bear - ingn.1 the manner in which one comports oneself; 2 the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit; 3 a machine part in which another part turns [a journal ~]; 4pl. comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation; 5 the act of moving while supporting the weight of something [the ~ of the cross].
Said architect Antonio Gaudí about his life's work. National Geographic this month has a pretty good article about an interesting (and I think, beautiful) building, well over a hundred years in the making: Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona.
In 1883 Gaudí inherited the Sagrada Família from another architect, who had laid a traditional neo-Gothic base. Gaudí envisioned a soaring visual narrative of Christ's life, but knew that the massive project could not be completed in his lifetime. For more than 12 years prior to his death in 1926—he spent his last year living at the site—he rendered his plans as geometric three-dimensional models rather than as conventional drawings. Though many were destroyed by vandals during the Spanish Civil War, those models have been vital to Gaudí's successors.
"They contain the entire building's structural DNA," explains Mark Burry, an Australia-based architect who has worked on the Sagrada Família for 31 years, using drawings and computer technology to help translate Gaudí's designs for today's craftsmen. "You can extract the architectural whole even from fragments. The models are how Gaudí met the architect's challenge: taking a complex, holistic idea and explicating it so others can understand and continue it after your death."
I can see why the style is polarizing, why many people don't like it. (Gaudí's style superficially resembles flamboyant Gothic, in my opinion, while taking inspiration from natural forms.) But unlike the pared-down modernism that's so common in recent church building, the style (though new) strikes me as recognizably, richly, traditionally Catholic. And I love the story of how it's being built so slowly, the job passed on from generation to generation, much like the cathedrals of old.
Last week I wrote a post in which I suggested I was going to explore further the nature of the obligation that Catholics have to "vote pro-life." Assuming that we do have such an obligation, what does that mean? Let's review:
Some think the obligation is only that we cannot prefer the pro-choice position. We may (reluctantly) vote for Pro-Choice Charlie over Pro-Life Louie if Charlie has a better stance on other issues and if we think those issues are more important. This is the answer which, if correct, restricts our voting behavior the least.
Others say, no, we are obligated to consider life issues as most important, and we may not vote for any pro-choice candidates over any viable pro-life candidates: if Pro-Choice Charlie runs against Pro-Life Louie, we may not vote for Charlie. However, if there are no pro-life candidates who have a chance of winning -- if we have to choose between Pro-Choice Charlie and Pro-Choice Chester -- we may vote for Charlie if his stance on other issues is better. This form of the negative obligation would be a bit more restrictive than the first.
A third interpretation would be that we commit actual sin if we cast a vote for any supporter of legal abortion at all. If there are no viable pro-life candidates, the only moral choice is to withhold our vote or "throw it away" on a non-viable pro-life candidate. If Charlie is on the ballot running against Chester, then we are stuck with writing in Louie or else not voting. This negative obligation is still more restrictive, as it strikes some candidates permanently off our potential list of choices.
And a fourth interpretation is that we must orchestrate our support so as to maximize the possibility that a pro-life candidate will be elected in the general election. This is a different, positive obligation, and also quite restrictive. (In the case that no pro-life candidate can possibly be elected, the positive obligation disappears and you're left with one of the two latter negative obligations.)
I think it is instructive to consider exactly how our voting behavior is constrained under each of the four interpretations of the obligations of a Catholic voter. So I want to consider a stripped-down model of a race for one office: two election days, two parties, two issues.
Here are the rules:
There are two political parties. Call them the Canine Party (C) and the Feline Party (F). Each party holds a primary election to decide which candidate will win the nomination for the general election. A voter may vote in either the Feline primary or the Canine primary but not both, and then of course can go on to vote in the general election.
There are two political issues. In principle these could be almost any two features that influence voters to pick one candidate over the other -- you might think of them as two quite specific policy questions ("Shall we promote single-payer health care?" "Shall we build a wall across the Mexican border?"), or you might think of them as aggregations of related policy questions ("The Economy" and "Social Issues"), or you might think of them as features of the candidates themselves ("Policies" and "Character"). For the purposes of setting up the model, though, they are simply two generic political issues: Issue 1 and Issue 2. Each issue has two possible policy positions, which we will call Yes or No.
