Reactions and Counter-reactions

Beloved friends,
Some of you have asked me my thoughts on recent political developments.
The short: I’m cautiously optimistic although I did not desire or predict this outcome.
The long: (All except number 2 are things that I learned while at my liberal arts college, whose motto is Veritas (“Truth”), although most of my classmates here seem to have though it to be Sensus (“Feeling”)…).
Here they are:
1. According to Yoda, fear leads to the dark side. If you, as a parent or teacher, are inculcating a culture of fear in your children or students in which they assume that going to college means they are going to be repeatedly raped, or that the gestapo is coming to kick them all the minorities out of the country or put them into internment camps or other foolishness, you are producing little Anikans whose only coping mechanism will be the murder of younglings. We live in the free-est, best-est, most tolerant-est pluralistic society in the history of the world. No other country has ever granted so much freedom and equality to people from so many different cultures and backgrounds (except maaaaaaaybe Rome). America is not perfect, but it is the only country in the world that even tries to be a melting pot, and that counts for a heck of a lot.
Politicians say things that are not true to help themselves get elected. Sometimes these things are “I’m gonna build a wall.” Sometimes these things are “He wants to put ya’ll back in chains.” All are meant to persuade people (usually through fear) that their opponent is going to eat your babies like a dingo. If you are an adult, and you believe what politicians say, I sentence you to watch the “I’m shocked–shocked to discover that there is gambling going on here!” scene from Casablanca until you understand that lots of times people say things that are not true.
2. According to Leave it to Beaver, it’s not right to do the things that you criticize other people for doing. If your concern about a Clinton victory was that Trump supporters would protest, and now you’re protesting because Trump won, I sentence you to 30 hours of MeTV viewing.
Would you be calling for an end to the electoral college if Trump had won the popular vote and Clinton won the presidency? Because if not, you’re a shitty person. Don’t be shitty. You can change.
3. According to Plato, when Socrates was sentenced to death via democratic vote, he was given the chance to escape prison and his sentence. He response was that he had lived in Athens his entire life. He knew how the justice system worked, and if he was unhappy with it, he could have left before. But, it would be wrong for him to leave simply because he didn’t like the way a vote went.
If you don’t like the fact that there are winners and losers in political races, I recommend Cuba, Venezuela, or China, where you will never have to worry about which side will win or lose an election.
4. When I took my first class on American Indian history, I walked in there feeling very sorry for Native Americans, who were so stupid and helpless and powerless that they lost an entire continent by trading it for magic beans or beads or something. Poor, stupid Indians.
Over the semester, I found out that Native Americans were not the racial equivalent of rescue dogs. They (this is a big, generalized “they”) made rational decisions about the choices they were faced with. Many of them were brave and noble–others were conniving and opportunistic. “They” did not have some kind of Sid Myers’-esque hivemind guiding their overall actions.
In short, they had agency (which is the social science term that means “They were capable of making choices and being responsible for them”).
Black people, Hispanics, Muslims, and our friends in the LGB community are not rescue dogs. They are not waiting for us to kiss their boo boos and make them feel better. They do not cower in their kennels soiling themselves. However, if I were an anthropologist studying facebook, I would estimate that the nearly universal estimate of Americans thought them to be on par with invalids and abused dachshunds (which they, in reality, are not).
They are fellow citizens who, like us, got shit to do and, for the most part, just need you to stay the hell out of their way. They do not need your “Oh, I’m so sorry that Trump got elected and that now you’re going to get deported”s. They don’t need your “I support you!” safety pins.
What they need is that if they’re carrying a heavy box, you hold the door open for them. They need low taxes, effective government, and the rule of law, and maybe someone to get their mail when they go out of town, same as the rest of us.
This is pretty easy, Tony Danza-level stuff “How do you treat a gay/black/hispanic/muslim person?”
“Like a person.”
5. As a member of Knox’s Student Senate, I once saw the feminist bloc torpedo a fundraiser for a women’s shelter because it was run by Catholic Charities. Politics, like monopoly, is a game mostly played by assholes (like me). Do not expect us to be angels or truthful. Expect us to try to win and burn as much stuff as we need to do so. We are not your friends. Try to insulate our game from your actual lives as much as possible.
6. I met my beautiful wife’s grandfather while at Knox. He died a few weeks ago. He was 94. By the time he died, he had buried both his parents, both his wives, his only brother, and both of his children. In the Great Depression, his family lost his farm. In WWII, he was part of the cleanup crew after the bombs were dropped in Japan.
My grandmother’s 105 birthday would have been a few days ago. She raised 10 children, the youngest of whom was born the first year of the Great Depression. She buried her husband while the youngest was still in high school. One time when she was young, she won a contest by catching a monkey in a basket.
Neither of them ever got/needed a safe space or ever got to say “I spent all day crying instead of doing my job because something I wanted to happen didn’t happen.”
I want you to think about what your grandparents or great-grandparents would think about your actions over the last few days. If you think they’d be proud of your sniveling in a corner terrified of phantasms inspired by political rhetoric, you are wrong.
You are an adult. By now, you should know that the world is usually a cold and unfeeling place. If you haven’t, you have no prudence or wisdom, and nobody in their right mind is going to let you govern the country.
