Trump is an aberration. His base is demographically doomed. While we’re ensuring that we defeat them politically, let’s also ensure that we’re not carrying the infection of anger and hatred forward into a future that doesn’t need to be defined by them.

The left and the right both think the other needs to look in the mirror, and on that point, they are both right. What’s more, to an extent greater than either want to admit, they are looking into that mirror when they are looking at each other and just don’t know it.

I know how eager we all are to claim “false equivalency!” And, yes, there is much that is not equivalent. But I’ve noticed for quite some time that, as a general rule, those who are quickest and loudest in shouting that refrain are the ones who have the least justification for doing so; it is the ideologues who fancy themselves most different from their counterparts while being in some very essential ways most alike.

There is less moral hazard in being eager to confront our own fallibility than in being eager to deny it. There is less moral hazard in being willing to acknowledge our opposition’s humanity than in doggedly denying it. We risk less by trying to ratchet down the vitriol than we do by refusing to. A future committed to human decency can’t be achieved through anger and hatred.

The Roman writer Livy said of the Greeks that they had “conquered their rude conquerors,” because though the Roman military captured Greek territory, it was Greek culture that captured Roman minds. We face a reverse problem, threatened by the contagion of vitriol rather than the contagion of more edifying sentiments, and I look at a future in which the left prevails with more trepidation than relief, because the left is growing angrier and meaner and more Intransigent, and that is not the spirit I want to prevail.

So let’s start now trying to be kinder. Let’s oppose the hate without hating. Let’s oppose irrationality with reason rather than another brand of irrationality. Let’s look inward as well as outward. It’s up to us to create and follow a better path. And it’s well within our reach to do so.

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An alternative representation, to emphasize the “flor”

The Flor de Luz, the Flower of Light, is both a symbol and, potentially, a tool. It is the symbol of Transcendental Politics (and logo of The Transcendental Politics Foundation) found in the middle of this Venn diagram, and the diagram itself. The name is, in part, a play on words of the French “Fleur de Lis” (a stylized lily), recognizing the incidental similarity of the original logo to a luminescent lily. It is also in part a reference to the concentric flower patterns formed by the overlapping circles of the Venn Diagram, with five small petals surrounding the logo, five larger ones surrounding those. and five larger ones still surrounding those (see the alternative representation). Most importantly, it is a reference to what both the logo and the Venn Diagram represent: Transcendental Politics, the flowering (“flor”) of a new Enlightenment (“luz”).

The Flor de Luz is, in one sense, a simple graphic with a simple purpose. It represents how Transcendental Politics resides at the confluence of our various overarching social institutions, how it aspires to be a distillation and synthesis of what is best in each of them, what has thus far worked well for humanity, leaving out what is least useful in each of them, what has thus far not served humanity well, an ongoing social movement that recognizes and respects the cumulative product of human history and humbly but proactively builds on it, weeding and pruning and watering portions of our social institutional landscape with new layers of conscious cultivation, continuing the human enterprise of transforming the wilderness of what time and numbers have produced into a garden of intentionality that better serves human welfare.

But the Flor de Luz is, in another sense, potentially (in a dynamical form discussed below) something more subtle and complex, a conceptual tool to assist in the identification stage of that ongoing endeavor of social institutional distillation and synthesis, a tool that is only partially and statically represented by the Venn Diagram above. Let’s explore, step-by-step, how it might be transformed into a dynamical tool.

First, consider possible variations of the Venn Diagram above. A different arrangement, or sequence, of the same five circles could be chosen, different pairs overlapping in the outermost petals (e.g., placing politics and activism next to each other, and religion and science next to each other, producing in their overlaps “campaigning” and “pursuit of universal paradigms,” respectively); or different overarching institutions altogether could be chosen (e.g., economics, family, technology, energy, environment, fine arts, etc.), creating a proliferation of possible combinations and sequences. (For instance, one product of the overlap of activism and economics might be “entrepreneurialism,” and of entrepreneurialism and technology “innovation,” leading to one of the already identified smaller petals by a different route.) Different aspects of what their convergences create can be highlighted, illustrating, in a sense, how “all roads lead to Transcendental Politics,” to the commitment to foster a more rational, imaginative, empathetic, humble and humane world.

We can create a completely different kind of Flor de Luz comprised of cognitive and emotional modalities instead of social institutions, with, for instance, reason, imagination, empathy, humility, and humanity (the five core values of Transcendental Politics) as the five overlapping circles, producing social institutions and types of behaviors and endeavors. We can even include such emotions and modalities as anger, fear, and tribalism, things we usually identify as that which we are striving to transcend, to acknowledge that they too have evolved for reasons, and that they may well have something to contribute to our garden of intentionality. Or we can combine cognitive and emotional modalities with social institutions from the outset, testing our minds to identify, for instance, what good can be harvested from the distillation and synthesis of anger, reason, and activism, or of imagination, fear, hope, and science, or of the convergence of those two sets. The possibilities are nearly limitless.

The purpose of presenting ourselves with these nearly limitless combinations is to guide our minds in an exploration of what is, in pursuit of what can be, by facilitating consideration of how we can work to leverage what is into something more beneficial. This can occur both in the abstract, imagining possibilities without worrying about how to attain them, and in the particular, identifying viable pathways to implementation and devising first steps that can be taken now in service to that end. It is, if nothing else, a tool for taking our minds out of the tumultuous onslaught of the perpetual urgency of now, and providing them with a space defined by a more synoptic view, in which we are guided not only in “thinking outside the box,” but in redefining “the box” as something far more expansive.

(I should insert here a response to the criticism, that I imagine has arisen in the minds of at least some readers by now, of “what does this have to do with anything? How does combining names of social institutions and cognitive and emotional modalities accomplish anything?” The answer is that it displaces our tendency to think in fixed ways determined by ideological narratives and ingrained habits of thought with a set of semi-random but also subtly systemic prompts to think in new ways. That can be remarkably useful, and it is integral to the meaning of “Transcendental Politics,” which is about institutionalizing the ongoing effort to transcend our ideological tribalisms and false certainties.)

Let me guide you through a consideration of how this design (five overlapping disks representing distinct social institutional, cognitive, and emotional modalities) can be utilized in the manner described above.

Imagine a narrated animation in which, first, the diagram is explained as representative of how Transcendental Politics is that which resides where our social institutional modalities overlap, each mitigating the others’ defects and reinforcing the others’ strengths, a sort of distillation of the best of what we’ve produced over the millennia, the product of the spinning lathe of trial and error. Then, the outer sections labeled “science, politics, education, activism, religion” are removed and the largest flower pattern is revealed, the narration stating that even though the various institutional modalities themselves are not precisely what Transcendental Politics is (because they exist independently), those aspects of their synthesis that are relevant to serving our shared humanity most effectively are distilled into the Flor de Luz. Then the next layer of petals is removed, and the next, and the narration continues, focusing on the distillation down to those essential ingredients that define Transcendental Politics, bringing the narration to a focus on precisely what Transcendental Politics IS, that quintessence at the center of this convergence of social and cultural evolution.

The animation can then grow back outward, with new petals labeled with new virtues distilled from other arrangements, both in sequence and in selection, of overarching institutions and modalities until a new completed Flor de Luz is constructed, the narration describing along the way how the petals of the concentric flowers, which in the other direction were derived from the larger overlapping petals, in this direction are emergent from the smaller ones (and ultimately from the center, from Transcendental Politics), illustrating how it inherits the cultural material of the past and helps create the cultural material of the future. The animation can then proceed to to a sliding around of the overarching circles, with the petals formed by their new overlaps changing accordingly, and then to a changing of the overarching institutions and modalities themselves, exploring some of the many different permutations of the Flor de Luz.

Now imagine a physical artifact, with five overlapping translucent plastic or glass colored circles in the form of the Flor de Luz, each rotatable around its center and able to switch positions by pivoting around the center circle containing the TPF logo and snapping into a new position. Each disk would contain perhaps three related social institutions or cognitive or emotional modalities that can be rotated into place, creating the possibility for 15 different arrangements without moving the relative positions of the disks, and some multiple of that by moving the relative positions of the disks. A complete set of disks can include far more than five, with the ability to switch out individual disks for others, removing all limits on how many arrangements can be explored. Of course doing so only suggests the combinations; the work of thinking about what that implies, what productive uses those combinations have, remains. But that work, too, can be cataloged and accumulated, in a kind of ongoing “social institutional genome project.”

(We can even create disks whose overarching categories are the finer ones produced by the confluence of other disks, and take their confluence into deeper, finer, and subtler levels.)

In an online version, that cumulative work can result in different combinations leading to different implied products of those combinations appearing in the various petals of the flower (much as they do in the graphic above). The physical artifact might accomplish the same through symbols visible in each petal in each rotational position of the disk, depending on which overarching principle is in effect, forming a sequence with the others, and then using a reference manual to interpret different sequences of symbols, the reference manual itself being a cumulative compendium of previous thought about the various possible combinations. Thus, this device could be used to explore different configurations of overlapping social institutional, cognitive, and emotional modalities, as a useful analytical and practical tool for thinking about how we can create different kinds of collaborative projects using those modalities in service to working our way toward the convergence in the center (Transcendental Politics).

(I can imagine turning it into a game as well, one that exercises the mind in certain ways that are aligned to what we are trying to cultivate, in which in each player’s turn they are challenged to take the set of social institutions and cognitive modalities they get from their “spin” of a Flor de Luz designed for that purpose and either create something from it following a set of rules and in pursuit of a defined goal, or build on what previous players have created. This is, obviously, not a fully fleshed out idea yet; just a glimpse of another possible use.)

What the Flor de Luz thus represents is that we have inherited an enormous quantity of social institutional, technological, cultural, cognitive, and emotional material, that is blended and can continue to be blended in complex ways, and that forms an evolving shared cognitive landscape of enormous complexity, subtlety, and power. It represents that we are not merely passive recipients of this material, but rather active participants in its ongoing formation, in how we combine and distill it, in what we derive from it, in how we employ it, in short, in what kind of world we choose to create together.

The Flor de Luz provides us with a relatively simple but elegant tool for thinking about this, for focusing our thoughts in productive ways. It reminds us of the possibilities, of how religious material and scientific material can combine beneficially, of the need to draw on reason and imagination and empathy all at once and not to pretend that anger and tribalism can (or should) just be wished away, of where our shared stories come from and what purposes they can serve. It reminds us of the fractal geometry of the anthrosphere, of how social institutional and cognitive and emotional materials are tributaries to larger streams; it helps us to reconstruct those tributaries and streams and rivers of possibilities in endless combinations. It is not a necessary tool; we can engage in the same contemplations without it. But it assists us in doing so more comprehensively and more precisely. Think of it as a social institutional kaleidoscope, with mechanisms for considering every set of combinations of every set of cognitive, emotional, and social institutional materials, and thinking about what those combinations imply, what challenges and possibilities they pose, what opportunities they present.

