by Milan Vodicka, Ph.D.
As usual, my intentions with regard to this writing are being overshadowed by recent events. I intended to write about the ever-present polarization of our society. I will, with the caveat of unfolding events.
I think it is appropriate to open with a rather lengthy quote summarizing the issue. It is from Preet Bharara’s book, Doing Justice.
“People stick to their side, no matter what the evidence; openness to changing your mind is not only rare but seen as weak and disloyal somehow. Fewer people than ever adhere to Cromwell’s admonition – think ye may be wrong. Meanwhile, when debates are joined – on cable television or on the internet – name calling, innuendo, and character assassination are more favored tactics than logic and reason.”
Oh yes, we have polarized sides – Republicans and Democrats. And we have a name caller in-chief, Mr. Trump. According to him, Republicans like Paul Ryan are “weak, ineffective & stupid.” Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, is “a baby.”
I ask, how do the “strong, effective & smart” Republicans look like? In all honesty, I have a hard time to recognize some. To elucidate my statement, one must look at the meanings of the terms. Strong to me means standing on principle, not condoning or being silent in the face of lack of decency and civility. It means not explicitly or implicitly supporting a racist (Mr. Trump has demonstrated being one not once, but many times). Effective means using skillfully the position in life to promote healthy “pursuit of happiness,” for everyone. Smart means not to cherish loyalty to a political party or its leaders above everything else.
Let me point, in contrast to current mainstream Republicans, what “strong, effective & smart” means by an example. Jimmy Carter, our former President, upholding his conviction of the principle that women are equal to and have the same rights as men, denounced and has spoken against lies and extremism in some of the religious beliefs of his church. Keep in mind, he is a devoted Christian.
It is incredible to me what America has become. For the communist regime of my youth there were classes of “enemies.” They were called imperialists, bourgeoisie, kulaks, western spies – you name it. Any news unwelcome to the regime was “imperialist propaganda.” In the same vein, here we are with our enemies. Terrorists, Muslims, immigrants, and “Fake News.” These enemies are, in abstract, the very same notions – except the names are different.
There is a book, by Rebecca Solnit, titled “Call Them by Their True Names.” This is a theme I invoked many times in the past. The language creates its own reality – this perceived reality being reasonable or not. Our press and social media play a role in this. Ms. Solnit goes as far as proclaiming “the crises of our time is linguistic.”
Indeed, it is. Very few in the press dared to call Mr. Trump a racist. The euphemisms used are “racially charged,” “racially motivated,” “racially tinted,” and so on. The talk-around methodology is also widely used. “The critics stated Mr. Trump’s tweets are racist.” So, it is the critics, not the tweets themselves, that characterize their substance. The Associated Press Stylebook calls this out, in a set of editorial standards.
Let me add a few logs to the fire. Mr. Trump is a failed “businessman,” with four bankruptcies on his record. His dealings with tariffs and international affairs do not show any resounding success either. As for the economy, it goes at its own pace, his bluster notwithstanding – with detrimental effects on the environment.
Mr. Trump stands accused by more than twenty women of sexual misconduct. Of course, he denies it all – what do you expect from him? “They (women) do it for money and fame.” It is possible to “reason” anything. If you say it happened, it happened. If you say it did not happen, it did not happen. Correction: What happened happened. He has no credibility whatsoever. If someone was, say a rapist, would you excuse him or her and look the other way, because “the economy is good?”
Well, I tried to lay this out. Polarization of the society, living in the bubble and denial. Where are you – and I mean you, Republican supporters of Mr. Trump? Potential voters for him? Are you quiet? Are you OK with your representatives, in elected or other positions of responsibility, being quiet?
Yes, I call on your conscience. Where is it?