In the model, party affiliation and policy positions are the only meaningful distinctions among the candidates. It just so happens that all possible unique candidates happen to be running in this race. So four candidates will compete in the Canine party, representing the four policy positions:
Yes on 1, Yes on 2 (candidate yyC) Yes on 1, No on 2 (candidate ynC) No on 1, Yes on 2 (candidate nyC) No on 1, No on 2 (candidate nnC)
And, of course, there are four candidates competing in the Feline party, which four are yyF, ynF, nyF, nnF. Eight candidates. The winner of each primary competes in the general election. That's sixteen possible head-to-head pairings in the general election.
(My more smartypants readers have probably already noticed that this model can be generalized to the case of p political parties and n political issues, each with m possible policy positions. You can even generalize it to a multi-level model election that will have little model people setting up "November Madness" brackets and placing bets around little model water coolers. Go ahead and set up the equations if you like. I'm not going to.)
Now, let's imagine a rational voter: Alice. Alice doesn't need anyone to tell her how to vote in the general election, because she's so very rational that she could tell you not only who are her favorite candidates, but she can rank all eight in order of preference, and so given any of the possible sixteen head-to-head combinations, Alice knows who will get her vote. This is because Alice follows a very rational algorithm to choose between two candidates:
(1) Always choose "Yes on 1" over "No on 1." (2) If the candidates have the same position on Issue 1, choose "Yes on 2" over "No on 2." (3) If the candidates have the same position on Issues 1 and 2, choose Felines over Canines.
Clearly Alice's favorite candidate is yyF and her least favorite is nnC, but Alice is not completely specified until the three features (issue 1, issue 2, and party) are ranked in order of importance. Her friend Bob also loves candidate yyF and hates candidate nnC, but his voting behavior is different because he always chooses a Feline over a Canine first, then moves on to consider Issue 1, and finally Issue 2. Mathematically attentive but non-smartypants readers may have noticed that there are 2 x 2 x 2 x 6 = 48 different kinds of rational voters in this election. (My smartypants readers, working out the general case, are deep in matrix algebra by now.)
This model offers us a lot of ways to play. We could, for example, populate the electorate with so many rational voters like Alice, so many like Bob, so many like Carol, and so on. We could sprinkle in a bunch of irrational voters, too, who don't follow any discernible rules in choosing one candidate or another. We could pretend that we had poll results that allow us to predict the outcomes of the sixteen hypothetical general-election face-offs. And then -- we can ask ourselves interesting questions, like: "Given her preferences and this set of predicted general-election results, whom should Alice support in the primary election?"
I haven't brought any Catholicism into the model yet -- I've just tried to set up a simplified structure for thinking about it, one that perhaps can be enlarged upon later. More on that in a subsequent post, in which we consider the constraints introduced by the various interpretations of the "Catholic voter's obligations."
(updated to correct ambiguous wording in title of post. This is a concern for the future -- I have not actually experienced this and am not planning to fly anywhere anytime soon.)
- You will show me your ID badge with your full name, and I will write that name down, before you begin.
- I will be watching you, and if I see you do something that I believe may harm my children in any way, I will be reporting it in writing, with your name attached, to the airport, the airline, the TSA hierarchy, and local law enforcement.
- You may not take me or my children into a hidden room. Whatever you do to us, you will do in full view of other citizens.
- You will put on a new pair of gloves before you touch any member of my family.
- I will loudly, politely, and accurately describe what you are doing while you are doing it.
- You should know that I am not at all comforted by the suggestion that men are assigned to touch my boys' genitals and women are assigned to touch my girls.
- I understand that the stated purpose of your job is to protect the public. You should understand that MY job is to protect MY children.
- If your job really does require you to stick your hands in children's and teenagers' clothing, stroke their breasts and vulvas and penises through their clothing, or view them naked on a screen, then I say your job is asking you to do something that is dehumanizing and morally wrong and, if I had that job, I'd resign. I will not treat you with malice, but neither will I soften my words to make it easier for you to do a morally wrong and dehumanizing job. The government couldn't abuse our children if no one would agree to be a paid abuser.
I have been doing a little bit of out-of-season pondering about politics and morals. No election is coming up, so maybe we can explore the topic of "single-issuevoting" without being bogged down in discussions about any particular candidates or ballot initiatives.
(N.B.: For simplicity and clarity, I am restricting the following discussion so that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" refer primarily to legality of abortion. I won't be discussing in this post issues that many people find blurrier, like cloning or same-sex marriage laws. I might generalize my arguments to these in a later post, but for now "legal abortion" is the model "life" issue: that is, I will write as if it is the only one.)
