18 October 2016

Why not Drumph?

Drumph’s central message seems to be that there are lots of evil people doing bad things to America and he can save us from them.

My concern is that he is actually setting up self-fulfilling prophesies that ensures he will have a constant stream of bad people creating crises from which he will have to try to save us.

I am not willing to play that game.

I will elaborate on this in four parts.

Part 1 of 4, Evil outcomes not evil people.

I don't know about you, but I do not live in a world of evil people. I live in a world of flesh and blood human beings who are frail and flawed. Their frailties and flaws make them susceptible to being pushed towards good or towards evil. In my religious upbringing I was taught that sin is a perpetual problem that we have to deal with. As I matured in my spiritual and psychological understandings I realized that sinful acts are an outcome of how frail and flawed human beings make choices under the influence of situations. Evil is not a state of being, it is an outcome of situations that have shaped the choices people make.

I suggest that this election is about the world we live in. If you truly believe that we live in a world that is populated with evil people who are hell bent on doing bad things to America, then I honor your choice to vote for Drumph. I, however, do not live in that world. And since I do not live there, and do not ever want to live there, I will not vote for any political party that assumes that world is the one we live in.

If, on the other hand, you share my confidence that the world is actually populated with flesh and blood human beings who have the potential to be either good or bad, then I invite you to find a candidate that recognizes the frailty and flaws of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Please press your favorite candidate to talk about the world they live in. What is the story behind how they realized the importance of expressing our caring through systems, instead of saviors.

A wall? Deporting people? Excluding believers because we don’t agree with their theology? Every one of these proposals assumes that a trivial difference between people (nationality or theology) makes some of them bad and, logically, the others good. First, I believe God is the only authority that gets to make the judgement call on who is good or bad. Second, when a man makes that call under the influence of enormous power and privilege (POTUS) then he will cause more problems than he solves. The United States was designed by the founders to have checks and balances to systematically help both citizens and leaders to be better than we are. We need the system to point us in the direction of goodness. Building walls, deporting productive workers who are contributing to our national prosperity, and arbitrarily denying sanctuary to afflicted people because they happen to have a different belief are all reliable invitations down the path of evil instead of good. Taking actions to implement these plans will invite some of our most powerful and privileged people to, in their all-too-human moments of weakness, arbitrarily hurt innocent people. And invites us all to participate in allowing unnecessary pain and suffering to continue due to our system’s indifference to human beings who are just as frail and flawed as we are.

While it is a practical necessity for us to create a system in which judgments about pubic safety must be made, it requires a SYSTEM because individuals are so notoriously unable to be fair and impartial. No human is perfect, no system is perfect, but approaching perfection can only occur within a system. Individuals can’t do it unless they have the systematic support of other humans like us.

Electing a president should be about choosing a servant who will express the values we hold dear, which includes responding to the world we live in while aspiring to a world that is better. The world I live in does not include evil people, just normal people who have been driven to act badly, to enact evil. Everyone who behaves badly needs to be held accountable for the consequences of their behavior, but that accountability needs to recognize their potential to behave well when their situation gives them the right opportunities.

Please help your candidate articulate the values behind their policies. In fact, encourage them to talk a lot less about policies and more about the human values that motivate them to get wonky. More stories about how our systems help us express our caring and compassion.

Why not Drumph? Part 2 of 4, On people doing bad things:

The rules and laws of our society push people in a variety of directions. When we treat people as if they are evil, there will often be a small minority who oblige us by behaving according to our expectations. Even though a majority of us will still behave well, our system creates pressure to fulfill the expectations of those who designed the system. I don't know about you, but sometimes I get tired or have a stressful day. If, in that moment of stress or exhaustion, I happen to be insulted or just treated with a little disrespect I might react with anger. I just might give up on myself for a moment and let my guard drop for an instant. That is when the pressure of the system has an opportunity to sway my emotions in the direction of evil. I just might lash out.

I happen to be a man of numerous privileges, so the odds of my being in a position in which my lapse of judgement could cost me my job or my life is probably remote, but I know that other people do not share in my advantages. Their moment of weakness might get them arrested, killed, or raped. Drumph lives in a world in which every individual regardless of their circumstances should be held to the behavioral expectations of the most privileged, like him.

Our systems of governance (both public and private) should reflect the fact that we are frail and flawed human being who need systems to help us navigate towards goodness in the complex society we have created. My litmus test is how we treat children. If the children are well, then we are on track, if not, we need to do better.

Why not Drumph? Part  3 of 4, On being saved:

I do not share the view that a president or any other individual can save us. No matter who gets elected they will be subjected to the limitations of the system. I figure the best we can hope for is that the next president can push those limitations towards expressing the values of compassion and caring more than the values of exclusion and hatred. Presidents of this country are not all powerful, just very powerful. They are heavily constrained by how the system works. I have contended ever since I became aware of Obama that his best years will be after he is no longer president. The records of good works by former Democratic presidents and vice presidents is truly impressive and I look forward to what Obama can do when he is free of the burden of being POTUS. He still will not save us, but he'll be a lot more capable of exercising his best judgment in bring about a world that reflects his values. And I suspect that they are good values. I can hardly wait to find out.

This view of the system also means that I don't believe that any president, no matter which party they belong to can deliver on most of the promises they make. The best they can do is communicate the set of values they want to bring to doing the job and we have to trust them to nudge the system towards expressing those values as best they can. Drumph is great candidate in this regard. He clearly expresses the values that he will bring to the job. He does not introduce any meaningful policy details that might confuse us about what he will be trying to do. I find his values to be severely misguided and his lack of policy details that could supposedly express those values is utterly mystifying, but at least we know the moral direction he intends to go.

Why not Drumph? Part 4 of 4, On Drumph:

You will notice that I used a euphemism for Donald Trump. That is because I don't know him. I have no idea what kind of person he is. I have heard exactly opposite accounts from people in positions that would have given them access to him. Given his long history as an entertainer I assume that everything that is done in public is probably calculated to generate an advantageous image (notice I did not say a positive image). Everything I have said applies to the public image I have seen about presidential candidate Donald Trump, not to the man.

Why not Drumph?

Here's my summation of the Drumph phenomena: he is playing a game of self-fulfilling prophesies about evil people doing bad things to America so that he can save us from them.

That game forces us to identify some people as evil and that guarantees some of those people will fulfill our expectation that they are evil. I don't play that.
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