While potentially useful, it is certainly not a sufficient tool in and of itself; in the forthcoming book, “Transcendental Politics: A New Enlightenment,” I go into considerable detail exploring some small portion of the corpus of analytical and practical tools that are relevant to our endeavor. The need to continue to gather, produce, and synthesize them is perpetual. But the Flor de Luz is a reminder that at the core of all of that intellectual material and practitioner expertise are the lessons of our ongoing history, the convergence of a history of past experiments, and the cumulative products of human genius forming the foundation of present and future innovations. It is up to us to design those innovations to most effectively serve the ever fuller realization of our consciousness and of our shared humanity.

Our various personalities and affinities are reflected in which petals of which variations of the Flor de Luz resonate most with our own predispositions, talents, and desires; it becomes a way of locating ourselves in this shared endeavor of ours, of thinking about who our social institutional neighbors and natural partners are, of who we can reach out to to create new synergies in service to our shared humanity, to the greatest realization of our consciousness and our well-being, individually and collectively. It recognizes both diversity and coherence, facilitates both, draws upon both. The Flor de Luz is a way of thinking about our various roles in this shared story we are living and writing together, and how we can each individually and in cooperation with others, consciously and conscientiously, ensure that we are writing it and living it well.

To learn more about Transcendental Politics and The Transcendental Politics Foundation, visit our Facebook group, our Facebook page, or our website (still under construction).

After posting a well-worded invitation to Trump supporters to engage in civil discourse with me, a woman, LR, who first responded with dismissive scorn began commenting on my Facebook page. After some trust building between us, and editing out the participation of another individual, this is the meat of the discussion we had. (I edited her comments for spelling and punctuation and to reduce “noise”. My first comment follows her declaration, in response to the other participant –who carried most of the first part of the conversation– that she has absolutely no second thoughts about her support for Trump.)

Colorado Steve Harvey: LR, I’m going to jump in here with an observation. Intellectually, as a student of society and of the human mind, I know that many of the things I believe are wrong. I know that many of the things I am absolutely certain are true are not true. I know that the narratives of reality that form my identity and my relationship to the world around me is laden with defense mechanisms that protect it from critical challenges. And I know that all of that is true despite the higher-than-average degree to which I work to mitigate them.

It’s very hard to act on the knowledge I just outlined above, particularly when engaged with people with whom I disagree. I don’t want to give them that admission as a lever or weapon to use against me. But even in the privacy of my own mind, or in the company of like-minded people, it is hard to own and harder to act on.

That’s why, in the process of creating Transcendental Politics, I increasingly came to emphasize “intellectual humility.” I’m not talking about the appealing personality trait in which one presents as knowing that they’re not special, but rather simply the knowledge that we don’t know, that much that we think we know is wrong, and that some things we are absolutely certain are true are in reality false.

I just finished reading Steven Pinker’s new book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.” Pinker and I think in similar ways, share a tendency to be critical of ideologues across the spectrum, believe in the value of reliance on empirical evidence, rational analysis, and a commitment to our shared humanity, wherever it leads. I’m a pretty diligent consumer of information, trained in research methodologies, aware of psychological pitfalls (such as confirmation bias and attribution bias), and yet was surprised that Pinker managed to bring into question some things that I thought were beyond dispute. It was a humbling reminder of how much crap we all have in our minds.

(I’m not suggesting that Pinker is infallible either. There were some emphases, some ways of framing information and conceptualization that I remain at odds with him on, though mostly it is really just more a matter of emphasis than anything else. But I recognize that rejecting data that doesn’t confirm my bias is inexcusable, and some of the data he presented absolutely challenged some of my biases.)

So, I encourage us all, to the greatest extent possible, to come to the table knowing that we don’t know, that we may be wrong about some things we are certain of, that the more we allow reason and humanity to guide us the better, and that our inevitable boat load of false certainties is a major obstruction to doing so.

I didn’t really want to interrupt the flow of yours and EB’s discussion, or attempt to impose my will while trust is still being built, but I just wanted to plant the seed of this suggestion early, just to tuck away in the back of your mind.

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, sounds like an interesting book . I struggled with whether to use the word “absolutely,” and in the end decided that that was the most truthful answer for me to give at this time . Nothing of course is absolute, except “Universal Truth” which only the creator of the universe is privy to. I understand where you are coming from. Point well taken : )

Colorado Steve Harvey: LR, first, I want to reiterate that we appreciate your having the courage and integrity to be here, where you knew that you were going to be bombarded with challenges to what you hold to be true. Most people are unwilling to put themselves in that situation. I don’t like putting myself in that situation! (But, we would all benefit, individually and collectively, if we all put ourselves in that situation more routinely.)

Second, I have to continue that bombardment just a little, because not only conservative Republican Jeff Flake, but many others, both publicly and privately, echo his sentiments. The more thoughtful conservative columnists and pundits –George Will, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, most Republican congressmen and senators at some point or another, every living former president from both parties (implicitly or explicitly), virtually every reputable, established news publication in the world, virtually the entire corpus of professional historians, economists, foreign policy experts, anti-terrorism experts, diplomats, and statesmen, the former heads of the CIA and NSA, the former head of the FBI, all echo the sentiment that Trump is a disaster for this nation and world. Historians posted video-testimonials, with reference to historical analysis, to implore people not to make this mistake. Economists and foreign policy experts wrote mass letters signed by the luminaries in their fields with the same message. Venerable old publications that have either never endorsed anyone or have done so only once or twice in the course of centuries came out to endorse Clinton, not because they loved Clinton, but because they recognized how unthinkable it was to elect Trump to the presidency. Conservative papers that had always endorsed the Republican nominee prior to 2016 received death threats for doing the same.

That humility we agreed we all require should give us pause in the light of so enormous, so well-informed a chorus of both the expected and unexpected voices urging the same warning upon us. Can we entertain the possibility that we have ventured into some horrifyingly dangerous territory here? Not an agreement that it is so, necessarily, but a recognition that it might be so?

LR: EB, If you are asking my opinion of (a speech by Flake that EB had posted), which I was already familiar with, and others …. well here goes …. all I can think of is that Flake went on an unhinged tirade of sanctimonious grandstanding . He hates Trump , he was a never Trumper from day 1 , and he wants someone like himself to challenge Trump in 2020 . As my Father used to say ” He has a better chance of being struck by lightning ” Good luck with that : )

Colorado Steve Harvey: If being a “never Trumper” disqualifies all of the conservative voices echoing liberal, academic, and expert concerns over Trump, then all of the most intelligent and informed and venerable of conservative voices, including previous conservative Republican nominees for the presidency and Republican presidents themselves, are disqualified, and the only definition of credibility becomes the refusal to listen to those voices and consider what they’re saying, which is a very dysfunctional definition of credibility.

Isn’t it just possible that the virtually unanimous voices of the world’s historians, economists, foreign policy experts, former presidents, former candidates for the presidency, editorial columnists for major publications, might, just might, have a point that is being systematically ignored by those who prefer not to hear it.

There are really two possibilities here: Virtually the entire universe of people with relevant knowledge, experience and expertise are all engaged in a conspiracy against what is good and true, or that which they are against isn’t actually good and true. Which seems more reasonable on the face of it?

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, all I will say is this: I am very familiar with all of these views. I have been listening for 3 years now. If this Presidency turns out to be the unmitigated disaster that they ( experts ) are predicting, our Constitutional Republic will be strong enough to survive.

Colorado Steve Harvey: I agree that our republic will *probably* survive a Trump presidency, but some of the harm done may be irreparable, and some of it may take generations to repair, and some of it may cause multitudes real harm in the meantime. So, if he is an unmitigated disaster, that is not a trivial concern.

I’m going to risk all of the goodwill we’ve built on a frank, admission, LR.

I personally am convinced that it is impossible for any rational person of goodwill to look at the evidence comprehensively and arrive at or retain the conclusion that Trump is anything other than a travesty that we have to do everything in our power to rectify.

I also believe, from all I’ve seen of you here, that you ARE a reasonable person of goodwill.

By syllogistic logic, if those two premises are correct, you would have to come to the conclusion that Trump is a travesty that we have to do everything in our power to rectify.

Now, given all that, there are three possibilities: 1) Premise number one is wrong because I’m wrong, the world’s historians are all wrong, the world’s economists are all wrong, the world’s foreign policy experts are all wrong, this nation’s living former presidents from both parties are all wrong, the most intellectual of conservative pundits are all wrong, and Trump isn’t a travesty that we have to rectify; or 2) I’m wrong in my assessment of you; or 3) you will, in time, come to the rational and humane conclusion.

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, well , apparently the grass roots voters in the swing states and the thousands who went to the rallies didn’t get the “Memo.” Trump was approachable, he worked like a dog going everywhere, he spoke plain english, he was smart enough to know that there was an untapped silent majority out there who was furious over 8 years of Obama’s policies . We are not racists, we are not anti LBGT. I know transgender Trump supporters, educated conservative women. Check out the FB page of Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives , they are in your state. I don’t know what else to say. That’s how he won 306 electoral votes . I went to bed on election night thinking “no way” we are never going to win Pennsylvania which I had determined was crucial. I was just as surprised as you guys . Peace : )

Colorado Steve Harvey: LR, but none of that really gets at the crucial question. Multitudes of ordinary, intelligent, kind people can opt to support and create horrors. We’ve seen that, repeatedly. Among Nazi supporters were kindly old grandmothers who baked cookies for their neighbors…, sometimes even for their Jewish neighbors! That multitudes of ordinary, intelligent, kind people supported and support Trump doesn’t tell us that the analysis of those who are specifically informed on each dimension of policy are wrong, and that the mind-bogglingly abundant evidence of Trump’s racism, misogyny, xenophobia, crudeness, incompetence, anti-constitutional authoritarianism, and general malignant buffoonery are all wrong. You said that his many supporters “didn’t get the memo;” that might be exactly right. And those many supporters might just be demonstrably wrong.

That there are some from categories of people the majority of which didn’t support him who do support him is both unsurprising and uninformative. There were slaves who defended slavery; there were women who opposed women’s suffrage; there were even Jews who sided with the Nazis. It is always the case that when horrifying injustice and brutality occurs, some members of those groups that are specifically targeted by the injustice and brutality actually support it. That is not proof that what they were supporting was not in fact injustice and brutality.