[My friend] said she appreciated hearing about my decision (not made without some struggle) to become what is often called a single-issue voter. So often the so-called single-issue voters are derided for not putting much thought into the decision. But in describing the process by which I became convinced to vote pro-life, I'd pointed out without noticing that there is usually a great deal of thought put into those decisions up front --- and that careful and reasoned thought shouldn't be discounted.
I really appreciated that insight, because to be honest I hadn't been giving myself much credit for that up-front deliberation. I'd sort of internalized that "single-issue-voters-don't-have-to-think-hard" message and have been kind of quietly bummed and embarrassed about being a primarily pro-life voter, as an identity, even if I've been fairly confident about each vote I've cast...
That struggle, that thought, isn't nothing. It doesn't become nothing just because it is over and it ended in a firm conclusion.
That conversation still ranks as one of the most personally important political conversations I've had, because it allowed me (finally) to "own" my identity as a voter who votes pro-life first.
So I was thinking a little bit about various bishops' directives of varying forcefulness exhorting the Catholics under their jurisdictions to avoid voting for pro-choice candidates. I don't have a catalog in front of me of which bishop said what when, so I'm going with my general impression here which is that there's some variety in how they've phrased it:
some have said that a Catholic incurs sin who votes for a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life candidate without a "proportionate reason," i.e., some political reason that the voter honestly believes is as grave as the life issues
some have said that it's practically impossible for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life candidate without incurring sin, which is basically the same as the last category except that added to it is the force of the bishop's specific teaching that there is almost never an issue as grave as the life issues
some have only gone so far as to teach that a Catholic incurs sin who votes pro-choice candidates "on purpose," e.g. who really does support the pro-choice position and isn't even trying to balance the life issue with other political issues
some may have been basically silent except for activities as part of the bishops' conference.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this sums up the various bishops' public pronouncements.
Side note: One thing I do not know anything about is whether any of the bishops have spoken about the case when voters are deciding only between pro-choice candidates -- may Catholics cast a vote for one of them, or must we withhold our vote? I have generally assumed that if there aren't any viable pro-life candidates (this happens a lot in my Congressional district), we're still obligated to exert our voting power usefully, which to me means voting for the best candidate available, but I respect the choice to abstain from voting in this situation and, as I said before, I do not know whether any bishop has expressed an opinion or a directive telling his flock to avoid casting votes for pro-choice candidates even when there is no choice, or no viable choice, of pro-life candidate.
OK, so back to my main question. One thing I want to know is: What is the primary purpose of the bishops' teaching their flocks, with any strength at all, to avoid "voting pro-choice?" Does that sound like a dumb question? It's not.
Is it primarily:
(a) a warning to each individual Catholic to help each one of us avoid committing a sin in the voting booth, and to call to repentance those of us who have knowingly supported pro-choice candidates to a degree that constitutes sin. This would be the bishop speaking to, and teaching, each Catholic as an individual.
(b) a means of organizing Catholics into a bloc in order to get pro-life people elected so that we will get pro-life policies in our country. This would be the bishop speaking to Catholics as a group, i.e., to the local church.
(c) a means of spreading the Gospel, i.e., educating anyone who happens to hear or read the bishops' words, Catholic or not, about the operative principles here: just about our highest worldly responsibility is to protect innocent and powerless people, and that means all kinds of innocent and powerless people, and when we live in a democracy we have to use our voting power as a means to do that. Also known as: converting hearts and minds. This would be the bishop speaking to the whole population living in the boundaries of his diocese.
So, I'm thinking that all three of these purposes are probably in play, but that (a) and (c) are together the ones that actually comport with the bishop speaking in his role as a bishop. (B) certainly is part of it, but I'm inclined to suggest that this constitutes what we would call "political activity" rather than "pastoral activity." A bishop is a citizen, a voter, and a public figure and so he's certainly able to engage in political activity, so I'm not censuring him for engaging in it. But I'm inclined to view the political purpose as secondary to the pastoral purpose. After all, the role of the bishop is, mainly, successor to an apostle. He is a pastor, which means that he properly confers sacraments and teaching. (A) and (C) are teaching. (B) really isn't.
So, why make the distinction?
