Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Alliance of the Just

Much of my interest in morality has sprung from practical considerations. It largely had to do with mobilizing whole populations to maim and kill each other and to feel good about it - or, more precisely, with how to prevent it.

With Donald Trump, we are being given an opportunity to observe, as it happens, the growth of a political movement that can easily embrace the idea of slaughtering and maiming of whole populations, and feeling good about it.

We already have Trump talking about rounding up and exporting, en masse, 11 million people in the United States, building walls, preventing any Muslim from entering the country, and putting under suspicion of criminal violence every Muslim within the country. He also jokes about killing reporters, and encourages his followers to engage in private violence where public violence against target groups might seem indiscreet - such as encouraging the violent physical assault of protestors.

It is important to note that individual behavior proves irrelevant here. Nobody is asking, "What did you do to deserve this treatment?" Therefore, there is nothing the agent can do to prevent it.

This contagion has been picked up by other candidates trying to syphon off Trump's support by, among other things, carpet-bombing parts of the Middle East.

And the crowds cheer.

Ironically, those who support these measures declare that the reason they are supporting these strong-man authoritarian tactics is out of a fear that they it somebody near to them might be unjustly killed or otherwise harmed by a malevolent "other" - by one of "them".

It takes but a moment of thought to realize that their program gives others a justified reason to fear that, whether they are innocent or guilty, they face a real risk of being or of having somebody they care about being killed, maimed, or otherwise unjustly harmed regardless of the quality of their individual behavior.

At the same time, they are being shown that the proper way to deal with this type of fear and injustice is to unite and support a strong man who promises to treat all of us - the innocent and the guilty, as equally guilty - the same standards we have adopted towards them. That is the leader who says that all Americans are legitimate targets - just as we assert all Muslims are legitimate targets. It is as legitimate to blow up a sports stadium as it is to carpet bomb a village.

Is there a way out of this?

Well, one way is to say, "We are going to distinguish those who are causing the problems from those who are not. We will struggle to let those who are not the cause of these difficulties live in peace. We will not presume your guilt, but will presume your innocence and act only on evidence of guilt. If you think that these are good rules upon which to build a community, please join with us in opposing those who would advocate or adopt the strong-man tactics that refuse to distinguish the guilty from the innocent.

"Trust me - we are not so naive as to think that those who would preach injustice in our group will vanish. We must continue to oppose them - as we expect you to oppose the unjust in your group.

If we do this, we have changed the nature of the conflict. It is no longer a case of the unjust in our group leading the whole of our group into indiscriminately harming the just and the innocent alike in the other group, while the unjust in the other group seek to maim and kill the unjust and innocent in our group. It is now a case of the just in both groups going up against the unjust in both groups while, in the name of justice, seeking to let the innocent live in peace.

On our part, it means recognizing that there is a difference between the innocent and the guilty, between the Muslim and the terrorist, and between the Mexican and the rapist. It also means showing the world that there is a similar difference between a Trump supporter and an American.

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