Monday, January 16, 2017

I'm still waiting to wake up and find it was all just a bad dream

Regular Ramblings readers (how's that for some alliteration?) may have noticed that I have not been posting much lately.  That's partly because I've been on the road, but to a greater degree because I am still feeling shell-shocked from the election.  Part of my brain just refuses to accept that Donald Trump is actually about to be sworn in as president of the United States of America.  Worse, both houses of Congress are controlled by the Republicans!  I'm still losing sleep over it.

For the fourteen years I have been writing this blog I have tried (though not always succeeded) to avoid political and ideological bias.  I have tried to live up to the ideals of Science (with a capital S) and pursue Truth through evidence, experiment and reason rather than faith or ideology.  I've tried to attract an audience that is diverse in all respects, but particularly in terms of religion and politics.  I'm proud of the fact that I have a number of regular readers who often disagree with me (thanks Publius!)

But I find I just can't bring myself to be detached and objective about this situation.  I believe with every fiber of my being that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States of America, the country that has been my home for nearly all of my life.  He is an existential threat to everything I love and value in this world: Freedom.  Democracy [1].  Peace.  Tolerance.  Science.  Facts.  Truth.  Complete sentences.

I don't know how many Trump supporters I have among my readership.  I suspect not many, but I don't want to presume.  If you're out there, then to you I will say the same thing that I've often said to the many Christians that I've met over the years: I want to believe.  I really do.  But I just can't.  Not in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The evidence that I see is overwhelming that Donald Trump is not qualified to be president.  He is a petty, vindictive man with delusions of grandeur and no clue about the art of statecraft or governance.    Vladimir Putin is going to have him over a log bleating like a pig [WARNING!  NSFW link!], and Trump won't even realize that he is being played.  If I were living in Estonia or Latvia I'd be very, very worried.  (Heck, I'm living in California and I'm very, very worried.)

If you are a Trump fan, by all means tell me where I'm wrong.  Give me a glimmer of hope.  I want to believe.  Write it up in the comments, or if you want to respond more extensively email me and let's talk about writing a guest post.  But at the moment I see dark days ahead, and objectivity may turn into a luxury that I choose not to afford.  My grandparents fled Hitler because people realized too late the danger he posed.  Trump isn't Hitler (he's nowhere near as smart as Hitler was) but Hitler didn't have nukes.

On the other hand, if you are not a Trump fan I hope you will join me in opposing him by whatever means necessary.  Let's start by pledging to never watch a Trump event on TV, starting with the inauguration.  Trump thrives on ratings.  Let's not feed the beast.

If you are with me on this, I would really appreciate it if you would let me know, either by leaving a comment, or clicking on the "Right on" reaction button below.  (Likewise, if you support Trump, please click the "Bogus" button.  I really do want to know.  But if you do, I'd also appreciate it if you would explain why.)  It has taken me two months to screw my courage to the sticking place enough to write this.  Like I said, I see dark days ahead.  It doesn't take a lot of encouragement to keep me writing, but it does take some.  I need to know I'm not alone.

[1]  Yes, I know that I said that I lost faith in democracy after the Brexit vote.  And I have.  But I still cling to the ideal of liberal democracy as something that we humans should strive for, even if at the moment democracy does not seem to be living up to its full potential.


Don Geddis said...

Trump (deliberately) inspires strong emotions, both pro and con. But I do want to point out that you only offered two possibilities ("Trump fan", or else "join me in opposing him by whatever means necessary"). There are other reasonable alternatives.

For example (following the analysis of Scott Adams), I believe that Trump is an effective con man, salesman, and marketing genius. While not being especially prepared or competent at governance. I interpret most of his rhetoric as persuasion, and take little of it seriously as any kind of persistent policy statement. (It's generally intended for its immediate emotional effect, not really for its ostensible direct content.)

So I am not a Trump fan. But neither am I motivated (yet) to oppose him "by whatever means necessary".

Ron said...

> Trump (deliberately) inspires strong emotions, both pro and con.

Yes, that's one of the things that I think is going to make him a bad president. He's intentionally divisive. That is not what the country needs right now.

> Trump is an effective con man, salesman, and marketing genius.

That is clearly true.

> I interpret most of his rhetoric as persuasion

Sure, but persuasion towards what end? I see no evidence that Donald Trump cares about anything besides Donald Trump.

> So I am not a Trump fan. But neither am I motivated (yet) to oppose him "by whatever means necessary".

OK, fair enough. Maybe click on "thought provoking" or "read it" then :-)

Paul said...

I have only spent half of my life in this country.

When Bush Jr was elected in 2000, I thought "maybe it's not so bad; maybe that's just how US works and will turn out OK in the end". When he was re-elected in 2004, I was pretty upset with how US works. But all of this pales in comparison to what happened now.

Valoree said...

Ron you are very much not alone. The opposition to Trump is still out there giving feet and a voice to this. And the fact that the world scientific community is shocked and concerned is no surprise, and I applaud the inclusion of their voice, and hope it continues to make loud clear statements against Trump.

Luke said...

Over at I no longer believe in democracy, you wrote:

> I used to believe in democracy, not because I thought it produced the best outcomes (it clearly doesn't) but because by giving people at least the illusion of having a say in the matter it encourages them to become engaged in the political process and, more importantly, to accept the results without resorting to violence. At least in America the checks-and-balances built in to the system keep things from spinning too wildly out of control.

Do you think it was a bad idea to pretend that things were one way when in fact they were another? One of the characteristics of delusions is that they can work for a while before they fail. Some delusions fail catastrophically, which is what seemed to happen here. Except, if you had your eyes open—e.g. as Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky did—then you weren't listening to the prophets who preach "'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace".

I just came across the following, which indicates that democracy never operated very much like the delusion so many of us believed:

>> “The historical record leaves little doubt that the educated, including the highly educated, have gone astray in their moral and political thinking as often as anyone else,” write the political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels in their new book Democracy for Realists, echoing Lippmann. What the educated are better at is sounding like they know what they are talking about, because they have been trained in how to make an argument. “Well-informed people are likely to have more elaborate and internally consistent worldviews than inattentive people, but that just reflects the fact that their rationalisations are better rehearsed.” Education gives you the ability to tailor your arguments to suit your personal preferences, which is why it is a big asset on the job market. But it does little to help tailor your personal preferences to suit the best arguments. (The Guardian 2016-10-05 How the education gap is tearing politics apart)

I am repeatedly told by atheists that believing in fairy tales is bad. Was "democracy" a fairy tale? If not, did we approach it so stupidly and incompetently that we should be utterly ashamed of ourselves? (And will we use the empirical evidence to make this assessment?) Ideals which we were never truly approaching would seem to qualify as 'fairy tales'. We can talk about the in-between territory, where maybe we were truly approaching them (asymptote at the ideal, not somewhere else) at one point, but then stopped.