7. If your political candidate of choice is a less-charismatic version of Emily Gilmore and a white guy with weird eyebrows, you picked bad candidates to try to keep together the Obama coalition. Live with it, and fix the problem. The Republican Party has spent, since 1994, its time building up solid Center-Right majorities across almost the entirety of the United States. Democrats have spent that same time retracting more and more into urban centers. In terms of land mass, the Democrat message is persuasive almost nowhere.
Fix this.
In Indiana, I voted for Republicans because I thought they would keep taxes and government spending low, eliminate waste, and in general, stay off my back. The Republican governing apparatus in Indiana does not view itself as a tick trying to suck as much blood from residents as possible before they die, which is the exact opposite of how the city of Chicago treated me.
When the Democrat party can plausibly make the case that they are for lower spending, less government intrusion into citizens’ lives, and a reasonable approach to law, expect them to revive.
While they continue to act like children, expect the map to not change.
8. If you have not read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, do it. There’s an audiobook version of it.
9. The great strength of our government are the firewalls against democracy that are built into it, which means that if someone(s) you don’t agree with comes into office, it’s really hard for them to actually affect your life.
The president essentially can’t do shit except exercise veto power and operate the military. (unless, like, we spent the last 8 years establishing the dangerous precedent that because the president has a pen and phone, he can will laws into being).
Congress can’t enact a law unless the same party controls the presidency, the house, and 60% of the senate (unless, of course, one party was dumb and de-toothed the filibuster and established “reconciliation” as a reasonable way to get laws passed).
The Supreme Court, as the least democratic branch, is our final bulwark, since it has no function to not pass laws but rather to make sure that laws conform to the easily readable Constitution (unless, of course, one party has been trying to use the Court as a cudgel to enact legislation that can’t make it through the regular political process.)
The final, strength, of course, is that our country is a Federal Republic, which means that Donald Trump and the rest of the federal government have almost no control over the laws of the individual states, so people are free to move to whatever state best meets their social/cultural/fiscal needs.


So, I was thinking about citizenship today, what with voting coming up and all.
And that got me thinking about my time in Boy Scouts, specifically the three merit badges that deal with citizenship (Citizenship in the Nation, in the Community, and in the Nation, and in the World).
None of which I earned while I was old enough to vote, which I think this is a good lesson for us. Voting is a right of citizenship, but not necessarily an obligation, which is how it gets portrayed. It is, least of all, our highest or only obligation as citizens.
Children and felons have as many obligations as citizens as citizens eligible to vote. In fact, even de facto citizens (businesses, resident aliens, etc.), have responsibilities to their adopted homes.
And so, here are some thoughts on some of our responsibilities as citizens based on the Scout Law:
1. Trustworthy: Obey the laws of your community, even when you’re not going to get caught breaking them. If you’re in a position of responsibility, don’t spread (even unintentionally) our state secrets to our enemies. If you’re in a journalist, report the news impartially and honestly. In any job you have, don’t steal time or money.
2. Loyal: Love your country for its best parts and work to change its worst. Honor our flag and our institutions for their promises of liberty, including those yet-unfulfilled. If you’re a soldier, fight bravely. If you’re drafted, serve willingly. If our country taxes you, don’t renounce your citizenship or try to hide your money overseas.
3. Helpful: Help your neighbors when they’re in need. Mow someone’s grass when they’re on vacation. Hold doors open for people. Look for opportunities to serve. Find your talents and share them.
4. Friendly: Treat people with respect, even if you disagree with their beliefs, way of life, or background. Get to know your neighbors and their kids. Join neighborhood clubs and organizations.
5. Courteous: Say please and thank you. Keep your voice down in public. Don’t park in handicapped spots. Push your carts into the cart corrals at stores after you load your car. Pay attention for other people and make sure you don’t unintentionally make their lives harder through your poor behavior.
6. Kind: Be thankful for your blessings. Understand that not everybody has had those same blessings. Volunteer at homeless shelters, food pantries, and literacy programs. Tutor someone.
7. Obedient: Obey your parents, even when you’re not a kid. Obey your spouse, your religion, and your nation’s laws. (Take this with the usual caveats.)
8. Cheerful: You live in the freest, most prosperous country in the world. People of all backgrounds have found success where you live in any field they’ve chosen to work in, although often times overcoming unfair obstacles. Be happy that you’ve been blessed to live in the USA.
9. Thrifty: Don’t waste resources (gas, water, electricity). Save money to protect yourself from bad times. Save money even when you’d rather buy yourself something nice. Take care of your clothes, your toys, and the rest of your stuff. Learn how to fix things around your home. Try not to spend money on things when you can’t pay it back.
10. Brave: Be willing to fail at new things until you get better at them. Understand that who you are right now is not who you have to be five minutes from now, as long as you are willing to try, to learn, and to fail sometimes. Try hard at school to learn new things, and try hard at work to get better at your job. Apply for promotions and leadership programs. Stand up to racism, sexism, and bigotry when they appear, but be as courteous and kind as you can be when you do.
11. Clean: Keep your home and personal appearance neat. Don’t spread diseases to your neighbors through unsafe activity. Stay faithful to your spouse and keep yourself chaste before and after marriage. Don’t poison your body with alcohol, sex, or drugs.
12. Reverent: Say thank you to God once in a while. Remember that there is something much, much bigger than you can understand that cares for you and that has certain expectations for you that you should try to meet. Treat matters of faith with more respect than you do other areas of life.