Despite all of the protests, Donald J. Trump is still President of the United States.
Despite all of the protests, Donald J. Trump is still President of the United States.

I posted the original version of this essay way back in June of last year. Long before the party conventions, the debates, the Access Hollywood videos, or the emails. I posted it long before the election; long before the meltdowns over cabinet nominees; long before the Russians “hacked the election” (a post coming soon about false narratives); long before Buzzfeed’s borderline seditious release of a fake intelligence dossier, and CNN’s breathless repetition of the story. I wrote it long before grizzly bears became an educational issue because people take words completely out of context. I wrote it long before the inauguration; long before anti-fascist used fascist tactics in a vane attempt to shutdown the inauguration festivities. Long before Ashley Judd decided to prove just how disgusting she is by reading a poem about President Trump having wet dreams about Ivanka (because nothing says you’re a reasonable person more than accusing someone of pedophilia and incest). And, long before USA Today decided that the important story for the day after the inauguration was that the cake presented to President Trump at the Military Ball was “plagiarized” from former President Obama’s cake at the same ball (yes, really). Can you plagiarize a cake? If so, then thousands of brides become felons every year. I hope the baker wasn’t Christian–he might go to jail!

Our house is on fire and all we’re doing is describing the flames to each other. Actually, that’s generous. What we’re really doing is screaming at each other, pointing the finger of blame when one person is holding the match, and the other a can of gasoline. It’s really gone past the point of infuriating and is now just stupid. I can’t even talk to my liberal friends anymore because they’ve become so unhinged over Donald Trump; and I can’t talk to my conservative friends anymore because they’re still unhinged over Barak Obama. I’m truly sad this morning. Sad for the friends I’ve lost. Sad for the fact that people are giving in to completely unreasonable and false rhetoric. Mostly, I’m sad for my country because if we don’t stop this insanity now, I believe we’ve reached the beginning of the end for the United States of America.

I try to avoid posting about politics on my blog because I’ve grown to hate it so much.

Let me explain that. I understand that, by definition, anything that has to do with how societies govern and organize themselves is “political.” But, for

During her speech at the Women's March on Washington, Ashley Judd read a poem which accused President Trump of being a pedophile and having an incestuous relationship with his daughter, Ivanka.
During her speech at the Women’s March on Washington, Ashley Judd read a poem which accused President Trump of being a pedophile and having an incestuous relationship with his daughter, Ivanka.

the purposes of this post, let’s make our understanding of that word a little more narrow. For the purposes of this post, when I write that I hate politics, what I’m referring to is the rhetoric which surrounds our political process here in the United States.

A couple of other parameters need to be set: (1) I don’t intend to engage in a discussion about politics in other countries because, despite my ever-increasing desire to leave, I do not (yet) live in any other country. Therefore, to comment on their politics without knowing the nuances of them would be pointless. (2) I am purposely dealing with big concepts. While I will mention specific topics, the purpose of this post is not to debate any one of them, but to address the overarching TONE of political discourse.

Yes, now even President Trump's cake is controversial. Left wing lunacy knows no bounds!
Yes, now even President Trump’s cake is controversial. Left wing lunacy knows no bounds!

(The above paragraph sounds far more academic than this post will be. So, depending on what sort of writing you prefer, I say either “don’t worry” or “sorry to disappoint.”)

The past 48 hours have provided a torrent of terrible news and horrific images depicting the worst of humanity. I can’t understand how we’ve come to a place in the arc of history where such savage acts are even possible. Honestly, I don’t want to understand because I don’t want to live in a time when it is possible. Unfortunately, somehow I already do.

As incomprehensible as those acts of disregard for life and property are, what I find equally incomprehensible are the reactions to them. I can’t understand how anyone can be aware of the inexcusable destruction of property and physical assaults on innocent people and attempt to explain them away with the same tired, stale, putrid political rhetoric that we are treated to on a daily basis. I can’t understand how we’ve come to a place in our grand political experiment where the conversation after such a diabolical acts centers on how mistreated the individuals who commit such dastardly acts have been by society, and how that mistreatment leads them to such frustration that they must break the law in order to protest it. I don’t want to understand because I don’t want to live in a time when it is possible. Unfortunately, somehow I already do.

Surrounding all of my disbelief–almost drowning out my own thoughts and feelings–is the noise. The constant screeching of nails on a chalkboard; the incessant thumping of drums that never

stops, and that only grows louder with each passing day. There seems to be no depth, nor breadth, nor any end to the horrible things that we are willing to say to one another in the name of politics.

I grew up being taught that REASONABLE people can agree to disagree. Reasonable people can debate, and even argue, but remain civil in the

Donald Trump is "literally Hitler"....literally!
Donald Trump is “literally Hitler”….literally!

process. Reasonable people can hold vastly differing views on matters of great importance, but can find common ground on which to stand in the interest of bettering our nation.

But, we are no longer reasonable people.

We are no longer people who discuss and debate with the best interests of everyone in mind. We are no longer people who understand that civilization requires courtesy, generosity, humility, and most importantly, respect.

Ahhh hah! PROOF!!
Ahhh hah! PROOF!!

I know better than to read comments when I read stories online, but it’s a lot like passing by a car accident on the freeway–I know I’m going to look even when I know I shouldn’t.

Ughhh….I looked!

In the self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, solipsistic digital diorama of social media, every liberal is a communist, every conservative is a fascist, former President Obama is an Islamic terrorist, and Donald Trump is “literally Hitler” (yes, many people have LITERALLY said that). Never mind that the vast majority of the keyboard warriors using those words don’t even know what they mean. But, what does that matter? It’s just the internet, right? It’s our time and our way to communicate. And so it is.

