Let me start by saying, very clearly, I am deeply concerned by Trump’s executive orders. The ones that are purely symbolic, readying-for-legislation stuff are worrisome. The ones that have present-tense impact are (with possibly one exception) devastating. These things are not okay. And I am all for following the advice of Captain Picard:
“We’ve made too many compromises already. Too many retreats. […] Not anymore. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further.”
But I also want to raise a concern I have with how we are talking about the current situation. You’ll forgive me, I hope, for my assertive tone. Continue reading →
Trump has proven himself a pretty despicable human being, but when we blanket-charge him with racism we join with him in his insufficiently considered blather.
Trump is known for insults. To be fair, so was Winston Churchill, but the difference is between some of the greatest English zingers of recorded history and the sad equivalent of playground bully mouthing off. “Not nice,” “dopey,” “unfair,” “a joke,” “a real dummy,” “overrated,” and one of his favorites, “loser,” show up again and again on Trump’s Twitter feed. They’re his go-to favorites, blown off at the least sense of competition or loss of ego. Thinking people, whatever their party lines, dislike this unthinking, imprecise brazenness (Josh talks about what people do like about this kind of talk here). But in our dislike for Trump (or any politician) do we sometimes also speak with (fatal) imprecision?
We have got a thing against racism in this country. “Racist” is almost the most serious charge there is, in certain prominent circles at least. Until the election, I thought that making multiple comments that were perceived as racist or misogynistic was automatic political suicide. (For most politicians, I’m still confident that it would be. I suppose Trump avoided his political demise by appealing to a different audience than most politicians.) Continue reading →
It is no secret that Trump has a Mormon problem (see this NY Times article and this Washington Post article, for example). During the troubled campaign, the LDS Church released a statement implicitly responding to (and opposing) Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration, and church-owned Deseret News published an editorial condemning Trump’s misogynistic behavior and rhetoric, calling him to withdraw from the race–something all the more notable because the newspaper had not taken sides politically for 80 years. And although Trump ultimately won Utah, Mormons (in Utah and elsewhere) opposed Trump’s presidency more than any other traditionally conservative religious group. Yesterday, it was announced that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would be performing at Trump’s election. Continue reading →
I don’t like how we talk about privilege. It’s like we’re asking people to apologize—please excuse my privilege. It is always evoked derogatorily as something that stands in the way of seeing clearly—something that blinds us from seeing another perspective accurately. Or it is the dynamic by which society is made inequitable. And when people acknowledge their privilege, it is seldom with adulation for the people who helped them succeed, but as a form of virtue posturing. They seem to hope that by acknowledging it, people will be able to see past it. Like it’s an ugly blemish on their otherwise upstanding character. Continue reading →
There is a facile enthusiasm about “believing” that is manifest every Christmas season and often enough in-between. Sentimental movies like “The Polar Express” and “The Miracle on 34th Street” chime in with their paeans to believing, and even works like “The Life of Pi” suggest that it is proper and even admirable to accept as true “the better story” even when it is the unlikeliest story imaginable.
At the front end, let me admit that there is a kernel of truth in these expressions. But there is also great danger is assuming that optimism can or should trump reason, and that belief in the truth of whatever appears good or lovely is itself necessarily good.
At least in questions where the relevant evidence is capable of being comprehensively considered, the proper formula is very simple: belief should be according to the evidence. Continue reading →
In the months prefacing the election we proved our human predisposition towards worst-case scenario thinking. It caused a lot of people to draw parallels between Trump and Hitler—his rise to power, the populist movement, white supremacy, German exceptionalism, etc. Other more rigorous articles have claimed that his rise has more in common to Mussolini’s. But during the election process, it was only abstract political posturing. Now it’s real. Trump is elected. And people’s projections (both liberals and conservatives who opposed him) have become real anxieties and authentic fears.
One of my conservative friends reacted to Trump’s election with this heart-felt question: “Advice on how to face a class of beautiful, undocumented 6th graders??” People responded, some encouraging her panic and others with an attempt towards attenuation. I have other liberal friends who have woven a worst-case scenario narrative where any non-white-cis-gendered-Christian male is now in eminent danger of discrimination or deportation. They substantiate their narratives by citing The New York Times exit polls which demonstrate that Trump was principally favored by older, white, straight, Christian men as well as citing the many rude things Trump has done and even proposed. Continue reading →