Socrates Meets Trump

Socrates: By Hera!  You want to create a ban.

Trump: Bigly.  Against Muslims.

Socrates: Muslims?  You must be an expert to do such a bold move.

Trump: Indeed, I am, Socrates.

Socrates: Tell me so that I can learn from your wisdom, for surely you must know much of Islam.

Trump: Well…

Socrates: I’m listening.  You must have read about Islam, the philosophy, the experts, the practices. Only someone advanced in knowledge would propose a ban.

Trump: Well…

Socrates: You know people who practice Islam, yes?

Trump: Have you seen Homeland?  Tremendous show.

Socrates: I have not.

Trump: It’s important to keep the country safe from terrorists.

Socrates: And could you define “terrorist”?

Trump: Look, I promised in my campaign to restore law and order.

Socrates: Of course, good fellow and patriot.  Now, surely you could define law, for only someone well advanced in judicial matters who understands law would make that sort of promise.

Trump: Law is…have you met Bannon?  Law is what we…I put forth for the good of the nation.

Socrates: But law is certainly broader than that.  You say and write (and tweet) many things that do not fall under the category of law.  Law can’t be simply what you say.  It is much more. Please, good sir, don’t hold back.  What is law?

Trump: Did you hear about how Nordstrom treated my daughter?

Socrates: And what is Nordstrom?

Trump: It is a business.

Socrates: And what is business?  You must be an expert.

Trump: Yuge expert. I am a businessman.

Socrates: But I did not ask for an example, my friend.  I asked what is a business?

Trump: It is a place where goods are bought and sold.

Socrates: I see.  Thank you for that excellent response.  And how did this business treat your daughter?

Trump: They will no longer sell her goods!  Sad!

Socrates: Sad, indeed.  And, tell me, are her goods being bought?

Trump: She is my daughter!

Socrates: And is that part of the definition of business?

Trump: I am the president and I need to keep the country safe from terrorists!

Socrates: Is Nordstrom in the business of terrorism?

Trump: I’ll be investigating.

Socrates: Your concern for safety is admirable.

Trump: Why, thank you, Socrates.

Socrates: What defines a safe country?

Trump: Freedom!

Socrates: Would that include religion? Or a business to conduct itself on its choice of goods?

Trump: Really, Socrates, I would love to explain it all to you but for another time.  I have to post some tweets and get back to watching Fox.


Yes, I will March…

Yes, I will march for:

  1. To stand for equality.
  2. The belief in the goodness of democracy built on freedom of speech.
  3. Any person feeling disenfranchised.
  4. A promise of education as a cornerstone for excellence and societal progress.
  5. Ensuring Americans access to voting.
  6. The voice of three million voters not factored into the outcome of the election.

Yes, I will march in protest of:

  1. Glorifying a bully.
  2. Discussions of race narrowly construed in terms of criminality.
  3. Framing an entire religion as an enemy.
  4. Dismissing the seriousness of sexual assault.
  5. Reducing the worth of a woman to a scale of attractiveness.
  6. Ignoring science and its important contribution to evaluating environmental policy.
  7. Encouraging shouts of jailing a political opponent.
  8. Building walls.
  9. Calling the profession of journalism fake.
  10. Not disclosing tax returns so that the public can be informed of conflicts of interest.
  11. Painting America as a dystopia.

 


Taking Class Time to Discuss the News

Today’s class discussion, as scheduled on the syllabus, was shelved.  We talked about the election results.  A friend of mine said (somewhat incredulously) “You talk politics?”

“Yes,” I answered.

Allow me to explain.  I do not lecture my particular view points, rather I offer a space for the students to voice their concerns.  In all sincerity my heart broke a little for the students who felt as though a vote for Trump was a vote against their very existence.  And, my students who favored Trump did not want to be thought of as hateful.  They, on the other hand, cast their vote in the spirit of wanting economic change, something they believe will be better for the country as a whole.

I let the students know that my participation in the conversation was as a fellow citizen and not as their professor.  I wanted my students to feel safe to dialogue and learn about each others’ views without risk or fear.

The problem we have, I believe, with considering discourse about politics as “rude” means we only chat about it with people who share our views.  This makes any other understanding terribly distant and foreign.  It is the exact opposite of how a democracy that prides itself on freedom and information ought to function.  Unfortunately, throughout the campaign we saw offensive and hateful rhetoric which ultimately diminished opportunity for authentic discourse.  No one wants to exchange ideas in such a climate.

For my students who are minorities and expressed a deep sense of fear and pain I offered them the following: choose to believe in the basic goodness of people.  For my students who supported Trump I said: work to make this a successful and inclusive presidential term.

The essence of philosophy hinges on examining arguments and this cannot be done without exploring premises, the strong and the weak.  So, yes, I shelved our lecture on Descartes to give the students a free space to voice their thoughts about political issues/arguments.  But, most importantly I hope, I wanted to the students to also have a free space to listen.

Honestly, I want nothing more than for my students to be engaged and feel at peace with being part of the democratic process.  Can this happen in a classroom?  Is it right to do this?  For anyone worried that I imposed a liberal agenda on my students, please do not fret. I treated this time as an invitation to talk, not as a soap box moment for myself.  Besides, shouldn’t education be, in part, learning to formulate our thoughts?   That’s more fun than power point, yes?

