Symbolic Interaction At the Iowa Caucus

JTG and SB have brought to my attention that on the Monday evening preceding the Iowa caucus, Melissa Harris Perry of MSNBC and Wake Forest University,was verbally assaulted and threatened  in a public viewing room at her downtown Des Moines hotel.The threatener questioned her credentials and got to “I want you to understand why I’m doing this to you…”One of her students jumped in and the two women crying out and screaming sent the attacker running. He was seen driving away.There is little question that the encounter was both racial and  gender based.We shall see whether or not the police will find this person.This is certainly not a post racial America.Additionally I, for one, wonder whether a woman President might be at more risk of attempted assassination than even the incumbent black commander in chief.





  1. Dennis Prager, a deep-thinking author and radio talk show host, described an event that he and friends, all wearing yarmulkes, experienced while driving home from a Jewish religious event. A car with several young people drove alongside their vehicle. The strangers pointed at them, started laughing, making faces, and presented ugly gestures. Dennis and his friends were offended – this was an outrageous example of religious hatred. Several blocks later at a stop signal they saw this same vehicle accosting the inhabitants of another car in a manner similar to what they had experienced. This was repeated yet again with a third car at the next signal. The new “victims” and their cars displayed zero evidence of their religious affiliations. It became clear that the deeply felt feelings (that this was an example of religious bigotry) were unfounded. Other explanations were more probable.
    There is apparently a human inclination to claim for one’s beliefs (and accompanying feelings) more certitude than all the evidence would justify. Avoidance of this distorting inclination requires constant skepticism and testing of one’s own beliefs (and the often meaningful feelings that are based in them). This is a major reason I enjoy Daedal2207’s (and other’s) challenges. Are there bigots? Of course. The event explanations given by Daedal2207 may be accurate, but to what degree are they worthy of general concern? What are other possible/probable explanations for any specific event? There is much statistical evidence that it is our country among all countries that provided great (possibly the greatest) opportunities for all its citizens regardless their religious, class, gender, or racial origins. Let’s not reject gratitude and its benefits. Let’s not reject the “E Pluribus Unum” part of our original character.

    1. DS: “There is apparently a human inclination to claim for one’s beliefs (and accompanying feelings) more certitude than all the evidence would justify.”

      There’s that “certitude” again. Analogizing by using Mr. Prager’s story for the ol’ “boys-will-be-boys” excuse? Oops.

      Whatever. Fear is fear. No … it wasn’t ISIL. Exercise skepticism? Sure. Maybe she’s been forever scarred after having been raped. Who likes to experience someone breathing down one’s face … uninvited?

      I don’t proselytize on behalf of any religious belief. A very dear friend referred Mr. Prager to our family as someone of possible interest. This is my second “shallow” research on Mr. Prager.

      ” Prager also started a website called “Prager University”, that offers five-minute videos on various subjects such as the Ten Commandments, minimum wage, the Middle East Crisis, Global Warming and happiness with a conservative perspective. … According to Prager, he created the site to challenge the ‘unhealthy effect intellectually and morally’ of the American higher education system.[9]”

      (Hm, Prager University … is that like Trump University? No. Trump actually financially scammed people with that one.)

      “Prager opined in 2006 that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, should not take his Congressional oath using a Qur’an because “American civilization” has been based on the Bible and its values, and because an oath on another religious text would be unprecedented. Prager explained that though he is a religious Jew and therefore only holds the Old Testament sacred, he would take his oath of office on a Bible that included both the Old Testament and the New Testament, as he would honor a tradition that goes back to President George Washington, and because that is the Bible in which nearly all Americans believe.[10] In response, the late former New York City Mayor, Ed Koch, called for Prager to end his service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council.[11] On December 4, in an interview with Prager, Tucker Carlson also criticized this, saying: “I’m no great defender of the Koran but I’m not sure why America is imperiled by Keith Ellison’s taking the oath on it.” In response, Prager explained, “It’s not imperiled by his taking the oath on it, it’s imperiled for substituting the Bible for the first time since George Washington had a Bible at his inauguration…The question is not what he believes in. The question is, ‘what is the central text of the American value system?’ That‘s why I think this is important. Otherwise I couldn’t care less.'”

      If Mr. Prager brings succor and comfort to those who listen to him, he is accomplishing his self-appointed mission (?). I respect his freedom of speech and belief. However, perhaps Mr. Prager’s objection to the “unhealthy effect intellectually and morally” of American higher education is well founded when, after having attended Brooklyn College with a double major in anthropology and history, the reason he objected to Congressman Ellison taking his oath of office on the Koran was that it had not been the religious book George Washington had used for his own oath. Obviously, Mr. Prager was ignorant of George Washington’s written record against bigotry …

      ” …the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, …” ~~ George Washington letter to the Hebrew Congregation, August 18 (21), 1790.
      … along with the Founding Fathers providing a document guaranteeing separation of church and state.