Well, it occurred to me that a lot of Catholics speak about our religious obligation to vote pro-life as if it were equivalent to a religious obligation to get pro-life people elected. These are not the same thing, and I think we should be more careful with our words, because of the logical consequences.
The obvious difference here: Individual vs. corporal.
To "vote pro-life" is an individual act, one act per vote, you could say. I have a ballot before me: assuming I understand the candidates' positions well, marking some of those boxes (depending on the roster of candidates) might constitute committing actual sin. The bishop's role here in purposes A and C above is to help me understand the ramifications of the political positions so that I cast my vote in full knowledge and thus full freedom (even though with fuller freedom comes fuller responsibility and thus the possibility of fuller guilt). The bishop's directive engages me just as if I were sitting in his office and he were telling me, "I really want to help you avoid doing something wrong, because I'm concerned about your soul." He has a responsibility to teach in this way to every one of the Catholics in his diocese, and in a slightly different way to teach the non-Catholics he can reach as well.
But to "get pro-life candidates elected" is not like this. No individual can "get pro-life candidates elected." No individual can bear the responsibility to "get pro-life candidates elected."
And yet, many Catholics who (like me) are personally convinced that they must vote only for pro-life candidates, at least when they have a chance of winning, put it in these terms.
Why do you always vote pro-life? Why are you a single-issue voter?
"I vote pro-life because the life issues are the most important, and we have to get pro-life candidates elected. If only all the Catholics would consistently vote pro-life, then we would elect so many more pro-life candidates."
This is probably true, but it is also a political answer. When we answer that way, we are answering as a political actor, not as a Christian. It is answering the question on a particular "turf": the sandy ground in the arena of politics.
Now, in truth, we are both Christians and political actors, and so maybe in some situations the political answer is appropriate. But the Christian doesn't have to answer on that turf, in those terms. We could answer differently.
Why are you a single-issue voter?
"I vote for pro-life candidates when I can because I know that if I cast my vote to support abortion, I'd be committing a real sin.* I can't have that on my conscience and I won't take part in it, even if that means I have to sacrifice my best interests when it comes to the other issues."
This is a Christian answer and an honest one. Of course, it is guaranteed to lead to an awkward silence in certain situations. Because it is a Christian answer and an honest one.
In this post, notice that I haven't said whether Catholics do have an obligation, not just to cast our own votes without committing sin (a negative moral obligation in our political lives), but to do all we reasonably can to get pro-life people elected (a positive moral obligation in our political lives). I want to explore this more and I will do so very soon in a future post. To get you started down the same road I'm looking at, you could read this short post at Disputations.
*Note that this answer involves I-language: "if I voted to support such-and-such a candidate, I'd be committing a sin." This is intentional and is more than psychobabble interventionspeak: it would be false to say or imply, "if YOU voted for such-and-such a candidate, YOU would be committing a sin," because this rests on the assumption that the "YOU" has full knowledge of the candidates, comprehension of the issues, and the conviction that pro-life voting is necessary. It isn't fair to hold people to that standard unless you know them very well and you are sure they meet it, or you are a bishop and it is your job to teach them and bring them up to that standard. But it's always fair to hold yourself to a strict moral standard.
Minneapolis does not allow residents to contract private companies for garbage removal. We must use the city garbage collection service.
A couple of weeks ago, I called the city to ask for a new garbage cart. Animals had chewed a hole through the heavy plastic of the lid and body of the cart, and squirrels were happily running in and out, strewing half-eaten objects around my yard. The city told me to leave the cart in the alley for up to two weeks until the crew could get around to replace the lid and/or cart.
Yesterday I noticed the garbage crew truck parked behind my house fiddling with the cart. "Oh goody," I thought, "here's my new garbage cart. Now I can bring the cart back into the yard except on trash day." When I pulled out of my garage in the evening I noticed, approvingly, that the cart was not the same cart that I had had before. Hurray. New cart.
This morning I took the trash out and inspected the cart more closely. In fact it was NOT a new cart.
It was a different cart, certainly.
But it was a different cart with a different hole chewed in its different lid.
I cannot, of course, guarantee that the hole was chewed by a different squirrel.
So I called up the city to ask about it. A very nice woman put me on hold for a while and then came back to tell me: "Oh yes, the crews came out to fix the garbage cart. But when they checked the serial number on your cart, they saw that the damaged cart behind your house was actually registered to your neighbor."
"So they switched the carts back."
