Monday, January 23, 2017

A "Common Sense Conservative" Doesn't Make Sense


 I came across this Facebook post, and I couldn't keep myself from responding. My commentary is below. As usual, your comments are welcome. 

Slogans and simple photos with captions are a real challenge. Are we to take them seriously or assume it's just a way to express an emotion and reinforce existing prejudices? Persons from all political, social, and religious persuasions use them. Because this type of truncated communication is so common, we could ignore it. But I won't do the sensible thing and ignore the meaning of the words below (as some Trump spokespeople suggest we should do for his words). Instead, I'll review them on the assumption that the writer intended their meaning.


1. Do individuals like me think that Trump "causes" hate? He legitimizes it, encourages it, and promotes it (as do all demagogues), but would I say he "causes" it? He exploits it and uses it, but I'm reluctant to say that he causes it. Of course, the worst danger is the legitimation of hateful acts by others. One who promotes violence with words and tacit signals keeps clean hands, letting others take the blame and suffer the consequences.

2. "You're the ones." Wow, I think this qualifies for your English teacher marking this with an "overgeneralization" comment, to say the least.

3. No one should call others degrading names (although we all do at someone or another). In fact, people commit stupid and foolish acts on a regular basis. A single act of stupidity or foolishness does not make a person a fool or stupid, just as a single criminal act (public intox, OWI, vandalism, even theft, for instance) do not a "criminal' make.

4. Ignorance is tougher. I've called President Trump ignorant, and I stand by that. Now, in some matters, he's quite bright, for instance in sales and sharp business dealings, but in matters of public policy, the conduct of government, and the Constitution, he's ignorant. Ignorance, is, of course, usually curable, but first, you have to want to suffer the cure--you must educate yourself. Alas, Trump shows few signs of wanting to learn.

5. "Protesting?" Really, your poster is calling out "protesting"? Such an insult to members of the Tea Party! And Occupy Wall Street, the American civil rights movement, labor unions, anti-war groups, the American Revolutionaries! If the writer doesn't like protests, she should move to China; they happen there, but not for long, and they're hard to find. In India and Romania, we've seen them regularly (but then these two nations are democracies). Last night, a protest consisting of an estimated 10,000 marched outside our apartment against a government proposal. Protestors included the nation's president. (The President and the Prime Minister are separate here.) And last but not least, the protests yesterday numbering over a million participants throughout the world demonstrated peacefully and forcefully for caring causes. (See my Lakoff Facebook post 1/23/2017 for more.) Thanks, but I'll keep protests. Rioting and offensive behavior, no. Alas, it happens. For instance, the rioters were involved in the Boston Massacre (and thus John Adams had to defend British soldiers from criminal charges for what we'd call "excessive use of force") And then there's theBoston Tea Party, an action of vandalism and theft. Crowds can get out of control.

6. Spreading hate is wrong, but the writer's suggestion that criticism and protest amount to hate is wrong.

7. "Hate the sin but love the sinner" (or St. Augustine's "Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum", which translates roughly to, “with due love for the persons and hatred of the sin.”) This Christian adage fits here. Of course, liberalism, broadly defined, is fundamentally about respect for persons. All persons. But to allow lies, faulty reasoning, and expressions that denigrate others to go unchallenged would be remiss. Of course, a high degree of humility and self-examination are required, and that's not easy. But while we must attend the planks in our own eyes first, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't help our brothers and sisters with theirs. And we should never throw stones.