Appeals to the proof of the support of large pluralities or even outright majorities are not appeals to truth, or to justice, or to human decency, because we have many, many, many instances throughout history in which such pluralities or outright majorities were clearly on the side opposing truth, justice, and human decency. I would argue that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that this is just such a circumstance.

That’s a lot to digest. Hang around a while and let’s find out together which of the three possibilities I listed is the correct one.

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, you are telling me which possibility is correct for me to pick ? I will tell you this: The minute you start to use the Natzi comparison, you lost me. Forget the other stuff like his foreign policy, which I agree with. I was willing to play fair, but don’t try to railroad me. You are not interested in my views. You want to change my views.

Colorado Steve Harvey: I want only one thing: For reason in service to our shared humanity to prevail. If I am failing, in my understandings and actions, to contribute to that, then I want my understandings and actions to be corrected. If others are, then I want the same for them. That is the only thing I want.

As for the Nazi analogy, it was to make a specific point, and that is that the argument that the support of many “good people” is proof that Trump is good is fallacious. My analogy was to point out that that is wrong. That’s all. And, it is.

Now, you are welcome to stay; I hope you do. I will continue to be courteous, and will continue to champion reason in service to humanity. No argument I have made has been irrational, nor has any been in service to inhumanity. If you want to find a pretext to bow out, I understand. If you want to put your own views to the test of whether they satisfy that objective, that would be more admirable, but it is entirely up to you.

Let’s see how good your faith really is; will you find pretexts to reject arguments that have been nothing but factual, rational, and made with a will to serve humanity? Or will you continue to find the courage to allow your own beliefs to be challenged?

As I said, I always welcome having mine challenged, and if you have arguments that can do that, I invite you to snare me in the same trap; I would be most grateful for the favor.

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, what if everything that happens, no matter how bad we think is is serves Humanity. Lessons learned. I wonder who you wanted as president?

Colorado Steve Harvey: LR, that we are fallible and that the unexpected can occur is a given, but that that should not stop us from, with humility and diligence, making choices based on the best analysis of the best evidence available is a necessity.

I wanted the person of the two in the binary choice available who had the most competence, who was the most emotionally stable, who was the most professional, and who had given the greatest reason to believe that her choices would better serve our general welfare. I didn’t have to love her, or believe that she was without serious flaws; I only had to believe that she was the best of the two viable choices presented. And as I’ve already indicated, I think almost any other human being alive would have been the best of the two choices available, if they went up against the one who prevailed.

As for the fatalism, the suggestion that reason and responsibility may be irrelevant, because whatever we do serves humanity. In that case, we are free to commit acts of violence and predation, to harm others for our own benefit, to be cruel and selfish and reckless and devoid of compassion or mercy. But neither you nor I believe that; we both believe in our responsibilities as human beings, and that is really what we are discussing now; what is our responsibility as human beings, in the context of our role as citizens and sovereigns, and considering what is being done in our name?

LR: Remember these words …. ” we’ll stop it ” that came from the email of the lead FBI agent on the Mueller investigation . That came out in the hearings today . Meaning we will stop the Trump presidency . Some heads are going to roll over there , and that is not Trump interfering with an investigation . That is the top tier of the FBi . They mishandled the Clinton email investigation also . Comey ruined his reputation . McCabe lied to Congress , and Struzk was escorted out of the FBI building today by security . There are also 3 other unnamed agents under investigation. That is what should have all Americans scared, not some crazy allegations that Trump is like Hitler.

My role as citizen was to vote for the person I felt was the best choice to lead this country. I did that, and I have no regrets . My issues were border security , the economy , and foreign policy. 60 million others made that choice also, they have a right to have their choice respected and not demeaned

Colorado Steve Harvey: Yes, two FBI agents who were in an intimate relationship opined via email about how horrifying the prospect was that Trump would be elected, a perspective I believe any rational human being would hold. “We’ll stop it” could easily have referred to us all, as Americans, at the ballot box, not in their capacity as FBI agents. As soon as he became aware of those emails, Mueller removed the two agents from the investigation AND released the information himself about the existence of the emails (which were not known to the public or to anyone else who might have released them prior to that). That’s not evidence of a corrupt investigation; that’s evidence of an investigation that is assiduously non-corrupt and incorruptible. Furthermore, it was the head of the FBI himself who sealed the deal FOR Trump, by announcing days before the election that he was reopening the case against Clinton, so if their purpose was to block Trump, and their actions were predictably more causative in the opposite direction, they are either the most incompetent conspirators in the history of the world, or you’re entire narrative is wrong.

Our responsibility is to do as much due diligence as we can, to refrain from ignoring massive quantities of relevant information, and to make choices that are not just appealing to us but that are rationally and empirically defensible. If you think you did that, fine. The election is over, but our responsibility to one another and to humanity is not.

We are interdependent. If someone commits acts of terrorism, for example, and says that that was their choice for how best to serve humanity, that choice can indeed be criticized. Voting for Trump was not an act of terrorism, but it was a choice that has consequences and, like any other choice that has consequences, can be critiqued.

Why don’t we take a break from this, and find more pleasant and agreeable things to discuss in the near future. We can always return to this another time.

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, that is only part of the story . The part the left wing media don’t you to hear . More is going to come out, but I am sure you aren’t interested because it doesn’t fit your narrative. That’s okay. It doesn’t really matter.

Colorado Steve Harvey: There are, as always, multiple possibilities, each of which we should consider methodically before either rejecting or accepting it as truth. There is a range of possibilities about the balance of how right and wrong we each are. There is a range of possibilities about the relative reliability and credibility of competing sources of information. And there is a range of possibilities about what will or will not come out, and how accurate and salient it will be.

To determine which among those many possibilities are in fact realities, we would need to refer to arguments made using reason applied to evidence, and not mere assertions. I strive, imperfectly but in earnest, to ensure that what fits my narrative (or rather what my narrative is fit to) is that which reason and evidence recommend as best serving our shared humanity.

If you have an argument to make, I am eager to hear it. If you are just going to make empty assertions, that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean anything until it has reason and evidence to support it. That is after all the trap we set, the one I invited you into from the very beginning.

I want to ask an isolated question, without letting it sprawl out into every other issue. (It helps to be able to focus on one issue at a time rather than shift to another one as soon as the first one becomes uncomfortable, never really dealing with it.) You said that the 60 million people “have a right to have their choice respected and not demeaned.” You also were unhappy with my earlier analogy of the tens of millions of Germans who supported Hitler and the question of whether they had “a right to have their choice respected and not demeaned.” But it’s a relevant question, because if there are extremes at which people don’t have a right to have their choice respected and not demeaned, then the question becomes whether those who made this choice crossed that threshold or not, and where the threshold is.

I think we can agree that there are choices that DON’T merit respect. Choices to commit acts of predatory violence don’t merit respect, for instance. Choices to support leaders who commit acts of predatory violence don’t merit respect. Choices to vilify whole categories of people don’t merit respect. Choices to support leaders who vilify whole categories of people don’t merit respect. The choice to foment fear and hatred in service to callous and brutal policies doesn’t merit respect. The choice to support a leader who foments fear and hatred in service to callous and brutal policies doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to forcibly take children from their mothers who arrived at your door in terror, fleeing from violence, in order to discourage such mothers from seeking such assistance, doesn’t merit respect. The choice to support leaders who forcibly take children from their mothers who arrive at our borders in terror, fleeing violence, in order to discourage them from doing so, doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who calls white supremacists who rioted in and terrorized a southern town, including murdering one counter-protester with a car, “some very good people” doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who bragged about routinely committing sexual assault, and is accused by 19 women of having done so, doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who mocked a disabled reporter doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who tries to undermine the free press and convince the American people that the free press is their enemy doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who lies twice as often as he tells the truth, and always to serve his own interests rather than the public interest, doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who praises despots and alienates allies, igniting a mutually destructive trade war with tariffs no economist thinks are a good idea doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who, as a candidate, asked three times in a military briefing why, if we have nuclear weapons, don’t we use them, doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who has said that he is in favor of nuclear proliferation and wouldn’t care if there were a nuclear war in Asia (which wouldn’t just be a humanitarian crisis on an almost unimaginable scale, but would also destroy the global economy and create a global catastrophe which would be completely disastrous for us as well) doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who said that an American born judge of Mexican descent was unfit to hear a lawsuit against Trump because of his Mexican heritage doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader whose anti-constitutional authoritarian policies have been blocked by the courts repeatedly for violating the protections of fundamental rights guaranteed in our Constitution doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader whose own racism is evident from his violation of the Fair Housing Act for discriminating against blacks, his taking out of full-page ads calling for the execution of a group of black teens arrested for a crime they didn’t commit, his repeated vilification of Mexicans, his constant fear and hate mongering, his courting of and support by white supremacists (including appoint one as a senior advisor after winning the election), his support of the preservation and continued display of symbols of white supremacy, his exploitation of racist outrage toward peaceful and respectful protests by blacks of excessive use of deadly force by police toward frequently innocent black suspects, doesn’t merit respect.

The choice to support a leader who is economically and diplomatically illiterate, uninformed, incurious, indifferent to the consequences of governing with self-glorifying and dysfunctional bluster rather than with skill or knowledge doesn’t merit respect.

The tragic thing is that this list can go on ten times longer than it already has, this president is such a dramatically unqualified and disqualified individual for the presidency. He has quoted Mussolini, the inventor of Fascism, favorably; he had (according to Ivana in a 1990s interview in Vanity Fair) a copy of “Mein Kampf” on his bed stand; he has bragged about his superior “German blood;” he made his entry into politics by becoming the figurehead of the arbitrary racist insistence that the first black president wasn’t born in America but rather Kenya…. How is it even possible for anyone to insist that it is unfair to them for others to be appalled that they supported this horrid, incompetent, hateful individual for the presidency?

But I don’t want us to be stuck in our being appalled and you feeling wronged by it. I want us to join together to try to be the nation and the people we once were and could and should be again, a compassionate people, a nation that values our alliances and understands the need to mobilize expertise in navigating the complexities of the modern world, a nation that seeks to join people together rather than divide them into warring tribes, a nation that believes in justice and in human decency, a nation that strives to be wise and fair and admirable. I don’t care about your past decisions; I care about your present and future decisions, about whether you continue to double down on choosing to destroy this nation, or whether you will join with all reasonable people of goodwill to correct our course and be a decent and honorable people once again.