I stepped outside to check. Indeed, there was the familiar damaged cart behind my neighbor's house where, apparently, it belonged. The unfamiliar damaged cart had, apparently, been behind my neighbor's house by mistake.
So. Let me get this straight:
(1) The garbage-cart fixing crew was sent out, with garbage-cart fixing supplies, presumably being paid by the hour, to fix or replace a damaged cart that is a known nuisance.
(2) Upon arriving and investigating, they discovered that not only do *I* have a damaged cart registered to my residence, but my neighbor does. Not one problem but two problem
(3) They had the resources "shovel-ready" to fix BOTH problems. Resources had already been expended to put both garbage carts aright.
(4) Instead of fixing one or both problems, they gave me his problem and gave him my problem.
(5) Now we still each have a problem, but each of us has a different problem from before. Not that it amounts to much difference.
It is very, very hard not to see this as some kind of extended metaphor for government services.
I pointed out to the nice lady on the phone that I still had a cart with a hole in it parked behind my house, and she agreed with me that this had to be fixed and said that sometime in the next two weeks a crew would come out to fix the garbage cart.
It was not until after I had hung up that it occurred to me that I should ask them to please also fix my neighbor's cart (the cart formerly assumed to have been mine). Squirrels, after all, respect no property lines.
I had an email exchange from a new reader this week who had a couple of weight loss questions, both of which I thought were good jumping-off points for the blog.
I am 5'7"in height, and 217 lbs. (obese) and unhealty and a glutton. I'm 92 lbs overweight. I'm 125 lean body mass and 92 lbs. of fat(!) according to my recent testing in this area.
I answered: You are *not* 92 pounds overweight. Everybody is supposed to have some fat on their lean body mass. Nobody is supposed to be 0% fat! If you go by BMI, you would reach the top end of the "normal" weight range at 159 pounds. So. 58 lbs probably seems like a big number, but I hope it does not feel as big as 92.
"BMI-normal" is a pretty wide range, and maybe she would be better off losing more weight than that, but at 159 pounds she would technically be within "normal." At 190 pounds she would go from "obese" to "overweight."
Another way, maybe an even better way, to find a definition of "normal" with this data would be by percent-body-fat (the weight of your body fat divided by your total body weight). If your body fat measurement is accurate (which it probably isn't) you'd be at a body fat percentage of 31% (top end of "average") at 181 pounds. That's only 36 pounds away. To get into the "fit" range at 24% body fat for women, if this data were accurate, she'd have to reach 164 lbs. But I suspect the body fat percentage is not accurately calculated to begin with. All these numbers are just starting points. Anyway: it's not that bad. You don't have to lose 92 pounds. Please don't.
I note on your blog that you mention both calories and hunger fullness. What do you recommend for one as me starting out? I know I'd love to eventually manage my weight with hunger/fullness, but for now it seems so subjective/hard to find.
I've been trying to eat only when hungry but find that my body doesn't ask for food but maybe twice a day... I had been obsessive about the waiting for hunger growl and I felt like I was gluttonous if I ate at any other time (schedule)....and if I stop when politely full on these occasions my stomach holds only 2 cups of food/liquid. 2 cups of food twice daily = 4 cups of food. I find it's hard to get the NUTRIENTS I need in 4 cups of food (I'm not worried about energy/calories/fat as that's stuck all over my body), but I am finding it hard not to binge once I've tried this pattern a few days as the urge becomes overwhelming.
I noted: I am suspicious about "waiting for the stomach to growl" as the only legitimate sign of hunger. And I definitely don't think that it's automatically "gluttonous" to eat when your stomach isn't growling! Our bodies give us a number of different cues to eat, and a growling stomach is only one of them; and as far as I can tell, different people feel different hunger cues to different degrees. Hunger signals aren't caused (just) by physical lack of food in the stomach -- they travel around the body in the bloodstream via at least three different hormones, all of which respond to the levels of available fuel (sugar and fat) for cells. So -- the stomach growl might be a good cue for one person but a terrible one for another.
I believe that my hunger signals were messed up, so I quit trying to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. I had been trying to do that a lot of my life, and it wasn't working, partly because (as I figured out later) I was interpreting "not yet painfully stuffed" as "still hungry." I had to learn what hungry really felt like and get to know it.
