EnlightenmentLiberal Improved My Thinking and Writing

So just a few days ago I wrote a piece titled, “You are not the hero.” I thought I was pretty clear that the problem was that the author of the NYTimes anonymous op-ed about resisting Trump’s orders was being lionized by many in the media, including FtB-friend Ed Brayton (with whom I normally agree).

Enlightenment Liberal came along and wrote a comment to that post that made me uncomfortable. Where I thought I’d been clear, EL expressed disagreement that I should believe every Trump employee has a duty to resign. While we had a short back-and-forth and realized we were in agreement, I wondered why that wasn’t clear already and re-read my piece. There are many times when I write something long, but that includes definitive statement X, only to be told that I believe or assert Not-X. Since I’m pretty careful with my writing, I expected that probably I had been clear and that EL just misread a long-winded post.

But that’s not what I found. In addition to using a vague word “situation” to sum up a few things about the author and the media’s treatment of the author that really should have been spelled out, there was also something important yet entirely missing. Although I took it for granted that an important part of the context is that it’s actually been the Republicans who fetishize rule of law at the national level (and have done at least since Nixon), I realized on re-reading that I hadn’t included that bit of context anywhere in my original post and others wouldn’t take it for granted.

See, here’s the thing: although I would have been mildly irked with anyone of any party being lionized in this circumstance, the depth of my feeling, the true source of my outrage, was that someone who is clearly a powerful person in the Republican party is clearly going to the media to seek not only absolution but also praise for disobeying the law and the lawful orders of the President whose orders that person – if working in the Executive – is bound to follow.

My contempt for, e.g., the author’s co-optation of the term “resistance” in this particular political moment where resistance means something very different than supporting the caging of children but opposing withdrawal from a bi-lateral trade agreement with South Korea is an integral part of my perspective on the lionization of the op-ed author. Slacktivist author Fred Clark captured well the particular flavors of the editorial that were responsible for my reaction to the media’s lionization of the op-ed author:

All of which means that this op ed reads less like an indictment of the president than the feckless defense of some Vichy functionary desperately trying to save his neck by pretending after the fact that he’d been a subversive saboteur all along. (h/t to Jenora Feuer)

I do think that it would be good if every single person currently on the White House staff along with every single senate-confirmed appointee originally nominated by Trump turned in resignations in a rapidly cascading event that left Trump alone in the White House without even anyone to answer the phones or process paperwork to hire new staff. I think that would be glorious. Yet I also don’t think that everyone who needs a paycheck should be ethically required to quit their jobs.

There’s a clear focus to my opposition to the media treatment of this editorial, and it’s dependent on seeing the contradictions between the power to further policies within the government (which the author maintains and embraces, praising the majority of Trump’s agenda) and the powerlessness of a functionary to a mad king (which the author employs rhetorically to absolve, through the ambiguity of anonymity, every single not-President person working in the Executive Branch), as well as the contradictions between the fetishization of rule-of-law to the extent that the right demonizes people with the entirely legitimate view that the 2nd Amendment does not deny the government the power to prohibit private ownership of weapons unneeded for legitimate private purposes and frequently used dangerously or illegally (even murderously) and the editorial seeking praise specifically for violating the rule of law.

For whatever reason, the importance of these contradictions weren’t clear in my original post. Nor was this: rule of law is a very important value, but it’s not the only value. Keeping your job within Trump’s administration doesn’t make you a demon, but you’re still not a hero. And if you’re deluded enough to think you are or should be the hero of this story, deluded enough to write a NYTimes op-ed about your heroic efforts that names yourself, literally, the Resistance, then you absolutely deserve scorn.

But you – and everyone else – also deserve a more carefully worded post than I originally created.

You Are Not The Hero

While this is an unoriginal thought even though the topic is only 24 hours old, I still need to say it:

Hey, you! Author of that anonymous NYTimes editorial about how Trump is so bad but the Trump administration is so good? Yeah, you. You are not the hero.

