The Problem of Labels (Especially Political Ones)


I have been tuning into the latest misadventure of our President with more horror than usual. His reading of the events in Charlotteville is plain and simply wrong. His being our President makes the wrongness even more egregious. Once the painful response to the wrongness of his position settled down, I turned to all the comments about the situation coming from the media of all stripes. that is from “both sides.”

What I see is more evidence of the unreality of public (and probably much of private) life in America today. The reality of Charlottesville is that Nazism is absolutely not acceptable. Nazism was an aberration of humanity that was and cannot be justified on any basis. It is simply and plainly evil and wrong. To confuse the issue by employing labels like alt-right, alt-left, antifa, identity politics, or any other political name is simply just as wrong as is the Nazism that showed up in Charlottesville. I recommend an editorial article by Paul Waldman in the Washington post for those who want another similar view.

Extremism on the right is not, as some of the more conservative media claimed (e.g. this WSJ editorial), a response to anything, certainly not to the so called “identity politics” of the left. Extremism is simply what its name connotes: active adherence to a set of beliefs that either are far from reality or involve negating the beliefs and legitimacy of others. Active means taking steps to suppress these others. It’s only cause is the beliefs that it expresses in action. One of the most egregious incidents of extremism in history was the Inquisition and the Crusades under the Catholic Church. It is clearly a case where a powerful institution took its beliefs too far. It’s unimaginable that a Pope today would try to defend its past actions by invoking some external cause. It’s cause was was nothing more than concerns about failures to adhere to its dogma and potential consequences of that. Those that would defend Trump’s action and the causal event in Charlottesville as stemming from a response to anything at all are just as guilty as Trump is in not getting the morality straight.

I think the morality is this case is quite clearly in the realm of the deontological, while the excuses based on any argument are from the other major branch of ethics, consequentialist. Deontology focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions, not on the rightness or wrongness of the consequences or on the character and behaviors of the actor (virtue ethics). America is founded and grounded by deontology, not any other ethical basis. Unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the epitome of an absolute belief that obligates anyone who would identify (sic) her-or himself as an American to accept it unconditionally.

There is much being written and said about this situation, but I think brevity is more appropriate because the real issue is very simple and straightforward. Any action that ignores the ethical basis of the nation is wrong. Full stop. Anyone who tries to defend such actions using any form of utilitarian or consequential excuses is wrong. Full stop. There are many who understand the importance of keeping moral arguments clear. I plead that you speak up. The Founding Fathers, slaveholders or not, gave us a clear moral ground for our Nation. The Constitution, to which the President and the Congress take an oath to follow and defend, means little without the moral grounding of the Declaration of Independence. Where are you?