The Monday Glooms

I took it as given that Donald Trump’s candidacy was more than a joke but less than a serious campaign. He is a publicity hound who can manipulate a segment of the population — a segment just large enough to watch a peabrain TV show and keep golf courses and gambling casinos (some of them) operating — but not a man able to face a national electorate[1] and endure a thorough drubbing at the ballots of a rational electorate.

That’s what I thought, and what I still think. But I think it now with a bit less certainty than before. I now see two possibilities should Trump win the GOP nomination. No, make that three.

Number one. He goes down and with him a significant number of other Republicans. The Democratic candidate wins, as do those who ran against fallen Republicans. The country acquires a Democrat President with a Congress of his own party. No guarantee that will solve many or even any of the country’s and the planet’s problems but a good chance it will add fewer to the toll than would the alternative. It might actually result in a people-and-democracy-friendly Supreme Court. Could happen. Most likely will not.

Number two. He wins and with him just barely enough Republicans to keep control of Congress. I will thereupon summon a confabulation of my nearest and dearest, hoping to find a way we might all move to another country.

Number three. His candidacy provokes a slew of minor party candidates, among whom votes fall at random like leaves of autumn, forcing an interpretation by the Supreme Court where, two members of the conservative bloc having collapsed in terminal confusion, no majority can be assembled. The country descends into chaos, seventeen states or parts thereof secede to form a new and addled union, mass media organizations and golf courses and corporate farms and energy giants collapse, the military tries to take over with the same success it had in Iraq, Haruki Murakami writes a novel about the Balkanization of a mighty power and even the Pope writes us off.

  1. A friend of one of my daughters suggests that, should he see winning the nomination as a real possibility, he would immediately withdraw rather than face certain defeat.  ↩

Plus ça change

A definite change in the tone of media when discussing or referring to Donald Trump. Perhaps it’s my imagination, or failure to expand my horizons, but I sense a shift to serious consideration of the man for no good reason. Media folk note, as if a bit in shock, that Trump has a hold on some fifteen percent of citizens in a few states. But that’s the same percentage he began with.

It is not Trump who has changed. Media observers have. They now accept as given what was clear from the outset: a significant number of Americans believe that those things about Trump which I deplore are in fact his good points, his strong arguments.

Today’s predictable ramble

I’ve been trying for weeks to develop an answer to the “free speech” dilemma. And everything I come up with is, essentially, a re-hash of a short piece I wrote three months ago. It’s here or somewhere down the page if you’re interested.

Now with presentation of the award which recently brought the question into view — as if it had ever disappeared — I can add a codicil to my earlier post. The PEN committee and its defenders argued that those who opposed the award were unfamiliar with the French style of satire, and therefore were not competent to criticize it.

To accept that argument, one has to ignore what seems to me a far more important aspect of satire than its country of origin. Those most affected by and most liable to be distressed by satire — which is to say, its victims — are the primary aspect, and it their reaction which ought first to be considered.

So again, murder is not acceptable as response to satire. But to defend, to explain, satire’s impact without regard to its targets is simply to avoid an obvious truth.

Yes, I did read the news today

A New York City cop is in critical condition after being shot while on patrol. A couple of questions come to mind.

  • Considering recent news, was he overly cautious in trying to investigate a man who appeared to be carrying a gun?
  • The man, who had a previous conviction for violence, was carrying a gun. Should that be possible in a rational society?

I hope you will see those as rhetorical questions.

Two men fired shots at a cartoon festival. A security guard was injured; the two men were killed by police. Why, you may ask, were they shooting up a cartoon festival. Here’s part of the story from the Washington Post:

Security was extremely tight for the event: a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative, which promised to award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad. The group’s president, Pamela Geller, told the AP she had planned the contest to make a stand for free speech following violence over Muhammad drawings.

All this happened in Texas. You remember Texas. That’s where governor Greg Abbott announced

he was ordering the Texas State Guard to monitor a Navy SEAL/Green Beret joint training exercise, which was taking place in Texas and several other states….It seems there is concern among some folks that this so-called training maneuver is just a cover story. What’s really going on? President Obama is about to use Special Forces to put Texas under martial law.

And not a moment too soon.

And the alternative would be…

I’m talking about “rush to judgement,” a phrase we’ve heard a lot of lately, and one we’ll hear again in days to come. That’s what the accused — or their supporters — complain of when the legal justice system responds quickly to a real — or a perceived — breach of justice.

Rush to judgement. You have made a determination before all the relevant data have been presented and evaluated. And argued over and fiddled with and analyzed.

The immediate instance, of course, comes from Baltimore. A man died while in police custody. He died — and no one seems credibly to challenge this point — of injuries he sustained while in police custody, injuries for which he received no meaningful medical treatment while in police custody. Now a prosecutor has brought charges, from assault to murder, against the six police officers involved.

And the cry goes up, “Rush to Judgement!” You have accused these six men of major felonies before…

Before what?

Let that go unanswered for a moment. Ask instead, what is the alternative? What has been the alternative over the years?

A few times, it has been a deliberated move toward judgement. More often, however, it has been delay, obfuscation, evasion, and misdirection. A trudge to judgement which says, in effect, it didn’t happen but if it did it was accidental and no blame attaches to it.

Now, go back and answer the previous question.

How “free” is “free speech?”

I’ve been following the “free speech” debates, and can come to only one defensible conclusion. One conclusion, that is to say, which neither denies the free speech idea nor validates grotesque images and words published under its banner.

It is based on what I believe to be the one universal belief — a dictum found in some form in nearly every organized culture — which supersedes free speech. It goes by many names, but is best known in the Western world as “the golden rule.”

If you find it difficult — even impossible — to accept a vicious and grotesque representation of those things you hold dear and sacred and true, you ought not to create, spread, or tolerate such representations of anyone else’s dearly held truth.

Or, to paraphrase the original, “speak of others as you would have them speak of you.”

If “golden rule” is not comfortable for you, sounds too religious or too old fashioned, replace it with “the social contract.” Very nearly the same thing.