Mildly provocative title, I know.
Yesterday I went to the Donald Trump rally at The Fabulous Fox theater. The best way to describe the noon day crowd at such a rally is to liken it to a rural Wal-Mart on a busy Saturday night: lots of strange people who you can’t imagine seeing in any other public place, yelling incoherent statements and getting really excited about things that shouldn’t excite adults in the modern world.
I’m certainly not a supporter. I wore all black with a Social Distortion shirt to make sure I wasn’t mistaken for such. I stuck out. I didn’t have a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap or an inexplicably vented, white, synthetic button-up shirt on. I didn’t have cargo pants. I didn’t look like that very uncool kid in your youth group who tries way, way too hard to be cool with his hipster hairdo and vague hillbilly-meets-prep-school attire. I’m not obese. I don’t yell at people I disagree with. I’m generally uncomfortable around televangelists and their fans.
I went for the same reasons that I went to New York’s Zuccotti Park for Occupy Wall Street, tea party rallies in Georgia, and Barack Obama’s campaign stop at Georgia Tech leading up to his 2008 victory. I went for the same reason I’ve stopped countless times to have full conversations with homeless people. I went for the same reason I like to talk to the soapbox preachers on the corner shouting about infidelity and Armageddon. I’m politically and socially curious. I want to know what people think, and why, especially if we disagree. It’s worthwhile to hear someone out on a topic about which you agree, because they may have different reasons for sharing your view. But it’s far more educational to listen to the views of people with whom you disagree. It helps you to sharpen your own opinions and, sometimes, it can change them. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to use what you learn to change theirs.
The First Amendment is awesome in that way. I believe it’s First for a reason. It’s the best amendment. It’s the best because it offers the greatest safeguard for our way of life, and it’s what allows us to enjoy our lives as fully as we’re currently able. Two terrible things would happen if we lost the ability to speak, pray, and assemble freely.
First, our lives would lose their luster. Speaking your mind is one of the most liberating and exhilarating things you can do. Practicing your religion as you see fit gives you satisfaction beyond belief, no pun intended. Assembling peacefully helps you to achieve goals with like minded individuals working towards a common cause to better your lives. Without these things, we would work, play, and die, and life would seem more like a waiting room than a destination.
Second, we would lose our ability to challenge powerful institutions and enemies. We wouldn’t be able to speak truth to lies, hold onto something greater than ourselves during struggles, or gather together in solidarity to stand against tyranny. We would be weaker, and we would lose more battles than we already do.
But some people prefer the Second Amendment as their greatest protector. I get the feeling that the crowd at The Fox theater held that view. I don’t come to this conclusion lightly; it’s not just that they’re very vocal about their love of the NRA and their guns. I think it’s also because, ultimately, they’re lazy.
This laziness is pretty unique among Trump supporters (and probably Bernie supporters, although I haven’t been in a roomful of them yet), I believe. These two candidates appeal to the people who believe that they’ll waltz into the White House and wave a wand (or AR-15) and magically improve their lives, without the people having to lift a finger. They can’t be bothered with any level of civic engagement, save for maybe one day in November every four years. They don’t want to take the time to formulate a coherent explanation for their views. They can’t be asked to articulate, without yelling, why their positions provide the best solutions to the problems of the day. In fact, I doubt they even know or understand their problems. They sure as hell don’t know why their opponents believe the way they do.
This is harsh, I know. But I mean all offense. These are the same people who hardly vote, if ever, and complain about the political system being rigged and corrupt. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these people. And the corruption they’re so vaguely yet intensely mad at, well, it’s probably their fault. Bad political actors get away with metaphorical murder, because they’re not held accountable. And they’re not held accountable because the people tasked with holding them accountable (“We the People”) aren’t paying attention. They’re watching reality television, serving as unwitting participants in the rise of an empty-headed authoritarian. They’ll be his henchmen or his targets if he comes into power, and the rest of us will suffer.They’ll suffer, too, but since they’re so unambitious, the restrictions placed on their freedoms won’t hit them as hard. After all, they never use any of them except for that Second Amendment.
You might think this will hurt some people’s feelings. But it won’t. They’re too lazy to read an article like this, with so many words and no pictures of guns or inspirational quotes or would-be dictators. I mean, come on, I’ve already mentioned two constitutional amendments.
These people are too lazy for the First Amendment. They’re too lazy for the greatest gift to civilization the world has ever known. They don’t exercise their rights; they barrel into rooms, yelling and screaming about God-knows-what, and then leave, feeling satisfied at their righteous indignation
They blame the democrats, they blame the republicans, they blame the “establishment” or the “system” or other indefinable words that they don’t realize simply mean “a group of individuals that they can’t describe with particularity but think are the root cause of their problems.” They see people as groupings of physical or financial attributes, and they engage in group-think. These are the people who say, “I hate cops,” or “Rich people are evil,” or “The liberal media,” or “This [race/organization/nationality] all [do/think/say] [something I don’t like].” These people don’t have answers to questions of why, how, or when. All they know is how they feel. People who prefer feelings to thoughts and action are lazy. And people like Trump and Bernie Sanders make them feel a whole bunch.
And I think that’s what they like about it, just sitting there, rocking back and forth, feeling the Bern, feeling the power of potentially violent authoritarianism, feeling like righteous underdogs. Bernie and Trump will do everything for them, and they can go on not paying attention to anything except whatever fad b.s. television show they watch.
