Saturday, March 20, 2010

2010 Census

This week I, along with probably all of you (should you live in the U.S.) filled out the census form.  The only things I heard about the census was that it didn't have a category gay marriage, and that it had a crap-load of race choices.

As various friends would take the survey, they'd talk about it.  My progressive friends touted how quick and painless it was and weren't people crazy for not taking it, and my conservative friends made fun of it or feared it.

In my opinion, it's neither one of these things.  It's simply America taking attendance.  Remember, from elementary school?

The whole idea is to record who's living here. It doesn't ask if you're a citizen, it doesn't ask if you swindled the old lady out of her apartment and moved in -- it just asks who you are.

Should my form be intercepted before it makes it to the counting office, this is what those people (whoever they are) learn about me:

My name is Andrew Schwartz.
I'm 31.
I'm not hispanic.
I'm white.
Nobody else lives in my place.

While it would be fun if the census were able to record everyone's life history, there's no way to do that. In fact, because we respect privacy enough, we don't have national ID cards (or implanted chips) that would make counting easier. We have to do it the old-fashioned way: ask people.

There's been a census taken in the US every 10 years since 1790. George Washington was included in the first one! I think that's cool, but I also like numbers, history, and statistics.

I don't know why the census became an object of ridicule for my more conservative friends. It makes me disappointed, because it's YET ANOTHER thing that has starkly divided political lines, for some reason. A friend-of-a-friend declared that my friend should just "fill out that you live in the USA and you are an American. Obama's Nazis don't need access to anything else."

The total ignorance and anger contained in that direction disgusts me. Is it the magic of the internet that gives me access to these voices and makes them seem loud? Or are we simply devolving into a nation of half-black, half-white aliens whose only arguing point is whether or not the right half should be black or white, ala the famous Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"?

We got another taste of this fragmentation this week in regards to health care. The group of Catholic bishops opposes the upcoming vote on health care legislation, but the group of Catholic hospitals and the group of 59,000 Catholic nuns supports it. So I got the pleasure of hearing a nun and a priest on NPR, each saying the other was (politely) wrong.

The situation also gave an opportunity for Rep. Stupak (D-Mich.) to say that he doesn't "call up the nuns" when drafting pro-life legislation, presumably because they don't agree with him. He said that he consults "leading" bishops and Focus on the Family, presumably because they DO agree.

The "circle the wagons", "echo-chamber", or "preaching to the choir" might be what's the problem here, because it seems that the choir may actually have different views on the subject. And they've written a public letter, too.

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