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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Political pretending, pandering

Yes, we're all in a panic.

We're afraid of mass shootings, or just being shot by a stray bullet, period. That's pretty understandable.

Part of this is watching too much TV news. Now that I've moved into a condo and joined the fitness center next door, I often watch TV while I'm on the cardio equipment. Even watching Fox, CNN or the network news will scare you out of proportion.  And so much of it is just to fill air time with idiots speculating.  Probably more informative to watch Wheel of Fortune.

But I digress.  We are afraid.  So we have knee-jerk reactions


  • Ban all Muslim entry to the U.S.; maybe put the ones who are here into internment camps like we did the Japanese during World War II.
  • Build a fence; deport 11 million Mexicans
just to take two easy examples.

A moment's thought should be enough to disabuse one of the notion that these ideas are either desirable or workable.  So, I won't give another digression on that point.

Politicians who pretend they will do these things are pretending.  If elected, they might take a few steps along this way, but basically won't do it. They are just pandering to a base of people who they hope will elect them. 

Political pretending and pandering is as old as democracy, maybe older.  But in this particular case, it's causing a lot of harm to those outside the base, 

For example, it encourages the sort of microagressions that Muslim women face, e.g. http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/what-being-hijabi-really-like/ 

Hijabi women are consistently subjected to stares and pervasive microaggressions (subtle forms of discrimination, from strangers, friends, and co-workers).
In the past, I’ve been asked loaded and offensive questions: Strangers want to know if my father or husband forces me to wear the hijab or if I will be beaten for uncovering.
Even though I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, I’m often told I’m “exotic” and asked where I am “really” from. I frequently use the word “y’all” and don’t have an accent, but I still have to defend my right to be just as American as everyone else.
These questions can be harmless, a curiosity about the scarf I wear around my head, but they’re also constant reminders that I do not belong. I’m forever marked as an outsider.
It's in that sense that these actions are insidious.  To oversimplify our domestic mass killers, they tend to be young men who feel alienated.  (Another degression: young men feeling alienated covers perhaps a large majority of young men at some point in their time as young men.)  So, are we increasing this dangerous alienation among immigrants (and those whose grandparents were immigrants)?

How's that going to help? Answer: it isn't.

And it's always somebody else

 One of the major rules of tax politics is summarized in this doggerel:

Don't tax you,
Don't tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.
So, by contending that what we need to do is act against Muslims or Mexicans, we're taking measures to counter American problems that will have minimal impact on us white folks.

This avoids realistic actions on gun control (which might make a dent in domestic terrorism and gang violence).

It avoids realistic discussions on privacy versus protection -- how much FBI, NSA (etc.) spying do we need to allow to protect ourselves? How much is just intrusion with few benefits and many costs?

It avoids trying to figure out what the heck our foreign policy should be in the future in the Middle East (and elsewhere).  Sure, we have messed up terribly for 15 years.  WHAT NOW? DO WE EVEN HAVE A CLUE?

Jingoistic slogans are not a coherent, executable policy.