But that’s awful and it worsens the world in which we live. The United States is a constitutional republic founded on democratic ideals of self-government. This can be translated thusly: for our society and system of government to work, we have to actually participate in it. We wouldn’t be so vulnerable to “insiders” in Washington if we all made ourselves a little bit more like insiders ourselves. We can’t just piss and moan about our problems. We have to actually find ways to solve them. We can’t simply criticize whomever is in power and assume the next person will kiss it and make it better. We need to propose meaningful solutions in thoughtful ways.
Fittingly, Trump and Bernie are perfectly paired with their supporters. They’re idealistic, but don’t really get anything done. Trump has managed to take his daddy’s money and track inflation by selling a brand, which is just a capitalist term for “a feeling with financial value.” Bernie is a senator from Vermont serving his second term where he sells a drug he can’t actually deliver. These men aren’t problem solvers. They’re salesmen, and they’re slinging “good” vibes.
To demonstrate the caliber of person that we should all strive to be, I direct you to something so exciting, all of the people I’ve disparaged so far will find it boring. In a Supreme Court case concerning a university student group’s ability to deny membership to students who don’t share the group’s core beliefs, a team of people adversely affected by the group’s discriminatory practices wrote an argument in defense of their antagonist’s right to discriminate against them. I read this in law school, and it still brings me to tears for its honesty, wisdom, and courage to stand for something greater than themselves. These people didn’t just “play a card” or drop a platitude; they developed a rational, thoughtful argument to advance an ideal, and their action represents the virtue I wish that all Americans shared. Here’s the link to the whole article, but I’ll summarize it below: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/preview/publiced_preview_briefs_pdfs_09_10_08_1371_PetitionerAmCuGLIL.authcheckdam.pdf
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez
A Christian student group at a California university challenged the school’s decision to bar the group’s membership at the school based on the Christian group’s refusal to admit members to the group if those members supported pro-homosexual politics. The group did not advocate violence or hatred towards homosexuals, but they advocated a literal interpretation of the Bible that views homosexuality as sinful. Although they did not deem homosexuals inherently evil or suspicious, the group did not want homosexuals obtaining membership (and therefore voting) rights within the group for fear that they would undermine the group’s causes.
One could easily look at this case and, depending on your leanings, immediately agree or disagree with the Christian group’s position. But, if you immediately agree or disagree, then you are lazy, and you likely support Drumpf or Bernie.
Brief of Gays & Lesbians for Individual Liberty as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner
A group advocating for the advancement of LGBTQ causes submitted an amicus brief, which means a brief from “a friend of the court.” The Supreme Court gets these all the time, where special interest groups join with one side of the case and advocate their own position in favor of that side. It presents a more fully-developed argument (and a more overwhelming one, at times) for the court to consider. In case you’re wondering, the “petitioner” in this case was the Christian group seeking to bar homosexuals from being members. So why did they advocate in favor of a group that sought to prevent their participation in a school-related group? They’re homosexuals, after all? Shouldn’t they be easily lumped into a “progressive” category whose knee-jerk reaction is opposing anything remotely adversarial to their cause? Nope. Because these people aren’t lazy. I doubt they support either of my much-aligned candidates from above. These people articulated their points of view, if you’d like to read them, because they take full advantage of the First Amendment. They didn’t show up with guns and demand membership rights. They didn’t yell and shout and scream about their feelings. They made a solid, moving argument, and they’re heroes of mine because of it. I can still remember where I was when I read it. Well-formulated arguments have that kind of impact on people. Guns just kill them and start a cycle of revenge.
“Rigorous protection of minorities – including gays and lesbians – from invidious discrimination does not require sacrificing expressive associational freedom. To the contrary, these values should complement and reinforce each other.”
A lazy person would simply say, “You’re a racist,” misusing the term. But this group of superheros used words. Powerful, powerful words. Those words are how this case was won. As far as I can tell, no ideological or political battle has yet been won by yelling obscenities. Calm, deliberative words have won them all.
Someone once said that we get the government we deserve. I believe that. I also believe that our government sucks right now. In Georgia, it’s estimated that less than 50% of the voting-eligible population actually votes. But that’s not necessarily bad news. I would argue that, based on knowledge of the issues, less people should be voting right now. Of course, I would advocate that people should learn more about the candidates and issues, and then we should have a much higher proportion of our population voting, which would promote a more just and rational society. But this year, I’ll just keep dreaming. We’ll have President Hillary Clinton, and nothing will improve. That’s better than Emperor Trump, though. Despite what the non-voting nihilists say, things can totally get worse. We’ve got it made, compared with historical standards of human existence go, and a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad president could make things much, much worse. Saying you’d rather have Trump than Clinton because you hate the establishment is like saying that, because school isn’t perfect, you’d rather have your kids sit in a moldy room with an old bigot who just farts out of his mouth for eight hours straight. School ain’t perfect, but at least you get something out of it.
So that’s why I say, if you don’t vote, you probably support one of these candidates. You’re lazy. You don’t realize how much work the rest of us do to keep our heads (and our loved one’s heads) above water. You don’t know what’s going on around you, and you don’t want to try to solve your own problems, much less your neighbor’s. You just want someone to solve them for you, and your lack of action allows the world to remain as frail and messed up as it is. You’ll be the reason that we lose the First Amendment but keep the Second. You’ll be the reason that the film Idiocracy becomes reality. The next incarnation of Trump won’t be saying “Make America Great Again.” He’ll be muttering “Where My Country Gone?”
And we won’t be able to speak, pray, or assemble in protest. Thanks, ‘Merica.
Feeling lazy and uneducated? Here’s some stuff to read that doesn’t have to do with costumed animals or Kim Kardashian (usually):