Irenic vs. Chthonic: What’s in a Word?

A recent piece in the National Review (Biden’s Inauguration Speech Was a Lot Like Trump’s) caught my eye. I’ll leave it to you to read it, but the author bemoans the lack of media cynicism depending on which party is in power.

The author substitutes his own cynicism in his take on Presidential Inaugural addresses since he sees no such criticism by others. He sees a similarity in the speeches regardless of who is making it.

Otherwise, for incoming presidents, the formula is this one:
Whew, things are really bad out there, huh? Way worse than they are telling you.
Luckily, I have all the answers. (Details TK.)
It’s too bad we’re always quarreling. It would be better if we could all unite. Er, behind me.
Now pardon me as I wield the cross* like Father Merrin and wrap myself in the flag like Rocky IV. (*Some Democrats omit this part.)

Kyle Smith, National Review “Biden’s Speech Was a Lot Like Trump’s”
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I think he has a valid point, to a point, but media cynicism, like everything else it would seem, is as partisan in its nature as is almost everything else.

I would argue, and I bet he would agree, there was a great deal of media cynicism with Mr. Trump and, as his article illustrates, we will see a similar cynicism over Mr. Biden. The only difference is the perceived bias of the media outlet involved.

I will also say this, Mr. Biden can use the sins of the previous administration as an excuse only for so long. He is now the President and, whatever the cause of the issues he faces, he must deal with them. Let history assign blame. We need solutions not an autopsy of prior policy actions by a no longer in power President.

But I digress.

The author also injects a couple of interesting words that, for most people, including me, might be unfamiliar. Now I am a big fan of expanding vocabularies. I take some perverse pleasure whenever someone says they had to look up a word in something I write. But such efforts need be used judiciously, no matter how much fun they may be. (I am looking for a way to interject Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words) into a piece, but it will have to wait.)

In the piece, the author described the difference in the media’s portrayal of the two speeches by claiming,

“Biden offered an olive branch to those who didn’t vote for him while Trump rained hellfire. Biden was irenic, Trump chthonic.”

ibid (look it up!)

Irenic and chthonic? Again, I will defer to the ingenuity of the reader to find the meaning. But it gave me pause. Are such challenges to one’s internal dictionary worthwhile or worthless?

There was a famous duel of words between William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, two of the most brilliant writers of the 20thcentury.

Ernest Hemingway: he has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb. He has never been known to use a word that might cause the reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used.

William Faulkner on Hemingway

Hemingway punched back by stating that he did not need “ten-dollar words.”

Perhaps they are both right; sometimes simple is best, sometimes challenging is best.

Now the article makes another valid point. Presidents always say similar things at their inauguration, it falls upon us is to hold them to it and measure the promises at the beginning with the reality four years later.

I will leave it to your imagination my opinion of Mr. Trump’s four years. And I hope I can point to the first four years of the Biden Presidency and recognize promises kept, but that remains to be seen and, despite what I am certain will be a round of cynicism from some, I shall be forthright in my analysis.

One thing is certain, much of what a President can or cannot do is mitigated by Congress. Here is an example of my cynicism; one thing motivates most members of Congress, re-election. They spend thirty to forty percent of their time raising money to achieve that goal.

Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla, claimed that in a closed-door party meeting they were told their first responsibility was to raise $18,000 per day. Think about that for a moment. $18,000 a day. Any business with 535 employees bringing in at least $18,000 a day would do well. But in this case, none of the money goes to the employer, it merely sustains the employee. (60 Minutes)

This is what Presidential promises run up against, a stone wall if the agenda doesn’t support the efforts of Congress to stay in their job.

We need to pay attention to what people say and what they do to further those promises.

Sometimes, words fade into history because of what actually happened. In one of his lesser-known quotes, Abraham Lincoln said.

“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. 

Abraham Lincoln

What if Lincoln saved the Union without going to war and freeing the slaves? How different would our perception of him be? Or perhaps, and here is the cynicism creeping in, he said this to placate those less fervent for Emancipation to buy himself time to free the slaves once he had garnered sufficient support.

The point being, while words matter, actions matter more, yet actions are often dictated by forces and realities outside our control. One might think of an inaugural address as a battle plan. And, as anyone who has been in combat will tell you, the first casualty in a battle is the plan.

