September 2015
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Trump and Me

A Letter to a Friend

by Bruce A. Clark

A friend criticized me on Facebook because I didn’t criticize Donald Trump for not immediately and strenuously disagreeing with someone in the audience of the second 2015 Republican dabate. That person made negative comments about Muslims and President Obama. Trump made his own reply to critics, but that wasn’t good enough for my friend. I replied:

It’s not about what Trump says about Muslims or Obama, it’s about how he dealt with someone in his audience who made those statements.

  1. I know that people in the broad left think that they have a right and a duty to impose what they think is right onto what other people say. That’s one of the left’s greatest failings, its bigotry, and why the left and the Democrats are getting less popular, not more. Trump doesn’t feel that way. He didn’t think it was for him to trounce the guy for his point of view. Trump left it to the people watching to make up their own minds about the subject. I think he was right. It was a sign of respect for the voters of the country not shown by the Democrats and others who criticize Trump.

  2. Trump was also right in not letting the people espousing the point of view that you hold rule his own actions. He stands up for his principles and the free speech rights of people speaking at the debate, whether from the dais or in the audience. That’s the right thing to do.

Whether Trump is right or wrong in all of his political views, and there is certainly some of each, he’s for letting American voters make up their own minds without the Democrats or the left telling them what to think. That’s what freedom is all about, and it’s why so many millions of people have come to the US since it was founded. They don’t immigrate here to be told what to do by anyone.

Your point of view is the way they do things in the Old World, that was left behind when this country was founded. More and more people are realizing that they feel the American way is better, and that’s why Trump is steadily gaining in popularity.

My friend was still unhappy with my inaction, so I made one more reply. After replying, it occurred to me that my message might be of interest to others who saw the debate. Here is my reply:

First of all, as to Trump’s view of Muslims, watch this. The publications that you obviously read don’t show this side of Trump’s view on Muslims. He makes it very clear that he has a problem with Muslims who behave badly and not the large majority whom he likes and respects. You have let the biased media lead you around by the nose into thinking that Trump hates Muslims in general.

And Trump is right! The Koran has lots of stuff in it about hating other religions and how Muslims should try to destroy them. And this stuff is much more prevalent, acted upon in modern times, than the barbaric stuff in the Old Testament. While I don’t mean to glorify Christians — lots of hypocrisy there! — the Christian faith looks back on the Old Testament as a creation myth and history, but views Jesus as the savior from all of that. And the teachings of Jesus overrule the barbarisms of the Old Testament. In the Muslim faith, there is nothing overruling the 7th century barbarism, and they view the Koran as it stands as a book written in heaven and brought down to the earth after the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. Jesus is just one of the prophets of Islam. See the difference?

Now I’m not saying that all Muslims agree with and practice all of the rotten stuff in the Koran; probably lots don’t. However, essentially nobody who practices Islam is saying what parts of the Koran they believe and what parts they don’t believe. Therefore, the rest of the world is left in justified doubt as to the true intent of Muslims.

There are frightening stories of what goes on in US communities in which there are high concentrations of Muslims. But are they all true? Are any of them true? The fact is that we don’t know, because the major media won’t investigate or discuss them, under the excuse that it doesn’t want to give credence to them. The fact is that the stuff that is alleged to be going on is right out of the Koran, so is prima facie believable unless someone with greater credibility steps in and honestly investigates and tells the world the real story.

Why won’t the media investigate? In my opinion, it’s because that industry is afraid of what it will find. Those people are afraid that they will find that there is some truth (a little or a lot) to the stories; they might be right or they might be wrong; I surely don’t know which. Unfortunately, since the major media won’t cover them, the stories that are told continue to spread and be believed. Therefore, the major media and the people who support its views are the ones responsible for any untruth about Muslims that is spreading around the country. And, as someone who reads and believes the major media (about Islam, about guns, about climate, etc.) you are partly responsible for the spreading of any untruths about Muslims. How do you like them apples?

What you and others like you need to do, instead of a priori and prejudicially making statements condemning others for what they say about Muslims, is to find out the facts for yourselves. Don’t just continue believing what someone else told you. There is a difference between thinking and believing. The difference is in doing a little work to find out the truth instead of just accepting what someone else says. Unfortunately, you are showing yourself to be a believer and not a thinker, at least in the political realm. It hurts me to say this because of my deep affection for you, but I think it’s true.

The British Royal Society is an organization that promotes scientific investigation, and goes back to the time of Isaac Newton. The organization has a motto: “Nullius in verba.” It is Latin for “on the word of no one” or “Take nobody’s word for it” . It’s something that everyone should practice if they want to be thinkers instead of believers. While millions of people in this country across the political spectrum are guilty of taking some erstwhile leader’s word for something and using it to attack others, it’s a special shame for people on the left to do so. Why? Because they are the ones who claim to be rational, to be thinkers and not just believers. In actual fact, they are equally as guilty of it as those on the right, whom the left constantly criticizes.

