As a student of logic I have often been amused by bad logic. Most people have a sense of logic and can understand basic logic when they are posed with simple logic problems, but as logical problems get more complex it takes a finer and finer sense of logic to keep up. However, most people don’t want to think that hard. If you present them with a really illogical proposition that merely has a conclusion they like, they will accept the logic and even attempt to repeat it to impress their friends, who because they are like-minded either adopt the illogic or smile and ignore it. When millions of people do it, it is no longer just “not funny”, it is scary.
Imagine that a kid comes in from outside bleeding from superficial scratches all over his arm. “What happened?” You ask, and he replies “the rose bush attacked me and scratched me all up!” Of course, you understand immediately that it was the action of the kid that caused the scratches, but you humor him and patch him up. But let’s look at that infantile worldview that we can find amusing and see why it is illogical, because grown-ups do this, too. The kid did what kids will do. The kid reached for the ball, but something bad happened. It surprised him because that had not happened before. He was within his rights to reach for the ball, but something bad happened anyway. He sees this new reaction as a change in the status quo against him, and sees it as an attack on him by something that simply has its own defense from being disturbed by an outside force. Why break it down to this absurd degree? Because treating people like they are not mental children does not seem to be working.
Let’s take the same story and change a couple of things to grown-up things. A guy comes back from the Hardware Store on November 1st and cries “Christmas is under Attack!” Why? Because somebody had the nerve to wish everyone who celebrates Winter Solstice holidays, not merely Christians, joy and happiness for the season, and maybe sell those nonChristians some merch in the process. The status quo was that the pagan holiday adopted by the Catholic Church, and only in the past century and a half adopted by the Protestant churches belonged to them and no one else because they had never experienced it from any other point of view. Hence, their comforting ignorance was the only thing under threat, but that comfort, in their world, is what Christmas means to me in the most simple minded terms. Rather than considering “wow, there is a whole world of wonder just outside my door”, they perceive “there is a scary world beating down my door” despite the fact that no part of that world is even knocking on their door. This willingness to take the darker view as the default assumption is where this gets dangerous.
One of the most disturbing examples of turning what is an opportunity for goodwill into an excuse for ill will has been baffling to me until I looked at it from the perspective I outlined above, of the illogical child-mind of those who see their privilege as a birthright. The mantra I hear is that Obama has made the country more racist. The evidence is all around you, they say. Before Obama, black people did not riot when police shot their families. Before Obama, my neighbors never told “nigger jokes”, and before Obama black men did not play golf regularly like white men. Since Obama, black people assume you are racist just because you tell them they have to dress like white folks. Since Obama, black people expect to get the same jobs, and black folks have TV shows where they act like they are not ashamed of how black people behave, which is an attack on how decent people should behave. They laugh loud and use slang and inside jokes that they know we won’t get, and they assume that just because we want them to fit into our ways to be accepted that we must be the ones that are racist, when their attack on our values is what is racist. You have heard it. Just like the store that dares to recognize diversity, white values are under attack because people say “racist” when what they really mean is “uppity”.
The attack is “out there”, and it must be considered real or everything you know could be wrong, and that would end the world as you know it. If Obama had not been so uppity that he became President, then we would not be so racist. If Hillary had been elected, just think how misogynistic we would all become.
This is merely how this gets started. It gets much, much worse. Once you have identified an “attack” then you know that there is a force behind the attack, and a motive for the attack and a plan of action behind the attack. Obama took advantage of the White Guilt of liberals to set up a Muslim Caliphate that would destroy Christianity from the greatest seat of power on the planet. They start by outlawing the very mention of Christmas (secretly, because no such law is on the books). Silly right? Millions believe it is Gospel Truth. Seriously. Millions believe that even though their 80% majority can’t get the word “Jesus” spoken on the loudspeaker at a football game a 1% minority of Muslims has already established US federal Sharia Law courts. I shit you not. And should you point out how insane such a belief is, your credibility is shot to hell, and you are attacking their values, because they do not value logic at all and suggesting that makes them insane is an attack on what they value, and that is faith above logic.
Hence, they want God’s commandments to be recognized as the only basis for law, and refuse to follow the ones Jesus left: Feed the hungry, care for the sick, do unto others as you would have done unto you, judge not lest ye be judged, etc. Absolute contradiction becomes the ultimate measure of faith.
Now, I do not believe that any religion should be the basis for any law. Laws are constructs of man for man in the material world. Nothing keeps anyone from holding their personal beliefs apart from the law. However, it turns out that most religious laws are actually practical secular laws that just needed the authority of religion to be deemed legitimate back in the days when kings were gods. It makes sense to outlaw theft, murder, fraud, and to promote the general welfare of the populace without regard to religion. Being a religious law does not make it a bad law, it just does not make it a good one, either. But I digress.
You may be able to tell that this post is inspired by the baffling turn of events in which Donald Trump was elected President. I would like to point out that the tortured logic described above helped to get him elected, but I must also point out that it did not cause it. In fact, I believe strongly that the root of his success in the general election was nothing more than the (R) after his name. The political patterns that have determined elections for well over a century all indicated that whoever had that (R) after their name was going to win no matter how illogical the choice was. In a way, getting from the outright disgust most republicans had of Trump from the start to the point where they could feel good about doing something so ridiculous as electing him, as they were fated to do, was actually accelerated and exacerbated by the discomfort they felt knowing that they would have to find a way to feel good about it. Humans like to rationalize their actions, and unfortunately, that word does not mean what it sounds like it should. The word rationalize is used to describe the psychological coping mechanism of explaining an action to yourself and maybe others to make it seem like a rational choice when the actual cause of the behavior had nothing to do with the story you associate it to in your mind. It does not matter if you have a (D) or an (R) after your name, you also rationalize your gut feelings into talking points without knowing it more often than you can guess. In the end, however, if we rationalize away decency toward our fellow man, we have only ourselves to blame, because we have the ability to recognize bad logic and re-evaluate our positions.