Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Honesty, Justice, and Civility

Today is election day. The fate of civil community hangs in the balance.

It seems odd to say that. Important issues were on the table in previous Presidential elections. However, we would have survived a McCain or a Romney administration. They might have done some good.

I thought that Obama would be the better President than John McCain and Mitt Romney - but they were not horrible human beings. They were decent people with ideas as to what would make a better community - and with political alliances to subgroups that I thought were advocating poor policies. That is all.

This year it is different. Trump is not a decent human being. He is nationalist authoritarian xenophobic sexist bigot with no understanding of - let alone respect for - the Constitution of the United States or for any type of rational free-market economic system.

I am seriously saddened by the fact that we have spent 500 days enduring the celebration of traits and attitudes that are utterly contemptible.


The word itself does not properly convey what is wrong here. In the form that Trump embodies, it means taking half of the population and treating them as if they have no purpose in life but to be attractive play-things for men. They are to be judged entirely by their looks. If one finds a woman attractive, one may pick them up and fondle them as a toy – and discard them when they are no longer pleasing. For 500 days, the idea that this is the way a man acts has been broadcast across our culture, and into the brains of today’s teenage boys - who will share this community with the teenage women of today.

That was a step backwards – a step that will endure for generations.


People make mistakes. We all will utter a false claim from time to time. However, there are two types of morally objectionable false claims. These are claims that people interested in living in a thriving community have reason to condemn.

There are lies – false statements that the speaker knows to be false but which the speaker utters for the sake of manipulating others for their own ends. Elsewhere, I have described this lying as parasitical. The liar tries to put a “bug” in your brain that will cause you to act in ways that would sacrifice your own interests, and serve the interests of the liar instead.

There are also reckless claims. These are false statements where a minimally responsible person would have looked them up and tried to determine their truth before uttering them. Or, at the very least, a person concerned with truth would have stopped repeating a claim once it was pointed out to be false, or even where it has been questioned.

For 500 days, Trump has taught us to have an absolute disregard for the truth. Both lies and recklessly false claims – including claims that can lead to the deaths of others. DNA evidence showed that the Central Park Five were shown to be innocent of the crimes they were charged with – but Trump still wants them executed. Truth does not matter. Only satisfying Trump’s own desire to see people killed matters.


In this blog, I have defined bigotry as making derogatory over-generalizations about a group of people. One takes the wrongful actions that a member of a group may have done, and one uses them to tar the whole group. A Jew gives the appearance of having gained financially through shady business transactions, and all Jews get sent to gas chambers. A black man is accused of a rape, and it becomes appropriate to lynch all black men.

For Trump, we should treat all Mexicans as rapists, and all Muslims as terrorists.

Justice says that a person is not to be treated like a convicted criminal – rapist or terrorist – merely because of race or religion. It says that each person is to be presumed innocent unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, Trump has been telling us – and the teenagers among us specifically – to judge individuals by their race and religion, rather than as individuals.


Bullying. Telling his followers to beat up anybody who speaks in protest. Telling the military to torture people even if they have no information “because they deserved it” and to target women and children of suspected terrorists, to saying that having nuclear weapons makes no sense if one can’t actually use them . . . Trump has no qualms against the use of violence to get his way. And he tells his followers the same thing – use violence against any who object or get in your (our) way.


Somehow, we need to start rebuilding a civil society. There are certain core values that we need to survive – honesty, justice, and civility. We can disagree on the right way to go about things – on the best way to create a safe and prosperous community. But we cannot disagree on whether to be honest, just, and civil and still survive as a community.

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