I’m certain that you don’t like what I said about you and other cothinkers in the broad left, and you think I’m wrong. You might even think that I now disagree with the principles I espoused in the days when I accepted the label of “left.” (In fact, little has changed in that regard except my views on how the left behaves.) But consider it for a moment. When is the last time you spent time reading, trying to really understand and evaluating the arguments of people you disagree with? To be a little more specific, have you ever delved into the arguments of climate skeptics? Have you read up on their point of view, studied the literature they put out, tried to follow the history and charts and graphs of the weather, past and present? It takes a considerable investment in time and energy to do that. I’ve done it; have you? Or have you just dismissed it because someone told you that “climate skeptics” are either in the pay of the oil industry or are dupes of it? Be honest!

If you find that you haven’t tried to investigate both sides of the climate debate, isn’t it also true that you have acted the same way on other subjects? Did you wait to thoroughly check out the Trayvon Martin case before you formed an opinion? Do you go on about how guns are dangerous and so are the people who own them before or after you have studied all of the facts and FBI crime statistics about it? Do you really read and evaluate the information that the NRA puts out, or do you dismiss it out of hand because someone told you that it’s bad and that the NRA is right wing? Have you ever tried to examine whether the views of the NRA are really right wing, or that it just might appear that way because so few on the left have joined it because they have never studied the facts?

Are you taking my words seriously, following through and showing that you are a thinker, or are you dismissing me out of hand because you are a believer? (Note that I make no requirement that you end up agreeing with me after studying what I say, only that you give it your full consideration.) You, me, everyone has a right to our own opinions. However, I’d say that we have an obligation to study various subjects and learn the truth before forming an opinion. And then we have an obligation to apply our opinions to ourselves and not try to force them on others.

Many years ago, I showed you to shoot a gun. I don’t know if you liked it or ever did it again. But it’s a fact that no one got hurt then. With that experience behind you and all of the information that’s available about guns and crime and their effects upon society, you can certainly form an accurate opinion on the subject, if you try. After all that, you might find that you still don’t like guns and you have no interest in sport shooting and are willing to wait until the police arrive if you get into a situation in which you are a victim of a crime. That’s all well and good for you. But it’s not then OK for you to try to deprive others of their wishes and needs regarding guns. The same method is true about other subjects on which you have opinions.

Second, you are distressed that I don’t criticize Donald Trump for not stomping on the guy who made anti-Muslim remarks at the second Republican debate. You say “I have never in the 37 years I have known you heard you condone speaking against any one group of people. That would make you a bigot, which I don’t think you are.” Thank you for not thinking I’m a bigot; I’m not. But does the fact that I favor letting someone else speak and then let others in the broad audience form their own opinions of what the person said, instead of berating him about it, mean that I condone what the person says? It absolutely does not!

You also said “Freedom to act and say hateful and hurtful things without anyone saying anything is not freedom.” I beg to differ. That statement is backwards. Saying that a person is obligated to immediately speak out about that which he or she disagrees is not freedom. It is a kind of tyranny. It is the tyranny of political correctness. As long as people have the right to speak out against something at a time and place of their own choosing, there is freedom. By criticizing Trump (or me) for nor not speaking out at the time you choose, you are trying to enforce your views onto us! You are showing your own intolerance of other people’s choices of how they intervene in political debates.

Before I met you, I was working in heavy industry in the South. Anyone in that situation was bound to hear a lot of prejudice, racial and otherwise, in what many people said. Did that mean that I was obligated to speak out and yell about how evil those people were every time they spoke with prejudice? Only a fool who never cared about accomplishing anything would act so stupidly. One can’t judge a whole person based upon what he or she says in one particular situation, even when one thinks the statement is worth criticizing. If you do that, you’ll never learn about people. And if you don’t learn about people, you will never inspire them to change and you’ll never organize them to bring about change.

When people are brought up in certain ways, it takes a long time for them to change to a different way of behaving. The learning process is slow. If you try to make instant change by getting angry and denouncing people for saying things you don’t like, you just end up building a barrier between you and the others, and end up losing credibility because of your self-righteousness.

I learned (or already knew innately, because of the way I was brought up) that it’s usually better to let things slide. If you set a good example with your own behavior and speak in a way that good humoredly, slowly, chips away at the things you think are wrong, you will make progress and change minds. But you can’t rush it! Your frustration with the slow tempo of things doesn’t mean that others are wrong; it only means that you don’t understand how social change works. You can’t bring it about by fiat, at least not in a place where freedom and democracy are the rule.

It’s by practicing that slow-but-steady approach that I got to be a leader in the membership of a local union that you know about. That is the reason why, after being seriously mistreated by the incumbent officers, I (with the assistance of others around the local and around the country) was able, after two years, to get the majority of the international union convention to vote that my grievances were legitimate and that I was wronged by the incumbent officers. If I’d started out always yelling and disagreeing at every instance of people saying things I didn’t like, I would have gotten nowhere. Because of the more studied and cautious approach, I can say I have left a legacy. Perhaps few remember what I did, but it changed the local union into a publically-recognized mover of progressive change in the union community, and in a roundabout way brought about major changes in the union at large. Of course it wasn’t just me, but it also included lots of people who, from time to time, said things that I didn’t like to hear. Change happened anyway, as you well know.

So you are free to continue to carry on with your opinions about me and Trump (not saying that he and I are in general agreement!). And I’ll go on doing what I think is right in a manner that I think will work in the long haul, as I always have. Sure, I’ll make mistakes here and there, but everyone does that. And you do, too. The question is: are you realizing your mistakes and learning from them?