Thus Mr. Biden has set an ambitious plan. And the plan faces challenges not just from outside forces but from our own elected officials driven to surviving in office more than doing the people’s work.

If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the money that funds the quest for power is the poison coursing through their veins.

Joe Broadmeadow

As an aside, now that the dust has settled to some measure on the events of January 6th, the impending impeachment trial, while demanded by that incident, will yield nothing more than a reinforcement of our partisan divide.

If convicting Mr. Trump assured their reelection, the vote would be 100 to 0, and the same if finding him not guilty. Securing re-election is the only sure way to Congressional compromise.

This impeachment is a necessary exercise, but likely a futile one. Once they finish, we should turn our attention to fixing the broken system rather than seeking vengeance through a partisan infected system on those who trampled on the seat of government. If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the money that funds the quest for power is the poison coursing through their veins.

Despite my cynicism, I have faith that the four-year experiment in changing the status quo in Washington will be recognized as a failure and inspire a new generation of civic minded Americans to work within the system to change it, for that is the only way change happens for the better.

Anything else is anarchy.

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Y(our) Bias is Showing

In Joe Biden’s Inaugural speech, within the first few lines, he said,

“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope. Of renewal and resolve.

“Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

“We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

President Joe Biden, Inaugural Speech

In President Trump’s inaugural speech, the tone was different. He castigated the established political apparatus for being the enemy of the people. He accused them of forgetting about the American people. He set a tone of confrontation and conflict without compromise. Yet, it didn’t start out that way.

When I reread Mr. Trump’s speech, the second paragraph jumped out at me in which he said,

“Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.”

President Donald Trump, Inaugural Speech
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Now I could go on from this point to emphasize the differences and cast them in the light of my perceptions, but that is the point of this piece. They are my perceptions. Almost from the moment Mr. Trump announced he would run for President it caused a visceral revulsion within me to the very idea.

That reaction resulted from my experiences and education and life choices. Something inside me saw this as wrong.

There were others, millions of my fellow Americans, who saw this in a different light. They saw an outsider to the politics of the establishment. They saw little difference in Republicans and Democrats until Mr. Trump co-opted one party.

And they applauded and voted for the change.

This is not an attempt to prove them wrong in the path they chose. Nor is it an attempt to establish the Biden Presidency as the hope for healing the nation. Each of those efforts would merely underscore my point. We all harbor innate preferences for those things which confirm our beliefs and an equally innate revulsion to those that contradict our positions.

It is something one needs to understand if one is to get past all the bias reinforcing efforts of the media.

In the emerging days of television news, when there were three networks, the technology restricted the competition to breaking news—which actually meant something, not the current nightly lead for every news broadcast — within the limited availability on the airwaves. Then, reporting news based on multiple sources with a focus toward veracity rather than velocity provided a more dependable source of information. They didn’t have such an enormous volume of media time to fill. They chose quality over quantity.

Lyndon Johnson hated the press almost as much as Donald Trump—actually, every President chaffs at the media at some point—but he couldn’t point to any consistent bias because all they reported was the news with high credibility and minimal hyperbole. His problem wasn’t what they reported but that they reported it.

In today’s 7 day a week 24 hours a day news cycle, the goal is to tell the story first then fill in the facts later. It is now velocity over veracity. If one gets something wrong, it is not as bad as if one loses the race to break the story. Quantity overcame quality. The first hint of things to come happened back in 1948 when the Chicago Tribune, trying to be the first to break the news, ran a headline Dewey Defeats Truman in the 1948 Presidential election. He did not.

And this rush to be first feeds into our innate bias.

If you were to ask the average American if violence and crime are rising in the US, I would predict most would say it was. But the reality is violent crime has declined since 1992. There are periodic rises, but the current level is at historic lows. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45236.pdf

(As a matter of fact, violence world-wide has declined, as have hunger, poverty, and other critical problems. Google it!)

These misperceptions, driven by a continuous replaying of the same story repeatedly, give the impression of one continuous and growing wave of violence.  

Another misperception is the so-called war on cops. Any death of an officer in the line of duty is one too many, but the reality is line of duty deaths of officers have declined over the past several decades. As with violent crime, there have been increases in some year over year totals, but looking at historic data they are declining.