This is self-destructive craziness we are in now. Yes, it’s true, I want to shake people like you and shout, “What the hell is the matter with you?! Why are you doing this to us?!” Obviously, you are free to dismiss me and all of the world’s historians and all of the world’s economists and all of the world’s foreign policy experts and all of our nation’s living past presidents from both parties and all of the evidence and all reason and all human decency, and insist that up is down and in is out and even if it isn’t it doesn’t really matter because fate is in charge anyway, all incredibly irresponsible things to insist upon and impose upon this nation and world. You are free to do it, but you are wrong to do it, morally wrong. And I really don’t believe you’re that kind of person, who knowingly inflicts harm on multitudes and knowingly destroys this country we all love. I don’t believe that that is who and what you really are.

So my question is: Are you more concerned with not being criticized for this choice, or with doing what’s right if the criticism is, after all, warranted? Which is more important, your feelings, or America’s and humanity’s welfare?

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, I don’t care about the critics. Call me immoral, call me whatever you want. If you want to change politics why don’t you run for office, or find a candidate of your choice to back? It’s not about my feelings. To me and many others, I guess you can boil it down to one core issue, and this issue was central to us way before Trump arrived on the scene. It’s our issue, no matter who is in office or who is running. The issue is Globalism. I believe in Sovereign Nations, free and independent of any kind of “One World Governing Body.” If America First is appalling to you, and I think it is, you have the right to your opinion. I am sure you won’t like our Governor here in Texas either : ) The Democrats, in my opinion are ruining this Country.

Colorado Steve Harvey: What we’re doing now doesn’t put “America first,” anymore than the Hatfields and McCoys were putting their respective families first when they spent generations killing each other. You subscribe to a zero sum fallacy in a non-zero sum world, to everyone’s detriment, including our own. That’s where the phrase “enlightened self interest” comes from, the realization that to serve ourselves well we must enter into messy cooperative relationships with both friends and foes. People who actually spend their lives in economics and diplomacy get this; people who refuse to recognize the limits of their own expertise not only don’t get it but obstruct the beneficial mobilization of knowledge and experience they lack, believing that their current understanding is the understanding that should govern us, and that the expertise of others is irrelevant. And, if you’ll pardon my saying so, that combination of ignorance and arrogance is the most destructive force in the human world, the author of all our woes.

Here’s the point: I don’t, in general, just believe in random ideological narratives of reality. None of us should. But when you “argue” your position, you don’t argue it at all. Rather, you appeal to some random article of ideological faith. We can do better than that. We can analyze data. We can formulate an evolving, precise, highly sophisticated understanding of reality, and we can use that understanding to govern ourselves intelligently rather than arbitrarily. And that’s the real political divide in the world, between those who believe in our responsibility as citizens and human beings and do due diligence in service to it, and those who don’t. Guess which group is comprised of creative problem solvers and which group, in one form or another, flies planes into buildings and calls it a noble cause.

I’m done. Feel free to stay and chat about the weather. You clearly don’t want to be reached, and I clearly don’t appreciate the plane you’re​ choosing to fly into our building.

LR: I am not choosing to fly a plane into anything. I voted. You don’t like my choice. 2020 is 2 years from now, a lot can happen between now and then, so we will see : )

Colorado Steve Harvey: This isn’t a plane that hits the building just once and the damage is done. It occurs in slow motion, more of the damage mitigated the sooner those who’ve hijacked us either have a change of heart or are simply overpowered. The fact that we have a legal opportunity to overpower you in two years does not mean that it would not be to everyone’s benefit for you to have a change of heart long before then.

I think it’s important to note that this is a familiar historical scenario for the collapse of a republic, going back to the collapse of the Roman republic under Julius Caesar, and through the collapse of the Weimar Republic under Adolf Hitler. The scenario is as follows: An authoritarian populist attracts a large following by promising a return to supposedly lapsed “greatness,” and in the modern scenario by targeting foreigners, minorities, intellectuals, and the press, and countervailing governmental branches acquiesce out of either fear or self-interest in light of the populist pressure put upon them. The republic then becomes a dictatorship.

You wrote in an earlier comment that if all of this is a mistake, the republic will survive it. I answered, with emphasis on “probably,” that we would *probably* survive it, but I have no desire to continue to gamble our freedom and well-being on that very uncertain assessment of where the probability lies. We are in great danger as a republic right now. We really are. This is scary. This is horrifying. And, yes, people can vote their own freedom away without knowing it; they can vote their own prosperity, their own safety, their own welfare away without knowing it. It’s happened many times in the past, in republics that had existed longer than ours has and among people who didn’t believe it possible that that could ever change.

It can. We are gambling everything that we are, everything that our Founding Fathers and every soldier and public servant after them fought and often died for. And for what? To make enemies of friends and to strengthen the hand against us of the enemies we already had? To pretend that a trade war that no one wins and everyone loses makes us greater? To rail against history and the reality of interdependence? This is self-destructive insanity, pure and simple. The urgent challenge facing us as a nation and world –that, as I said, virtually everyone, from both parties and across the ideological spectrum, with relevant experience and expertise not only knows but is shouting as loudly as they can from the rooftops– is whether we can convince enough of those who are deceived or self-deceived to help pull us back from the brink in time

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, contrary to what you may believe about my capacity to understand, I totally understand where you are coming from in the above statement. I have thought deeply about it. My main question to others who I ask about this is “Why are they drawing a correlation between Trump and Hitler?” Now I see from your perspective, but I still think you are making a far stretch here, as far as what is happening or going to happen. I don’t know what else to say : )

Colorado Steve Harvey: LR, as far as I know, I am not saying or implying anything about your capacity to understand. And my analogies to Hitler, as well as to Julius Caesar, are for specific purposes, identifying specific similarities. Since I make those similarities explicit, there is no question of it being “a stretch,” unless you can explain why those similarities aren’t in fact real or relevant.

Again, every position has to be argued rationally and with reference to empirical data to be anything other than an empty ideological assertion. One can believe whatever they want, but, in discourse, the standard should be how well they made their case, not just whether they announced what they believe. My whole point is that reason applied to evidence DOES lead to the conclusions I am drawing (and, frankly, the conclusions shared by virtually everyone else on Earth with relevant expertise or highly developed critical thinking skills), and I make my case why that is so. Simply saying “I have thought deeply about it” is not an actual argument.

I, and a whole lot of other people, continuously lay out in detail exactly why Trump and the movement surrounding him is not just bad for America, but an existential threat to America as we know it, and dangerous to the world. It may sound like hyperbole to you, simply because any such claim is assumed to be hyperbole, but a lot of very non-hyperbolic people are shouting it very loudly, and there are clearly times in history when it has not been hyperbole; lots of times in history, in fact. So, we have to consider the possibility that it isn’t hyperbole now. And if a cogent argument is being presented as to why it isn’t, simply assuming it is out of habit or convenience isn’t really very convincing.

A guy named Dan Kanan (if I’m remembering his name correctly) came up with a notion he called “the tragedy of the belief commons.” The tragedy of the commons is one variation of a set of scenarios in which when each individual acts in their own self-interest, the collective outcome is more harmful to everyone involved than had they been able to act cooperatively in their collective interests instead. (Something very relevant here as well.) But the tragedy of the belief commons is that we form our beliefs more as an expression of allegiance to some social identity we hold, while those beliefs may not actually be (and more often than not aren’t) what actually serves our general welfare.

So, it’s important for each person not just to state what they believe, but to explain why it actually does serve our general welfare. And in a conversation in which one side is doing that and the other is not, the side that is doing it is presumptively the one that has the better claim to be in service to our general welfare, until someone makes a more cogent argument to the contrary.

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, my answer comes from my husband who has a Masters in Sociology. Revisionism. Germany the 1930’s was nothing like the USA today. The economy, unemployment, Plus, Germany had never been a democracy, also the Treaty of Versailles, where they were blamed for WWI and had to make reparations and give up land as part of the surrender agreement.

Colorado Steve Harvey: Again, I made specific comparisons, explicitly enumerated. You have not addressed any of them. I can help you out with listing differences, if you like: the de facto national languages are different, the populations are different, the size and shape of the territory is different, the longitude and latitude of the capital is different, the currency is different. There is an endless list of differences, all of which are irrelevant to disproving the validity of the specific similarities I named.

By the way, the Weimar Republic was democratic, and Hitler rose to power through mostly democratic processes.

Though I know it’s not intentional, I’m going to point out that focusing the debate on the tangential question of whether the comparisons I drew to Nazi Germany are warranted, especially without addressing the actual comparisons I made, is a tactic called “pettifogging,” which involves avoiding the central issue by focusing on tenuously relevant tangential issues, like whether the imposition of German reparations in the Versailles Treaty render comparisons of different instances of authoritarian populism moot (it doesn’t), when the real issue is whether our current crisis of authoritarian populism is dangerous to our republic and to humanity (it is).

LR: Colorado Steve Harvey, its because the comparisons you made on the surface seem valid , and I can understand them , if you dig deeper into history , ” that dog won’t hunt ” Why are some people losing their minds over this ? Because a non Politician with no political experience was elected President over all the experts .career politicians , and Washington elites. In short , some peoples world was turned upside down and they just can’t get over it.

Colorado Steve Harvey: Okay, I do officially give up at this point. The dog that doesn’t hunt is your willingness to absorb information that utterly destroys any notion of logical, empirical or moral defensibility of the position you hold. You will continue to insist that up is down, in is out, and wrong is right forever, and there’s nothing I can do about that.

You have the entire world population of people with relevant knowledge, experience and expertise trying desperately to get you to open your eyes (and heart) to a reality you have closed them to. You have argument after argument compellingly showing you that you are, frankly, just plain wrong, in every conceivable way. You have most of the party that supports Trump and all of the party that opposes him, publicly or privately, beside themselves in disbelief and horror at what is happening. And it’s all irrelevant to you.

What we have is an enormous quantity of evidence that Trump is an authoritarian populist eroding our democratic and constitutional institutions, our norms and conventions that maintain and preserve them, our international alliances, and our basic human decency, stoking fear and hatred, inciting racist and xenophobic rage and violence (there HAS been a rise in hate crimes). And it’s clear that no amount of fact, reason, or appeal to human decency is ever going to have any impact on you at all.

If you and EB would like to continue this conversation, please feel free to do so, preferably, at this point, elsewhere. It was a noble experiment, asking the question of whether a person dogmatically holding an empirically, rationally, and morally indefensible position but willing to listen to arguments against them could be persuaded to give up that position. The answer, in this case, was no. That’s too bad. But I don’t have an eternity to devote to this experiment. I wish you all the best.

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Mischievous imps blowing invisible darts that stoke human passions and spin them out of control, moving twigs a few inches across the forest floor providing links in conflagrations that would not otherwise occur, plucking the strings of nature to produce crescendos of catastrophe. Zen-mathematician wizards dancing in their ice spheres high in the Vaznal Mountains, solving ever-deepening riddles of sound and sight and sensation, weaving order from the chaos the Loci imps foment. Winged muses carving sensuous stories from the clouds and celebrating the lives of those from whose dreams and tribulations they were born.