  • In our time and in our way, people who voted for Donald Trump are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophoboic, xenophobic non-humans who will likely be rounding up all of the people they don’t like and sending them away to “reeducation camps” beginning just any moment now.
  • In our time and in our way, people who believe that a woman should have the right to choose an abortion are genocidal non-human murderers and their belief system is what is leading our society to a place where it is okay to murder innocent people.

Those were the gist of some actual comments I’ve seen online recently. What sort of lunacy gives birth to either of those arguments?

Spectators fill the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Spectators fill the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today’s inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

If this is the best that we can do when discussing issues and problems that are, frankly, vital to the very survival of our culture, then we may as well turn out the lights and go home because it’s over. It’s like we are living in a perpetual episode of The Real Housewives of [whatever city ]. Our entire political system now hinges on which side of whatever issue is being discussed screams the loudest and escalates their rhetoric the highest.

Most likely I just won’t respond at all. What good would it do anyway? We’ve moved from the Forum to the Colloseum (if you don’t understand that reference then go study up on Ancient Rome or watch Gladiator). Instead of discussing issues, we demolish people. Instead of working to be better, we fight to be right.

I honestly don’t even know why I’m still writing about this. How can a 1,000+ word, carefully considered blog post compete with a hastily produced and ill-informed meme or cartoon? How can any reasonable person making an honest appeal for courtesy and respect compete with 30 second soundbites of candidates accusing their opponents of wanting to destroy the whole world?

The short answer is…they can’t, and I’m afraid of what that means for us.

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7 thoughts on “Reasonable People Can Agree to Disagree, But We Are Not Reasonable People Anymore (Revised)

  1. Well said, Jay. I had this problem in some btl comments on a blog about the Florida atrocity. A Christian intellectual was insisting that 14th.c Jihadism was the cause of the killings, and that this was the simple and clearly evident case. I argued, after first having declared to the Christian how sickening the event was – he appeared emotionally unmoved in his determination to apportion blame on another religious culture – that not only was no motive yet established, but that most such situations are necessarily complex, that tracing their conditioned genesis wasn’t a simple matter; it was likely a highly complex one. Now we know that it is.

    Here we are 48 hours later and knowing a whole lot more, yet we’re still unable to identify a first cause. That’s because there isn’t one. Was it Mateen’s cognitive dissonance at simultaneously abhorring intellectually, yet being physically coerced by, his homosexual leanings? Was it his own clinical psychopathy, a neurological state? Was it a hatred rooted in cultural or familial conditionings? Was it down to lax U.S. gun laws? Was it a desperate bid to usurp his own self-loathing and existential sense of impotence and alienation? Too complex? Probably.

    Really, the potential motives could play out in so many ways dependent upon the perspective from which one looks at the event and the degree to which one does, or does not, contextualise it. And yet, it seems, all we are concerned about is establishing what we think are these whys wherefores, the self-satisfying and shallow analyses that satiate, perhaps, some felt obligation to connect to events without actually doing so, because the empathy and compassion has all but dried up; it’s just another story to opine upon.

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. You’ve made some really good point here. It’s very hard to know what specific event or word or feeling precipitated an event like this. Rarely can it be boiled down to one thing. Instead, it’s usually a combination of many things over a long period of time.

      That having been said, I’m a pretty simple guy. I don’t over-intellectualize things and I tend to take people at their word. So, when this butcher calls in to 9-1-1 and pledges his allegiance to ISIS, I’m inclined to believe him. But, I do understand what you’re saying.

      I guess what I wish more than anything is that we could discuss things like this without the vitriol that inevitably accompanies the discussion on both sides. The way things are right now, neither side is giving the other side a reason to trust that they will come to the table willing to find common ground. Both sides, left and right, have dug in and are committed to “total war.” And I don’t see any willingness from either side to change that anytime soon.

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      1. Thanks Jay, but what does it tell us to say he had some sort of ‘allegiance’ to IS? Did he work towards establishing a caliphate? Did he go and train militarily in the Middle East? Or was it just somewhere to hang his hat, some label he could give to validate to himself and the world his own psychopathic impulses? Would they have found violent expression were there no IS? I very much suspect they would have. People tend not to become mass murderers based on ideologies alone.

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      2. Perhaps not. But to twist ourselves into knots trying to avoid the truth that came from his own lips to satisfy our need not to label is not helpful. In fact, it’s dangerous. While I’m not generally a fan of categorizing people, some labels are beneficial. I think in this case it is wise to take him at his word.

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      3. Why is it ‘dangerous’ to see that the causes are complex, and not simple? From a legal standpoint, we can reduce it to narrow issues, and necessarily so, but from a point of view of understanding, then perhaps being prepared to embrace the complexities are necessary. I think we differ on this. 🙂

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      4. I didn’t say it was dangerous to see that caused are complex. I said it was dangerous to deny the truth because we don’t like it.

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      5. I would agree with that, Jay, obviously enough. I think the difference here is that I’m suggesting ‘the truth’ (as you call it) here is multi-dimensional, and that Mateen’s allegiance to IS, such as it is, is but a partial element of it. From a legal standpoint, his allegiance will be largely immaterial as his words amount to nothing much – we don’t yet have thought crimes. After my initial reflections on this, and the exchange I mentioned in my opening comment, I came across this editorial which I chimed completely with my own views:

        “Some will say it is about Islam. Mateen was Muslim. But mass shootings are not unique to Islam or alien to America. There were 330 last year alone.”

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2016/jun/12/orlando-shooting-reaction-us-gun-laws-islam-homophobia

        Anyway, I’ll let you have the last word on the matter, Jay, and many thanks for the exchange of views.

        All best wishes,

        Hariod.

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