Yet, nonsense movements like Defund the Police getting almost continuous coverage gives the impression the movement has significant support. The reality is it does not. Those who oppose these movements classify it as a war on cops. Those who support it argue cops are killing more people. Neither is accurate, but the bias supplants the reality. Social media propels much of this, replacing reliable news organizations as the primary source of information.

Social media techniques targeting our interests with social media feeds exacerbates innate bias. If one searches for saltwater aquariums, as I recently did, one is inundated with not just easily identifiable ads but reports cleverly masquerading as “news.”

The almighty Google, a magnificently effective tool when used properly, made a slight but important change a few years ago. The power of information in the average person’s hands is a significant force for change when properly understood. In its original iteration, a Google search produced meaningful results interspersed with ads necessary to fund the system.

Now, the algorithm has matured to include known specific interests based on search history, website visits, product purchases, and a plethora of other data. This does not differ from the targeted ads in magazines and newspaper that once served as the principal source of news. Google no longer waits for you to ask, it force feeds you things they believe will catch your interest.

The problem is, for a significant number of people, social media and Google are their sole source of information which, playing to an inherently limited attention span and dearth of analytical skills which handicaps intelligent evaluation of the material, feeds them exactly what they want to hear and filters out that which would be contrary.

Social media, if not put in proper perspective or if used in a vacuum absent other sources of information, potentiates cognitive bias. Like the three blind men touching different parts of an elephant, their limited perpectives misses the larger picture.

We are all subject to this bias, and the only way to overcome this is through a deliberate and concerted effort to understand issues from a variety of perspectives. I’ll offer one example.

One of the most divisive issues in the United States is the death penalty. I am opposed to the death penalty because I believe it to be barbaric and, having an intimate familiarity with the inner workings of the criminal justice system and human frailties, see the risk of executing an innocent person outweighing any legitimate societal benefit in imposing of such a sentence. The risk far outweighs the benefit to society.

Now those who support the death penalty will argue one of two positions. They will point out the most horrendous case of which there is no question of the individual’s guilt as justification for execution. Or they will pose the question, suppose someone killed a member of your family, wouldn’t you want them punished?

It illustrates a bias to the reality of criminal justice and the flaws within the system. As a normal human, my reaction to someone harming a member of my family might drive me to murderous rage, and I, in all likelihood, would want them executed. It is one reason we don’t let victims determine the punishment. Emotion or vengeance can never be the motivation behind justice.

The counter argument is simple. If the death penalty is on the books, the possibility exists that we could execute an innocent person. A developed nation such as ours, with a robust and fair, if imperfect, criminal justice system should never take such a risk.

Looking at all sides of an issue is not a weakness or acquiescence; it is an intelligent approach to arriving at rational solutions. Technology has opened access to a wide world of information and, in the right hands with the right skills, information is the key to progress.

Thus technology is not the problem. The problem is ill-equipped citizens failing to recognize and account for their own bias. We require a license to drive a car, hunt, fish, become a lawyer or doctor. We make no such requirement to wield the power of casting a vote.

Failing to provide a fundamental education on civic duties—I’d be willing to bet most Americans would fail the citizenship test we demand immigrants to pass—and a sound foundation in analytical skills in our educational system makes us vulnerable to lies, misrepresentations, and conspiracy nonsense masquerading as news.

I may not always succeed, but I endeavor to look at an issue from all sides before I form an opinion. While I usually listen to my gut instincts, I try to keep in mind that some of that may be a product of innate bias and recognize such phenomenon.

There is always more than one way to the top of a mountain if you look for it.

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Opinions Matter Not in the Light of Fact

Several readers of my blog raised a complex issue in the always raging and raucous discussion following my blog pieces.(https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2021/01/23/pascals-wager-and-the-environment/)

Many of them are still reeling from the 2020 election and having difficulty finding their way in a post-Trump-return-to-rationality-world. Still, some raise what they consider to be legitimate concerns and manage to intrigue me.

Questions about the transgender protections—and the implied “morality” of this issue— addressed in an Executive order by President Joseph R. Biden (ah, such a refreshing ‘sound’) (Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation) drew my particular interest because, frankly, it is a circumstance of the human condition I do not understand.

Fortunately, we do not predicate the validity of an issue or condition on whether I or anyone else understands it. We predicate it on the empirical evidence that it is natural (in the sense of naturally occurring which is beyond our control as opposed to natural as a matter of an accepted norm which is an element of society,) protected by the law, and thus immune from anyone’s “moral” judgment.