PZ has mentioned this and gets it right, but many here remember Ed Brayton, whose writing I greatly respect, and Ed Brayton gets it wildly wrong. He says exactly the opposite:

I suspect that this kind of thing might well topple a lot of other dominoes and set off a reaction where a significant chunk of Republican politicians, advisers and thinkers decide that this is the time to take down the elephant.

And frankly, they would be heroes, and history would treat them as such.

No. When you pull out a gun on a kid playing in a park and then you put the gun back in your holster, you are not a hero. You’re Frank Freuding Garmback. You don’t get to be the hero just because you’re not Timothy Loehmann. You’re probably not a bad person, but you’re not a hero.

But for a Constitution- and Rule of Law-fetishizing author of this Op-ed to be called a hero is worse than lionizing a Frank Garmback: the editorial writer makes no effort to encourage invocation of the 25th. The editorial writer is engaged in apologia for the administration if not the President, and the anonymity, far from being a necessary capitulation to the exigencies of working for Trump, is in fact a tool to absolve every administration official and White House employee of their complicity.

Here’s the truth: the constitution gives two ways to take a madman out of the White House: impeachment and the 25th. If you recognize that governmental legitimacy and authority in the US flows from its constitution, then while you are an employee or appointee of the executive branch, you are duty bound to follow the directives of the President. To respond to dangerous incompetence for the office by subverting the authority of the sitting president rather than openly calling for the impeachment and removal of the president by congress or the invocation of the 25th and removal of the President by the Vice-President and the cabinet, you are shredding the constitution.

This author rejects, quite fully and fundamentally, the authority of the US Constitution, and defends as heroes the people who arrogate to themselves power legitimately given only to someone actually elected to executive office. These are not the actions of a hero. Nor is the use of anonymity to give cover to anyone and everyone who might possibly have written the editorial.

Quit. Invoke the 25th if you have the standing to do so. Openly advocate for the invocation of the 25th and/or the impeachment described in Article II, Section 4 and authorized in Article 1, Sections 2 & 3 (and quite possibly get fired for doing so).

Those are the ethical and effective options of someone who has put themselves in this position by seeking and accepting a job in this administration. The author chooses none of these.

And what is worse, though we don’t know the author’s identity (and, like PZ, I’m not interested in knowing it), it is most likely that anyone in a position to write such an editorial actually worked to put Trump in office. In this case, we’re not looking merely at someone who finds themselves faced with the possibility of losing a job and decides that betraying the constitution is preferable. We’re talking about someone who actively participated in the creation the very catastrophe which they want credit for partially ameliorating.

When you set a fire that burns a house and kills two people, you aren’t a hero because after the fire consumed the staircase you got two people out of a bedroom on the main floor. Yours in the blame for the deaths, not the credit for the rescue.

You are not the hero.

 


ETA: As is so often the case, someone else has written a pithier version of what I perseverate upon. In this case, it’s chrislawson over at PZ’s thread on this topic. Nice work, Chris. Very well done.

Edited: Enlightenment Liberal made me realize that this comes across as saying that one cannot ethically stay and subvert an administration. Rereading the post, I realized that what I was thinking at the time was not as clear in my writing as I would like: If you want to be a hero, you must stand in vocal opposition. There can be many reasons to stay in your job, keep your paycheck, and do your best to limit the harms of a Trump. But these are not the actions of a hero. So I edited the 1st sentence of the paragraph immediately following the paragraph with the Frank Garmback reference.

Originally that sentence began like so:

<blockquote>And the situation with the anonymous editorial writer is worse</blockquote>

The new sentence begins like so:

<blockquote>But for a Constitution- and Rule of Law-fetishizing author of this Op-ed to be called a hero is worse than lionizing a Frank Garmback</blockquote>

The “situation” is now spelled out as lionizing someone who came to power through participation in a rule-of-law and Constitution fetishizing party for publicly seeking praise for their rule-of-law and Constitution-subverting acts.

