The Kathy Griffin Thing

Let me begin by stating that nobody has asked me my opinion of this.  Absolutely nobody.

Nevertheless, enough has been made of the whole thing that I have spent some time thinking about it.

First, the easy part: obviously it’s protected speech.  There were a few places online where I saw people suggesting that the image of Kathy Griffin holding the severed head of the president was a threat.  I don’t think that any reasonable person believes that, so I’m not going to spend anymore time on it.

That being said, just because there are not legal repercussions for an action doesn’t mean that there won’t or shouldn’t be social repercussions for those actions.

So what exactly did she do?  What was she saying?  As best as I can tell, the image is just a graphic way of saying, ‘I hate this man.’

Well, I hate him too.  But the image in question was graphic, tacky, and, as best as I can tell, devoid of anything really meaningful.  It doesn’t add anything to the conversation, it just expresses how she feels in a graphic way.  I don’t think that it was a good choice on her part.

But while I think it was a pointless thing to do, and I’m not going to defend it, I can’t bring myself to condemn it either.  And the argument about how troubling it was for Barron Trump has no bearing son anything.  Unless she specifically tried to put it places for him to run into.

The funny thing is, if a photographer had set up this shoot, and had her, or someone else dress as the statue of liberty, or pretty much anything, and take the same shot, I could see defending it as art.  But this was just a shocking way to say, ‘I hate this person.’

By the same token, if she had gone a step further and had people done up to look like Trump’s family, and had them lying around, fake slaughtered, I could see condemning her actions.  But she didn’t.  She limited herself to someone who has lived his life in the public eye, and who is worthy of critique.

And beyond all of that, if I felt that she, in any way, represented a group that I was a part of, I would probably feel like I had to feel something about what she did.  But she doesn’t represent anyone, as far as I’m concerned.

So, basically what I’m saying is, after nobody asked me my opinion, and after a lot of thought, I have nothing to say about this.

The right way to argue

Lately I’ve spent quite a bit of time online engaging in political debates and arguments. The more time I spend on it, the more I find that the arguments themselves are structured… wrong.  Many people have suggested that debating political issues is pointless, as nobody ever changes their mind, but frankly, that simply isn’t true.  I was raised in a very conservative environment, to believe some very conservative things.  I am now, however, quite liberal.  But most of the time, when somebody engages in a debate, at least, in a public setting, the point of the debate isn’t to sway opinion or to examine ideas, it’s to insult the people who disagree with you and leave feeling that you aren’t simply right, but are in fact superior to the people on the other side of the argument.

To be clear, I’d like to admit that I have done all of the things that I am critiquing, to one degree or another.  I am not saying that people who have made these mistakes are bad, simply that they are not engaging in an effective debate, they are simply arguing.

Based on that, I’d like to point out a couple of things that I think are necessary for any kind of valid debate to occur.  This is not a comprehensive list, these are just a couple of things that I’ve seen ignored time and time again.

If you want to engage in a legitimate debate with the goal of discovering the best answer to a particular question, and wherein somebody may find their opinion shifted, these are a few things that should occur.

  1.  All participants need to take the time to understand exactly what the other side believes regarding
    1. How things should work
    2. What is currently preventing things from working
    3. How these problems should be fixed
  2. All participants need the right to answer with ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I don’t have that information on me,’ to a particular question.  We are not experts on the matter being debated.  We did not prepare for this by gathering together studies and making sure we could cite every source immediately.
  3. True debate should include honest questions: ‘but doesn’t that argument conflate legality with morality?  For example, if you are arguing that there are not laws in place which make it impossible to legally hide money offshore, means that it is alright to do so, wouldn’t it also follow that congress having the ability to make it legal for special interest groups to pay them, means that it is morally acceptable for them to do so?  And if not, how so?’  This is something that is valid within a debate.  “Oh, and I guess that it’s just fine that congress gets legal bribes, because there isn’t a law against them doing it.”  is not.
  4. You must be willing to concede mistakes, whether small or large, if you are going to expect the other person to concede mistakes of their own.  And yes, you are going to make mistakes.  It may not be a mistake that means that your belief is invalid and they win, but you have to be willing to acknowledge when you are wrong about something.
  5. Understanding what your basic assumptions are.