But I prefer to have at least a basic understanding of something before I form an opinion. Thus, I did some reading. Here’s a link to one of the articles of which there are thousands. (Transgender Article)

What I came to learn is transgender is a more colloquial term for a wide-ranging variety of conditions. One specific condition, which it would seem to me is the heart of such protective actions, and the foundation for a Supreme Court case which I will mention shortly, is Gender Dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people might experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. But not everyone is affected. Some transgender and gender-nonconforming people feel at ease with their bodies, either with or without medical intervention.

Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental conditions. This term is intended to be more descriptive than the one that was previously used, gender identity disorder. The term gender dysphoria focuses on one’s discomfort as the problem, rather than identity. A diagnosis for gender dysphoria was created to help people get access to necessary health care and effective treatment.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gender-dysphoria/symptoms-causes/syc-20475255#🙂

We do not predicate the validity of an issue or condition on whether I or anyone else understands it. We predicate it on the empirical evidence that it is natural…, protected by the law, and thus impervious to anyone’s “moral” judgment.

Author

The 2020 Supreme Court case Bostock v Clayton County employs a broad interpretation of Title VII to protect employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The order also references Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-does-bidens-executive-order-allow-transgender-athletes-compete-gender-their-1563790)

Now I have always had faith in the Supreme Court members, once they get past the politics of their confirmation hearing, to be less extreme than their opponents would claim.

In proof of such faith, Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the three “conservative” Justices appointed by Former President Donald Trump (ah… never mind,) delivered the Court’s opinion in this case on June 15, 2020. 

In a 6–3 decision, the Court held that Title VII protections under § 2000e-2(a)(1) did extend to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision then involved the statutory interpretation of Title VII, not constitutional law, as in other recent landmark cases involving the rights of LGBT individuals such as Obergefell v. Hodges

The Court further held that Title VII protections against sex discrimination in the employment context apply to discrimination against particular individuals based on sex, as opposed to discrimination against groups. Thus, Title VII provides a remedy to individuals who experience discrimination based on sex, even if an employer’s policy on the whole does not involve discrimination. Gorsuch wrote:

An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision; exactly what Title VII forbids. Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

Bostock v Clayton County

So, for those of you who have made it this far, this is my opinion on the Executive Order signed by President Joseph R. Biden (ah…)

My opinion doesn’t matter, nor does anyone else’s. I have educated myself by reading several scholarly articles on the medical and psychological implications of gender dysphoria and accept the fact that it is a fact.

The protection does not create the condition or promulgate the spread of “immoral” behavior. The act protects human beings who, not by choice or nurture but by nature, live with these circumstances and face discrimination from those whose “morality” flies in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Opinions are meaningless when confronted with factual realities.

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Pascal’s Wager and the Environment

Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth century philosopher, theologian, mathematician, and physicist (1623-1662) proposed a wager as a way of defining how humans were betting with their souls on the existence of God.

Pascal said there were two choices one could make about God and each had its cost or benefit.

He posits that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell.)

This is not about you: Responsible actions protect everyone | Opinion |  chinookobserver.com

One might make the same argument about Climate Change. If one changed the word God in the diagram with Man Caused Climate Change, it still applies.

I would argue that a rational society should strive to live as if anthropogenic activities are contributing to Climate change, work to develop alternative energy sources that reduce such impact, and eliminate dependence on fossil fuels.

If it turns out Climate change is not significantly impacted by human activity or beyond our ability to mitigate or limit it, it cost us little in terms of our future–and perhaps provides low-cost, alternative energy options and competition. Keep in mind, the fossil fuel industry has been purposely sowing doubt about climate change for decades to control the debate and stall any concerted efforts to find alternatives. (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2020/11/29/climate-change-altering-reality/)

Yet, if mitigation of anthropogenic activity contributing to climate change is effective and eliminates the acceleration of the process, we have gained a brighter, more naturally regulated environmental future.

Briefly, if we are accelerating Climate Change and do nothing, we lose. If we are not a significant contributor to climate change and our efforts to slow it are in vain, we still face an environmental catastrophe that may cause the extinction of man.  

Wouldn’t it be prudent to take the only course of action which presents us with an opportunity to change the course of our future?

