“President-elect Donald Trump is coming under fire that there should be “consequences” for flag burners, but in 2005, Hillary Clinton backed a bill that would have criminalized burning the American flag.
While she was senator of New York, Clinton co-sponsored the Flag Protection Act of 2005, which would have outlawed “destroying or damaging a U.S. flag with the primary purpose and intent to incite or produce imminent violence or a breach of the peace.”
You see, another benefit of practicing”The Julie Principle” is that it provides some protection from confirmation bias, which, as Ethics Alarms keeps telling you, makes you stupid, and cognitive dissonance, which warps your perception. Let me return to another section of the original “Julie Principle” post:
My father had essentially four close friends his whole life: men he met and learned to love as a fatherless child in Depression Era Louisville, Kentucky, forced to move and change schools every few months because his mother would run out of jobs and rent money. They all belonged to the same Boy Scout troop, and though life took all four into different locales and careers, they stayed in close contact throughout their lives. One of them, “Bud,” lived the closest to the Marshalls, so we saw more of him than the others. He was a sociopath. My mother couldn’t stand him, and with good reason. He was a shameless rogue. Lies and manipulation were his calling cards: after he died, it was hardly a surprise—though it was a surprise—when a second wife from Australia showed up, unannounced, at his funeral. Bud had maintained a second family while supposedly being happily married to the long-suffering wife that we knew.
Long before Bud’s demise, I asked my father, whom I never knew to lie about anything, why he remained friends with a man who was despicable in so many ways. He smiled and launched into a tone-deaf rendition of the opening line of the famous lament (“Can’t help lovin’ dat man o’ mine”) sung by the character Julie in the epic musical “Show Boat”: “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…” Knowing the song, I first assumed that he was telling me that the answer to my question was the same as Julie’s explanation in the song for why she continued to be loyal to her abusive, untrustworthy lover: she couldn’t help it; that was just the way she was. But that wasn’t his meaning.
He meant that Bud wasn’t going to change. Bud was always like this, and his sociopathic tendencies were as natural to him as flying was to birds and swimming was to fish. “It makes no sense,” he told me, “to keep getting angry at people for who and what they are. You make a decision, that’s all. Do I care enough about this individual, for whatever reason, to be his friend, or don’t I? If I do, I accept the package, wings, gills and all. I knew Bud was like he was when we were kids. He was there for me, along with the others, when I had nothing else, and he has always been loyal to me. I decided he was my friend just as he was, and that I would accept the aspects of his character the I didn’t like. The alternative was having nothing to do with him.”
That’s the Julie Principle.
What I foolishly neglected to say yesterday, and found myself writing multiple times in replies to comments on the post, was that it’s all about good will. If you have good will toward someone, then you acknowledge their intractable flaws while deciding that they are less important than the person as a whole. If you have bad will toward someone, every new example of habitual conduct is further justification for it.
We should all strive, with a new leader facing a task that nobody is really prepared for and that has defeated some of the best and most qualified statesmen the nation has ever produced (Adams, Madison, J.Q. Adams, Buchanan, Taft, Hoover, LBJ, Nixon…) we should all strive, as Americans, to begin with good will. Good will means, among other things, applying the Julie Principle to known flaws when they surface and the consequences are minor. Doing otherwise to Trump is evidence of bad will, like that of Charles Blow, John Oliver, Harry Reid and “Hamilton.”
Trump’s superfluous and impulsive tweet about flag-burning, which there is literally nothing he can do about as President, was treated by his critics as if it was smoking gun evidence of the dictatorship to come. The New York Times thought it was worthy of an editorial, when it was only worthy of an eye-roll. The tweet, it said, demeaned the Presidency and was inciting, feeding “lies and ignorance directly to 36 million people.” Yet when Hillary Clinton, as a Senator, did quite a bit more than offering her opinion that flag-burning should be a crime, 16 years after the Supreme Court declared it protected speech, the Times, while critical, had a much more measured response.
Hillary was pandering, griped the Times. You know, like all politicians sometimes do. No big deal. A Senator, introducing actual legislation to criminalize flag-burning, wasn’t committing a serious enough offense to even recall when she was running for President seeking the automatic support those most likely to burn flags. A President Elect, known to shoot off stupid tweets on a whim, agreeing with that Senator Clinton but otherwise proposing and threatening nothing, is worthy of full-throated ridicule and condemnation, for days. “Mr. Trump, Meet the Constitution” (you idiot), quoth the Times to Trump for stating an opinion also held, with some force and logic, by millions of veterans, among others. But Hillary, implied the Times in 2006, didn’t really mean what her proposed legislation asserted, because, “as a lawyer,” she understood the Constitution.
She had the Times’ good will, you see, so when her conduct was inconsistent with what the paper saw as her true and virtuous beliefs, it was shrugged off as an annoying example of politics. Because Trump is the target of bad will only, he gets no such pass even when there is an obvious reason to ignore the terrifying tweet. It doesn’t mean anything, like most of his tweets. He just has poor impulse control. (Before he was President Elect, I would have said something less flattering. Good will, Jack. Good will…)
There is also a practical reason to use the Julie Principle on such trivial episodes as this. The Times and Trump’s critics dissipate their influence, credibility and ammunition by showing such poor discretion. Could it possibly be that they have never read this?