Politicization of Morality

I am not a Republican. I am ideologically liberal. I am not a Trump supporter. I didn’t vote for him, and I find the overwhelming majority of his views, positions, and actions abhorrent. But I’m not a Democrat, either, and a lot of what I’ve seen over the course of the past few weeks, months, has made me wonder about the state of our ethics in this country.

Perhaps this is a cynical perspective on life, but right now, I can’t help but wonder if the main, if not the only, reason for the outcry of opposition and protest we’re seeing right now is that Trump presents himself like a cartoon villain. He’s so easy to mock, and he’s so easy to object to him, that people do it now because it’s so clear, and not so much because they really care about the issues they profess to.

Obama’s drone strikes, mass deportations, expansion of the surveillance state, extra-judicial killings of American citizens – these things all absolutely merited a response. They were all undeniably unethical. But he was presidential and articulate and capable of expressing compassion and most importantly, a Democrat, so Democrats – the people that are supposed to care about these issues – didn’t criticize him even close to enough. The ACLU challenged him multiple times, but the contrast between how much attention/money they’re getting right now and how much they got during the Obama administration is extremely stark. Of course the attention and donations are good things – they’re doing very valuable work – but it seems to add up to people willing to ignore unethical governmental actions and civil rights violations until they’re so blatant it’s impossible to pretend they aren’t there.

The US has a long history of causing instability throughout the world, then avoiding accepting any responsibility for it. This includes both Democratic and Republican administrations. On non-domestic issues, the Democrats really don’t have much of a leg to stand on. But partisanship in this country has gotten out of control. It goes beyond politicians from one party opposing actions, bills, nominees from the other for no reason other than that it’s something coming from the other party. It’s at the point where criticizing a member of one’s own party is considered an attack on unity, traitorous, a sign that you’re siding with the other.

Something that comes to mind right now is the accusations that flew around a while ago toward people like Glenn Greenwald and Shaun King – that they were “Kremlin stooges” for things like criticizing members of the Democratic Party and pointing out that it’s probably not a good idea to repeat information disseminated by the CIA uncritically. They don’t support the Democrats unquestioningly, so they’re clearly responsible for the Trump victory. One or the other. It can’t possibly be neither. All of this has resulted in a situation where I can’t trust any politician to stand up for what’s right. It seems that to most, morality only matters when the immoral action is coming from the opposing party, because party loyalty comes first.

I’ve seen similar issues when it comes to Canadian politics. I tend to support the NDP over the Liberals, but I was still very happy when the Liberals won a majority in 2015, because it meant an end to the near decade of conservatism. I frequently object to the actions of the LPC, but whenever I do that, people tell me I should be happier that the Conservatives aren’t still in power because Trudeau is much better than Harper. Is that true? In some ways, sure. In a lot of other ways, not so much.

I’m not saying it’s bad to protest Trump. Of course I’m not. I think it’s absolutely right to. But I think it’s also important to consider why the public outcry is nowhere near the level we’re seeing when it comes to anyone else.

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