As Pascal said, our options are to wager we can receive infinite gains by slowing our effect on climate change or suffer infinite losses because we ignored the evidence of a global climate catastrophe.

Keep in mind, we are betting with our children’s and grandchildren’s lives, it might make the safe bet more critical than any short-term financial burden.

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American Chimera: Our Long History of Delusion

As Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration draws near, the level of apprehension over the potential for violence increases. Violence premised on a lie. Violence instigated with no basis of moral, legal, or ethical reasoning. Violence threatened by those either unwilling or unable to discern fact from fiction. It would seem we have a long history of such things.

Mayflower Lives' Review: The Pilgrims in Flesh and Spirit - WSJ
Wall Street Journal Image

The history they taught me about the “discovery” of America was a false narrative. The Pilgrims, or a more accurate appellation, Puritans, didn’t come here to establish religious freedom. They came here to escape religious persecution by the Church of England and to establish their own theocracy.

It wasn’t religious tolerance they sought, it was doctrinal dominance. Soon after, nights lit by the burning of witches revealed their embracing myths and lies. And let’s not even go down the road of a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner shared with the natives. Another twisted image of reality.

This foundation of a white-washed image of the beginnings of English influence in America sheds light on our proclivity to self-deception. One might argue many of those who came to America were chasing a lie. And the tendency to twist the facts to fit their own truth became ingrained in our society.

I am reading a fascinating book called Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen. He paints a picture of the falsehoods and lies sold to many English to lure them to this new land.

“Most of the 120,000 indentured servants and adventurers who sailed to the [South] in the seventeenth century,” according to the University of Pennsylvania historian Walter McDougall’s history of America, Freedom Just Around the Corner, “did not know what lay ahead but were taken in by the propaganda of the sponsors.” The historian Daniel Boorstin went even further, suggesting that “American civilization [has] been shaped by the fact that there was a kind of natural selection here of those people who were willing to believe in advertising.” Western civilization’s first great advertising campaign was created in order to inspire enough dreamers and suckers to create America.

Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (p. 22). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. location 444

It would seem we have often been taken in by the words and lies of someone like Donald Trump almost from the beginning of the nation. And now we have taken it to a new height. A significant number of Americans embrace two poorly crafted fantasies devoid of even a semblance of validity, the Q-Anon Conspiracy and the lies this election was stolen from Donald Trump by an equally sophisticated and widespread conspiracy.

I’ve struggled to understand how so many otherwise rational Americans are taken in by such nonsense. How is it Americans firmly believe in things that cannot be proven or often are easily disproven?

From a variety of respectable survey organizations, we have these startling statistics :

  • 55 percent of Americans say they believe in angels.
  • Only 39 percent say they accept the concept of evolution.
  • Only 36 percent say they believe global warming is partly anthropogenic (i.e., caused by human activity).
  • 34 percent say they believe in ghosts.
  • 34 percent believe in UFOs.

As many as 69% of Americans who regularly attend religious services accept the “creationist” viewpoint, i.e., the belief that a single, omnipotent God literally created all there is.

Psychology Today

We are a nation lacking a fundamental understanding of basic science. We are inclined to fantasies more than facts. The biologist E. O. Wilson said, “We have created a Star Wars civilization with Stone Age emotions.”

“If one has enough belief in the supernatural plan, if one’s personal faith is strong enough, false prophecies are just unfortunate miscalculations that don’t falsify anything. If you’re fanatical enough about enacting and enforcing your fiction, it becomes indistinguishable from nonfiction.”

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire by Kurt Andersen Kindle version location 595

Francis Bacon, the English Philosopher, was a strong purveyor of the myths of migrating to America and often promulgated the same unsubstantiated misrepresentations or, at worst, outright lies about the abundance of gold in the New World and the welcoming arms of the locals toward Englishmen. Locals, those encouraging emigration to the New World insisted, were desperate to embrace the “enlightenment” of English civilization.

“We have created a Star Wars civilization with Stone Age emotions.”

E.O. Wilson

Perhaps the willingness of many to plunge into the New World based on such myths led him to write this about human understanding.

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate….And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happens much oftener, neglect and pass them by.”

Francis Bacon, The New Organon

And further on, he says,

“Once the human mind has favored certain views, it pulls everything else into agreement with and support for them. Should they be outweighed by more powerful countervailing considerations, it either fails to notice these, or scorns them, or makes fine distinctions in order to neutralize and so reject them.”

