Interesting Times

It’s deliberate. I’ve avoided close following of candidates and campaigns. But even so the both-sides fuss over Trump defeats my avoidance screen. Lately this has come across as groups objecting to others by being as obnoxious as what they object to. I’d score that as zero/zero except that disruptive demonstration (no matter the  reason) is not innocently neutral because such acts deprive others of their right to express and the rights of others to listen and decide. That is a social and political negative. To be passive about violating free speech by preventing it has all the gain of allowing one disruptive student to shut down classroom instruction. Protest that deliberately violates the rights of others does not represent the fundamental American value of Free Speech and is not worthy of either respect or protection. There are other ways to express opposition than by silencing others and trampling the legitimate rights of an audience to listen and decide for on their own. Disruptive protest causes polarization and adds little light to our understanding. A person may be convinced someone or something is objectionable, but that should never justify silencing the much needed discussion of views that ARE controversial because they are NOT simple or easy and require difficult and possibly unpleasant review.

Maybe I should get to the business of annoying as many of you as possible by saying I don’t fault either Trump or his detractors as much as I’d point at our overall culture as being too damned negative and judgmental done in a matrix of weak information and lacking a grasp of history. On top of that we are quick-quick-quick to place blame as if no ill large or slight, real or imagined should upset our bliss without someone having to pay. Many of us moan and bewail injustice and social ills in a context where uneven though it is we do tackle social problems and will not be governmentally silenced doing so. In a great many countries people don’t protest because doing is can be lethally dangerous. When discussion is limited to prescribed areas it loses value. Western science endured centuries of prohibitions from religion not wanted the sun to be the center of the solar system and pressure on medicine to prove that some social groups were superior to others. Dogma in any form from blasphemy to hate speech to offensive speech and supposed toxicity should never be allowed to squash the wide-open discussion that drives change and fosters social growth instead of social control.

Instead of finding everything wrong or getting stuck on what isn’t perfect about us we from time to time remind ourselves of successful we have been providing opportunity for masses that in many cultures are strapped into prescribed or very limited roles. Our accomplishment is not 100% sure or successful. But be reminded, social change is notoriously slow and MUCH of the known world is highly if not rigidly conservative about what individuals may or may not do. It is hardly rare to find cultures where women and girls are rigidly controlled through dress and behavior to be continually reminded of their second class standing. We are not like that as a culture and should be proud of our uncertain progress which is much-much more than the no-progress demanded by some cultures.

Also, we are much addicted to clear, easy, and swift solutions to “fix” things. Except as catastrophe the universe does not favor that method because in a boom a lot happens; the pieces get picked and sorted by the survivors. An example of the complexity and slowness of social change can be seen in historic events we rarely hear of. Shortly after independence the newly formed US experienced its first international conflict with Islamic states on the Mediterranean that gleefully took American ships, passengers, and crews as prizes. You may have heard the President’s explanation of why Jefferson and Hamilton had Korans. I think he was misinformed and misinforming thinking these leaders used the Koran for inspiration. Had they done so we’d be a theocracy. We aren’t. The Koran, instead, was proof that these Mediterranean states were following religious law regarding unbeliever infidels. That explains why the US Marines fought in Tripoli, Libya. Force was the primary persuasion that could deter religious fervor.

Twenty years into our existence as a nation the first USS Constellation was on regular duty in the Mediterranean to curb piracy and slave traders. To their credit the British, our former foes, were ahead of us opposing slavery. But the US and Britain were not able to stop a practice supported by a number of governments in the old and new worlds. The first Constellation spent much of its service life protecting commerce and frustrating slavers. It was replaced by a new namesake shortly before the Civil War where it took part in a US program to free captive slaves at sea, estimated to be at least 15,000 people each year merchandised largely to Middle and South America by the predominantly Arab slave trade. The anti-slave effort was small and relatively ineffective but the odds of achieving any success against religious, political, and economic drivers was always slim. That we tried at all is worth remembering even though the 4,000+/-rescued sounds paltry and is subject to hindsight second guessers because the 4,000 were not taken home but were delivered to a safe haven in Liberia. Had these people been dropped where they came from they’d have been easily recaptured, so what was better? Isn’t an honest effort and small result worth it where human lives are the commodity?

A simple solution to international slave trading was simply not possible. An address of slavery wasn’t even possible on home ground without a long and costly Civil War which by no means settled issues of ethnic identity and or associative prejudice. People of all colors have biases. We can’t stop that but we can attempt to curb its exercise. And did you know Saudi Arabia did not outlaw slavery until the 1960’s? At best social change is slow; slower yet when your god says enslaving others (non-Muslims) is a worthy and justified activity.