I’m starting to feel a little embarrassed about being an American.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my country, I love my Constitution, I love my traditions, and I love the American people who have helped to make me the man I am today. But when it comes to intellectual discourse, manners, morals, and tolerance and respect for one another’s points of view, I’m beginning to lose faith.
The 2016 Presidential Election has brought out the worst of us in many ways. The unprincipled, unreasonable, cult-like followings accumulated by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are cutting themselves off from objective reality, and many of the rest of us are recoiling in apathetic horror and disbelief.
The way I see it, this has all been a long time coming. Our constant outrage over minor issues and our hesitance to broach serious matters in an intellectually honest manner have turned our priorities upside down, and led us down a messy philosophical road.
In this piece, I will name several examples of what I believe are idiotic outrage and lump them into two categories: Faux-Outrage and Dictatorial Outrage.
Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill
I’m no historian, but everything I’ve read and heard about Harriet Tubman leads me to believe she was one tough cookie and deserves to be immortalized as an American icon. She freed slaves, battled Southern Democrats, stumped for civil liberties, and demonstrated that the Right of the people to keep and bear arms is synonymous with Freedom.
Andrew Jackson, whom Tubman is set to replace on the $20 bill come 2026, does not seem like an exceptional American to me. Ann Coulter recently tweeted an annotated biography of Jackson revealing his heroism in the Revolutionary War, and that is certainly something to admire. But as president, Jackson was a skeptic of Capitalism, expanded the powers of the executive branch, and oversaw more than a fair share of the racist activity that has tarnished our nation’s otherwise stupendous history.
Irrespective of my uninformed opinion of these two individuals, does it really matter which legend’s face is on the $20 bill? Is this a reason for concern? People on both the left and the right of the political spectrum have expressed Faux-Outrage over this issue, the Right whining over a white man being semi-replaced by a non-white-man, the Left weeping that Tubman’s portrait will be displayed on a symbol of Capitalism.
This is all silly. As our national debt skyrockets towards infinity, we should be less concerned about what our money looks like and more concerned about what it’s worth. With mobs picketing in the streets for a federal mandate to guarantee $15 to flip burgers or wait tables for an hour, the $20 bill may barely be enough to acquire sixty minutes of work in the near future. The possibility of inflation threatens our quality of life and ability to compete in a globalized economy, and should be fretted over more than few other issues.
Anyone care to rage against the tax-and-spend machine in Washington? Anyone? The truth is that making real changes in the way our government abuses us takes effort. And instead of focusing our energy on reclaiming our individual sovereignty, we freak out over pictures on dollars because it’s easy. It’s fake; it’s phony; it’s a perfect example of Faux-Outrage.
Last year, you would have thought the southeastern half of the United States was descending back into pre-1865 conditions and deploying lynch mobs to string up blacks across the region.
In reality, one drugged-out loser entered a church and massacred nine innocent black people for no reason other than his own failure at being human. Along with 9/11 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, it was among the most tragic events I’ve experienced in my lifetime.
So, what did we do? Did we unleash our fury onto the culprit? Did we scold his family for essentially being complicit in one of their own doing something so horrific?
Nope. We started shouting at a flag.
Images of the shooter exhibiting his affinity for the Confederate Flag arose across the national news media, and his disgustingly racist views went public. And with that, we had our scapegoat: a tri-colored rectangle.
While it’s not crazy to associate the Confederate Flag with the slave-owning south of a century and a half ago, to be so upset about its existence in public view is less of a moral crusade and more of symptom of the frustration induced by the impossibility of making all of the evil in the world go away.
Effectively, racial tensions in America continue to rise. Blaming an entire society of people and a symbol they fancy for the actions of one moron is ironically the exact same line of thinking as a racist who blames all members of an ethnic group for the actions of a few.
It’s self-righteous, safe, easy Faux-Outrage at its best.
Corey Lewandowski’s “Assault” on Journalism
I am no fan of the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. As a hybrid Conservative-Libertarian, there are few components of what Trump claims to support, understand, and believe that make me optimistic about his presence in the White House.
I have criticized Trump from the get-go, and am hoping Ted Cruz can somehow manage to procure the GOP presidential nomination, so I don’t have to deeply consider whether or not I could ever cast a ballot for The Donald.
One thing I have tried to avoid is harping over Trump’s personal flaws and the media-manufactured controversy over his campaign. There is plenty of policy and philosophy to criticize, and that’s all we should consider when selecting a Commander-in-chief as a nation.
When news surfaced that Cory Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, had strong-armed a reporter, I rolled my eyes and moved on to more important matters. To my dismay, few non-Trump-loving individuals followed my lead.
From reading the headlines, one would have thought that Lewandowski had thrown the reporter’s camera to the ground and choke slammed her through a table. After watching the surveillance video of the actual event, any honest eyes can see that Lewandowski firmly grabbed the reporter’s forearm for hardly a second, and pulled her away from Trump, whom she was too close to in the crowded scene.
Were Lewandowski’s actions exemplary for such a high-ranking member of a presidential campaign team? Of course not. But people are not made of glass, and physical contact is not synonymous with assault.
The Liberal and anti-Trump Conservative media lost their collective minds, not because they believed what they had witnessed was deplorable, but rather as a means of causing a stir to further associate Donald Trump with violence.
Dishonestly feigning compassion and offense are Faux-Outrage at its most disgusting.
The Transgender Bathroom Issue
My first example of “Dictatorial Outrage” is highly topical. As transgendered and other non-binary individuals gradually become more accepted and understood by society, issues arise. This is normal. When changes occur, societal norms must be called into question. Sometimes, our traditional way of doing things proves to be exclusionary or insufficient, and changes and adjustments need to be made. Sometimes, the way we had been handling aspects of our social interactions stands up to scrutiny and continues to be the standard. Giving equal Rights to all people regardless of their race was a welcome change, enforcing a one-child policy is not.