Hopefully the new sentence will communicate the background facts (about fetishization) that weren’t in the original post at all as well as highlighting (again) that the issue is about <i>being a hero</i>. Continuing to collect your paycheck and doing your best to subvert bad things might be ethically justifiable, depending on what you do and how you do it it might even be ethically praiseworthy to some minimal extent, but it doesn’t make you a hero.

One Theory Is That Trump Colored The US Flag Wrong

When Trump visited an Ohio classroom, the students were coloring in US flags. Trump decided to take part:

Trump’s flag is red, white a blue, but not exactly how you’d expect.

Of course, while many are howling at the error, there is another theory to be considered, one that doesn’t implicate the president’s intelligence

The Russian flag is *also* red, white and blue.

This flag has a blue stripe.

 

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

Religion, Trump, and Accountability: A Cautionary Tale

Stolen from a thief:

Jehovah & Satan are scratching their heads, giving puzzled looks to each other, attempting to determine who gets blamed for Trump. Of course, they have to rope in their friends when each denies taking any hand in Trump's creation.

Gods discuss who is responsible for Donald Trump.

 

Given their age, I think FSM should be remanded to juvenile court.

 

Full Script:

Jehovah & Satan are scratching their heads, giving puzzled looks to each other at this point.

Jehovah: You’re sure he’s not one of yours? Because I didn’t make him.

Satan: Please. Give me some credit. Even I have some standards.

Jehovah: Buddha? Brahma? [Both shrug their shoulders.] Gaia?

Gaia: [Glowers.]

Jehovah: Right, right. Sorry. Forgot about the “pussy grabbing” thing. … Cthulhu?

Cthulhu: What kind of monster do you take me for? [Sips tea.]

Satan: Well somebody cooked him up.

Flying Spaghetti Monster: …

Jehovah: Wait… There’s no way you could …

FSM: Look. It was my first time. I was a little drunk and someone asked for a “Tangerine Dream” so I thought …

Satan: [Facepalm.] Fucking newbies.

That Dude Comes Out And Says It

So, a few years back I was wearing my Shirt That Changed The World. My particular version was, of course, the very best version. The logo read, “Transsexual Menace” like all the others, but being from Oregon, the tagline below read, “The Beaver State”. Really, there’s no other Transsexual Menace chapter that could possibly compete, unless there’s a chapter at a university somewhere that uses “Fighting Cocks” as its mascot (no, USC does not count, though being “game” is worth something, sure).

On the particular night I’m discussing, I was walking through Washington D.C. after a hard day’s fighting against violence and for civil rights at a national conference. I can’t even remember which one for certain – and anti-DV conference? An LGBT conference? Let’s let it go. In any case, I walked past the White House & had just crossed 17th, at which point Pennsylvania Avenue politely angled itself to point my ass to the building Trump now occupies. Right there, not two full blocks from the most elite bit of housing in the country, there were maybe twenty people camped out with sleeping bags on the sidewalk. One using a propane stove to heat up a beverage or maybe some soup looked up and upon seeing my t-shirt exclaimed,

That dude’s transsexual!

To which a next-door neighbor replied,

So what? It don’t matter. Just leave it be.*1

Whereupon the first, concerned about being misinterpreted, added,

Yeah, I know, but that dude comes out and says it! *2

In addition to being a pleasant statement on the state of cissexism in at least some communities in the US capital and a validation of Dallas Denny’s thesis that the Transsexual Menace t-shirts were a major turning point in trans/cis interactions, it struck me how such a simple statement of my perspective on the world could have the power to shock, even when absent the statement my perspective would still have been obvious.

That moment came back to me today as I read something Trump said to one of his rallies today:

Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening

Yes, I know: Trump has never hid the fact that he disbelieves reality. Yes, I know that the famous line from Duck Soup has already been used to paraphrase Trump in the past. And yet, there was power to shock in reading that he’d said exactly these words.

Of course, he won’t lose supporters over them. He probably read his audience accurately when he decided that this line would be received positively by the Veterans of Foreign Wars crowd to whom he spoke. Even so, we shouldn’t use the commitment of his followers as an excuse to let the words stand. If one can convince a majority of people that what they see for themselves isn’t true, then that person has constructed an honest-to-goodness, no hyperbole Orwellian state. We aren’t there yet, but the size and intransigence of Trump’s base, even if still a minority today, should galvanize us to fight tooth and nail.