Two conflated conversations

More and more I find that people who discuss politics on facebook and twitter will defend the things that one person does by pointing out something similar done by another politician of different views.  Then they’ll call the people of the other political party hypocrites for holding opposing politicians to different standards.

There is a certain amount of validity to that, but I think that it is important to start with a conversation about who we oppose and why.

Case in point:  I despise Donald Trump.  Completely, and utterly despise the man.  I hope that he is impeached as soon as possible, and that, fingers crossed, his entire administration goes down with him.

I also believe that there is reason to do so.  But my reason for wanting him gone and my belief that there is sufficient legal reason to do so are two very different conversations.

I want Donald Trump gone because most of the things that he wants to do, most of the ideas that he supports, most of the bills that he pushes for, seem to me to be terrible ideas that will hurt a lot of people.  I believe that he is a narcissist whose only interest is his own personal well-being.

What I am trying to say, is that I would want the man out of office even if I believed that he had never broken a law.  Frankly, even if I didn’t think that he was a narcissist, I would want him out of office just because the things that he wants to do will be disastrous for the nation.

The fact that I want him out of office, the fact that I want to fight everything that he’s trying to accomplish, leads me to look for mistakes that he’s made, or times when he oversteps the bounds of his office.  If I believed that his goals were noble, reasonable, and right, then I would be much less concerned with finding anything that could be used to fight him.

The interesting thing is that our political system is not designed to be ‘moral’ or ‘right.’  It can’t be.  Morality cannot be built into a system.  It is designed to be difficult.  We have three branches of government, each of which is capable of grinding its feet in and making life incredibly unpleasant for the other two.  Why?  Is that in some way ‘morally superior” to other methods?  No.  It’s just harder.  But I think that’s the point.  I think we have a system that is designed so that if somebody is trying to make things worse, it only take a couple of people realizing what’s going on to keep them from doing it.  If someone is trying to make things better, the same thing happens, but I guess the theory is that, at a certain point, ‘better’ should be obvious.  It’s only when we are absurdly confident of our next move, or when we have people who are willing to fight tooth and nail for ages at a time, that we change.

On the one hand, it does slow things down a bit, but to be fair, we’ve spent centuries with modes of government that allowed for quick, capricious shifts, and, frankly, those rarely worked out well.

Anyways, my point is, whenever you get into an argument and start thinking about calling the other person/group a hypocrite, take a moment and consider whether they are doing any differently than you would do in their position, or than you have.  AFter all, you might be hypocrite about hypocrisy, and that’s not just hypocritical, that’s ironic.

My central issues

While I have strong opinions about most of the political issues that I know about, I do have to acknowledge that, in most cases, people can reasonably come to different conclusions based on reasonable differences in core beliefs, or the way that they structure arguments.  I do not think that having a more-or-less reasonable argument makes them right, but I do respect how they reached their conclusions.

There are, however, certain key issues wherein I think that any reasonable examination, any honest review, must inevitably lead to a specific conclusion.  This is a list of some of those issues:

  1. The electoral college creates more problems than it solves and should be eliminated.
  2. Gerrymandering is an inexcusable act wherein politicians manipulate the vote, and it should be eliminated immediately.
  3. While public school systems are not perfect and should undergo serious review and restructuring, they are hugely important and cannot be replaced with any sort of voucher or privatization system.
  4. Voting is a right, in the U.S..  As such, any requirement placed on the citizenry by the government in order to vote, becomes a responsibility that the government has to the citizenry.  If voting is allowed only in a specific place at a specific time, it becomes the government’s responsibility to make sure that the citizens can get there, then.  And if the government is going to require that you have a specific form of ID, then it becomes the governments responsibility to make certain that everyone can easily obtain that ID, at no cost.
  5. The minimum wage needs to hold steady against inflation.  Allowing it to stagnate inflate the number of people in poverty, and damages the economy.

There are more, but those are the five that came to mind at the moment.

Statement of Intent

This is my political blog.  I intend to use this site to examine, outline, debate, and argue about whatever political issue happens to pop into my head.  That is the sole purpose of this webpage.  I welcome debates, but only ones based in reason, or at least an attempt at reason.