I have stayed away from Donald Trump news for a while since it gets so annoying, but some of it is impossible to avoid. Truth be told, there are some policy decisions that I have liked, such as his Supreme Court choice, the tax plan (mostly), and scaling back on regulations that helped encourage investors. There are also things that are not so great and even predictably stupid, such as the disaster of a healthcare plan, the annoying Russia thing that won’t go away, trade tariffs, and dumb comments from him. But Donald Trump is a weird politician, seemingly impervious to scandals that would crush other politicians. This whole absurd saga with a pornstar that he allegedly had an affair with and paid hush money to is a great example of this. Many of us already cynically think that at least some politicians get involved in shady stuff anyway, but can you imagine if a “normal” politician got hit with a scandal like this? It would be politically disastrous, and yet for Trump, people’s reactions are kind of just like, “Oh yeah, well, there’s Trump for ya.” At the same time, his approval numbers are low despite the economy doing well, which is normally something that correlates with high approval ratings (whether the president actually did anything to truly affect the economy or not). He is some mutant politician; the things that would normally destroy a career don’t affect him that much, and the things that would normally help a politician don’t really assist him.
As many know, the very controversial Senate race in Alabama is over with the Democrats winning a big victory in an overwhelmingly conservative state. The big reason for this victory, other than the fact that Roy Moore was already pretty unpopular to begin with, was the sexual assault allegations on Moore and the accusations that he went after under-aged girls when he was a young man. Many viewed these accusations as credible, including a lot of conservative Alabamans, which is why there were over 22,000 write-in votes (many of which cheekily voted for Nick Saban). Moore denied these allegations (though he seemed to change his story a couple of times), and his defenders complained that to punish Moore for them was to invert the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Moore was not convicted of anything and likely never will be, so why give an ounce of credibility to the accusations?
I think this line of thinking is mistaken and forgets to evaluate Moore’s situation carefully. Now, I’m the first person to tell people not to overreact to headlines, and I generally think it is deplorable that people jump to conclusions regarding people’s guilt. We’ve seen how doing so can destroy the lives of people who are actually innocent, such as Officer Wilson in the Michael Brown case and the Duke lacrosse players. Still, there is a difference between having enough evidence for a criminal conviction (which should meet a very, very high standard) and enough evidence for rational people to smell that something stinks. The evidence against Moore doesn’t meet the former right now, but I think there is enough to justify people’s reluctance about him and for him to face some consequences, such as losing an election (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t exactly some hefty punishment).
‘Tis the season for sexual assault/harassment allegations, apparently, as several prominent celebrities have gotten hit with them and eventually saw their careers bite the dust. First there was Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and then others in entertainment and media followed such as Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer. Politicians were not immune, so figures such as Roy Moore (R), Al Franken (D), Trent Franks (D), Blake Farenthold (R), and John Conyers (D) were accused of sexual assault and/or harassment.
On the one hand, it is undoubtedly good that women are willing to speak out against misconduct and that some of these figures, who had gotten away with this behavior for years if not decades, finally saw some consequences for their actions. On the other hand, all of this has given us more evidence of how fractured America is along party lines. Both parties are trying to claim the moral high ground, not because they seem to really care about morals (if they did, they would police themselves a lot better) but because it is politically advantageous to do so while painting the other side as monsters. Consider how some of this played out regarding Roy Moore:
Another terrible mass shooting hit America recently, this time in the small town of Sutherland Springs, TX. Devin Kelley attacked the town’s First Baptist Church on a Sunday morning and shot and killed 26 people, many of them children. He was shot by a local man after the carnage and then fled in a truck, and he was pursued before he eventually crashed and killed himself. The scene at the church was described as horrific, with blood everywhere and dead bodies littered on the floor. The nation once again reacted in anger, sadness, horror, and confusion.
In that anger and confusion, we once again have seen people targeting their political enemies, something that never seems to fail to happen. Many people have called for stricter gun laws, and if you disagree with them, they’ll react in disgust and basically accuse you of being an accomplice in such mass murder sprees. We have to do something, they say, and if you don’t agree with their “something,” you’re automatically a bad person. Others have championed the fact that Kelley was fought off by a citizen with a gun, possibly preventing further shootings elsewhere. Such people argue that those who want strict gun laws are naive control-freaks who want to take away basic rights of self-defense and resistance against potential tyranny.
Such “discussion” gets tiresome pretty fast, especially when a tragedy like this weighs so heavily. While it is understandable that people will get emotional over this (people should get emotional over this), emotion often makes for poor solutions and poor policy. What is needed is sober-minded reason, and in actuality, if people have a firmer grasp on logic, it helps to have more charitable discussion.
Now what I mean by “charitable” does not mean that you can’t dish out firm or harsh criticism. After all, I eviscerated Shaun King for his utterly stupid response to the Las Vegas shooting. Still, I clearly argued why King’s article was built on worthless arguments as opposed to simply attributing all sorts of bad motives to him without evidence. And that’s what’s needed: An evaluation of evidence and argument, not knee-jerk reactions to satisfy anger. Thus, I mean “charity” to be the avoidance of attributing the worst motivations to your opponent (unless you have good reason to) but instead trying to understand what his argument is and answer it. Such evaluation needs some basic understanding of logic.
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.