Monday, July 31, 2017


What's a citizen to do?



The daily paper reads more and more like the Hollywood gossip magazines I pass at the grocery store checkout counter every day. It is all about personalities. No day passes without another mouthwatering story about the president contradicting what he just said yesterday or rudely attacking another media personality. I wake up asking myself: what has he done today?
But that is an interesting question for fan magazines or gossip columns but it is not relevant when citizens make their political decisions.
You may love Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama, or Bernie Sanders, or any of a number of other large-scale celebrities in the political world. Maybe you prefer Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Maybe you have given your loyalty to a white supremacist or still mourn the passing of Dr. Spock.
But that's an altogether personal decision for you and has nothing to do with the choices you make as a citizen.
Let me explain.
Your neighborhood mechanic has been taking care of a series of cars of yours over a long time. You have become friends. You welcome a mechanical problem because it provides an opportunity for visiting with your friend and exchanging stories about each other's lives, about his and your children and family.
The latest car you bought is a hybrid. Your friend tries to make needed repairs but has to confess, after a while, that he does not understand enough of this new kind of engine to restore it to working order. Your friendship is not affected by that. You do not like each other any less for the fact that his mechanical skills are limited. You still stop off from time to time to enjoy each other's company briefly even though you now entrust car repairs to someone else who has the necessary specialized training to repair hybrid engines.
Your deep affection for this man does not commit you to trusting all of his opinions. Friends are no less beloved for being sometimes unreliable or ill-informed.
As citizens we are in an analogous situation. You may feel very strongly that Donald Trump, with his mischievous, assertive little -boy refusal to be a serious politician is a breath of fresh air in the uptight, hypocritical and deceptive Washington DC. Trump tells you what he thinks. He tells you what he likes and does not like and he is not ashamed to change his mind when he receives new information. You like that a lot. And all anyone should say: good for you; go with your feelings.
But the fact that you like Donald Trump has little to do with whether his policies are good for America, anymore than that my friendship with my mechanic commits me to believing everything he says or insisting that his professional opinions are infallible.
There is an important difference between loving someone and thinking that they can do whatever needs to be done. I love my son but I would hesitate to accept his offer to correct a plumbing problem in the house or to repair of the electrical system when it malfunctions.
The same is true in politics. Your loyalty to Trump has little to do with the policies he is recommending. A great deal of factual information needs to be accumulated to assess a political choice of policy. Whether global warming is a hoax or a serious threat is a question of fact. If, indeed the indications are that global temperatures are rising, and if there is reason to believe that this rise in temperature is due to greenhouse gases, then we must act on this information and reject the policies of those who don't take this problem seriously, how ever much we may love them.
"I like him, therefore I believe everything he says" is the motto of the lazy.
The daily gossipy information about the president’s latest tweets or naughtiness is not relevant to deciding about government or national policy. They should be relegated to the back pages of the newspaper where we learn about the private lives of celebrities. The front pages of the newspaper and the top items in the news must be information about issues that affect all of us deeply. The decisions citizens need to make should not be affected by whom they like and whom they don't like, it should be based on the relevant available information.
You can like Trump all you want. He is sort of cute sometimes. But don't believe what he says just because you like him. You don't pick your mechanic because he is a friend. You choose him for his mechanical skills and knowledge and you do the same when you need the services of a plumber or an electrician as well as of different kinds of medical experts. You pick them by their qualifications and by the recommendations of persons whom have reasons to trust.
Political choices should be no different.