Ones and zeroes

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

My wife is an environmentalist. Big time. She cuts up plastic soda can rings, so they won't trap defenseless birds. She insisted on us purchasing electric outdoor power tools, so we won't exude noxious fumes into the air. She knows exactly what stuff you can recycle and what you can't -- regulations so arcane, they make the NFL rule book simpler than Fun with Dick and Jane.

So, when she blanched at "No Mow May," I experienced a Walter Cronkite moment, when "the most trusted man in America" urged the U.S. to get out of Vietnam.

No Mow May is an endeavor to protect pollinators, which, admittedly, are not doing well these days. The home-care icon Bob Vila offers eight reasons why you should take a rest from surrendering your lawn to dandelions. "But," my wife pointed out, "if you let lawns grow at this time of year, they'll become a foot tall, and you'll wind up using more energy to cut them back. How is that environmentally sound?"

Then came the coup de grace: She said, adding an eye roll: "I can understand why so many people think environmentalists have gone off the deep end."

My wife and I are long-time progressives. But lately, as are so many Americans, it's becoming harder and harder to ignore how the left is fraying at the fringes, threatening to unravel the rest of the fabric. (The right, of course, let its fringe take over long ago.)

Let's start with an education committee in San Francisco wanting to remove the names of certain presidents—including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Abraham mother-loving Lincoln—from high schools. This was because, according to school district officials, the fact that many of them owned slaves, betrayed racist tendencies and displayed evidence of occasional nogoodnik-ism was more important than, say, they helped establish the Republic and keep it together. "This debacle is just the latest example of 'progressive' cultural censorship in a city once renowned as a bastion of free speech," came this rebuke from a columnist for that beacon of archconservatism, The Atlantic magazine.

Another favorite progressive cause is support for trans youth. Copy that, absolutely! The bullying, and state-endorsed deprivation of beneficial therapies, medications, and other treatments that can avert severe mental illness and even suicide in young people, is wrong. But too many on the left have conflated this with allowing trans females (those born male) to compete on women's athletic teams. What about the medical evidence that higher levels of testosterone in men can give them a competitive advantage over women in many sports? And that allowing a biologically born male to compete against women, as Penn's Lia Thomas did in March 2022, can result in patently unfair results? Not important.

Why have so many of those on the left permitted themselves to abandon common sense? Maybe it's about our zero-sum culture, which has pervaded America from colonial times. Patriot or Tory. Cowboy or Indian. North or South. Free world or communism.

As journalist Robert Wright argued in his 1999 book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, zero-sum culture doesn't work in an increasingly complex society. Increasingly, we ignore this, opting instead to choose between saving the spotted owl and creating jobs, or building a wall at the border or allowing into the country those fleeing for their lives.

Our courts participate in this inanity as well, ruling for one side over another, unlike in many Western European countries, where judicial decisions frequently result in something for each side. Columbia law professor Jamal Greene pointed this out most expertly in his 2021 book How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights Is Tearing America Apart.

Proof? Just gage the reaction when someone says "It's complicated."

We seem to have lost our ability to understand and tolerate complexity, which comes from critical thinking. And this is this why, when courageous critics remind us that each side of an argument may have merits, the cancel police arrive on the scene, as they've done at Stanford Law School.

Once upon a time, progressives marched to songs such as Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," which included the lyrics "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong . . . " That music has been drowned out by the sound of dandelions taking over the grass.

Top illustration by Titima Ongkantong, available via Shutterstock.

  • I have dandelions but no longer a lawn... lawn problems are no longer familiar. However, compared to No-Mow May, a probably-more-acceptable-to-many way to help pollinators would be to replace at least part of the lawn, where possible, with a pollinator garden that includes or consists of native plants. And coupled with that, there is the UNI Good Neighbor Iowa program, which is focused on eliminating unnecessary use of urban pesticides and encouraging diverse lawns.

    "Pesticides" include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. And "diverse" means violets, dandelions, clover, and other short lawn flowers that help pollinators.

    When I lived in a town, I had a wonderful terrible lawn, the kind I played on as a child, with short flowering "weeds" amid the grass. I mowed enough to comply with the local mowing ordinance, but used no chemicals. My block had other wonderful terrible lawns. They wouldn't have pleased the turf industry, but they were enjoyed by solitary bees, little butterflies, songbirds, etc. And they never smelled like chemical death.

  • Far left extremists are unhinged

    As a lifelong Democrat at some point we need to take the party back from the lunatic fringe. Open borders, reparations', defund the police, and pronouns. Common sense and decency has been thrown out the window to appease the lunatic fringe. No wonder there is only one Democrat in statewide Iowa office and zero members of congress or senate. If you drink the "woke' kool aid there are consequences.

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