Tag Archives: Politics

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?

 

 

 


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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What is the Logic Behind The Other’s Political Position?

* Warning, you might not enjoy this post, especially if you harbor strong feelings about politics and believe that you are the sole arbiter of truth.  In fact, just skip to another blog right now while you have a chance.  Go ahead and clickity click…

You stayed?  Okay, good, because I didn’t really want you to move on.  Well then, let’s get to it.

I simply want to propose a challenge: write out an argument on a subject you feel passionate about (such as taxes, government shut down, immigration, the affordable health care act, etc…), but instead of constructing your position, focus on the opposing position.   Try to formulate the opposing side’s argument.  What are the premises?  The evidence?  The projected goals?  The concerns?

How much of your view is attributed to your place of birth and your parents?  What if you had been born with parents of a different economic status?  What if you had been born with a different language, religion, gender, level of health?

“If you don’t understand the other side’s argument, then you don’t understand your own.”  I can’t recall the genius behind this quote.  I can, however, recall when I first encountered it.  My senior year of high school one of my teachers wrote this on the board before we were to embark on researching for a debate about affirmative action.  Not understanding the quote, I drew up an argument I thought was solid and absolutely right.  Did I know the oppostion’s point of view?  Nope.  They were morons, or so my young eager mind believed.

That was essentially the extent of my research.  When I presented my bold flawless argument, the other side shot me down, and with good reason.  One student even dared to say, “I think you need to research the issue more. You do not understand what this is about and you are angry.”  Cue the deflated ego.

She was correct.  I only flaunted an idea I skimmed from hand me down rhetoric.  In fact, I was guilty of what is called the strawman fallacy.  As embarrassing as that was, I’m extremely grateful to have learned that lesson at seventeen.

I’m prompted to blog this topic because of some disturbing Facebook status updates I’ve read.  Yes, yes, yes, I shouldn’t be on Facebook.  Why do I care?  I care because people aren’t talking or thinking or listening and it’s driving me bonkers.  A little respect is all I ask.  Some of the status updates are angry, outrageous, annoying, and fraught with the philosopher’s pet peeve, the strawman fallacy.  This means recreating or misrepresenting the opposition’s argument, and then attacking that fabrication.  For example, here is a post:

Dear America and the GOP,
Just GIVE IT UP. Obamacare and it’s government jobs program and over-inflated pricing for the massees is HERE TO STAY (strike the band!) and make sure that in 5 or so years that you’ve got it all set up for a Single Payer system without any recourse for debate or discussion for what is actually GOOD for America and not just your legacy and continued elected status of the current incumbents. After all, we are NOT a democratic republic. I’m sick caring and sick of hearing about this. The Democrats and Progressives are CORRECT and any conservative (fiscal or otherwise is WRONG) – we need to give EVERYTHING and ANYTHING to people who want, and the solution is SIMPLE and EASY – by taxing anyone who makes money through hard work and through success. Those people don’t deserve to keep what they’ve made, they are SELFISH and BAD (Yes, I’m talking about myself here guys – y’all finally won the battle. I’m F*cking DONE with caring. I’m now sending an EXTRA $1000 a month in taxes off my paycheck just to ensure that you all get ALL THE FREEBIES that I can possibly give you.) 
Love,
Me.

I realize people are concerned about their money, their livelihood, and their rights.  But, can we please not repeat what the pundits who are making mucho bucks are saying?  If you flip through the media outlets like MSNBC and FOX you’ll notice that both claim the other side is out to destroy America, wants to ruin your lives, hates the middle class, and wants to take away your rights.   Are you really going to let this dictate how you come to your conclusions?

I am not advocating that one doesn’t take a position at all.  I myself hold views and vote, so of course I think one particular course is stronger than another.  However, one must understand the premises of the other’s argument in order to understand one’s own argument.  If, for instance, you found yourself in a pickle and about to go to court, and your lawyer turns to you and says, “I’ve got us covered.  But I don’t know what in the world the other lawyer will say.”  Run and find a new lawyer!  Every good lawyer could argue both sides of a case because they are familiar with all pieces of evidence.

Now, with your politics, could argue the other side?  What are you fighting for?  What are you fighting against?  Just please, think it through.  When you do this thought experiment it will diffuse the anger in your speech, and that really is my goal by putting forth this post.

To begin, not all Democrats want to take away your money, give it away to people who could care less about work, hate religion, and abide by Marxism.  (Which, might I add, please look up the definition of Socialism, Marxism, and Communism before using them to describe all Dems.)

I know Democrats dedicated to their religion, love working, and are pretty much a refutation of all the aforementioned nonsense.

Next, not all Republicans are selfish greedy bastards who love guns, are racist, and homophobic.  Did I cover it all?  I know Republicans who are charitable, care deeply about their family, their children’s education, their neighbors and, again, a refutation of all the aforementioned nonsense.

If you choose to only see the caricature of the political party then you are avoiding an honest discussion about how to allocate taxes , ensure justice, safety, and promote economic growth.

Find someone who enjoys dialogue and holds a different point of view.  Listen.  Learn.  What are their concerns?  Why do they come to their conclusions?

