I have rules about onions.

Usually I just say “I don’t like onions.” So, when I order food in restaurants – when I don’t forget that I have to say something about it, and just expect people to read my mind, which still happens sometimes, despite my age and experience – I ask for “no onions.”

Unless they are green onions, which are OK. Or very chopped and very cooked and in things, like chili.

Not “in” fajitas or Chinese vegetables, though. Those are too long and onion-y.

But onion rings, vegetable tempura, and French onion soup are all OK.

This does make sense. Anyhow, whether or not it makes sense to you, these are my rules, when it comes to onions.

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I thought of this today, not entirely out of the blue, because I realized that people seem to have similar rules for when it’s OK to make general statements about groups of people.

One of the things that divides people, at least in the United States, at least these days, may be which groups people are OK saying which general things about, on the basis of which evidence, and which generalizations are not OK.

It’s not as simple as saying “I don’t think it’s OK to generalize.”

Most people I talk to, regardless of their politics or commitments, seem to have rules about when it IS OK, or at least, when it feels correct.

Sometimes the rules have evidence to back them up.

But often, the rules seem to be a lot like my onion rules: that’s how I like it.

People who will block you on Facebook if you say something about “white people” will turn around and talk about “Scots-Irish work ethic” or “Southern hospitality,” no problem.

People who object to being called “typically liberal” (or worse) will be happy to sum up how Bernie backers compare and contrast with Warren wanters in a word or two.

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A couple of lifetimes ago, I was a sociologist (more or less). Sociologists are interested in social phenomena.

This looks to me like a social phenomenon.

I’m interested in it.

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