A fiery giantess is held captive in a hollow mountain. A sea serpent’s breath inspires the priestess of an island oracle poised above a chasm beneath which it sleeps. City-states are at war; slaves, led by a charismatic general, are in uprising; dictators and warlords are vying for power; neighboring kingdoms and empires are strategically courting local clients in pursuit of regional hegemony or outright conquest. Human avarice has strained the natural context on which it thrives. And ordinary people in extraordinary times, caught within the vortex of the powers that both surround and comprise them, navigate those turbulent currents.

Follow the adventures of Algonion Goodbow, the magical archer; Sarena of Ashra, the young girl at the center of this epic tale; their friends and mentors, guides and adversaries, as they thread the needle of great events, and discover truths even more profound than the myths of legend and lore. Discover the truth of fiction and the fiction of truth; celebrate the fantastic and sublime, in this magical tale laden with rich echoes of world history and world mythology, informed by blossoms of human consciousness from Chaos Theory to Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts, from Richard Dawkin’s Meme Theory to Eastern Mysticism, enriched by the author’s own travels and adventures.

A prophesied Disruption is upon the land of Calambria, causing the Earth to quake and societies to crumble. The Loci imps are its agents, but, according to Sadache mythology, it is Chaos, one of the two Parents of the Universe, who is its ultimate author. As Chaos eternally strives to make the One Many, Cosmos, the other Parent of the Universe, strives to make the Many One. The Sadache people view themselves as the children of Cosmos, whom they worship, and the lowest rung of a hierarchy of conscious beings opposing Chaos and the Loci imps. Above them, both of them and apart from them, are the drahmidi priests of the Cult of Cosmos, founded by the hero and conqueror Ogaro centuries before. Above the drahmidi are the Vaznallam wizards, Cosmos’s agents, just as the Loci are Chaos’s.

As the Great Disruption begins to manifest itself, Sarena of Ashra, a peasant girl from a village on the outskirts of the city-state of Boalus, flees an unwanted marriage to an arrogant lord and in search of freedom and destiny. She meets a young vagabond on the road, coming from the seat of the ceremonial High Kingdom, Ogaropol, fleeing his own pursuers. Together they form an alliance that leads through adventures together and apart, and binds them into two halves of a single whole.

Swirling around them are the wars of would be dictators and cult-leaders, of neighboring empires and kingdoms; the adventures of young Champions engaged in the prophesied Contest by which the Redeemer would be chosen and the Realignment realized. But, in both different and similar ways, the culmination of centuries of history flows through these two people, Algonion and Sarena, on haphazard quests of their own. And both the past and the future are forever changed by their discoveries and deeds.

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Though the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, is still three days away, today is the day to start reflecting on it, on its continuing relevance in so many ways, and on our need to recommit as a nation to that poignant dream of realizing our decency as a nation.

As we look back on recent events and recent developments, on the shooting death of an unarmed black teen walking home from the store by an armed vigilante out looking for “bad guys;” of the response by so many dismissing it as the price we pay for the “liberty” to “protect ourselves,” often informed by our bigotries,  in violent and deadly ways; of the combination of a right-wing drive to reinstate voter suppression laws and a Supreme Court holding making it easier to do so; of the rise of an angry, violent, divisive, and frequently racist political movement in America that loves guns and, by its ideological choices, hates humanity; it’s time for us to once again ask ourselves what kind of a people we want to be.

It’s time to dream again, America, and to shout that dream from the mountain tops. It’s time to dream of a nation in which we are more committed to lifting one another up than to knocking one another down. It’s time to dream of a future, of a present, in which we care that so many are so impoverished, that so many have so little access to basic health care, that so many suffer so much unnecessary violence. It’s time to dream again of being a people whose disputes are defined more by the limits of our reason and decency than by the extent of our bigotries. It’s time to dream again of striving to become a nation, and, eventually, a world, committed more to our shared humanity than to our explicit and implicit hatreds or, just as destructively, our mutual indifference.

It’s time to dream again, to care, to think, to strive, to work diligently on behalf of that which is most rational and humane, that which is most decent and good, that which is most caring and conscious. It’s time to dream again, and, in never-flagging opposition to those base and horrifying human tendencies that ever-seek to turn our dream into a nightmare, tendencies that are so in ascendance once again in this too-often troubled and misguided nation of ours, work diligently, work with all other rational people of goodwill, work in service to our shared humanity, to make that dream come ever-more true.

(Dr. King’s prepared remarks end at about the 11 minute mark of this video, and his “I have a dream” speech, extemporaneously building on a theme he had used a few times in smaller venues, begins just after the 12 minute mark.)

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Obviously, I think that it is a sad commentary on our country when a man can leave his home armed looking for “bad guys” to “defend” himself against and, guided by his own poor judgment and bigotry, identify an unarmed black teen walking home from the store as a likely prospect, stalk that teen, wind up shooting and killing that teen, and not only be found not guilty even of manslaughter, but be perceived as perfectly justified by a large faction (almost all white) of the American population.

If you look at the public debates over the George Zimmerman/Trayvon  Martin case, one thing leaps out, something that is more broadly relevant, something that distinguishes the mental modality of the right from the left in one very precise way. This is an issue of cognitive framing, with the narrower frame permitting a conclusion of justifiable self-defense (assuming the facts most favorable to the defense), and the broader frame precluding it.

For instance, if you ask, “does one have the right to defend himself, with a firearm, against someone about to clobber him over the head with a heavy object,” most people would answer, “of course.” But what if the “defender” were a mugger who had attacked the guy with the heavy object, the heavy object were his cane that he needed due to an infirmity, and the moment being referred to were the mugging victim’s response to being mugged by an armed assailant? Does the mugger then have the right to claim self-defense, for shooting his victim as his victim tried to defend himself? Of course not.

Let’s come up with an analogy that more closely parallels the Zimmerman case, emphasizing and playing on the stereotypes involved (and other stereotypes as well). Consider this scenario: A young, white middle class woman is walking through a residential neighborhood at night to return home from the nearby convenience store. She notices a big, black guy following her. She continues to walk, and confirms that he is definitely following her. Terrified, she slips off the path and finds an object to arm herself with, a plywood board. As her stalker approaches, she comes out behind him, swings the board, screaming. Her stalker, who, as it turns out, was an armed stalker, pulls out his gun and shoots her to death. (I am using the word “stalker” to refer to any stranger following around another person with some kind of unfriendly intent, including thinking that the other person is a “punk” who you don’t want to let “get away with” some imaginary infraction that their race induced you to believe they must be committing.)

Tell me, right-wing apologists, is your big black stalker innocent, because he was just defending himself? Are you as indifferent to this innocent white woman’s violent death at the hands of an armed stalker as you are of an unarmed black teen’s violent death at the hands of an armed stalker?

Here is the complete list of differences between this scenario and the Zimmerman-Martin scenario: 1) the races of the stalker and the person stalked; 2) the gender of the person stalked; 3) right-wing ASSUMPTION of the intentions of the stalker in each scenario and the different degrees to which they (right-wingers) identify with the stalker and the person stalked in each scenario; 4) the woman having armed herself (to make her at least as threatening as unarmed Martin was); and 4) the generous assumption for my alternative scenario that all of the facts best favoring the Zimmerman defense are true.

So, why, exactly, is that white-woman-stalking-victim an innocent victim of the criminal-black-stalker, while the unarmed black victim of our real stalker (Hispanic, white, I don’t care) is just the unlucky person who was killed by an innocent person’s discharged bullet? The answer is very simple: The combination of the right-wing need to defend the absurd belief that we are a safer society if people go out with guns looking for trouble and their (right-wingers’) racism. a combination that is as horrifying and offensive to rational and humane people today as all similar past chapters of our national history have been.

Right-wing arguments (and particularly gun culture arguments) frequently rely on this narrowing of the frame, filtering out the contextual information which completely changes the analysis. Those who see in this case no guilt on Zimmerman’s part have chosen a very narrow frame, which excludes much relevant information; those who see guilt on Zimmerman’s part choose a broader and more inclusive one.

There are many other issues in which this difference in framing is central to the ideological differences found in regard to them. The right relies on a reduced frame, hyper-individualistic rather than social systemic, static and instantaneous rather than dynamical and over time. And that is not just a difference in personal taste, but a reduction in cogency.

The Zimmerman trial is over, the verdict is in, but the public issue over what kind of a people we want to choose to be continues. The right insists that it is good for society for people to have the right to arm themselves and stalk people they are suspicious of, for whatever reason they are suspicious of them, incite a violent encounter by doing so, and shoot to death the person they chose to stalk in the process of that violent encounter. I want to believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t agree.

We’ve had Columbine. We’ve had Virginia Tech. We’ve had the Gabby Giffords shooting. We’ve had the Aurora Theater shooting. We’ve had Sandy Hook Elementary School. We have, on average, ten times the homicide rate of any other developed nation on Earth. We have half the privately owned firearms on Earth. And we have people who are so blithely indifferent to the death and suffering that their idolatry of instruments of deadly violence cause that they won’t let us, as a people, even implement universal background checks or limit the magazine capacity of their military grade weapons. The degree of insanity –vicious, destructive insanity– involved in this right-wing ideology is simply mindboggling.

At the same time, they want voter suppression laws (and have been assisted in being able to pass and implement them in a recent Court decision that disabled the Voting Rights Act), they want to dismantle Affirmative Action, they want to disregard the injustices and inequities of our society, they want to blame the poor for being poor, they want to disregard our responsibilities to one another as members of a society, they want to erase our humanity and promote only selfish disregard for the rights and welfare of anyone who doesn’t look just like them. And they are uncompromising in their commitment to these “ideals.”

(The examples mentioned here, of course, only scratch the surface. See Why The Far-Right Is On The Wrong Side Of Reason, Morality, Humanity and History for a more in-depth treatment.)

This is not a country divided by two opposing reasonable views, that we need to find some reasonable ground between. This is a country divided by, on the one hand, reason in service to humanity and, on the other, irrationality in service to inhumanity. It is time, America, to reduce the latter to a sad footnote of our history, and promote the former to the status of the shared foundation on which we all build. It’s time to allow our disagreements to be defined by the limits of our wisdom and decency rather than by the extent of our bigotries.

(See also Debunking The Arguments of the American Gun Culture for a cogent discussion of the competing narratives informing the right and the left, and how they fit into this struggle between reason in service to humanity and irrationality in service to inhumanity, a perennial struggle of human history, and one from which we are not, as it turns out, at all exempt.)

