Outside of my spouse, the number of family members with whom it’s safe to talk politics has just dropped to zero. I’m sad about this.
Like Sons to Me
I have 20-something nephews who are like sons to me. The relationship, however, has been disrupted periodically throughout their lives. Someday I will write about this. For now I’ll just say I wish I had had more time with them, more of an influence on them.
I’ve written recently about how my nephews depend almost solely on social media for their news, their informational source upon which to base — not only personal opinions but — their factual interpretation of goings-on in the world around them. Initially it was the altered videos of Joe Biden that “prove” he has dementia, then the overwhelming number of propaganda videos “proving” that antifa is a left-wing terrorist organization bent on burning down the suburbs.
Rounding out their world perspective is the disinformation spread by white evangelical pastors, filtered through simplistic, tacitly bigoted parental lenses. (This is not meant to cast aspersions on all white evangelicals, about 20% of whom realize that rooting out a racist, venal president who’s endeavoring to destroy democracy trumps the single issue of abortion restriction, which has people of great integrity on both sides.)
Now one of my young men believes the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, at least a partial one. Now one of my young men believes the “better” man — the corrupt, incompetent, amoral, bane-of-humanity incumbent president — probably was cheated out of reelection victory.
And I’m left to contemplate my nephews’ apparent insensitivity to humankind.
It is with a heavy heart that now, when I’m with them, I must eliminate a category of conversation that is 1) highly interesting and meaningful to me and 2) important to their future well-being and educational development. What’s an uncle/father figure for if not to educate and positively influence his nephews who are like sons to him? I eliminate these topics — politics, pandemics, and Trumpism — not simply because we disagree. I would love to engage them in vigorous debate while teaching them the components of reasoning, critical thinking, and rhetorical persuasion in the process.
No, I eliminate this topic because they choose, or have learned, not to seek facts but instead blindly latch onto disinformation that feeds their — and by extension, their parents’ — specious grievances. My attempting to engage with fallacy consistently leads to hurt feelings, on both sides. It leads to 20-something emotional outbursts, useless tension, and strengthened stubbornness that serves no purpose.
Nevertheless, I feel helpless, unable to intervene on their malign emotional and intellectual growth.
Of course, this same problem exists with all my living extended family (my parents and parents-in-law have passed away but would have been ideologically attuned with my spouse and me). The problem exists with half my friends, half my social media contacts, almost half the country.
I simply refuse to engage any longer with those who do not accept truth and fact. Why do Trump supporters still exist, now that everyone knows beyond any doubt what he stands for? They’re not monolithically poorly educated — large portions are “smart” in other areas, college-degreed, and highly educated. Many are selfish. He purports to give them what they want (tax cuts and growing 401[k]s). Many are bigots. They like (covertly or overtly) his support of white supremacy while hiding it in plain sight. Finally, many just like that he spits in the eye of forces they disdain (politicians, pandemic “hoaxes,” mask-wearing to save lives). Most are prone to conspiracy theories, suspending reason and empathy to feed their grievances. Whatever their motives, they’re all essentially saying, “I want what I want, and screw humanity.”
Historians, theologians, mental health professionals, and educators will debate what to do about this disdain for facts — which took hold strongly in the early 21st century then exploded during the Trump era — for decades to come.
The solution is simple but couldn’t take effect for a generation even if instituted today. Still, better late than never. The appreciation for reasoning, reality, and the search for truth — with a healthy-but-not-unhealthy dose of pathos — must be taught early and consistently throughout primary and secondary education. Currently, students are left to try and grasp these essential components of learning and rationality on their own. Currently, about half have been successful.
Imagine if students were left on their own to learn arithmetic, to learn to read.
When my oldest nephew, Josh, was about 11 years old, his aunt and I took him shopping at the local mall. My wife stopped to browse women’s clothing inside a Talbots. Josh and I dutifully waited outside. While sitting on a bench near the fountain, out of nowhere, he asked me, “What makes a person a Democrat?” I was taken aback, wanting to give him a thorough, thoughtful explanation. At that point my wife emerged from the store, so I told my nephew I’d get back to him when I had a chance to explain it properly.
Then Josh’s parents, in some fit of false superiority and mysterious resentment, kept him and his brother away from us for two years, for no good rationale any reasonable person could discern.
The moment had passed, and I never did explain to Josh “what makes a Democrat.” But I’ve given it a lot of thought since then, and I’m ready to say my piece:
“A Democrat supports equality, diversity, truth, the earth, the worker, the (biblical) stranger, freedom of (any) religion or no religion, a cultural safety net, and an ethical government that works for the people.”
I might go on to explain that party identification has been ephemeral since America’s founding. But liberal and conservative philosophies are consistent, and that’s what matters. Throughout history, I might have been a Republican, Democrat, or some independent combination, depending upon the decade. But I always would have been left-of-center, a liberal. And today, liberals are Democrats. Today, Republicans are light-years of morality and integrity away from where they were in Abraham Lincoln’s day. Today, Republicans are the party of Trump, corruptly trying to retain power and enrich themselves by falsely feeding people’s grievances.
One Last Try
Though difficult now, I might still try to tell my nephew “what makes a Democrat,” a decade-and-a-half after he asked the question. I might also try to convince him that President Trump lost the election fair and square:
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result. … There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
(Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council [GCC] Executive Committee – Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency [CISA] Assistant Director Bob Kolasky, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chair Benjamin Hovland, National Association of Secretaries of State [NASS] President Maggie Toulouse Oliver, National Association of State Election Directors [NASED] President Lori Augino, and Escambia County (Florida) Supervisor of Elections David Stafford – and the members of the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council [SCC] – Chair Brian Hancock [Unisyn Voting Solutions], Vice Chair Sam Derheimer [Hart InterCivic], Chris Wlaschin [Election Systems & Software], Ericka Haas [Electronic Registration Information Center], and Maria Bianchi [Democracy Works]; “Joint Statement From Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees”; 11/12/2020.)
