Friday, January 20, 2017

The Inauguration's Empty Bleachers

Empty bleachers for the inauguration. Strident protests before the administration's even done anything. Media and elites strongly, outspokenly against the administration's mere existence. Part of me is heartened by these things! In the cartoon view, the good guys are showing strength.

But this isn't a cartoon. If there's anyone in America besides me that actually wants Donald Trump to find and act from his better nature - to at least attempt to be a good president for everyone, and not use the office solely as a platform to unrestrainedly act out his mental health issues - then you have to wonder what good this does.

Donald Trump may or may not have a better nature, and may or may not be capable of rising to act from such a basis. But one thing's for damn sure: America's most transactional man is not going to rise above provocation. He won't discover his better nature in a headwind. Decency is a heavy enough lift for him, and we're imposing heavy handicaps, besides. We're goading him. We're provoking him. We want to see the very worst Trump.

This happened to Obama, too. They threw everything imaginable at him from the get-go. Yet he never reciprocated. Per the cliche, he went high when they went low, working from the Christ/Gandhi/MLK playbook. Trump won't do that. Can't do that.

So unless we have a yearning to see the very worst Donald Trump (and I'm convinced many of his opponents do; much as the NRA truly wanted Obama to act to take their guns away and are absolutely incensed that he never did), there's something wrong with this picture.

I understand this line of thinking will strike some as appeasement. I'm suggesting we kowtow to our new president so he doesn't get his dander up and act mean to us. I'm a weak sniveler. But I can't counter that, because it's feeling (i.e. fear and hatred) masquerading as thinking. What I see here is that the left loves to deem people beyond-the-pale (the right does, too, but the left has made an art of it), and that this is a seriously unhealthy thing. And this miserable, brutally ignorant conman narcissistic asshole is the ultimate test of that. In fact, it's a more advanced test than we're remotely ready for. If ever we had a villain calling out to be treated with total desensitized disrespect, this is the guy.

If he's indeed beyond the pale - inhuman and therefore deserving of utter annihilation in every respect, from every angle, to the end of time, even at the cost of our nation's success in the coming years - then we're doing it right! But the Left has been worrying (justifiably) that human evolution is heading the wrong way - away from a future where everyone is treated with tolerance, love, and respect. But, meanwhile, they've been goading, inciting, and provoking as hard as possible to spark that very same turn. The problem's never the thing; it's always the reciprocation. The cascading ripples, not the stone. As I've been asking here for years:
Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?

The Christ/Gandhi/MLK thing wasn't about being patsies. That line of opposition (and it is opposition!) comes from strength. That's why it's not appeasement. That's why it doesn't enable evil, as more militant partisans inevitably claim. Most Trump opposers would claim to grasp and admire the Christ/Gandhi/MLK approach, while simultaneously regarding anything less than scorched earth hatred as shameless appeasement. I don't know how to help them resolve their contradiction.

Try this, though: a Democracy means that all types get a chance to run things. Even the idiots. Democracy isn't about your guy winning. That's the opposite of democracy. Democracy means we put up with idiots running the country from time to time. That's the gig!!

I keep linking to this page about the Intolerance Paradox. Every paradox has its perfect test case. And I fear that we are, alas, flunking with Trump.


Richard Stanford said...

I did find it odd for that to happen to a President who ran - and won - almost entirely on being a populist. Personally I thought that his fans would have more staying power (honest remark not a sarcastic one).

As for the intolerance - I still think its unreasonable to at all compare people's fear of what Obama's opponents claimed he would do with other people's fear of what Trump has said that he will do, with his own words, out of his own mouth. While I've heard some claim that they voted for Trump because "of course he wouldn't do what he said he'd do, don't be silly," that does strike me as almost worse.

Richard Stanford said...

Final thought on the bleachers - I wonder if people would have made such a big deal about it if Trump hadn't been talking about how it was going to be the "biggest" event ever?

Steve said...

I beleive that empty bleacher section was due to the problem of getting those folks from the Capitol to their seats. It was a question of poor planning and a logistical problem.... as much as I wish everyone was boycotting this Presidency.

Jim Leff said...

Bleachers, yeah. Makes sense. Also: the "townies" in DC are all Dems.

Richard, I feel like we had a national ten seconds a few years ago where many people woke up and realized, in a flash of horror, that there's SYMMETRY. "My God....we're just doing what they do!" But then the ten seconds passed, and everyone got busy building lawyer-like skills for establishing "false equivalence." We've gotten really good at using that to wipe away any lingering sense of hypocrisy that fell over us during our brief awakening-to-symmetry. And this move always works, because 1. no two things are ever the same, so there's always lots of juicy asymmetry to point to; and 2. the aggrieved are liable to accentuate their side of any grievance (see Israelis vs Palestinians, though please let's not sidetrack onto that one, everyone).

Obama, and his rhetoric, represented the apotheosis of all that a certain element loathes and fears. Not the melanin, necessarily; the multiculturalism, the language of apocalyptic change, the lecturing condescension, the staunchly engrained (dare I say "knee-jerk") assumption that there's only one tolerable way to think and act and be, and everyone outside that target zone needs to get right, and be more like him and his.

Trump, with a different sort of rhetoric, pushes the same "apotheosis of what we hate" button for the other tribe. That's the symmetry. And I know that the normal course is to scramble to remind oneself of the TRULY horrible things Trump said, which Obama would NEVER say, to escape the symmetry. But try steering into the skid, rather than out. Just stay there, steep there. That's why half the country hated the guy so much for eight years. That's why they loved the ACA but hated Obamacare. It's all tribal/cultural, and you bet it's that, too, on the left.

Steve said...

It's not the same on the left, unless you can think of a liberal plan that the liberals have rejected simply because it was proposed by a Republican and not a Democrat.

Jim Leff said...

So if it's not precisely, exactly, the same move, any observation of symmetry is false equivalency? That's exactly what I'm saying. That bit of jujitsu is an unhelpful (though awfully tempting and facile) dodge.

Steve said...

That's a BIG difference.

Jim Leff said...

That's always the follow-up answer, no?

Shaving your way to claiming "false equivalency" when similar dynamics appear (in, inevitably, inexact ways) is productive only in reducing one's susceptibility to awareness of one's hypocrisy (I go the other way; sniffing eagerly for my own hypocrisy like identifying subtle aromas in a fancy wine). Not that I don't miss a ton, of course, but I at least try to position myself that way.

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