Most people have read about the tragic shooting that occurred in Las Vegas recently, where a 64 year old man, Steve Paddock, open fired from his hotel room upstairs down at a crowd during a country music concert. Fifty-nine people are reported dead with over 500 wounded. It was the worse mass shooting in modern American history, and everyone is reeling and trying to find answers. It is no doubt an evil event that causes both sadness and anger.
Of course, whenever tragedy like this strikes, it doesn’t take long for people to politicize it in order to further their own preferred narrative in a way that is both transparent and idiotic. I get that people are angry and grieving and trying to look for ways to make sense of this, but some people are reaching far into the deep crevices of their own rear ends to find whatever they can to shout at their political enemies. It is both intellectually dishonest and pretty insensitive to the actual tragedy.
Last weekend, we were treated to a bunch of kneeling by NFL players during the national anthem. The Steelers didn’t even come out on the field because they could not decide what to do as a team. Unsurprisingly, this caused a lot of division (what else is new these days?); stadiums across the country booed the players, and social media exploded with people denouncing the players as unpatriotic or defending them as brave people taking a stand (figuratively speaking). For people who just want to watch sports without having people trying to shove their political ideologies down their throat, the whole thing was only worthy of eye-rolling and annoyance.
As you may remember, the kneeling started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, despite having a few productive years for the 49ers, only became a household name because of his kneeling stunt. He said he was protesting systemic racism among police against blacks. While he got a lot of publicity, there really was no movement started, so although the media kept the narrative alive because they claimed he was blacklisted by the NFL due to this, most of the country didn’t care that much. Why? Because he’s just a guy playing with a ball (and he’s not even that good anymore), and given his interviews, he’s also not particularly great at forming coherent arguments.
The unfortunate events at Charlottesville have ramped up the racial and political tension in this country, and blame and accusations are flying around at anyone who does not find a side and scream at the top of his lungs. For some odd reason, we are not allowed to say that both of these are true: Antifa as well as the the alt-right are overly-sensitive and violent fools who have stupid philosophies. If you do, there will be some people on both sides who call you a Nazi sympathizer or a communist. Lovely.
In any case, here’s the problem with Antifa and, generally, the response from the Left: They usually don’t address any arguments. When they do try to address arguments against the more articulate of the alt-right, they look clueless, emotional, and/or unable to explain how they are not creating blatant and unjustified double standards against white people. Couple this with violent reactions, and this only serves to bolster the alt-right because they can argue that they’re victims of violent persecution when the other side is too afraid to address their arguments.
Here are a couple of cringeworthy performances: The first is Jared Taylor speaking to television anchor Jorge Ramos and the second is Taylor speaking to Eddie Huang of Huang’s World. Ramos was unprepared to answer Taylor’s arguments and tried ducking his questions most of the time, and while I credit Huang for having a civil conversation, he resorted to silly arguments like, “But aren’t we all evolved from Africa?”, a statement so irrelevant that Taylor simply said, “So what?” It was also an argument that can backfire because people like Taylor actually use human evolution to show that certain races have developed inherent traits that may be superior to others.
Clearly, there needs to be better answers to the alt-right, and frankly, the Left is not where those answers are going to come from. The reason is that the alt-right has turned much of their logic against them. The far left has jumped head first into identity politics, where people are grouped by allegedly genetic or otherwise immutable traits like race and sexual orientation and told that they are disadvantaged by “systems” such as the white patriarchy. Therefore, they have to think a certain way and fight aggressively for their survival and “rights.” White nationalists have simply taken advantage of that logic and have pointed out that white people are a group too with certain traits and who should look out for their own interests and survival against “systems” such as white guilt and wanton immigration, especially as their majority percentage dwindles in the West. While it is entertaining to see how people on the Left stumble to answer this and throw out red herrings such as colonialism, it isn’t exactly helpful.