The debate over whether individuals should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, rather than their biological gender, is complicated and requires a nuanced approach. Some transgendered individuals are so entrenched in their gender identity that few of us would be able to tell that they were once members of the opposite sex. Would it be correct to force a biological female who takes male hormones and could easily overpower an average female into the ladies’ room? Would it be correct to do the opposite to a biological male who has undergone a sex change and been assumed a female by everyone she’s encountered for years? Would it be reasonable to permit a 260-pound man who realized he was a female yesterday to use the girls’ room at Toys “R” Us? Would it be alright to allow a 9-year old girl who believes she is male to use the men’s room at a sporting event or another venue where heavy drinking often occurs?
This is not an easy problem to solve, and the first step we can take to solving it is admitting how tough of an issue it is.
For many, that is not an option. Those in opposition to blurring the bathroom lines claim that penises belong in the men’s room, end of story. Those who support bathroom choice call those with opposing views transphobic bigots. As a result, this is where the debate ends. Instead of putting our wits to the test and talking it out like adults, we turn each other into perverts and transphobes.
Launching ad hominem attacks at and refusing to engage in discourse with all who disagree with your point of view, particularly on controversial subjects like this one, are illustrating the meaning of Dictatorial Outrage.
I’m right, and you’re wrong. If you don’t agree with me, your opinions are invalid, and you must be punished.
These are the thoughts of a childish tyrant, and should be seen as far more taboo than a woman using the men’s room.
Cakes for Gay Weddings
Over the past two years or so, a certain type of encounter has chronically taken place. The situation is always the same: a gay couple wants a wedding cake, they enter a Christian-owned bakery, they ask for a wedding cake, the bakers say they don’t make cakes for homosexual weddings because it would be a violation of their religious convictions, the gay couple sues the bakery, and everyone loses their minds.
Once again, this is a difficult issue. While pure Libertarian philosophy dictates that any service provider should legally be allowed to deny service to any customer for any reason, it is perfectly reasonable and deeply valued in our culture that refusing service to an individual simply because of their sexuality, race, or other naturally occurring differences is morally and legally wrong. I could easily make a case for the previously mentioned Libertarian principle, but this is an issue on which compromises are fair, and I’ll concede the point. Discrimination is not welcome in our society.
The thing is, the gay wedding cake scenario does not fall into the discrimination category so simply. It is not that the bakers are refusing to serve gay customers; it’s that they are refusing to participate in a ceremony that violates their conscious. In other words, the bakers would happily sell a birthday cake to a gay costumer, and would refuse to sell a straight individual a wedding cake for a gay wedding. It’s not about the person; it’s about the practice.
Withholding service from a customer who seeks to use your product to celebrate an event or belief you disagree with should clearly be a protected Right in my humble opinion. A Jewish restaurant owner should not be forced to allow a neo-Nazi group to have a reunion in his establishment. The webmaster of a vegan cooking blog should not be forced to allow comments about how delicious meat is on his posts. A custom t-shirt designer who happens to be a Red Sox fan should not be forced to create t-shirts that celebrate the championships of the Yankees.
I welcome dissent towards the opinion I just expressed. Maybe there’s a hole in my logic somewhere. But to those who decline to entertain this point of view and request legal action be taken against the handful of bakers dumb enough to refuse business based on an irrelevant belief are despotic authoritarians at heart. The bakers should grow up, the inconvenienced customers should live and let live, and the outrage of the public is dictatorial and idiotic.
Abortion is a tough issue for me, and it seems to be an issue that divides “Big-L Libertarians” from “Liberal-tarians”. I am personally pro-life, but am unsure as to how abortion policy can be established fairly, sensibly, and effectively. On issues that confuse me like this one, I appeal to the Constitution. And since there is no mention of abortion anywhere in the text of the Law of the Land, the 10th Amendment clearly explains that abortion is to be handled at the state level. The Supreme Court that decided Roe v. Wade disagrees.
The abortion debate is an important one. Millions of developing humans are aborted every year, and the methods, timeframes, and other conditions that relate to abortion are complex and indeterminate. With knowledge of how little we know about how and when a person inherits inalienable Rights, outrage over opinions about abortion should be rare.
I’ve heard sound reasons for each of the following points of view:
- Abortion should always be illegal
- Abortions after a certain point in development (generally after the first or second trimester or once brain activity has begun) should be illegal
- Abortion should be illegal, but should be allowed in instances of rape or a threat to the mother’s health
- Regardless of the morality of abortion, the government should not have a say in what a women does with her body
- Abortion should be legal, but easier access to contraception and sex education will reduce instances
- Regardless of legality, the government should not subsidize organizations that perform abortions
The only perspectives on abortion I’ve heard that truly offend me are suggestions that terminating the life of a born child still attached to the umbilical cord (or later) should be permitted. Outside of this rare point of view (which should certainly be allowed to be voiced), perspectives on abortion tend to be reasonable and achieved with some sort of moral or pragmatic backing.
Dictatorial Outrage occurs in the abortion discussion when one refuses to hear contrasting points of view and labels the opposition as baby-killers or women-haters. There is a fine line between using provocative rhetoric to express your point of view and straw-manning a person for his or her opinion in a debate. We should all be wary of where exactly that line is when talking about these kinds of contentious topics. We need fewer outraged dictators and more civil humans articulating and questioning their outlooks in our relentless search for the truth.