(Francis Bacon, The New Organon)

So perhaps it is in our DNA to embrace those fallacies because they appeal to something innate within us. Maybe this explains why, since the incident of January 6th, 2021, many have spent hours and days crafting explanations and justifications for that which can never be justified. Yet, it finds acceptance by those whose fundamental beliefs need soothing reassurance.

If violence rages once again on Inauguration day, Wilson’s contention we have Stone Age emotions may be overly generous.

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Immoral Relativism

The natural phenomenon of spin has now ramped up fully, comparing the protests of last year over various incidents involving the police with the recent insurrection at the Capitol.  The tactic is to compare the violence and pass a judgement that the incident in the Capitol was somehow better or less violent.

It’s the old, “yeah DC was bad, but Portland was worse so there…”

The cry is Democrats characterized the protests over racial disparities in the country as mostly peaceful despite the incidents of violence and property destruction.  Such characterization is fraudulent and false on its face. Mostly peaceful means mostly not completely.

While violence and destruction of property is never justified, there is something inherently and more dangerously wrong when protests attack the seat of government. In particular when they do so based on a lie.

But if we’re going to play the moral relativism game let’s use facts. Here’s the total numbers of arrests from several of the more violent protests over racial issues and the arrests from the incident in DC.

If you look closely, you may see a disturbing pattern emerge.  

EVENTDATEARRESTS 
Protests in Minneapolis the day after George Floyd’s deathMay 26, 2020570
Protests in Ferguson, MO after Mike Brown’s deathAugust 10, 2014400
Protests during Trump’s inaugurationJanuary 20, 2017234
Protests in Washington D.C. following George Floyd’s deathJune 1, 2020194
Protests in Louisville, KY after the Breonna Taylor grand jury decisionSeptember 25, 2020179
Insurrection at the CapitolJanuary 6, 202169
Charlottesville Unite the Right rallyAugust 12, 20178
(https://www.businessinsider.com/number-of-arrests-capitol-riot-compared-blm-protests-chart-2021-1)

So, using these numbers, it would seem this administration takes a very hardline stance against those violently protesting racial disparity—of which there is ample evidence—and a more mild stance against those violently trying to subvert an election—which was based on a profoundly disturbing lie.

Now before someone raises the argument that the low count of arrests in DC was because the police were outnumbered and could not arrest then, but they will in the future, let me address that. The police were outnumbered, left out to dry by those in charge. They were unprepared for the violence because those in command didn’t see the threat or were too intimidated by those who orchestrated the protest, i.e., the President of the United States, to do their job. One might also make the argument they were color-blind to the problem, something they did not suffer at protests sparked by racial issues.

While violence is never justified, twisting facts to suit one’s tunnel-vision view of reality is hardly justification for whitewashing what was clearly an attempt to overthrow the government. There is no moral relativism justification for violence but I would argue that violence spawned by lies and falsehoods for the purpose of subverting the government deserves its own level of revulsion.

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A Pendulum Swings, But Not Too Far

Since the January 6th attempted insurrection by violent supporters of Mr. Trump, incited by a host of lies about the Presidential Election, the pendulum has changed direction. Many of those involved have been arrested, lost their jobs, and been the object of scorn and derision.

Much of this, for those who broke the law, is well deserved. Mr. Trump, touting his strong on crime positions of the past four years, often proselytized swift and significant punishment for lawbreakers. Those words may now come back to haunt him and those who were blinded by his subtle yet real calls for violence against the government. One thing Mr. Trump is good at is obfuscation of truth to serve his purpose. No one will ever dissuade me from the belief that Mr. Trump had every intention of inspiring that crowd to do exactly what they did.

Yet our reaction need be one in direct contradiction to Mr.Trump’s blatant incitement. There is a danger here in our substituting one philosophy for another and punishing those who disagree with us, that is his approach not ours.

Every single person who attended that rally supporting Mr. Trump had the absolute right to do so. Expressing one’s opinion in protest and free speech is the very foundation of government. Even when that speech is permeated with lies and intentional misrepresentations.

No matter how distasteful such political positions may be, no matter how antithetical they may be to the spirit of America, they are protected under the First Amendment from governmental restrictions or intrusions.