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What follows is an exchange on Facebook regarding George Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence in the Trayvon Martin shooting. It is a perfect illustration of one dimension of the two competing visions for America.

SH: I worry about the popular focus on the details of the Zimmerman case, because it plays into a right-wing narrative: That the facts not in dispute aren’t already dispositive for public policy purposes. (Disclaimer: the details are important for the trial and the jury, but what the public needs to get out of this is that we have created a context that increases rather than decreases violence, does so in ways which implicate racial prejudices and stereotypes, and that we need to pull back from that approach). Zimmerman set out with a gun looking for “bad guys” to defend himself against, identified an unarmed black teen in a hoodie walking home from the store as just such a “bad guy,” pursued the teen despite being told by the police dispatcher not to, and ended up shooting that teen to death. Nothing else really matters in terms of what this incident tells us about our continuing moral failure as a society in regards to both violence and race, and we shouldn’t let anyone sell the false narrative that it does.

MS: The main factor that needs to be decided is if Zimmerman really defended himself or got too heated. This case was screwed from the beginning based on the race issue being presented.

SH: M, I disagree, on both counts. If our laws currently sanction someone going out with a gun looking for people to defend himself against, identifying one such on the basis of his own perceptions (which certainly do seem have been influenced by race in this case, because there’s absolutely no evidence or even suggestion that Martin was doing anything other than “being black” to arouse Zimmerman’s suspicions), pursuing that innocent person, and as a result ending up shooting that person to death, then our laws are in error.

CL: I mean, seriously, what am I missing? Why was this case brought in the first place? Zimmerman is a creepy-ass cracker, but there isn’t enough evidence for a murder rap. I might not be some fancy, big city attorney, but it seems like the local prosecutors had a good reason for not pressing charges.

SH: What you’re missing is that when an armed assailant pursues an innocent individual walking home from the store and shoots him to death, that is certainly prima facie evidence of a crime.

CL: That’s really dumb. It’s conceded that Zimmerman was following Martin around for no good reason. But just because someone is following you around for no good reason doesn’t give you the right to attack him. If we don’t know who attacked who, then we can’t convict. This isn’t complicated.

SH: C, Zimmerman wasn’t just “following Martin around for no good reason,” but was doing so while armed and with the stated intention of finding bad guys. It’s a bit bizarre that you think someone who goes out with a gun and stalks an innocent stranger walking home from the store should get to claim that the altercation he thus incited (if there was one) means that he then acted in self-defense when he ended up shooting his stalking victim to death and thus is innocent of any crime, but that the kid who reacted to being stalked had no right to defend himself against his stalker!!! This is the problem with your underlying ideology: It is an aggressive one, which incites violence, which helps to explain why America has a homicide rate from 2 to 11 times higher than any other developed nation on Earth.

Let me ask you a question, C: If the person stalked had been a white woman, who, spooked by the stalker, grabbed something to defend herself, stepped off the path out of sight, came out and confronted her stalker, ended up swinging at him and making contact, and then was shot to death, would you be as adamant that the stalker was completely devoid of responsibility for her death?

When you go out with a gun looking for bad guys, follow innocent people because you arbitrarily decide that they might be a bad guy, and end up shooting one such person to death, you are damn well responsible for the death of that person whose only crime (if any at all) was to react to being stalked by an armed assailant! That there are people in this country who can’t grasp that is horrifying.

CL: The evidence is that Zimmerman followed Martin — but there is no good evidence of who started the fight. This whole “kind who reacted to being stalked had no right to defend himself!!” line of argument is unsubstantiated. Maybe Zimmerman hunted down Martin and shot him. Maybe Zimmerman followed Martin, Martin didn’t like it and decided to attack Zimmerman, and then Zimmerman defended himself. Zimmerman is guilty of murder in the first scenario and guilty of being an idiot in the second. So far in the trial, the evidence isn’t really helping us figure out which scenario is the real one.

SH: You didn’t answer my question: If it were a white woman who had been stalked by a black guy she didn’t know, grabbed something to defend herself, stepped off the path, confronted her stalker, ended up in that confrontation taking a swing at him and making contact, and then was shot to death by the stalker (who, as it happens, wasn’t just a stalker, but an armed stalker), would you be so adamant that the stalker was or should be completely devoid of any legally enforceable responsibility for that woman’s death? I doubt it.

And what is the only difference between that scenario and the one we are discussing? The races and genders of the stalker and his victim. I even added in arming the woman being stalked with an object, to make her as threatening to her stalker as Martin was to his.

CA: Steve, would you rather police and security personnel not be armed, or not investigate further into something they can articulate to be suspicious? I don’t know what exactly happened in this instance, but it sounds like Zimmerman was a hired security professional whose job it was to provide security in the area he was in. He saw something and/or someone he thought was worth checking out, which was his job. If Martin was innocent and not doing anything wrong I imagine this would have been a quick encounter and brief conversation about how he is in the area for good reason, ie he lives there or is staying with family, and that would have been the end of it. The fact it turned into a brawl for some reason would seem to indicate Martin got caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing by security. Zimmerman did have a gun, and he was out looking for bad guys. Thing is, bad guys don’t usually wear signs indicating to the world that they are bad guys. So police and security contact many, many perfectly innocent people all the time after seeing something that might be suspicious. An innocent person will generally provide a legitimate explanation of whatever behavior was observed that seemed suspicious and the contact is over very quickly. If in the course of determining whether or not someone is innocent or appears guilty of something, Martin attacked Zimmerman, then Martin just committed a crime and Zimmerman has a right to defend himself.

SH: No, he wasn’t “a hired security professional.” He was a neighborhood watch volunteer, which is not a credential, and is not a license to kill. And the whole point is that Zimmerman WASN’T a hired security professional, that he was told by the police dispatcher NOT TO follow Martin, that his actions were those of a private citizen reacting to his private prejudices against the instructions of the actual police, that there is no legal or moral difference between a private citizen that you identify with stalking an unarmed person you don’t identify with and a private citizen you don’t identify with stalking an unarmed person you do identify with, and that when an armed stalker ends up shooting to death the person he was stalking, that stalker is responsible for that death, even if the stalker was a self-appointed vigilante rather than a career criminal, and even if your victim was a black kid in a hoodie rather than, for instance, a middle class white woman. And, again, it is horrifying that there are still so many people in this country who can’t grasp that.

CL: What we have now is something like this:

1. A follows B


3. A shoots B

You seem to know exactly what happened at point 2. I applaud your insight.

SH: One beloved right-wing rhetorical ploy is to filter information being considered in such a way as to arrive at a preferred conclusion (sometimes done by those on the left as well, but with far less of a “cornerstone of the ideology” aspect to it). So, let’s be more complete, shall we?

1) A goes out with a gun looking for “bad guys.”

2) B is a black kid in a hoodie walking home from a store.

3) A sees B walking through the neighborhood and decides, apparently on the basis of 2 above, that B looks suspicious.

4) A calls the police, who advise A not to follow the kid.

5) A tells the police that those “damn assholes always get away with it” (or something to that effect; I don’t have the exact quote in front of me), apparently referring to the black kid in a hoodie walking home from the store, and pursues the kid, with a gun, despite having been told by the police not to.

6) (Something happens)

7) A shoots B.

I have no idea what happened at your point 2 (my point 6). My point is that, while it may have legal relevance because of fucked-up right-wing yahoo laws, it isn’t really relevant to the moral conclusion that A is responsible for B’s death., as a result of the aggressive (and apparently racially motivated) decisions that A made which incited the incident that resulted in A killing B.

Personally, I don’t want racist whack-jobs running around with guns inciting violence, and then claiming that their having shot to death unarmed black kids walking home from the store that they decided to pursue while armed and out looking for trouble was “self-defense,” and I would probably feel even more strongly about it if my skin were darker. But, hey, that’s just me…, and every rational, decent human being on Earth.

What this exchange illustrates is the nature of the two competing ideologies in regards to violence, race, and whether to be a society driven by our fears and bigotries or a society striving to do better than that. The two overarching orientations illustrated here are discussed in greater depth and detail in Debunking The Arguments of the American Gun Culture, and a thorough analysis of the fundamental flaws of modern American right-wing thought is provided in Why The Far-Right Is On The Wrong Side Of Reason, Morality, Humanity and History.

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Here is my most recent comment on the conservative gun-idolater thread that has inspired many of my recent posts, in response to the somewhat correct allegation that it has devolved into nothing more than a shouting match:

A shouting match between fact and reason, clearly stated, on the one hand, and blind fanatical dogma, repeated endlessly despite being debunked (e.g., the constant insistence that any and all gun regulation is by definition an infringement of your Second Amendment rights, despite a universal rejection of that notion by Constitutional scholars, including uber-conservaitve Justice Scalia, as quoted above), on the other. You live in a world of fabrication in service to crude prejudices and bigotries and belligerence toward the world, and abhor those who stand for reason and for humanity. You invent your own caricature of the law and of the Constitution, your own caricature of history, your own reality, and then laugh like jackals when confronted by the reality you have simply defined out of existence.

You can persist, pretend, and posture to your heart’s content; it will only serve to convince those who are already as lost as you in your own shared arbitrary ideological delusions that the idols of your tribe are undisputable absolute truths, and to convince those who are not that you are yet another dangerous, violent cult posing as a political ideology. The fact that you are a large and well-established cult does not make you a benign one, or even one of mixed value. You are organized ignorance and brutality, a familiar perennial of human history, always popping up anew, with one shared constant: Rabid anti-intellectualism. You share that with the Inquisition, the Nazis, the Soviets, the Khmer Rouge, and Islamic terrorists, to name a few. You are on the side of ignorance and tribalistic ideological brutality, in opposition to reason and humanity.

The most telling distinction is that, by your own account, precisely those professions that methodically gather, verify, analyze and contemplate information are the ones you dismiss as bastions of liberal bias, without ever addressing why that would be so. Why would there be a positive correlation between the professional processing of fact and logic, on the one hand, and liberalism, on the other? The answer, while complex, is rooted in the fact that active and curious minds, immersed in observation and thought and the use of disciplined reason, tend to arrive at conclusions diametrically opposed to your dogma, because your dogma stands for the opposite of such modes of thought.

You stand in opposition to fact and reason and a commitment to humanity, which is why you simply ignore and dismiss the avalanche of statistics debunking the obviously absurd notion that there is no connection between our overabundance and overly easy access to instruments of deadly violence in comparison to other developed nations, and our extraordinarily high rates of deadly violence in comparison to other developed nations.