      Mr. Prager supports tradition? In that case, we should revert to the traditional practice of bleeding an ill person, as a form of treatment … the such which killed former president George Washington.

      DS: “Let’s not reject gratitude and its benefits.”

      I am proud of my Jewish heritage, but totally reject bigotry, misogyny and downright ancient concepts which, amongst other institutions, Orthodox Judaism practices and which have no place in the 21st century. Is this the “rejection” to which you refer? I certainly don’t reject Washington’s definition of our country as one “which gives to bigotry no sanction.” But, to quote my 4 1/2-year-old grandson when asked how he knows he’s a good friend: “Because I say ‘I love you so much!'” Is that concept of friendship part of our “original character?” No rejection there … no matter how patronizing the assertion might sound. 🙂

      P. S. daedal2207’s concern of assassination is not an idle one. If anything, the assumption seems to be of that as a given for one who holds the highest office in the land … gender or race notwithstanding. One certainly experiences that when walking the grounds of the White House. Not a “normal” way to live, and, in the case of the present occupants, I wonder what impressions it has left on the formative years of those two lovely young ladies.

      “Say ‘good-night,’ Gracie!”

      1. SusannaB
        Excess certitude is another way of saying “It is judged to be more probable than is justified”. This “leap of faith” concept explains the foundation of so many ills that it cannot help but be often used when analyzing our foibles.
        I am impressed that you would research Dennis Prager. You have accurately discovered him to be very involved in his religious life and its importance to the values he recommends for society. I find him fascinating in the sense that he is among the wisest of minds capable of navigating in both the secular and religious realms. Rational and even tempered is his style. His academic background includes that of Columbia University in Russian studies. He speaks many languages, loves music and has conducted orchestras. He loves and recommends travel as a means to increase joy and wisdom – particularly as regards human nature.
        He and I part philosophic ways when it comes to a belief in God, but many of my secular observations as to how we might best guide our lives as individuals and members of society are echoed in his religious understandings. Apparently long-lasting religions contain some (neutral and positive) pragmatic value for navigating our material world.
        Don’t let his activity as regards the symbols of religious meaning shunt you away from tapping a great many of his ideas, ideas that stand high, perched on an amazing wealth of secular support.
        I hope that you have checked out his Prager University. Although it was created to counter what he believes is a bias in our schools advancing what he calls the most rapidly growing religion in the world today (leftism), he has assembled an amazing number of talented professors (secular and of all religions) who teach in those schools. For humans who acknowledge limited knowledge “truth” is a running argument.

      2. A suggestion was made that bigotry was involved when Dennis Prager argued against the use of a Koran instead of the traditional bible during the swearing in of a senator. This struck me as a subject worthy of exploration. How does this word help or harm?
        “Bigot – a person who is intolerant, esp. in matters of religion, race, or politics.”
        “Tolerance – 1. The capacity for or practice of recognizing and respecting the opinion, practices, or behavior of others. 2. To recognize and respect, as contrary opinions or practices. 3. To put up with, endure.”
        Are we a bigot if we do not respect, put up with, endure the BASIC TENETS of a religion? But then we face the problem of having to discern who or what determines exactly which tenets of a “religion” are “basic”.
        Or, in order to not be a bigot, does this mean that a person must respect, put up with, endure ALL TENETS of EVERY religion? If that is the case and we see religious practices that we do not respect, or choose not to endure, by definition we must be a bigot. Be it basic or all tenets, some questions arise:
        Must we respect and tolerate another religion even if the majority of its believers believe that its tenets say that it should not respect and tolerate us? What if different “religions” use the same name – the same book? What about a religion that promotes the putting to death of anyone who changes their belief from it to anything else? What about religious-based genital mutilation? Girls cannot be educated? Or, perhaps less dramatic, what about religions that define marriage as only between a man and a woman? Or that participation in a gay wedding is prohibited? Or, a secular form of “religion” or “politics” that demands that all must participate if requested?
        The reader can understand that this list of problems associated with the use of “bigot” can be greatly expanded. In general, what if prevailing practices of a culture, religion, race, or political party are dysfunctional, destructive, poisonous? How can it be helpful if criticism or intolerance of these practices is to be considered an act of bigotry?
        Logic just demonstrated that there are many situations where one would be morally foolish (perhaps deadly stupid) if one did not fit exactly the dictionary definition of “bigot”. We see that sometimes it saves lives to be INTOLERANT of practices exercised and promoted by religions, cultures and politics. Knowing this forces us to focus on methods of good judgment, and the avoidance of platitudes.
        So, “bigot” is apparently one of those sloppy, easy to misuse and mislead words that needs to be presented with clarifying context. Maybe Dennis’s objection to a swearing in on a Koran was premised only on his being against the breaking of a long tradition in the use of a bible. To the degree that his objection had to do with some of the (other) valid reasons just considered, maybe his objection should not be called bigoted, but “courageous”. Sadly, and tragically, in today’s politically correct climate that would be explosive – and that presents for us another facet of this confused time in which we find ourselves – and why we need these conversations.

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