Thank you for sticking around to read.  As a reward, here is a picture of my cat, an actual destroyer of things, peace, and sleep.

photo-29 copy


Heartbroken by Another Violent News Story

I am heartbroken.  I am sad.  I write this in haste and with the intention of understanding my own feelings.  My apologies if this seems chaotic. The news of the school shooting in Connecticut warps my brain and stomach into a melancholic frenzy.

I feel for the parents of the children.  I feel for the community.  I want to wrap my arms around all those who have been devastated by this madness.  They were most likely looking forward to the upcoming Holiday season.  What a senseless tragedy!

I don’t want to hear that “people kill, not guns.”  Please suspend this useless rhetoric.  It is disingenuous to say the least.  Just as if a driver killed a passer-by I wouldn’t want to hear praise on the make of the vehicle.  But that analogy doesn’t work, does it?  Why not?  Because the function of a car is for transportation.  In contrast, the very particular function of a gun is destruction.  Indeed, a “bad” gun would be deemed as such if it didn’t fire correctly or failed to hit a target.  An “effective” or “good” gun fulfills its function.  It is the concrete manifestation of violence.  So, please, do not spout tales on the glories of guns to me. They are not works of art.  They are not mere inanimate objects.  They are created with the intention of piercing a target effectively.

I am sickened by the string of violence in the news: Gabby Giffords, Virginia Tech, Colorado movie theatre,  just to name a few.  The nature of violence is embedded in American culture and it must be addressed.  It is in our television shows and video games.  It reared its ugly head after Obama was elected and the “n-word” trended on Twitter. It is in the misogynistic tone when criticizing women in power or insisting they surrender to their “nature.”  It is in the absurd offense to wishing a “Happy Holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas” and labeling this as a “War on Christmas.”

Freedom does not mean being able to carry a weapon around.  Finding the need for a gun actually points to an absence of power (read Hannah Arendt On Violence). Freedom is being able to visit a congresswoman’s dialogue with her constituents, going to a movie, and attending school without the possibility of being shot.

Yes, I’m deeply saddened.


The Disconnect

After reading Twilight of the Elites by Christopher Hayes, a book that outlines the dynamics of a merit based ideology in the U.S., I’ve found myself haunted by one particular passage.  Hayes writes the following as an example to illustrate the disconnect between those governing and the reality of people’s situation during Hurricane Katrina:

“According to the 2000 census, 8 percent of Americans resided in a household without access to a car, but that number varies widely depending on class and location.  Among the poor nationwide, 20 percent live in households that don’t have access to a car, and among the poor in the city of New Orleans that number was 47 percent.  What’s more, the city was home to hundreds of thousands with disabilities, according to the 2000 U.S. census: fully 50 percent of residents over sixty-five had some kind of disability.  Further compounding the problem was that the storm hit at the very end o f the month, a time when those on fixed income, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, were at their most cash strapped.”

This clearly highlights several factors that contributed to many people not being able to simply pick up and go despite increased warnings of danger.  By becoming aware of socio-economic conditions impacting people’s lives, we can engender an appreciation of the hardships overlooked by the average-to-well off American.

I would like to use Hayes’s insight to consider a current debate in the U.S. regarding voter identification laws, or as some have argued, an effort to suppress voting rights.  In a similar vein, although not life-threating as the case with Hurricane Katrina, there is a lack of understanding for the means of several Americans to obtain government identification.  It has been argued that getting an i.d. is not problematic.  That claim, I believe, also demonstrates a disconnect between the have and have nots.

Obtaining an i.d. requires transportation, money, physical mobility to get to a bus, train, or to stand in-line, and at times going out of state to get a birth certificate.  This is not an easy feat for the elderly or poor.  In fact, it may be an impossibility.

And, because I often concern myself with college-life, I cannot help but point out that university students are also pushed aside as citizens in this discussion. Post Wednesday’s presidential debate, I’ve overheard students on campus engaged in lively political discussions.  Many of our youth are excited to cast their first vote! The fact that some states want to declare a student i.d. insufficient for voting, but will accept a gun registration is astounding and a disgrace.  Students contribute to their community and often temporarily reside in their college town for 4-5 years.  Even if they are not a permanent resident of their college town, they should be able to vote in their temporary residence, because they are impacting, and are impacted by, that district for half a decade.  Here are some ways students are involved in their college community:

1. They buy food, gas, clothes, and entertainment in the area; thus they are paying sales tax.  This also boosts local business.

2. Students do community service via outlets like campus clubs or the campus Career Center.

3. Students hold part-time work in their community.

4. Student athletes bring revenue to their school.

5. When students are successful post-graduation they also increase the visibility of their alma mater.   As a result, the university’s enrollment and reputation flourish thereby bringing in more students for the future.

I write this to encourage people to consider possible factors that go into obtaining a government i.d. so that it is not brushed off as a simple endeavor, and to increase the visibility of the college student voter.  Obliging citizens to strict regulation does indeed hinder several people from voting.  It is unfair and it is not living up to the standards of a free society. Let’s not disenfranchise people.  Remember the point of the American Revolution was to enable representation, not to keep power in the hands of the upper echelon.


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