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Op-Ed

Slogans rule: Reality is dead

October 1, 2021

Millions of Americans today seem incapable of reasoning in any depth beyond a slogan.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

A friend of mine has given up talking politics with his brother. He asked him: “How can you be anti-abortion but in favor of the death penalty?”

I’d never heard it put so clearly. To answer that question requires a bit of thought — real and earnest thought, not just a slogan: “Life is sacred.”

Well, if it is, when does life stop being sacred?

Slogans are all we get these days from one of our major political parties: Slogans untethered from reality. Slogans rule, because that’s all their followers — and probably the politicians themselves — can understand.

At last count, Republican legislators in 27 states have introduced bills that would prohibit, or limit, teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools.

And what, pray tell, is critical race theory? 

It’s the historical truth that the United States did not develop as a “freedom for all” kind of place. We built into our Constitution, and federal, state and local laws, and carried out, enslavement of black people, wholesale massacres of Native Americans, discriminatory laws against Chinese immigrants, and other atrocities.

Faux News, the Republican Party’s Pravda (Truth) has reported on critical race theory more than 1,900 times in four months. 

But this is not a theory, as Faux News would have it. It’s history — not all of our history, but quite a bit of it.

I taught Apache students one year in a public high school. Ninety percent of their ancestors had been slaughtered by the U.S. military.

Where is the “theory” in that? 

One night in Muleshoe, Oklahoma, when I was an itinerant jazz musician, I checked into a cheap motel. Nailed to the inside of the door were the rules of the house. The rules stated that "N-----s could not use the laundry, N-----s could not leave their room after dark, N-----s had to leave by 8 a.m.," and so on.

Where is the “theory” here?

Today’s Republicans — a lively, chittering bunch, for zombies — have moved on from their idiotic attack slogan against teaching U.S. history. Now their slogan is against science: Covid-19 doesn’t exist. And if it does, it was invented by Bill Gates and a Hungarian Jew. Those 680,000 Americans died of something else. And the Jan. 6 attack upon Congress was not an attack at all — just a normal tourist visit.

I refer again to my friend and his brother, who could not come up with an answer to a simple, pointed question. Where is the logic? Where is reality? There is none: It’s all slogans. And, unfortunately, to what should be our country’s deep disgrace, millions of Americans today seem incapable of reasoning, or talking, beyond a slogan.

“Make America Great Again.” What does that mean? Go back to the 1950s? To before Brown v. Board of Education? To the House Un-American Activities Committee? To before Election Day, 2016?

“Black Lives Matter” is a slogan. But it has a sense to it. When a cop, or a citizen with a gun, kills a Black man or woman or child, it should matter as much to the courts, to our neighbors and our country, as it would as if the perp had killed a white man, or woman, or child. 

There is a cogent argument behind that slogan, based upon history and reality.

But I swear for the life of me that I have no idea — no, actually I do have some idea — of what Make American Great Again means. It’s a slogan with a sneaky, implied sneer — but nothing about which I’ve heard anyone make a clear and cogent argument.

How can you be anti-abortion and pro-death penalty? How can you regurgitate “life is sacred” without thinking about it, or at least looking at it? At yourself?

Is life sacred only in the womb? But once they’ve slapped you on the butt and you’re breathing air, your life ain’t sacred anymore?

I’d like a reasoned response to this, but I’ve yet to see one.

When reasoned conversation becomes impossible, slogans rule. Idiocy rules. Bumper stickers govern.

Eat the Communist Koalas.

Boycott the Platypus.

Clobber a Palestinian in the Head With an Israeli.

Nuke the Gay Whales.

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