The Value of Values

As a nation I think we’re having a crisis of values.

I’m going to pick on Donald Trump and Donald Trump protesters.  Not for the same things but for the same principles.

We call people who would torture and kill our soldiers and their families terrorists and animals.  Which is entirely accurate.  Anyone who tortures another human being, combatant or otherwise is an animal.  Please don’t hide torture under a euphemism like ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.  If you are torturing someone you are torturing someone and that makes you a terrorist and an animal.  Don’t do that.

I know there is a school of thought that suggests we need to do everything within our capability to prevent X and not have another Y.  I understand there is a risk of X or Y and I understand there is a desire to prevent X or Y.  I get that.  Really.  But if we use terroristic and animalistic approaches to solving X or Y we’re still terrorists.  And animals.

Case in point; Trump said in a Fox News interview on December 2, 2016 that to get to ISIS it is their families we shoujld go after, saying,  “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he continued. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.”  This was popular in many circles.  I understand the desire for revenge but ‘their’ killing men, women and children to protect ‘our’ men, women and children makes us hypocrites and strips away any moral high ground to suggest that anyone shouldn’t do that.

The argument ‘they started it’ doesn’t carry much weight, either.  It just sounds fairly infantile.

We cannot sacrifice our values in the name of fear.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t go after ISIS in some fashion but the way we go about it must be consistent with our values as USAmericans.  We’re better than intentionally killing families to meet our need for revenge.

The same principle applies to Trump protesters.  Or protesters of any sort, really.

Last month a Trump rally in Chicago was shut down due to the threat of violence breaking out.  I haven’t heard Donald Trump say anything that I can agree with.  But the inconvenient truth is that constitutional guarantee of free speech means he gets to say it.

There were some protest groups happy they’d got him shut down.  I understand the feeling.  I’d like him not to say anything publicly again.  But there’s where the trouble starts.

I’d like him to not say virtually everything he says.  If I had the power to control the power switch on his microphone I’d like to use it and turn that microphone off. The trouble is that if we use our power in such a way that an another’s ability to speak is curtailed then that power can and will be used against us someday.

The solution is not found in a shouting match protesting Trump’s vile rhetoric but in having a compelling story and telling it better than he does.  He’s getting people excited and has become the Republican front runner not by curtailing free speech but by getting them excited.  Oh, I know he doesn’t like people speaking out at his rallies and uses his power in horrible ways but let’s face it, they’re his rallies.  If your only approach is to interrupt someone else’s gig then you need another approach.  And having a more compelling story than Donald Trump shouldn’t be difficult.

Don’t sacrifice your ability to tell that story by sacrificing your free speech.  Even when it shut’s up someone like Donald Trump.  Especially when it shut’s up someone like Donald Trump.

We value free speech.  For it to be free, all of us must be able to speak.  That doesn’t mean that being mean spirited is acceptable (no matter how common) but instead it means that conveying our ideas freely will always overcome short-sighted and small-minded triteness.

Our values have value.  They are what has made us USAmericans for two-plus centuries.  We’ve slogged through a whole bucket of mistakes and we’ve often learned from them.  We have some more things to learn.  But we’ll have learned nothing if we sacrifice our values to get what is comfortable and agreeable.