And the fact that there is a statistical correlation between laxity of gun laws internationally and homicide rates? The fact that the overwhelming majority of guns used in the commission of crimes in the US are put into circulation by being bought in those states with the laxest regulations? The fact that for every use of a gun in self-defense, one is used multiple times in a suicide, multiple times in a crime of passion, multiple times in an accidental shooting; the fact that a gun in the home INCREASES the likelihood of a member of that householder dying of a gun-inflicted wound; the fact that a gun-owner is more likely to be shot than a non-gun-owner, are all, to you, “spurious statistics” that you dismiss with the casual misuse of the word, thus never having to consider or acknowledge inconvenient realities. That’s not rational. It’s the intentional preservation of ignorance.

No, the problem is not just, or even primarily, a function of our gun culture; it is, more broadly, a function of extreme individualism, of the reactive rather than proactive orientation to our shared existence that you impose on us, of the social disintegration that you confuse for “liberty.” Our Founding Fathers were committed to the construction of a wise and just society; you are committed to its destruction.

The fact that you are certain that the Constitution verifies every last ideological conviction you happen to hold, and that therefore the thousands of legal and constitutional scholars over the last two hundred years who would and have argued subtle and complex points about that Constitution and how to interpret it are all wrong, are all irrelevant, because you know the one absolute truth, is the voice of ignorance, the voice of fanaticism, the voice of irrationality. You argue legal positions that are dismissed or challenged by almost all legal scholars, economic positions that are dismissed or challenged by almost all professional economists, historical positions that are dismissed or challenged by almost all professional historians, and not only commit the intellectual error of clinging to those positions as favored by reason, but insist that they are incontrovertible absolute truths. That is not the voice of reason, but rather of irrationality.

Of course you couldn’t stop engaging me, because you can’t stand to leave fact and reason disinterred and visible to all any more than I can stand to let you shovel unchallenged the dirt of your ignorance and barbarism over it once again. You have to bury the facts; you have to bury the rational arguments; you have to bury any authentic understanding of human history or economics or sociology; you have to bury any humane orientation to the world, because none of those supports your blind ideological fanaticisms.

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The following is an unedited and unabridged (other than to exclude the names of the participants) exchange that I engaged in on Facebook this morning. I share it because I think it illustrates the underlying dilemma in public discourse, that rational arguments cannot penetrate the fortifications of entrenched dogmatic displacements of reality.

In this case, an argument one poster made about what they perceived to be liberal hypocrisy was thoroughly debunked by a close examination of the two cases being compared, and of the legal and Constitutional issues involved. That examination was then ignored, a repetition of outright error in the representation of what the Constitutional protection of speech entails (and doesn’t entail) clung to, and the ideologues went blithely on their way, not in mere error, but in entrenched and, in a sense, intentional error.

An opportunity was provided, in the course of the exchange, for the original poster and fellow commenter to make a narrower and more defensible argument. Instead of either accepting this opportunity or admitting that they’re argument was in fact the broader and more indefensible one, they both proceeded to conflate the two, baiting-and-switching between them, using the more defensible one as a trojan horse (that I had provided them with!), but still trying to smuggle in the less defensible one along with it (while insisting that they weren’t).

This is an illustration of the two-pronged real political and cultural divide in America today: 1) That between dogmatic ideologues of any stripe, and those who attempt to consider the challenges we face in a systematic and rational way; and 2) that between those who, on the one hand, think in more tribalistic terms, with more narrowly defined in-groups and a broader array of out-groups, and a variety of biases and attributions that favor in-groups and disfavor outgroups, and those who, on the other, are more inclusive and more humanistic. The overall tendency is for those who are more dogmatic to be more tribalistic (though not always so), and those who are more analytical to be more humanistic. 

Commenter 1:

I find it ironic that the people advocating equal rights for all today, were the same people trying to destroy the Chik-fil-A people for exercising their free speech rights last August.

Simply put, these “rights” advocates were upset at the free speech offered by those associated with the restaurant and didn’t approve of the result of first amendment rights. Do they support equality for all or do they not?

I would take these folks more seriously if they were more consistent in their own personal walk. As someone once said, “My eyes see better than my ears hear”.

Steve Harvey:

Respectfully, there are demonstrable flaws in your reasoning. You have to put the following facts together (as in a syllogistic argument) to see them:

1) “Free speech” refers to freedom from governmental infringement, not private. It does not mean that protected speech is protected from the consequences of offending others. If you were to preach racial hatred, and your business were to suffer because too many potential customers found that offensive, that would not be an infringement on your right to free speech, but rather a consequence of your choice in what to say.

2) Beginning with the Civil War, abolition of slavery, and the 13th and 14th Amendments, we as a people began to identify certain liberty issues that do involve protection from private oppressors as well as from the government (and from state and local as well as from federal government). Perhaps the clearest expression of this came with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when we (through our Representatives) passed legislation which protected African Americans from certain kinds of private sector racial discrimination, such as discrimination in hiring and in choosing who to serve.

3) Unless you want to argue either that speech should be protected from the private and otherwise legal reactions of those who are offended by it or that we should not extend equal rights protections against certain identifiable categories of people to protection against private sector discrimination, comparing instances of these two issues is comparing apples and oranges: One does not involve protection from otherwise legal reactions to speech by private citizens, and the other does include protection from otherwise legal forms of discrimination on the part of private citizens.

4) At this point, that isn’t even the issue (though it soon will be, and occasionally has been). The arguments being considered by the Supreme Court today involve the constitutionality of governmental discrimination against a category of people; can the state (yesterday’s case) and federal (today’s) government constitutionally discriminate against homosexuals by denying them the right to marry one another? It doesn’t involve protection from private sector discrimination at all, whereas your contentions about the Chick-Fil-A reaction involve private citizens choosing not to patronize an establishment whose advocacy for discrimination they find offensive, and encouraging others of like mind to do the same. So, at this point, you are comparing an issue of governmental discrimination against a class of citizens with an issue of private sector reaction to the choice of political positions of a business establishment. The two issues are logically incomparable on multiple dimensions.

5) In the near future, the question of private sector discrimination against gays will come front and center. When it does, it still won’t be comparable to the Chick-Fil-A example, for the reasons given above: One involves a private sector reaction to speech it finds offensive, and one involves private sector discrimination against a systematically discriminated against category of people. You can try to make the argument at that point that the category of people should not be protected from private sector adverse reaction, because others have the right to find their choice offensive, just as in the Chick-fil-A example. The counterargument is that they are different species of cases, because one involves the reaction of private citizens to speech it finds offensive in individual cases, while the other involves systematic discrimination against a category of people on the basis of who and what they inherently are. We can have that debate, but there is absolutely nothing logically or ethically inconsistent between maintaining the position that Chick-Fil-A should not be patronized by people who respect the rights of gays and the belief that the rights of gays to be protected from private sector discrimination should be the law of the land.

Commenter 2:

Steve Harvey: It is incredible! Free Speech is OK as long as you agree with it. Hummm….Otherwise it is discrimination…. Let’s see I have sworn an oath to support the constitution and that includes all of it! Not just the parts I agree with and that includes all opinions, not just those that I agree with. If you don’t like what a private business is doing or saying, then don’t go. If you don’t like what you see on TV then turn the channel or turn it off.. It applies equally to all, regardless !

Commenter 1:

Simply put, the “equality” bunch wants…rights equality. Except for those they don’t agree with. Thats where “rights” end. When it comes to the protected free speech from the Chick-fil-A CEO, the equality crowd tried to mow him down into silence. They don’t care about equal rights for all. They care only about equal rights for those that share their world view.

Odd. I just don’t remember the “equality for all” crowd making noise last year in defending Chick-fil-A and their right of free speech. Hummmmm. Why is that? Couldn’t be that they don’t really want everyone to have the right of free speech do they?

Steve Harvey:

Again, “free speech” refers to freedom from governmental infringement, and I staunchly support it in all circumstances, whether I agree or not. But it does not mean that a person is protected from the adverse reaction of others to what they choose to say. A boss will not be prosecuted for firing an employee who routinely says to him, “Good morning, asshole.” That’s not what free speech means. No one violated Chick-fil-A’s Constitutional rights, because there was no governmental infringement on their right to free speech. Had there been, I’d stand side-by-side with you in opposition to that Constitutional violation.If Nazis rally, others can speak out about how offensive they find it, and can refuse to patronize the businesses of those Nazis. People are free to be offended, and to choose what businesses to patronize or not in part on the basis of what they find offensive. The first Amendment does not protect people from non-governmental consequences of their speech. Your repeated and persistent insistence to the contrary is disingenuous and annoying.Conversely, the Constitution DOES protect the equal rights of all under the law. I laid it out very systematically, and made very clear the distinctions you are choosing to ignore. You can continue to pretend they don’t exist, but that becomes at this point not an error in comprehension, but an assertion of self-imposed ideological delusion. I’ll unfollow this now, because clearly fact and reason will gain no foothold here.

Commenter 1:

I don’t read anyone making the point that no consequences arise from free speech or expression. That’s a separate argument not related to the first amendment.

Commenter 2:

Never Once has anyone said that standing for your rights would not produce adverse affects. That being said, Standing for your right as a business owner to refuse service to anyone will have an effect on your business, it is up to you and your freedom to decide whether to make that stand or not. IE: Dixie Chicks and their low sales, they chose to speak out and it had an effect on their record sales. Again, if you don’t like what the Chick-fil-a people are saying, then just as the Nazi’s you may be offended, that is your right. Do with that as you please, but don’t tell me or anyone else that they violated anybodies rights!! That is asinine, I don’t have the RIGHT to Chick-fil-A or any other service offered by a private company. Wow. It is your right to express your opinions but you need to take and should take responsibility for that opinion, even if it means less business. It is mind-boggling how you have twisted the reality of our freedoms.

Steve Harvey:

Let’s make a distinction here: there were a few cases of local governmental action against Chick-fil-A which I agree that, arguably, were a violation of First Amendment free speech rights (it depends, again, on whether we interpet equal protection laws to extend to gays, in which case a business that not only speaks but discriminates against members of that group would be in violation of the law. I don’t know whether Chick-fil-A discriminated in its practices). But you seemed to be referring to the more widespread public reaction to Chick-fil-A, which is in no way a violation of Chick-fil-A’s rights.

Other people’s free speech rights allow them to speak out against speech they disagree with. If you are isolating your remarks to governmental action against Chick-fil-A, then you have a limited point, though it applies only to those who vocally supported those governmental actions, not to all those who spoke out against Chick-fil-A’s position and political actions.