I also think that eating every time one feels hungry is a recipe for staying the same weight, not for losing it. My experience is that to lose weight, and even now to maintain it, I had to spend time feeling hungry every day. Not all day; I wasn't hungry right after meals. But I had to spend some time feeling hungry in the hour or so leading up to a meal. If I never let myself get hungry and stay hungry for a little while, then that was always a sign that I was eating enough to keep up with my energy intake.
To stay motivated, I would tell myself that hunger was a sign that my body was consuming itself. But I always knew another meal was coming, I just had to wait for it a bit.
Do you recommend beginning to tracking calories/points (something more objective) in the beginning or will you continue to count calories?
I think that a good first step, especially if you haven't tried it for a while, is to begin by eating meals and snacks on a schedule. Mine was like this: breakfast on waking, small snack no earlier than 10:30 (and if I didn't get it by 11:30 then I had to skip it), lunch no earlier than 12:30, small snack between 3:30 and 4, dinner no earlier than 6. I experimented with having a bedtime snack and not having a bedtime snack and decided I didn't need one to fuel my sleeping.
The thing about having a schedule is that you are sometimes forced to wait to have your meal. Which means you start getting some practice with feeling hungry and telling yourself, "oh well, it's not time to eat yet, I guess I will survive till then."
A good second step is to restrict yourself to a single not-too-big plate of food, no seconds, at meals (and quite small snacks -- three ounces was big enough for me for a snack most of the time). You can be sure that you will not suffer nutritional deficiency from that. And if you are worried, you can take a multivitamin, or make a larger portion of your plate be nutrient-rich vegetables. I used an 8-and-a-half-inch plate for meals. When it was done, I was done.
By the way, I noticed you wrote that you were not worried about getting enough "energy/calories/fat" but were worried about getting enough "nutrients." I want to point out that fat is an essential nutrient and you have to keep eating it, even if you are trying to lose weight. Sufficient fat helps you absorb nutrients, and it plays an important role in satiety, not to mention that it helps your veggies taste really good. So eat some fat.
The "small plate," "no seconds," "eat on schedule" rules are very simple, but they will get you started without actually having to count anything or even deprive yourself of any sort of food -- if it fits on your plate, it's cool. You can save calorie counting (I much prefer calories to WW points as I do not believe in eating low-fat) for later when you get bored and want something more challenging, or if you hit a plateau, or if you are curious how many calories are on your plate.
"In my opinion, an amazing number of mysteriously vehement, evidence-defying opinions can be better understood once you understand that the expresser of such opinions is unthinkingly assuming that most others are, in some particular respect, just like him."
I do not think he's picked for his illustration the very best examples (why are anti-gun people sometimes themselves very violent? why are people who are very alarmed about the societal impact of open homosexuality sometimes "repressed homosexuals" themselves?) but it is an interesting point.
(I'm going to try to be a little more careful than Micklethwait has been to qualify the remarks with terms like "some" and "sometimes" and "self-declared.")
An example I have noticed that I think fits this pattern: some self-declared feminists who will use the nastiest and most sexist language possible to describe women who hold conservative political views.
Micklethwait's idea is to turn the question around: instead of asking, for example, "why are some anti-gun people so violent?" change the question to "why are some violent people anti-gun?" I suppose the question then becomes not "why are some self-declared feminists so willing to use sexist language against women who are different from them?" but "why do some users of vicious, sexist language against their political opponents persist in calling themselves feminists?" And maybe Micklethwait is right that there is something in there about assuming that everyone is willing to use vicious sexist language.
I have long had a different theory -- maybe both theories are right. My theory is that there are certain people who believe it is okay to play foul if your opponents are also playing foul -- the "He started it" excuse. So, then, if some people who call themselves feminists (and who believe that conservative women are anti-feminists -- I don't think so, but I can of course understand that many liberal feminists define "feminism" in a way that excludes much social conservativism) believe that their opponents use vicious, sexist language, well then, it is okay for them to use vicious, sexist language too.
Hence all you have to do to justify nasty behavior on your part, is to imagine your opponents being just as nasty. (Notice that they don't have to really be nasty. You just have to imagine they are nasty. Which is maybe just another form of Micklethwait's thesis that you "imagine they are just like you.")
I'm sure there are many examples of this all over the political spectrum. My point is that it is foolish to use someone else's bad behavior as an excuse for your own bad behavior. Doubly foolish to use someone else's behavior that is really only as you imagine it to be. All it does is turn you into what you hate.