Back before the nominations, I wrote a post about how I found a lot of Christian support of Donald Trump to be curious, and one name I mentioned was Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas. I’ve heard him preach a few times and I do not doubt his commitment to the gospel, but he’s also known to create controversy with his comments on politics. Recently, he made the news again when he stated in an interview with The Washington Post that he supported Trump’s strong remarks against North Korea because God has given Trump the authority to “take out” Kim Jong Un. He cited Romans 13 as his basis and said that the president, as part of the government, should not seek to follow the Sermon on the Mount in his role. His comments were met with widespread criticism from the media as well as other Christians who accused of him of warmongering and for using the Bible to justify violence.
I’ll mostly leave aside the question about what to do about North Korea. As a Korean, I know full well that North Korea has an evil government that might be the most backward on the planet, but what to do with them is not a question I’ll seek to answer here. Instead, I’ll narrow my focus to Jeffress’ use of Romans 13. He actually has a point, but the application of Romans 13 to this situation is a bit murky, and he could have worded what he said more carefully.
Recently, former police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter after he shot and killed Philando Castille on a routine traffic stop. Castille was armed, but reportedly told Yanez that he was licensed to carry. Yanez still ended up shooting him when he believed that Castille reached for his gun as opposed to his wallet. It was yet another high profile shooting of a black man by police (though this time by a Hispanic and not white officer), and once again the public (particularly the black community) was outraged when the officer was acquitted of all charges. Cries of racism, systemic racism, and injustice filled social media again.
Much of this reaction is understandable. While critics might argue, somewhat correctly, that the way the media chooses to cover these events gives off the impression that cops just go around shooting black people for no reason when that statistically isn’t supported, it’s still disturbing how some of these incidents go down. Certainly, the Castille shooting looks very fishy at first glance, and nobody wants to see such stories whether they are rare or not. Nonetheless, people need to be better at calmly and rationally evaluating these incidents without jumping to emotional conclusions, and they need to ask themselves this simple question: Was there enough evidence to criminally convict? If not, no matter how we feel, an acquittal is the right decision for the jury to make. Pointing this out is not racist, insensitive, or apathetic to injustice; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the facts as well as the limitations of our human courts.
Honestly, I don’t really like talking about politics, especially when the NBA playoffs are going on, but I think the new health care bill that just passed the House is worth discussing because it highlights so many things that are wrong with politics. The American Health Care Act barely passed the House and will await the decision of the Senate, and it is, predictably, quite controversial.
I’m not going to discuss all the details of the bill and its differences with the ACA. One reason is because, quite frankly, my understanding of healthcare does not go much deeper than surface level. I’ve tried to do some reading on the bill, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a policy expert on it. Secondly, my aim is not even to defend or criticize the details of the bill over and against that of the ACA, though some details will arise. My main purpose is to talk about the danger of political expediency over wisdom and the climate of political tribalism, a climate that makes it difficult to have honest, civil, and intelligent dialogue.
Recently, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against the Christian florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay wedding. I skimmed over their decision, and it contained many of the same tired assertions that have yet to receive any sort of extended logical argument: The conflation of desire and behavior, of race and sexual orientation, and of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and now. These are all dubious presumptions and there are good arguments against them, but I won’t rehash them here. Instead, I will address a common argument which states that Christians who are fighting for religious liberty in these cases are being hypocritical because they should be nice, “nondiscriminatory,” “loving,” “like Jesus,” or whatever. This same argument is used when Christians oppose the expansion of government programs or actions such as welfare, the minimum wage, the Affordable Care Act, amnesty for illegal immigrants, etc. Both so-called “progressive” Christians and non-Christians (amusingly enough) often yell that such Christians are disobeying the Bible’s teachings about taking care of the poor.
While common, these arguments are very confused, and unsurprisingly, their proponents betray their extreme lack of knowledge of Scripture when they presume to cite it. They also betray an inability to make clear distinctions and argue logically and instead rely on emotional rhetoric and catchphrases that ultimately argue nothing. In reality, there is a distinction between believing that a Christian has a duty through Scripture and that a Christian (or anyone) should be compelled to do that same thing by the government.
