trump

Sometimes our political rhetoric ties us up in knots

Reprinted from the Press and Journal

If you were paying attention in philosophy class, you’ll remember Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction. Without this ontological law, Plato’s most famous student thought that we could never know anything about the things we already understand – for instance, the science of mathematics would mean nothing if it couldn’t be differentiated from biology.

Aristotle, smart as he was, would be baffled by today’s political rhetoric. His logical approach to the world does not fit well with our discourse over public affairs.

Too often, politicians choose subterfuge over truth and circumlocution over clear language. This makes the act of governing extremely difficult.

Some examples: In a recent Republican candidate debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio defended his call for a bigger Pentagon budget by declaring, “We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe.”

We can’t? Last I checked, economies are nothing but the sum total of individuals trading goods and services. Even in the most rudimentary societies, barter still existed. And let’s not forget that in order for the military to function, tax dollars must be collected from business to finance its operations.

All that said, Rubio has a point: If we’re dead, we aren’t buying and selling things. So in a sense, you can’t have an economy without a certain degree of safety.

Confusing, right?

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Moral distortion

“We can’t refuse immigrants – that would be racist. We will just have to settle for implementing a police state to keep us safe from the consequences of mass immigration.”

I’ve heard Bill de Blasio, David Cameron and many other pro-immigration political figures from the West discussing why every consumer device needs a government backdoor installed into it to compromise its security so countries can deal with the social burden created by importing a third world underclass. Similar arguments are made for gun control. This line of logic makes sense when it’s granted that racism is the worst thing in the world, even worse than living in an Orwellian dystopia.

That’s an unnerving system of ideas to say the least. And thanks to my bizarre and recent habit of talking about Donald Trump with strangers at social events, I got to witness a genuine instance of “racism is insurmountably evil.”

I mention not hating Trump and the customary hush falls over the room, but some guy is willing to play ball and asks me why I don’t share the opinion of every basic DC bitch. I mention how he’s actually reliably anti-immigration, but how his most recent comments have alienated me, like when he mentioned that he wants to kill the families of terrorists. That’s eyerolly shit that neocons actually believe in their heart of hearts, a far cry from the funny-but-true, emperor-has-no-clothes type comments Trump is known and loved for.

Another recent Trump comment that I can’t get behind, I explain, is the total ban on Muslims entering. That’s stupid for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Shia, Ibadi and Ahmadiyya Muslims are pretty alright. But I point out that that comment isn’t really bad, in the grand scheme of things, since mainstream politicians talk about war and killing like it’s no big deal. War and killing is worse than mere discrimination, right? …Right!?

Wrong, apparently.

He mentions how that’s, like, racist and stuff. I mention how people in staying their original countries might be less than ideal, but it’s not as bad as killing. Noah Millman articulated it really well over at The American Conservative:

But why are these not more important hallmarks of an incipient American fascism than the fact that Trump regularly sounds like a more obnoxious and egotistical version of Archie Bunker? And why is saying “no Muslims should be allowed onto American soil until we’ve got a process for monitoring them” more outrageous than a threat to “find out if sand can glow in the dark” (Ted Cruz’s threat to nuke ISIS)? Why is threatening mass-murder less horrifying than threatening discrimination in immigration on the basis of religion?

I’m not saying that having a President – or even a major candidate – who spouts xenophobic rants is a good thing. It’s a bad thing. I’m just suggesting that we’ve long since gotten used to things that are much worse, and perhaps we should pay a bit more attention to that fact.

I point this out to the guy I am talking to, and then mentions how there’s people dying in Colombia. That’s obviously an exception that we’re not talking about, so he shows his hand as not having any interesting ideas and the conversation ends.

This kind of moral distortion that we’ve been expected to subscribe to is, for better or worse, probably part of the reason why Trump is so popular. People who live in most parts of the United States are fine with how they’ve lived and their assumptions – say, war being worse than racism – but are caught in disjunction between moral compass and that of political and intellectual elites.

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