I read an article today that really pissed me off. I’ll just start there. I read an article today that really pissed me off, and, in the midst of the start of my second semester as a PhD student, I haven’t been as politically involved as would be ideal in a time of such horror and upheaval. I marched in one protest in my hometown and I’ve shared some articles online and I try to keep up with the news, but I think it’s time to offer my own voice. I read an article that really pissed me off, and emphasized that what I’d already conjectured was important had to be put into practice: my beloved horror blog, Just Dread-full, has to be turned into a partial political platform. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll still make an intense effort during a busy semester to churn out content on all things sinister and macabre, but after all, what’s more sinister and macabre than the Trump administration? Political articles will appear on this site from time to time – and maybe regularly – because the climate of the times dictates it. As I’ve said three times now, I read something today that really pissed me off, so I’m putting down the 250 pages more of reading I have to do between now and Tuesday, casting my GA work aside for the moment, and taking some time to assert what I came to believe during Trump’s campaign and which has only become more true as he’s enacted terrifying, discriminatory policies: not all opinions are equally valid in a debate over Trump’s presidency. If we discard ethical relativism – the belief that we can’t follow any one specific ethical paradigm – then we have to yield that Trump’s policies so far have been egregiously wrong. It is dangerous to justify and legitimate his thinking.
I was procrastinating this afternoon; reading seemed daunting and I was scanning my Facebook feed. A Facebook friend posted an article about “listening to the other side.” The argument basically posited that in the midst of a chaotic, frightening Trump administration (though it was not characterized that way in the article) assuming that your stance on his issues is the “right” stance is hubristic; it’s important to listen to the other side, too. For much of my adult life I believed something like this. I’ve always been strongly liberal, but I tried to maintain a humility of opinion that would suggest that my liberal values weren’t the only values and that they weren’t inherently right. But the distinction between liberalism and conservativism hardly seems to matter anymore, and protesting the Trump administration is hardly a partisan action; I know many lifelong Republicans who are ardently against him. And they are ardently against him because his behavior during his campaign and the laws that he’s currently enacting are ethically wrong. There is no “other side” about it. In many cases, such laws are echoes of previous U.S. behavior – behavior that was wrong at the time but that we haven’t learned from. If being certain in my beliefs is hubris then I have to be hubristic, because asserting that divergent opinions on the Trump administration are equally valid is to excuse the monumental human rights violations he has committed and will likely continue to commit; it is to pave the way for more atrocities, potentially until the situation spins out of control, until we’re living in the dictatorship our Constitution was meant to guard against—a prospect that is extreme but not altogether impossible given how fast he’s moved to strangle rights in a week.
Let’s start with this ridiculous Muslim Ban. As the BBC and New York Times have aptly noted, Trump is banning Muslims from countries that have never committed terrorist acts in the United States. So let’s emphasize an important point: there’s no real need for this ban. These countries pose no real threat. Of course, banning an entire religion from entering the country is an egregious human rights violation on its own. If we consider “human rights” a valid ethical principle to follow, then banning an entire religion from our country when we have vetting processes to keep out terrorists is fundamentally wrong. Detaining 11 innocent Iranians who were flying into the United States at the time the ban was enacted is the action an unstable regime or a police state would take—not a democracy that was founded on immigration and a belief in freedom for all. But if you can justify the necessity of banning people from countries who pose no threat to us just because they are from predominantly Muslim countries (and let’s face it, you can’t), you have to acknowledge that Syria is the biggest problem. Our decision to ban Syrian refugees from the country is a glaring hallmark of privilege—and privilege that we ostensibly don’t deserve.
You couldn’t possibly have spent your life in a battle ground, amidst a war-torn country bombed frequently, if you enact this order. Our distance from the war, our inability to conceive of the violence, brutality and atrocity, the sheer terror, engulfing other human beings, innocent citizens of Syria, allows us to applaud this gesture as if it were not only ethically okay, but somehow beneficial for our country. We are using our privilege in the wrong way. After all, a family must be incredibly desperate to get on a raft and cross the ocean in the first place. We are refusing care to sick and suffering people who have no money and little hope; I do not know of one religion in the world that would condone this behavior (“Whatever you do, to the least of my people, that you do unto me,” says Jesus).