It is when they cross the line into violent acts that the law must apply.

While they may be well within their right to do so, if a company or other organization terminates an employee for their beliefs, for their exercise of their constitutional rights, for expressing an opinion outside of the workplace, absent any criminal act, it comes dangerously close to creating an atmosphere of fear.

As to those who took it beyond peaceful protest, you made your choice, and you must face the consequences. I know many of those who stormed the Capitol building took great delight in many of Mr. Trump’s forceful statements on punishing those who break the law. They just never thought it should apply to them because they bought into the lies of a charlatan.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the name, S.G. Tallentyre, in her biography of Voltaire wrote the following line (which is often incorrectly attributed to Voltaire underscoring the need to research truth)

In The Friends of Voltaire, Hall wrote the phrase:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

The line illustrated Voltaire’s philosophy, and it is one we should embrace.

I do not understand how anyone could support Donald Trump. I didn’t understand it in 2016, and I see the past four years as further evidence of his Presidency being the biggest mistake ever in our history.

But seventy-five million Americans voted for Mr. Trump. Seventy-five million. Because Mr. Trump lost the election does not mean they must be silent on their positions. It does not mean they must abandon their positions. It does not mean they cannot work toward 2024 for a Republican candidate to challenge President-elect Joe Biden.

It does mean they must accept the results of the 2020 election and exercise their rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly within the law.

As long as they do that, then while I would disagree with their philosophy I would defend to the death their right to say it.

And I would expect, as Americans, they would do the same. It is what makes America great and always will.

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A Life Well-Lived, in Perspective

Recently, we faced the reality of the tenuous and temporary nature of life. Ralph, our daughter’s fifteen-year-old Yorkie, began acting strange. Shaking and lethargic, we faced the real possibility that his time was drawing to an end and a decision would need be made.

As we all gathered around, each taking turns holding him and trying to hold back tears, the memories of his life with us came pouring out. He’s been part of our life since my daughter was in high school, soon she is to be a mother. Ralph is part of the very texture of our life. No one wanted to let him go, but we also knew no one wanted him to live his last moments in agony. Strange how we see the kindness and necessity of this with dogs but not people.

While he didn’t seem to be in pain, it was obvious he couldn’t walk well and began to shiver despite the blankets wrapped around him. We decided to see how the night went and reassess things in the morning.

It was not a restful night as more and more memories swirled up out of the past and played in my mind.

I am an early riser, as is my daughter. By 6:30 or so I could no longer wait so I sent a message. What I heard back was what I had dreaded all night, Ralphie was no better and they were taking him to the hospital. This was the same hospital where my daughter and son-in-law had taken Max when he suffered an unexpected medical emergency.

Max never came home.

When Max, Ralph’s companion Yorkie with whom he shared a love/hate relationship depending on the mood of the day, died,  I wrote how his death impacted us. https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/01/07/just-a-dog/

When I read my daughter’s message, I asked them to stop by before they went to the hospital for one last goodbye. But they had already left and she didn’t see the message.  So I woke my wife and we waited in silence for them to let us know what was happening.

Then, we got the call, and the emotions engulfed me.

Turned out it was a muscle bruise that was the cause of his problem and with the help of some IV meds and a prescription for anti-inflammatories, he’d be fine. HIs days of two mile walks were over, but his days were not.

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Mark Twain, in a letter to the editor after a newspaper inadvertently published his obituary

Now I know someday the result of that call will be different, but that is not today. Yet it also occurred to me that now is the time to write about what dogs like Ralph mean to us. How they become family members in full standing and with all the rights and privileges thereof. Talk of these things now while they are still among us.

In Max’s case, we were away and never got to say goodbye but I now know it doesn’t matter because of all the times I got to say hello to him and Ralph as they romped through our lives. Those are the moments that matter and those are the moments we need embrace.

Hellos always outshine goodbyes.

Statistically speaking, Ralph may not have 10 years left but then again neither may I.  When it appeared his time had come, the feeling of sadness was overwhelming.  It occurred to me I liked him better than most people.

A lot better.

Now I have a different perspective on the course of life with dogs.

When the time comes, there will be no reason to say goodbye because I will have embraced every one of these remaining moments of hello. That’s the thing about dogs, every day they are with you are good days except the last one.

You can’t say that about people.

