18 August 2022

Living without lying, part two: politically motivated

Living without lying, part one.

Mark Levin on the "patriotic FBI agents" and the urgency of their investigation of Hillary Clinton's Internet server. Inset photo at upper right: The FBI at Mar-a-Lago. Source.

Graphic from the e-mail sent to me by
the GOP 10 days ago: "Johan, It’s hard
to believe it but it’s true. Biden’s FBI
raided President Trump’s beautiful
Florida home." Biden's FBI? (And
just Biden vs President Trump?)
Honestly, it wasn't hard to believe.

When it comes to political rhetoric, I have to fight cynicism constantly. It would be so very easy to give up and say, "Truth in politics is a lost cause," but if too many of us say that too often, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is a worthwhile fight. "Politics" is nothing more nor less than the processes we use as humans to manage conflict and allocate scarce resources. It is equally possible to use politics for good or for evil, but to associate politics automatically with evil is wildly unhelpful. We must retain the capacity to communicate with each other in both cases--when processes and politicians are working for good, and when they're not.

And to do that--to communicate about political conflicts and alternatives--we must be able to discern when political language is being used manipulatively. It's too convenient, and too lazy, to say "All political language is manipulative," but the cynics are right often enough that we need to know when they are right!

Today's example number one of politically manipulative language: The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's search for sensitive documents at the former President's home in Florida was, according to Donald Trump and his allies, "politically motivated."

On some level, the government decision to apply to the judicial branch for a search warrant was part of a political process--that is, part of the way we USA humans have organized ourselves to deal with conflict and scarce resources. (See my "turtles" post: "It's politics all the way down.")

But that is not what the "politically motivated" accusation is saying. Nobody put it more clearly (and more manipulatively) than Trump ally and rival Ron DeSantis: "How could you get to the point where you have people being targeted based on whether they’re for or against the current regime?"

Notice that we're not supposed to stop long enough to ask ourselves, "Is this really what happened?" Was Donald Trump's property searched simply because he is Joe Biden's political enemy? We're supposed to skip all that and get right to the panic--how could we have suffered this terrible political disaster?

We're simultaneously being asked (1) to accept uncritically that the agencies that are supposed to manage conflict have become politicized (that is, rendered unable to operate fairly) and that (2) in this specific case, they cannot possibly have an actual basis for the search warrant. In fact, according to this attempt to panic us, we are to put our faith into a huge conspiracy theory, a subversion of the FBI by the "current regime," because a much simpler possibility--that Donald Trump might actually have done something worth investigating!--is so unacceptable that we're not even supposed to weigh it in the balance. It's not even worth mentioning for the sake of argument. If we've already decided that there cannot possibly be any misbehavior on Trump's part, then the only alternative is that the investigations, all of them, are "politically motivated."

(As the video linked to the first photo above demonstrates, Fox News commentators approved of the FBI's investigations of Hillary Clinton's server. Presumably the FBI is not politically motivated when they're investigating your political opponents.)

So, in Trump's case, here is the fateful red line: the hero-figure cannot possibly be guilty. Variations and hedges abound: he's a businessman, not a politician; he sometimes speaks too quickly; yes, admittedly he's a bit vulgar; he's politically naive; the elites are mad because he's fighting for "us." But, crucially, he is never guilty. Any official attempt to hold him accountable is, in every case, "politically motivated," a "witch hunt," and cannot be allowed to run its course. Any resistance from the Trump side to such accountability, in contrast, is not politically motivated.

I read these paragraphs that I've just written, and I'm embarrassed by how stupid this conflict is. Isn't it obvious that we should all wait and watch carefully, and see how each side makes its case? Shouldn't we withhold insults and wild exaggerations while we wait? But people I love and respect have already declared that Trump must not be questioned, and all questions are politically motivated. One Quaker pastor said on Facebook that we now see how absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

In Living without lying, part one, I listed Solzhenitsyn's rules for truthful political speech. Those might have been difficult rules for getting along in the Soviet Union; shouldn't they be easier to implement here and now? (And not just in our personal lives, but also in our behavior on social media, and in our churches.)

Can we publicly commit to Solzhenitsyn's rules as an antidote to the poison spread by politically motivated manipulators--and to the cynicism that masquerades as wisdom in our times? Why or why not?


"Our life is politics."


"First principles" for a new era.

Benefit of the doubt, part one.

...I think there's a difference between realism (particularly what we might call Christian realism) and cynicism. Biblically-rooted realism is not particularly shocked when people turn out to behave deviously, have hidden agendas, are motivated by greed or fear or lust, or are just plain ignorant. Luke's rich man, dressed in purple, is separated from Lazarus by much more than the gate in between.

But when we're faced with such evidence of cruelty or hypocrisy, it's the next step that is crucial in the fight against cynicism and its trusty ally, passivity.

Appropriate title for today's theme: "Don't Lie to Me." Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, December 1983.

1 comment:

kfsaylor said...

Jesus Christ was crucified through the agency of the reflective nature in the form of political and religious powers and principal­ities and the human instrumentalities of the thought-entities manifested through the reflective nature.

Politics is the use of and possession by the reflective nature to guide, inform, manage, and influence human relations and public affairs through the agency of political institutions and the human instru­mentalities of the thought-entities manifested through the reflective nature.

The resurrection and second coming of Jesus Christ interjects into human relations and public affairs a different nature to guide and inform. The power of the reflective nature is diminished and usurped through the coming of the spirit of Christ into the intellect and conscience. This establish­ment of Christ's inshining presence anchors the intellect and informs the conscience in the faculty of direct aware­ness of Christ's motive presence as guide in public affairs and human relations. This immediate awareness of the increase or decrease of Christ's presence in a particular interaction saves human relations from bondage to the reflective nature and the cycle of contention and strife caused by the use of the reflective nature and the agency of political institutions and the human instrumentalities of its thought-agents.

Through the inshining presence of Jesus Christ, the intellect is renewed by being drawn out of regard for human instrumentalities and the thought-entities conjured out of the world of thought, through the agency of the reflective nature, to guide human relations.

No matter how appealing and attractive these thought-entities may be to the intellect led by the reflective nature, they will serve to nurture conflict and strife. It is this process of the intellect calling upon and possessed by thought-entities manifested through the reflective nature which brings about confrontation in human relations. There is a different way wherein the intellect or mind is transformed and no longer looks toward human instrumentalities whose intellect is guided through the reflective nature and conjures forth thought-entities out of the world of thought to rule human affairs. This different way is in awareness of the presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ and its habitation is the conscience and consciousness.

Through the power and presence of Christ's spirit which is established my intellect in the faculty of its immediate presence, I do not look toward human instrumentalities and the thought-entities they conjure out of the world of thought through the power of the reflective nature. Through the power and presence of Christ, I do not regard the particular thought-entities of Solzhenitsyn (or any other human instrumentality) drawn from the world of thought in the reflective nature to guide and inform human relations. I am drawn out of the process of the reflective nature and its political, religious, educational, and economic thought-entities to guide and inform human relations and affairs.