No One in the Public Is Above Questioning in the United States

During yet another distracting week of drama coming out of the White House, the Press Secretary let loose this little gem:

If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that is something highly inappropriate.

In what country is this true? Certainly not the United States. The Constitution explicitly lays out the rights of individuals regarding speech and press and restricts the placement of “titles of nobility.” Additionally, The Declaration of Independence plainly states “that all men are created equal.”

On the idea of titles granted to individuals, the Founders were trying to prevent family and friends from passing the torches of responsibility to each other without a real democratic representation taking place. It also seems obvious that preventing titles encourages a sense of equality between leaders and their constituents.

I’ve written previously about respect and how simply being someone or something does not automatically confer gratitude and adulation upon one self. Being the so called President or a Super-Cool-Star General does not immediately require that all underlings bow unquestioningly before you. We live in a country where the very public foundations declare and require that everyone is on equal footing.

Notice that I slipped the word “public” into the sentence above. I wanted to make the distinction between public and private equality very clear because people often confuse the two. Public laws apply to every person equally. Politicians are held accountable by their constituents. Leaders are constantly reminded by a careful set of checks and balances established through centuries of debate and guidelines.… Continue reading

Respect Cannot Be Demanded

As is usual for his tweets, Donald Trump recently tried to get ahead of another embarrassing rebuke.

He’s correct in his first sentence. Going to the White House is a huge honor considered as a once in a lifetime opportunity by anyone. The problem is that the president believes the occupant of the White House is automatically owed the respect and loyalty of its visitors. Sorry, Mr. Trump, it doesn’t work that way. People in the positions of power and leadership aren’t required to be revered by the citizens. The United States isn’t your kingdom and its citizens aren’t your subjects. Citizens are allowed to peacefully protest and show dislike for their so-called leaders.

I can hear some people responding now. “He’s allowed to rescind an invite! It’s his right as the president to determine who can and can’t visit!” Well, sure, that’s definitely true, but his reasoning for doing so in this case seems disingenuous. He seems to be implying that it’s disrespectful to hesitate accepting an invite. As citizens of the United States, we are free to do what we want within the bounds of the laws. If a someone doesn’t want to visit the White House, then he or she isn’t required to do so against their will.

If the president wants people to be genuinely glad to visit his residence, then he needs to learn the meaning of the word “respect.” Let us first review its meaning as defined in the dictionary:

respect
noun

  1. a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
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Hate Watch: Jason Kessler

Jason Kessler is a white nationalist, white supremacist, pro-Confederate supporter, and self-described independent journalist, author, and writer. During a recorded poetry reading in 2014, he described himself as cynical and skeptical of the government and the “power of love.” In an apparent foreshadowing of Kessler’s later escapades, he further stated that he doesn’t need to be “born again” or “saved.” Kessler gained national attention in 2016 when he exposed lewd and racist tweets from a Virginia Board of Education member ultimately leading to the member’s resignation.

Contrary to his self-proclaimed civility, Kessler has an extensive record of convictions (Jason Eric Kessler) ranging from shoplifting, obstruction of justice, failure to appear, and numerous traffic violations. In 2017, Kessler was charged with and plead guilty to misdemeanor assault. In describing the incident, Kessler claimed that the man he punched is using the “liberal nature of the city” and the “state government” to “force penalty” on him and asserted that a punch in the face is what someone should expect during face-to-face verbal disagreement.

Building on previous nationalist and populist themes, Kessler’s blog posts, tweets, and YouTube videos mainly consist of topics such as “white genocide”, “anti-white racism”, “cultural Marxism”, and anti-immigration. Kessler has a history of creating articles, blog posts, poems, and videos about white nationalism, white ethnocentrism, the “alt-right,” and white genocide. Kessler’s language, volume, and inflection of the words and voices used in his writings and videos makes it clear that he attempts to take advantage of emotion and hate over logic and intelligence during a discussion.… Continue reading

Hate Watch: Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer is a white supremacist, white nationalist, Nazi-sympathizer, and self proclaimed “identitarian.” He has claimed to be the creator of the “alt-right” terminology and has claimed that it is determined to fight for “white identity.” He frequently quotes Nazi propaganda, chants Nazi slogans, displays Nazi salutes, denounces Jews, supports ethnic cleansing, and supports a “white homeland” (“Ethnostate”).

After Donald Trump’s election, Spencer made national headlines when a video surfaced showing chants of “Hail, Trump” followed by Nazi arm salutes. More recently, Spencer has made headlines when speaking out in favor of the August 2017 white nationalist “protest” in Charlottesville. Following the “protest”, Spencer seemed to gain legitimacy among some right wing members when Donald Trump appeared to implicitly support the white nationalists by delaying his scripted condemnation of their movement and eventually blaming violence on “both sides” and attributing blame to both white supremacists and anti-hate activists.

Spencer and those of the same cut are currently energized and on the move to continue their hateful rhetoric and activities. Be alert of any more “protests” from alt-right groups that use free speech as a cover for hate speech and violence. Additionally, these groups feel that they have the support of the President due to his inability and unwillingness to denounce the alt-right movement. A quick look at Spencer’s Twitter profile reveals that he lives in an echo chamber of ideas concerning only white nationalism and white supremacy.

It is highly unlikely that Spencer is open to anything that would introduce personal cognitive dissonance.… Continue reading

Words Have Meaning Part I: Facts

The universe is a vast, confusing, and changing cosmic terrarium. We are confined by its rules and trapped by its expanding boundaries. In an effort to add some structure to the chaos, hone our understanding of the mechanics, and persist information beyond our generation, we use words, numbers, pictures, labels, diagrams, standards, and many more tools to calculate, predict, record, and preserve observations about the various universal processes that surround us.

When we assign a verifiable value to an observation based on our best collective understanding, we call that value a “fact.” Facts are tricky because they represent the current understanding of an experience. That distinction is important because it’s easy to become disheartened when journalists or scientists discover new information or issue updates about a phenomenon that was long regarded as factual. Facts can change through further observation, experience, and the discovery of more detailed experimental evidence. So what do we believe? Are facts rock solid or can we assume that nothing can truly be known?

Let’s use Earth and Sun for examples. The understandings of Earth’s shape, its place in the solar system, and Sun’s place in the universe has changed over time.

It was an understood fact that Earth was flat in pre-classical Greece. Aristotle eventually showed evidence that Earth was in fact spherical. For a time, Earth’s flatness was a fact. Using our vast technology, we know now that Earth is an ellipsoid, but it wasn’t so easily understood in the past. Pre-classical Greeks were eventually proven to be incorrect and thus the facts changed.… Continue reading