Safety is a non-issue, because Syrian terrorists have never done much to us, but even if it were, there are few ethical principles that would justify allowing innocent people to suffer and die over (inflated, unwarranted) fear. Unless we disregard that ethical principles exist, we cannot say that both opinions are equally right in this case; banning Syrian refugees from our country is cruel and wrong. I feel no compunction to “see the other side” of this issue. Saying that Syrian refugees are taking away resources from the United States is a fallacious byproduct of a pernicious, illusory us-them mentality that makes Syrian refugees less human than United States citizens. The ban is morally bankrupt and sickening. “Considering (faultily justifying) the other side” just paves the way for more us-them thinking, more discriminatory, inhuman practices. Many Jews died during World War II (including Anne Frank) because we were afraid of them and wouldn’t grant them asylum. And we are doing the same thing, again.
And if you need evidence of the consequences of thinking, then consider how many acts of bullying against minorities and marginalized peoples took place in the United States immediately following Trump’s election. Various news outlets showcased twitter posts and other articles highlighting the degrading, sometimes violent, always humiliating us-them behaviors that the bullies inflicted on the bullied. When we “justify” the other side, when we say those who agree with Trump have equally valid opinions, we justify this behavior. This cruelty is the behavior his campaign fostered, a fact that has been validated over and over again through videos of white supremacists getting high off hate at his campaign rallies. Concrete evidence of the hateful byproducts of Trump’s campaign exist all over the internet. Unless we say that ethics is a constructed principle, and one we need not really follow, both these actions, and the rhetoric that fueled them are inherently “wrong.” Here it is most dangerous to consider the other side. Trump’s agenda has always bred hate because it takes a giant shit on human rights, diversity, and inclusion. If we agree that those principles are important, we have to agree that both sides of the opinion spectrum are not equal in this case. Trump, his administration, and those supporting his policies are committing ethical wrongs. After all, nearly everyone (except white supremacists and neo-nazis) agrees that the Holocaust was wrong. Sometimes there are no two sides; some things are just wrong. And as Pope Francis has noted, there are some remarkable similarities between the rise of Trump and the rise of Hitler.
As an ancillary example, a close friend from Saudia Arabia who’s in America to get her Ph.D. called me. “My family keeps texting me and telling me to be careful. What’s going on?” she asked. Now let me preface this point by saying that she has a very generous spirit; she thinks the media makes a big deal of these things and that Americans are “lovely” and “friendly,” which may be true of most Americans. But I told her about Trump’s ban. I assured her that she would be fine (hoping that was true) because Saudi Arabia wasn’t one of the banned countries, but when she mentioned she had a friend from Iran in her class, I told her if he went home for Christmas Break he would likely have trouble getting back into the United States. According to a BBC article, even those from the seven banned Muslim countries who have a green card and a legal right to work or study in America won’t be allowed in, or won’t be allowed back in if they leave. My friend is lucky that Saudi Arabia was not on the banned list, or she would be unable to see a family who lives far away that she sees once a year as it is. Her friend from Iran is, I fear, not that lucky. Trump gets a tremendous high off “big moves” like this one because they fuel his ego by getting him attention and making him look important. We know the man well enough by now to know that most everything he does is based on ego; he’s factually proven his unstable personality by things he’s said and, most especially, things he’s tweeted. His megalomaniac mentality is affecting other human beings, including bright students from other countries who want to come here legally to enhance their education. The effects his ban has on their rights is wrong. The “other side” in this case is paranoid, callous and myopic, not equally valid.
I had hoped to talk about the Affordable Care Act and the Godforsaken wall that will be the downfall of this country and the most sickening waste of money in human history, but I fear I must save those for future political posts. If there has been anything positive (and this is selfishly positive, for me) about Trump’s election, it’s that it’s given me—someone with a tendency to waver—tremendous strength in my conviction. The policies Trump is enacting are extremist, hateful, and unjustifiable. I believe through this article I have considered the other side to a reasonable extent, and using any degree of rationality and logic, those points don’t pan out. The ban is ethically wrong. If we believe that social justice and human rights are fundamentally important concepts, then opposing Trump’s actions is right, and applauding them is wrong. I used to be a bit of an ethical relativist myself, but if there’s anything that Trump’s campaign has taught me, it’s that, when it comes to right and wrong, sometimes there is a clear difference.