“Please don’t retweet wild and baseless claims about voting machines, even if they’re made by the president. These fantasies have been debunked many times, including by @DHSgov @CISAgov on this excellent site/resource, Rumor Control.https://t.co/XUcOkrQUf6”
(Krebs, Christopher, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency [CISA] director, DHS; retweet; 11/12/2020; as cited in Becker, David, election law expert, CBS News analyst; Twitter post; 11/12/2020.)
President Trump fired Mr. Krebs Nov. 17, 2020, for protecting the 2020 election as director of CISA, then reassuring the American people of his agency’s successful work. As The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius summed up brilliantly in his piece the evening of Kreb’s tweet-firing: Trump — through his scorched-earth attempts to subvert the election, then challenge the results through multiple baseless court challenges — inadvertently has shown us “how hard it is to sabotage election results.” ■
02/06/2020 — U.S.: 1 | World: 620
11/12/2020 — U.S.: 250,548 | World: 1,351,381
Conservatively estimated Trump malfeasance deaths: 125,274 (50% of total U.S. deaths)*
The United States accounts for 4.2% of Earth’s population, 19% of world COVID-19 deaths.
“ELECTION: Trump Quiet Since Election Loss Was Called Nov. 7” (11/12/2020)
“PANDEMIC: New 1-Day U.S. Record: 161,000+ Cases” (11/12/2020)
“ELECTION: DHS Cybersecurity Head Vouches for Election Security; Trump Furious” (11/12/2020)
“ELECTION: Trump Still Stopping Transition, Has No Plan, Not Working, Calling Friends” (11/12/2020)
“ELECTION: Dozen GOP Senators Say Biden Needs PDBs, Still Only 4 Have Congratulated” (11/12/2020)
“PANDEMIC: 49 States See Rising Case Numbers” (11/12/2020)
“ELECTION: NBC Calls Ariz. For Biden (290 EC Votes); China Congratulates Biden” (11/12/2020)
“ELECTION: NBC Calls Ga. For Biden (306-232 EC Votes); Trump Lawsuits Dying Fast” (11/13/2020)
“PANDEMIC: New 1-Day U.S. Record: 172,000+ Cases” (11/13/2020)
“PANDEMIC: 49 States See Rising Case Numbers; COVID-19 Exploding; New Restrictions Across all States; Trump Continues to Ignore Pandemic and Deaths, Offering No Federal Leadership” (11/16/2020)
“ELECTION: Major Law Firms Abandoning Trump Election Challenges, Fearing Taint” (11/16/2020)
“PANDEMIC: Pfizer, Moderna Both on Track to Start Distributing Vaccine in Early 2021” (11/16/2020)
“ELECTION: Ga. GOP Secy. of State Reports Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Called, Suggested Finding Way to Toss Legal Ballots to Help Trump; Graham Denies; SOS Deputy Was on Call, Confirms” (11/16/2020)
“ELECTION: Trump National Security Adviser Concedes: ‘It looks as though Biden won’” (11/16/2020)
“Trump Tweet-Fires CISA Head Chris Krebs for Ensuring, Reporting Clean, Secure Election” (11/17/2020)
“ELECTION: Wayne Co. Board of Canvassers 1st Refused to Certify Biden Victory, Then Did” (11/17/2020)
“Trump Attempting to Prematurely Cut Troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Threatening Stability” (11/17/2020)
“PANDEMIC: After Trump Loss, Even Red-State Governors Agreeing to Mask Mandates” (11/17/2020)
“PANDEMIC: Even Sweden Abandoning the Sweden (Hands-off, Herd Immunity) Model” (11/17/2020)
“PANDEMIC: Trump Literally Killing People by Not Allowing Transition, Pandemic Planning” (11/18/2020)
“ELECTION: Monmouth Poll: About 30% of Americans Believe Trump Won Election” (11/18/2020)
“PANDEMIC: All 50 States See Rising Case Numbers; U.S. Deaths Surpass 250,000” (11/18/2020)
“ELECTION: Trump, Lead Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Still Flailing, Losing Election Court Challenges; New Strategy: Delay County, State Certifications, Cause States to Defy, Disrupt Elect. College” (11/19/2020)
“ELECTION: Major U.S. CEOs Pressuring Trump to Accept Election Loss, Allow Transition” (11/19/2020)
“PANDEMIC: U.S. Has 4.2% of World Population, 19% of World COVID-19 Deaths” (11/19/2020)
“PANDEMIC: U.S./World: 11.5M/56.4M Cases; 250.5K/1.4M Deaths; 7:00 a.m. ET” (11/19/2020)
*(Redlener, Irwin, MD, Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness director; MSNBC’s Deadline: White House; 10/1/2020.) (Gupta, Vin, MD, MPA, MSc, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation professor, global health policy expert; “Dr. Vin Gupta: 70% of Lives Could Have Been Saved if Trump Acted on COVID-19 Earlier”; MSNBC.com; 9/23/2020.) (Glanz, James & Robertson, Campbell; “Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, [Columbia University] Data Show”; The New York Times; 5/20/2020.) (as conservatively extrapolated from COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University; 11/19/2020.)
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget
Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report — House Intelligence Committee
Trump-Ukraine Call, July 25, 2019 — Rough Transcript
Whistleblower Complaint — Regarding Trump-Ukraine
Mueller Report — Intros and Executive Summaries
Mueller Report — Complete
Trump-Russia Timeline (Bill Moyers)