."  Now quit laughing like you just inhaled a doobie! ;)   Just because two things happen in order does not mean one causes the other.  Let's take a look at some US household sizes over time here.  The average US household size has been falling since 1790, even through the Baby Boom.  The Baby Boom was also partially an artifact in changes in the timing of births, caused by the war.  On one hand, you had couples rushing to have a baby before he left, unmarried women giving birth to children conceived when their intendeds left before the couple could get married, and after the war, couples separated for several years rushing to make up for lost time.  Moreover, there may be a causality working in the opposite direction.  The prosperity of post-WWII America, combined with the loss of so many American men in the 18-35 age range (prime childbearing years) may have encouraged couples to have more children than they would have without that prosperity.  The GI bill made it easier to buy a home and go to college.  Jobs, and salaries were plentiful, especially in the eyes of new young parents who had grown up during the Depression when large families often found putting food on the table difficult.  Rick Santorum seems to be unaware that the world has changed: unaware of the unemployment rate compared to those during the Baby Boom, unaware of the falling median income, the larger percentage of families living at or near the poverty level, and the larger number of older Americans who will fall into poverty from being laid off so long that they are now unemployable according to many human resources people.  Those with children are the fortunate ones, as the children may be employed and making enough to help their parents.  If nothing else, they may combine their households, which is happening more and more now.  Those without children may find themselves at the bottom of a deep deep pit from which the only escape is death.  Just who is going to profit from having more children?  Since the Industrial Revolution, when the added hands on the farm weren't a benefit in the city, groups have risen on the economic ladder by having fewer children, not more.    China is perhaps the most extreme example,  with India not far behind.  These are rising economic stars which many economists expect to eclipse the US in the next 25 years.  Both have instituted compulsory birth control policies.  China opted for mandatory abortion if the couple did not use birth control to limit the family size to 1 child.  India opted for encouraging and providing free birth control pills and devices.  Both encourage rigorous education in math and science, for men and women.  Historically, female education has been the single greatest predictor of falling family size and increased household wealth.  I know, I'm not providing the data to back up these statements.  However, I have studied these issues since I took my first demography class in 1972 or 3.  I encourage you to learn to find these statistics.  They are readily available online, easily searchable   using the terms I have used here.  You will find statistics to support what I have said.  You will not find any credible, unbiased design studies to support Santorum, or Marshal.  If you do, I'll eat this post.  I'll also write a blog entry called "Idiot things Bloggers say and do."  Go for it!