I was busy in January and didn’t pay much attention to Trump’s first couple of weeks, but I’m getting slightly caught up (only slightly), and boy, isn’t this a circus. It seems like if he were to cough in a certain way, people would freak out and call him an evil man while his defenders would come out and say that this cough is a tough cough that will be good for America. It is a fascinating, if not disheartening, environment.
So how has Trump done so far? On the one hand, he’s only been in office for less than a month, and I’m sure he’s doing a lot of learning on the job that everyone goes through when they tackle a new occupation (most of which aren’t nearly as difficult as the presidency). On the other hand, he’s actually already done quite a few things, and it is absolutely fair to critique his actions and words. The early returns here are not terribly encouraging, as Trump and his team are acting in the sort of ham-handed, egotistical, and abrasive way that I worried they might if he won. I’ve said time and again that he’s not a true conservative, but unfortunately, he is the public representative of conservatives, and at this rate he is going to do some long-term damage that will be difficult to rectify. I’m not a big fan of protests that consists of mindless chanting and shouting down people from talking, so I feel no need to defend the maturity of the recent protests at various town hall meetings; at the same time, it’s not like I feel that sorry for the politicians either, and these protests are an indication that many people, some of who were Trump voters, are already pretty ticked off at Trump and the Republican Party.
Trump supporters may object that he has a lot of haters who never intended to give him a chance: Fake-outrage liberals, the mainstream media, bandwagonning celebrities, etc. They will say these groups have often exaggerated, mischaracterized, and even lied about Trump’s words and actions. I will grant that much of this is true; such people clearly have an ax to grind and rarely scrutinized Obama in the same manner, and their commitment to thought-policing is hitting new levels of immaturity and stupidity. However, even so, that doesn’t mean everything that they have said isn’t true. It can still be true that Trump is making mistakes that can really submarine the effectiveness of his presidency (and make it likely that there will be a massive backlash against the Republican Party) if he doesn’t get certain things under control.
I expected Donald Trump’s presidency to be… eventful, and in his short time in office, this has proven true. I was pretty swamped with things the past couple of weeks, but it was impossible not to notice the social media meltdowns over Trump’s executive orders and policy decisions concerning the wall, the refugee crisis, and global warming. My Facebook feed exploded this past week with all sorts of hashtags, drawings, pictures, and articles which shouted particular positions especially on the so called “Muslim ban.” Trying to find nuanced and sober analysis within that sea of nonsense was close to impossible.
In this jolly environment, accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” are getting thrown around to go along with personal attacks that the opposing side is full of idiots and/or immoral monsters. Basically, if someone cites or links an article that disputes one’s position, a quick way to dismiss that article or point is to mock it as “fake news” or an “alternative fact.” It is this rhetoric that I want to address right now more than specific issues because such memes threaten to make an already toxic political environment even worse. Essentially, while we should of course not want news out there that says straight up falsehoods, this kind of rhetoric fails to realize that evidence selection is a very important part of any discussion, and it is the foolish, the immature, and the close-minded who refuse to consider facts that may not fit their preferred narrative.
The Republicans in Congress are seemingly trying to remove federal funds from Planned Parenthood, which is reigniting arguing and anger over the abortion issue. Once again, we’re hearing the nonsense 3% statistic being thrown around to go along with a host of other common arguments to defend abortion and Planned Parenthood. Much of these arguments miss the central point of this debate, being red herrings that distract from the key issue: Do we have good reason to believe that the baby is or is not a human life? Does the mother have the “right” to end that life for any reason of her choosing? Even if we aren’t sure, is the chance that the baby is human great enough to make elective abortion morally wrong? It is frankly frustrating how many people, unfortunately including many confused Christians, use the following arguments when they are all simply irrelevant.