When a dog like Ralph or Max pass on, it is always sad. When some people do the same, it is a relief. It’s why dogs are so endearing to us and why I will make sure I enjoy each of those remaining moments with Ralph and all the others I hold dear.

This could never happen with a cat.

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Ignorance of the Constitution on Display

Here’s the headline

Don Trump Jr claims ‘free speech is dead’ after father’s Twitter ban

Here’s the Amendment he claims is dead.

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.

Someone may want to explain to Junior the First Amendment protects Free Speech from Governmental interference. It prohibits Congress from restricting free speech or freedom of the press.

Private enterprises like Twitter or Facebook are free to promulgate any rules they like limiting what appears on their sites as long as they are not discriminating based on race, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. And people are free to read or ignore such sites.

Alex Jones can refuse to publish pieces by AOC just as Vanity Fair can refuse to publish a piece by Donald Trump Jr. There is no diminution of Free Speech in these examples

That Twitter banned the President of the United States says more about the character of the President than anything else. It is not a violation of his First Amendment rights. He can publish anything he likes, there are all sorts of sites that live to promulgate his lies.

As long as the government isn’t stopping Mr. Trump and his minions from publishing or speaking their minds, there is no First Amendment violation. But like yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater, it is incumbent on the writer or the speaker to restrain from spreading lies or publishing dangerous incitements to violence. Otherwise, sites who take seriously their responsibility to ensure they are not abetting violence have an obligation to restrict such positions.

America Has a Problem

There has never been a more stark example of endemic racism than what happened in the days and hours leading up to the attempted coup on January 6th, 2021.

Now I don’t believe for one moment the Chief of the US Capitol Police intentionally underprepared for those days events in the hope the crowd would act as they did. But clearly there was a lack of preparation on their part. The same with the MDC Police who, three days before this planned and emotionally charged gathering of Trump supporters parroting the lies of a fraudulent election, refused the pre-placement of National guardsmen.

These inactions led to police officers being overwhelmed by violent protesters and the murder of a US Capitol Policeman. The restraint demonstrated by those front-line officers was remarkable. It is the only bright moment from this dark day. We can hope the restraint was a matter of choice, not simply being outnumbered or, worse, the racial makeup of the protesters.

But the evidence of differential treatment before our eyes is unmistakable. Those in a position to plan for such eventualities saw no need to prepare for the real possibility of violent confrontation. In contrast, the preparation for protests by Black Lives Matter and other such groups engendered an entirely different response, one that assumed there would be violence.

It begs the question why?

Either intentionally, or subconsciously, those in command of these agencies saw predominantly black majority protests as inherently dangerous and, in troubling contrast, saw the predominantly white majority protest as without similar risks.

The stark difference is black and white. They may not have said it out loud, but clearly the implication was, “you gotta watch out for them Black folk. You know how they can be.”

This piece will not endear me to many of my brethren in law enforcement, but the reality is endemic racism is insidious, dangerous, and fraught with peril unless we address it with determination. As my good friend Matt Horace said in his book, The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement

Whether unconsciously or intentionally, American society is suffused with a racial bias that must be eradicated. When it comes to the ailments and needs in the black community, the response is punitive and lacking. 
I thought about my fellow officers who are upset about a movement that is directed at fighting against police. But my brothers in blue are wrong. 
The suspect has once again been misidentified. These protestors are not saying that white lives don’t matter or that police lives don’t matter. Everything  in America — from educational institutions to social networks, television, news, films, financial markets — says white lives do matter. 
Instead, the message is a demand and a plea for society to embrace African American’s humanity, Black Lives Matter —-too.

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matt Horace and Ron Harris

Even the responses of those looking to rationalize the actions on January 6th, making outlandish comparisons that at least this action was less violent than the BLM-led protests over the summer, are troubling as if this false relativism equals a rational justification.

And the man in the middle of this firestorm, who once demanded Governors and Mayors summon the National Guard with historically racists taunts like, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” forcefully resisted calling in the Guard. When his Proud Boy, white supremacist, Confederate Flag waving anarchists were violating the sanctity of the people’s house Mr. Trump watched it on television as his “great patriots” made him proud.

Joe Biden faces an enormous task. To take back the bully pulpit from the racist mob and heal a shattered American reputation in a world horrified by the reality of our systemic racist legacy.

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