*1: From tone of voice and context, I always interpreted this as a respectful plea to leave the issue of my transsexuality. Neither in the moment nor later did it come across as using the pronoun “it” to describe me in a dehumanizing way. As for the use of the word “dude” to describe me throughout, in that first moment I disliked it, and was about to say something. But after the second person spoke up, I decided that the best thing I could do was simply allow time and space for the first to process the sight of my shirt without any interference from me.

*2: And yes, I do remember all this perfectly verbatim. The moment was quite significant for me as I’d recently been bashed and was startled by the first statement. I paid very close attention to what followed as a way of assessing any potential danger. Fortunately, none existed. Though obviously that’s primarily down to the non-violence and respect of the people I met on that sidewalk, I credit Jessica Xavier with some small part of that: she played a huge leadership role in pro-trans* activism and education in DC in the years leading up to and following my experience.

We’re All Dead

I’m going to be writing about this over and over again, so get used to it, but this is merely the first announcement so it will be short:

Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States is retiring. We already have a court dominated by republican picks. As a “centrist” Kennedy is far to the right of where we were until Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall. The center of the court has been pushed and pushed, and now after the Senate republicans stole the seat that was Obama’s to nominate and fill, Trump will nominate his second justice.

Abortion will be illegal in a huge number of states within 3 months of the end of the next SCOTUS term. Just fucking watch.

We. Are. All. Dead.

NO KUDOS FOR TRUMP

Every reporter, anchor or commentator who uses any media platform to suggest Trump should be celebrated for signing this executive order promising, “I’m going to cut way back on the torture of children,” must face serious criticism.

You can start with Dana Bash for offering “Kudos to Trump”. Feel free to send reasonably-worded reactions to CNN.


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Just Listen To Wonkette, Will You: “Fuck his fucking executive order”

I (and probably will) write up an analysis of the Flores v Reno consent decree and how Trump has been using it to justify child ICE-olation and how the current executive order conflicts with the requirements of that settlement, but I don’t have the time to do the job I want to do this afternoon. So for now just listen to Wonkette:

So basically, the Trump administration wants to thumb its nose at Flores and indefinitely detain mommies and daddies seeking asylum and babies over a FUCKING MISDEMEANOR. Indeed the order literally instructs the attorney general to beg the courts to say violating Flores is OK and babies can stay in jail with mommy and daddy for A LOT LONGER, because that’s what the Trump administration is stomping its feet and clapping its hands for. Hey, maybe they can live in concentration camps, like one big happy family, at least until Trump can figure out a way to Finally Solve the whole problem!

Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo and Wonkette agree that litigation is inevitable, and Trump is going to lose at trial on a bunch of key issues. Probably on appeal, too. But for Trump, that’s a feature. His executive order puts the lie to the idea that child ICEolation was mandated by laws passed by Democrats, but if he can lose quickly enough in court, he’ll be able to rapidly pivot to blaming unaccountable, unelected judges.

Nothing says, “I love America” like hating on the US Constitution’s Article I, Article III, Article VI clause 2, and Eighth Amendment.


 

A Minor Major Victory: Trump Steps Back From Child Isolation Policy

Trump is now planning to end child isolation by permitting children to stay in the same prison as their accompanying parent. This is a huge victory for the children affected while still being entirely inadequate.

Now is not the time to back down. Now is the time to press both the administration and congress. Trump should still be impeached, in my view, for various important reasons from his refusal to safeguard US elections to his blatant violations of two vitally important treaties (one on torture, the other on refugees) to his deeply corrupt campaign. He probably won’t be impeached until Mueller releases more info because impeachment is a political exercise and no matter how definitive is the evidence that congress can see, if they can’t yet show it to the public I doubt it will count as “admissible evidence” (metaphorically, if you understand my meaning here) for congress’ impeachment efforts.

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