The human mind’s infinite ability to devise rationalizations to justify unethical or irresponsible conduct apparently has no bounds. One way that I have discovered many of the nearly 60 excuses, fallacies, deceits, and ethical distortions that make up the Rationalizations List is to argue with intelligent people who are determined to justify conduct that is simply unjustifiable using such legitimate tools as logic, analysis, common sense and traditional ethics. Lacking good arguments and being unwilling to do that hardest thing—give up and admit they are wrong—they pin their position on a rationalization…sometimes one I had never heard before.
The public debate over the various proposals to “do something!” about mass shootings is as depressing as any discussion I have ever participated in. The willingness of gun opponents, Democrats, journalists, pundits and otherwise intelligent people to not only defy the Bill of Rights guarantee of due process but to literally ignore its existence shows how close the stinking breath of totalitarianism is to the neck on our nation, and that it is much hotter than I realized. This isn’t an exception or an anomaly. This is a result of carefully bred contempt for American values.
The intense ignorance crossed with malice toward our Constitution reached a climax of sorts today on social media, as people who should know better (and people who do know better, like erstwhile Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren) applauded the cynical and hypocritical “sit-in” by House Democrats, who said they would hold their breath until they turned blue unless the Congress of the United States voted to allow the government to take away the rights of citizens based on “suspicion.” Only rationalizations can defend this position, primarily among them “The Saint’s Excuse,” or “It’s for a good cause,” “It” is this case meaning..
- Accepting the ethically and morally bankrupt principle that “the ends justify the means”
- Setting a precedent for allowing the government to abridge any rights it chooses once by some standard it finds a law-abiding citizen “unworthy”
- Enacting a provision that the ACLU has pronounced unconstitutional
- Establishing the principle that the Congress can and will abandon the rule of law as long as enough members of the public and media let emotion overcome reality
- Lay the groundwork for a President, like say, just to pick a crazy, impossible example out of the air, President Trump, who is as ignorant of the rule of law as the position’s supporters, to really start ripping up the Bill of Rights, beginning with Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Association.
To put it another way, it’s a really, really stupid and indefensible position.
[ The House sit-in just ended, by the way, after about a day. Nah, it wasn’t a publicity stunt! ]
The amazing thing is that nobody can substantively defend ignoring due process….not Senators, not Congress members, and definitely not members of the public who wrote on Facebook that they “loved” John Lewis for leading this fiasco and were “proud” of Democrats for “standing up to the NRA.” The whole argument comes down to “We have to do something, and this is the only thing we can think of to do, and if it violates basic Constitutional rights, it doesn’t matter, because this is the only thing we can think of to do!”
Needless to say, this is no way to run a country, or at least a democracy.
I had a futile and frustrating exchange with one of the pro-sit-in fans bubbling over with enthusiasm for Democrats behaving like children..and children too young to have taken basic civics at that—that quickly featured the fingers-in-the-ears-tactic of my adversary saying, “Well, we disagree.” No, I pointed out. That’s like saying we disagree when I say you are a human being and you say you are a lump of cheese. It’s like saying that we disagree with the Orlando terrorist. The measures, all of them, are a violation of the Fifth Amendment. That is illegal and wrong. Thus, Congress shouldn’t engage in it. The fact that you are incapable or unable to perceive reality doesn’t make this a disagreement, with our positions holding equal status and validity. You have to explain to me, to reach that status, why I am wrong that…
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
…somehow doesn’t apply to my being able to exercise all of the rights in the Constitution without the government unilaterally blocking me by putting me on a list.
A substantive point.
No, “we have to do something” isn’t a substantive point. Neither is “I’m sick of all these deaths,” I hate guns,” or “Guns BAD!” As a result, what I got was this:
“Well, what’s your solution? All you’re doing is criticizing what’s been proposed; if you’re going to do that, you have an obligation to say what would be better.”
There is it is! The new rationalization, which I am calling Rationalization #40 B, The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”
I am not obligated to solve your problem, nor is this required of someone pointing out why proposed conduct is illegal, unethical, dangerous, imprudent and wrong. The Lone Inspiration Excuse suggests that a terrible course of conduct can become acceptable by default. How many catastrophes have been created by that warped logic? If a proposed measure is too wrong and reckless to undertake, it shouldn’t be undertaken. The ethical response to someone who reasonably and carefully explains why proposed conduct cannot work and violates principles of law, ethics or common sense deserves a thank you, for that is valuable information. “Well, you solve it then!” is not a fair response. It’s a deflection, and an especially transparent one in this case. Solving this problem isn’t my job.
My better idea is to follow the law of the land, and not to promote irrational fear, anger, hysteria and political expediency as a substitute for rationality. If the only way to “do something” about periodic deaths from crazy citizens using guns illegally is to breach the law of the land and wound the Constitution, then the responsible and ethical better idea may be not to do anything at all.