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Archive for February, 2016

If Trump becomes president

Donald-TrumpMost tolerant, open-minded people get shivers at the idea of Mr. Trump becoming the president of the USA. He is an example of audacity run riot, of the outcome of public tolerance and wild approbation of the rich, of the division between religion (and its sacred values promoting humanitarianism) and state, (he, being the result of that divide), of admiring what we do not take the trouble to reflect upon.

I do believe that teachers and writers see the distinct possibility (not yet probability) of his achieving that goal. It would be a goal reached through voting guided by raw emotion, not critical thought. Critical thought is the victory of sense over sensitivity. It cannot be achieved without training. Such training comes from reflection and seeking knowledge with an open mind, from self restraint and from tolerance. Theoretically, critical thought comes from education.

While education has never been dropped in the USA, and could be said to be thriving, teachers and writers are acutely aware that in-depth reading (the kind that comes with serious thinking and analysis as well as introspection) per capita, struggles like a dead seal to stay above the surface. The books people once carried under their arms have been replaced by technological devices, and the reading accomplished thereon is in short blurbs, mainly through grammatically incorrect and often misspelled shared “posters” or equally grammatically incorrect comments or blurbs.

We are a vision and hearing-driven, A.D.D. and easily distracted but terribly frustrated empire. People are frustrated by their wanting what the rich flaunt in their faces, thanks to TV, tabloids and other media. The elderly retired may be frustrated by the lack of hope in the future, and listen to raging pundits, believing all they hear.

It is very simple really. A large group of people, an empire say, can be manipulated by what it knows or what it thinks it knows. If that knowledge is not obtained through vast, open-minded and patient reading of books that are from all times, all places, all manner of civilization, then that group is easily swayed. The flames of frustration can be stoked while collective understandings of history can be manipulated. (Queen Elizabeth I understood this, which is why she paid Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, one thousand pounds sterling per year to write the history plays that supported the Tudor claim to the throne.)

I recall reading these words of a Muslim scholar: “Don’t trust a scholar until he is dead. Then you can appraise his entire life.”  That is the attitude of the careful. We always have to ask if we are motivated by our own egos. A look at history will show how far that gets a people.

If Mr. Trump becomes President Trump, it will be (despite all Henry Thoreau had to say on the matter and possibly because he was right) through the electoral process. His supporters are like minded and have latched onto the right to say anything that comes into their minds with glee.  It is, after all, the first amendment. Good manners and consideration are, golly gee, part of the program of boring old proper grandmothers who believe in kindness or the church/temple/mosque. Good manners and consideration have nothing to do with saying it like it is, right?

Still, if Mr Trump becomes president, it may not be a bad thing. My mother, not a scholar but indeed dead (may God have mercy on her soul), once explained to me that society swings far one way and then the other way. Yin and Yang. If Mr. Trump becomes president, his supporters will be loud and raucous and jubilant. They will emulate their  chosen one.

That will go on for four years, possibly eight.

And society will sicken. Some emulators will lose their taste for lack of manners. Endless insulting of others to their faces? Treating ethnic groups like vermin because they are not white or rich? Hatred breeds hatred.

Either we will be crushed, lose our place in the world, or we will rear up and ask for another kind of figurehead.

Having Mr. Trump for president may not be such a bad thing. It may cause, if it happens, the introspection now so short in supply.

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People are said to have “bad manners” when they treat others without consideration or kindness. While we can place laws into effect that will help to a certain degree–stop signs, for instance, assure that cars stop in turn to let another car pass while other laws exist to forbid hitting or shooting people we meet day to day–some things cannot be stopped due to the free speech that is assured in the first amendment.

One of the great ironies of the first amendment to the Constitution of the USA is that it assures the freedom to insult someone else who is assuming his or her first amendment right: freedom of worship. The first amendment states,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Good manners, which have to do with decorum in public and one’s manner of dealing with other people, have to do with the concept of live and let live, of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Sadly, there are people who feel they are exempt from good manners, not so much in the name of the first amendment but in the name of advising and counseling others.  To scuttle good manners in order to advise another means to abuse that person, to call him or her names and demoralize. It means that the person who feels entitled may do to the other what is tantamount to verbal abuse. The first amendment protects this right.

So the first amendment undermines itself.

The person who embraces bad manners in the name of entitlement demonstrates that he or she is a liar: false and unworthy of respect. Such a person deserves nothing but pity, and if he or she does not gain any, who can wonder? To abuse another, for instance,  for his religion or his weakness says nothing but “Be mean like I am so that others hate you. Then watch what ultimately happens to me.”

To say, “Be me” is an impossible demand. Yet many make it of another they claim to “love” all the while abusing the person.

To take such a person as a friend or partner is to lean against a wall without foundation or to eat food deprived of sustenance. It is to ask to be hated and despised by the world.

The only buffer against that hatred is being joined by others similarly ignorant. Yet idioms abound as to the honor one may expect from a thief.

For to abuse and insult is to steal another person’s dignity and impose a kind of slavery.the-first-amendment-protects-offensive-speech

 

 

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