 

 

 


I Feminist

I do not hate men.

I do not wish to eclipse the achievements of men.

 

I strive to become the best version of myself.

I delight in thinking, creating, and participating.

 

I refuse to give any credibility to the belief that the female body into which I was born is evidence of a diminished capacity to thrive.

I rebuke claims regarding what characteristics and wants I ought to embody because I am woman.

 

I will not apologize for my emotions as though they are a deficiency of character rather than a healthy expression of being.

I will not classify strength as merely an exertion of might.

 

I stand with women of all economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

I stand with men who know that love and care are more important than masculine posturing, a prescription weighing down authentic enjoyment.

 

I long for a society that values contributions of heart and mind in equal measure and respects existence as such instead of determining one’s role on the basis of body.

I long for the peace, the space, the dignity to inquire about the world, reflect, and unravel my potential without the damning cultural echo: “Just a girl.”

 

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On Harassment

Harassment has everything to do with the character of the perpetrator, not the person on the receiving end.  It is an action reeking of contempt and misplaced assumption about power.

How did Trump reply when asked if his daughter were to be in such a situation? “I would like to think she’d find another career or find another company if that was the case.”

To clarify, his son, Eric Trump added, “I think what he is saying is that Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman; she wouldn’t allow herself to be.”

Allow herself to be?

This struck a nerve with me, a nerve I’d buried and forgotten.  Until now.

On two occasions in my career I’ve been caught off guard by inappropriate and sexually suggestive behavior while at work.  Both times I was alone in my office.  Both times the person was of a higher rank and older.  Both times I was paralyzed with a running loop of ICan’tBelieveThisIsHappening racing in my mind.  Both times I was embarrassed.  Both times I walked away in a daze wondering how I’d pull off getting back to work.

I did not allow this behavior.  I’m about as flirtatious as a brick and my attire is a degree less conservative than a Mormon fundamentalist.  But even if I had the appeal of a Samantha Jones or Sofia Vergara, harassment could not possibly be justified or described as relevant to the person being harassed because it does not stem from them.  The action belongs to the perpetrator.

Harassment is uninvited.  In fact, that’s pretty much the central nature to harassment.

On a rational level I know that I did nothing wrong; nevertheless I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I left my office both times feeling shame and contemplating what I had done to make the men believe that was okay.  Now, after reading about Trump Inc’s position on the subject I see why.  I’m wrapped up in a culture where the woman’s actions and credibility are called into question as a matter of course.

Deep down, I absorbed the lie of victim-blaming.  And this is the unfortunate truth despite the fact that I know better, that I’m a Ph.D., a vocal feminist, and a proud Beauvoirian.

If you’re perplexed as to why I didn’t say anything, the only response I can offer: I was in a state of complete shock.

I imagine other women, all the unreported cases, have a similar narrative: alone, no witnesses, not another career to run to, a perpetrator with a higher standing.

Note: another career wouldn’t make sense for me because

1) I love my job

2) See number 1.

So, on behalf of any person who has been bullied, harassed, or belittled for gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and/or race, I’d like to say:

Fuck you, Trump and son, for suggesting we are not strong, powerful, or should look for another career.

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History

When you deny history

you are blind in the present.


Fed Up

The ridiculousness of the last few months with respect to the venom spouted by the Right, generally directed to anyone who is not a white male, has been nothing short of maddening.  From the claim that people coming to this country are rapists, thieves, and likely terrorists to the mindless belittling via name calling, I’ve tried to disengage and wait for it to blow over.

BUT, at this moment I’m officially fed up, pissed, disgusted, and unable to ignore the claim made by Fox’s darling buffoon, Bill O’Reilly that slaves were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.”  (This was in response to Michelle Obama’s speech when she said she lives in the White House, a place built by slaves.)

Why is my blood boiling?  Perhaps it’s because the HUMAN BEINGS who were reduced to their physical selves and subjected to a brutal existence for the sake of others’ welfare are no longer with us.  They cannot stand up and shout back at O’Reilly.  Instead, people today must speak up in their place and remind those who wish to make ahistorical claims insulting the trauma endured by thousands, that their efforts to dismiss the sweat and blood drawn out in a dehumanizing fashion will not replace the truth.

From a logic standpoint I’m also peeved.  The inherent nature of slavery is wrong.  Families no more.  Children abused.  Rape.  Beatings.  Denied space to think, love, flourish.  A life bought and used by an other. Humiliation constantly on the horizon. There cannot be too much or too little of slavery because at its core it is wrong.

There is no scale.

To reduce a HUMAN BEING to the status of object and property, robbing that HUMAN BEING of choice to exist as they desire embodies the essence of evil.  Therefore, one cannot possibly treat a slave “well” because to classify a person as a slave in the first place negates the meaning of said “treatment.”

To put another way: there cannot be such a thing as a “good Nazi” because the definition of being a Nazi precludes any possibility of being “good.” Or, there cannot be such a thing as a “gentle rape” since the very definition of rape bears the idea of violence.

Likewise there is no such thing as a well treated slave!

There are records, there are stories, there are tales passed down through generations.  I refuse to stay silent and pretend those voices do not matter.  That their lives didn’t matter.


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