“The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent” — Now More Than Ever
Message to all Democratic troops:
Of course it is always a good thing to be intelligent. But it is the case that we do not live in intelligent times. Instead we live in choleric times, when stupidity and anger and “out there” statements capture the spotlight, go viral, drive the news cycle. Nor are we governed by a leader who abides by Enlightenment ideals of reason and proof or plays by the rules; likewise his party.
But with a presidential election coming up in just 43 days, truly the most important in our lifetime, being and acting intelligent — being smart and savvy and real, along with the attendant qualities of moral purpose, honesty, daring, forthrightness, perseverance — is vital to unseating the most dangerous threat yet to our modern American democracy, Donald J. Trump. This president has dismantled so many institutional norms, stretched the law to breaking point, spurned our allies to embrace autocrats, that America finds herself in sight of autocracy itself — strongman rule — with near-total acquiescence from his own party.
No surprise, then, this proto-autocrat is running as the “law-and-order” candidate. Not able to point to a stellar performance in handling the deadly coronavirus pandemic, and bungling the reopening of the economy, Trump must default to hardball tactics and try to claim the mantle of the nation’s savior and protector — from the violence he himself eagerly foments.
In this nefarious aim, Trump is aided by his Attorney General (and that possessive is intentional: William Barr is fully in the tank with Trump), who — astoundingly — now threatens to cite the sedition statute against “rioters” who create violence and destruction amid the ongoing protests for racial justice (also here). In the main, these protests have been peaceful — 93% of them, per a recent study. But that outstanding 7% represents, for Trump and Barr, an opportunity to exploit: to smear the law-abiding super-majority with the criminal offense of trying to overthrow the U.S. government (never mind that Trump and Barr in their heedlessness are doing just that).
Intelligent people see the danger: “Protester” — in the hands of the meanly motivated — can be conflated with “rioter” and “looter.” Thus it is imperative that, if you continue to protest — and bless you if you do, as racial justice is a righteous cause — the protest must not only remain peaceful, but if anyone among your number turns…