So, are you both referring ONLY to those who both advocated GOVERNMENTAL ACTION against Chick-fil-A, and not all those who simply spoke out against Chick-fil-A’s political position? If so, I apologize for having misunderstood you. Or are you saying what you appeared to be saying, and then denying it while repeating it? In that case, I stand by my above comments about entrenched and intentional irrationality.

Commenter 1:

Quit playing dumb in an effort to sow discord. You know the point of the post. Keep throwing out straw man arguments if you wish. Unlike the equality crowd, I won’t try to silence you.

Steve Harvey:

No, I thought I knew the point of the above post, but I’m seeking clarification. Are you referring only to those who support government action against Chick-fil-A, or to all those who exercised their own First Amendment right and spoke out against Chick-fil-A’s political activities against gays? If the former, then you have a point, about those people only. If the latter, then you don’t, for the reasons I expressed. If you can’t say which, then you are trying to insulate a debunked argument from the rational and legally informed argument that debunked it. Take your pick.

Commenter 2:

WOW….Ok, it applies to both….Wouldn’t be an issue if the PEOPLE SPEAKING out weren’t calling for government action against Chick-Fil-A. When they are confronted with the pure truth, that is that I/WE/WHOEVER has the right to say whatever they want as long as it isn’t violating anyones rights. Unfortunately, these people, see themselves as the ones and the only ones who have a right to express an opinion and on top of the demand government intervention simply because they feel they are right and the other is wrong. If anyone can’t see that then they need to pull their heads out of the sand…well I was thinking of another place..Simple truth, if Chick-Fil-A violated the law, then they should be held accountable with due process, not simple jumping in by anyone no less the government.

Commenter 1:

Remember the Mayors of several large cities were pronouncing that they would never again allow a Chick-fil-A to be built in “their” city? Sounds like government suppression of free speech rights to me. Once again, where was the “equality for all” bunch on that discrimination?

NOTE: This discussion is not about gay rights. It’s about equal rights. Including free speech, shared inheritance, hospital visits etc. I’m just challenging some hypocritical behavior.

Steve Harvey:

You have to pick one or the other: Either you insist that it implies to both, and therefore that the freedom of speech of those who oppose chick-fil-A’s policies aren’t protected in your view, or it applies only to those who advocated governmental action. You are stating two mutually exclusive positions at the same time, in order to defend your main one which is in error from the fact that it is in error by switching to the one that isn’t just long enough to insulate yourself from the counterarguments against the one that is. And so, I return to my statement above: Fact and reason will gain no foothold here.

As I said (Commenter 1), if you’re referring only to those mayors and to those who supported their position, then you may have a point. But you keep trying to expand that point to those who aren’t those mayors and didn’t support their position. I am only asking you to make clear which it is, which you are consistently refusing to do, in order to cling to a debunked argument.

Commenter 2:

exactly! Freedom of speech and equal rights. Not a difficult concept unless you chose to twist it to deny others of theirs!

Steve Harvey:

You’re not challenging hypocritical behavior, but rather challenging perfectly consistent behavior by making what is itself a hypocritical argument and then trying to insulate it from criticism by switching back and forth between that hypocritical argument and a more valid one.

Are you arguing that it is hypocritical to have spoken out against Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay agenda, and to have supported the equal protection of gays’ right to marry, or aren’t you? If you aren’t, all you have to do is state that you did not mean to imply that those who spoke out against Chick-fil-A and encouraged others of like mind not to patronize them are hypocritical for also supporting equal protection of gays’ right to marry. End of discussion. If you can’t make that clarification, simply and explicitly, then it is you, rather than those you are accusing, who are the hypocrites here. (Not least for suggesting that my arguing against your false accusation of liberal hypocrisy in this case is an act of “sowing discord,” as if the accusation itself was no such thing.)

Commenter 1:

Steve: The “equality for all” tribe did not simply speak out against CFA, they tried to silence them and destroy their livelihood. Yet again, you present a straw man to try to change the argument.

Steve Harvey:

Steve, again, you can characterize the speech of those you disagree with as “trying to destroy the livelihood” of those they are speaking out against, but if it is not the government doing so, it is still their First Amendment free speech right to do so.

In an act of real (as opposed to imagined) hypocrisy, you are dismissing Chick-fil-A’s contributions of large sums of money to groups that organize to prevent the advancement of gay rights as harmless “free speech” which is to be protected not just FROM government, but also BY government against others who would also exercise their own free speech rights, while insisting that the free speech of those others is an attempt to harm the party with whom you are more ideologically aligned.

Reason and logical consistency are simply not on your side here, and you can either continue to tap dance around that, or, improbably, exercise your own rational faculties and admit that that is the case and that you have made a logically fallacious argument. Your misuse of the term “strawman,” to dismiss an argument that is precisely on-point and precisely directed at what you actually and clearly are arguing, does not remedy the logical fallacies of your own argument.

It is you, and not I or other liberals who criticized and encouraged one another not to patronize Chick-fil-A, who are engaging in hypocrisy here, by insisting that free speech protects Chick-fil-A from adverse reactions among potential customers but does not protect the right of those who simply criticize and encourage others of like mind not to patronize an establishment dedicated to anit-gay political activism, and that speaking out against and boycotting a business for anti-gay political activism while advocating for legal recognition of 14th Amendment equal protection rights for gays’ right to marry is somehow hypocritical. There is no “strawman” argument in that response to your post, just a cogent and incisive debunking of your own inconsistencies.

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One of the subtexts running through the current meta-debate between the Left and the Right is a constant volleying back and forth of accusations and refutations of racism. The Left accuses the Right of racism for a variety of reasons that I partially capture below. The Right indignantly denies it, retaliating with accusations back, insisting that “playing the race card” is the real expression of racism.

Personally, I think this discussion is generally overdone and often distracting, but the thread of validity in the criticism by the Left of the Right, and the reinforcement of irrationality and counterfactuality in the Right’s response, motivates me to give it a comprehensive treatment.

First, it is important to explore the concept of “racism” itself. If, by “racism,” we mean only explicit, overt, self-conscious antipathy toward members of another race, then I’d say that only a small minority of politically active people of either major partisan camp are “racist.” The vast majority denounce such crude racism, and the extant but dwindling population of such unreconstituted racists in the population at large are not a significant political force anymore.

Before I turn to the more implicit forms of racism that I think do continue to play a significant, if not central, role in political affairs, I’d like to emphasize that I think that the ideological thread most prominent in right-wing thought isn’t racism proper at all, but rather what I’ll call “quasi-racism,” an intense in-group/out-group bias, informing a set of beliefs and positions that are very tribalistic, and very dismissive of “the other.” The antagonistic attitude toward numerous non-racial outgroups (though sometimes with strong racial associations), such as gays, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, foreigners in general, the poor, atheists, and, basically, anyone who isn’t perceived to be an in-group member, is one of the most prominent defining characteristics of modern right-wing thought.

Explicit racism, however, is not absent from the right-wing echo-chamber. On a Facebook thread following one posting of the statistic that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be the instrument of the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense, for instance, one commenter responded to another by referring to “a group of n*****s raping your boyfriend” (the point being that you’d want to have a gun handy in that apparently representative scenario). On another thread at another time, a southern Tea Partier included among the problems besetting us “ungrateful blacks.” These are not isolated examples: While such explicit expressions of racism are not the norm, they recur at a constant rate on such threads, always, of course, by right-wing commenters slipping over a line many others approach without crossing.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, there was a Facebook wall post of a news story about a trio of “scary” black violent offenders, apparently being used to make the argument that it is understandable that armed vigilantes should go out in their neighborhoods and pursue unarmed black teens walking home from the store  –even if the price of such “liberty” is the occasional shooting death of one such unarmed black teen– because, in their unself-aware but deep-rooted world view, it’s rational to be afraid, it’s rational to presume that a hoodie-wearing black teen walking through your neighborhood is up to no good, and so it is, implicitly, rational to provoke a deadly encounter with said black teen under those circumstances.

In other words, the right-wing insistence that it’s a non-issue that their ideology can lead to instances of overzealous vigilantes pursuing and killing unarmed black teens walking home from the store is an astounding illustration of an underlying –and effectively racist– defect in their ideology. (The contention that it’s a non-issue because it was allegedly self-defense on the shooter’s part neglects the fact that the alleged need for self-defense was indisputably created by the decision to go out with a gun and pursue the arbitrarily “suspicious looking” unarmed black teen in the first place.)

These same people champion Jim-Crow-like voter suppression laws (on a discredited pretext and repeatedly struck down by the courts as unconstitutional), use code words like “Chicago politics” and “ACORN” and other allusions to blacks-as-inherently-corrupt, advocate discrimination against Muslims (and denial of their first amendment freedom of religion rights), frequently vilify and denegrate Hispanics, want to deny civil rights to gays, and, in general, are committed to a tribalistic orientation to the world, in which the small in-group of overwhelmingly white, mostly male, almost exclusively Judeo-Christian bigots opposes the rights and aspirations of the myriad out-groups surrounding them, denying the reality of a legacy of historical injustices and of current inequities, fighting for a regressive, aggressive, compassionless, irrational, barbaric society, in which those who feel well-served by the status quo (or, more precisely, by the status quo of a previous era) fight to recover an archaic -if all too recent– social order more preferential to their in-group statuses.

And they do so by disregarding fact and reason; by dismissing as bastions of liberalism precisely those professions that methodically gather, verify, analyze, and contemplate information (which, as a liberal, I take as a complement and as an affirmation of how much more rational our ideology is than theirs); by selecting, revising, and ignoring historical data to serve their fabricated ideological narrative; by ignoring the weight of professional economic theory and analysis (prompting the free-market-advocacy Economist magazine to label them “economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical”); by cherry-picking, reinterpreting, and selectively disregarding constitutional provisions and phrases in service to that same ideological narrative; and, in general, by defying fact and reason in service to ignorance and bigotry.

Whether we emphasize the racist overtones, the more explicit in-group/out-group tribalism in general, or just the prevailing ignorance and brutality of their ideology, the final evaluation is the same: It’s a perfect storm of organized irrationality in service to implicit and explicit inhumanity. And it’s not who and what we should choose to be as a people and a nation.

So, how much racism is there on the far right? It’s a moot point; the racism is enveloped by so much more that is the very cloth from which racism is cut that the accusation of racism is too narrow a focus and too much of a distraction. Emphasizing the broader irrational inhumanity that defines this ideological camp both captures and goes beyond the identification of the racist overtones within it.

(For more on these themes, see The New Face Of American Racism, The Tea Party’s Neo-”Jim Crow”, The History of American Libertarianism, The Presence of the Past, Godwin’s Law Notwithstanding, Basal Ganglia v. Cerebral Cortex, Basal Ganglia Keeping Score, and “Sharianity”)

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