Like most of you I use Facebook. I wish there was an alternative. I wish Google’s social media platform was still around. I even used it. But alas if you decide to use social media, you are left with a binary choice: Facebook and Twitter. On the surface it seems unfair, but almost everything is binary. Remember VHS vs Beta? How about DVD vs Blueray? iOS vs Android. PlayStation vs Xbox (I’m not a gamer). You get my point.
Every once in a while I get sucked into a conversation on Facebook with a Trump supporter. Most of the time I avoid the conversation, but sometimes I see something so fantastically galling that the polemicist in me can’t resist. Before I proceed I need to define a simple word. Logic.
Such a simple word with only five letters and two syllables. This should be a simple concept to understand. Right? Let’s turn it into an adjective by adding two letters and we have the word logical. Stay with me. I promise this is going somewhere.
Logical is rooted in the Greek word logos, which means “reason, idea, or word.” So calling something logical means it’s based on reason and sound ideas — in other words, thought out with mathematical precision and removed from emotion. Sounds strict and boring, but it’s the orderliness and consistency of logic that helps you write a great argument or figure out how to solve a problem.
There are two really important words in this definition that we need to pay attention to and they are emotion and consistency. Emotion clouds logic. Said more simply, emotion is the opposite of logic. I am hungry, so I eat something. When I am full, I stop eating. However, I see a piece of chocolate cake after I’m full. The emotion of greed takes over. Even though the logical thing to do is to stop eating, the emotion takes over and I eat the cake. Perhaps I eat the cake today, but tomorrow I don’t. Someone might think why did I eat the cake yesterday, but not today? My actions are not consistent and therefore are not logical.
Trump Supporter Logic
So logic requires that I make a choice that is free from emotion and that I make that decision consistently. Which brings me to a recent conversation with a Trump supporter. I don’t remember his name, but he posted that God chose Trump to be President and therefore we should support Trump. Ok. There are several assumptions here.
There is a God. God is good. God likes Trump and caused him to be President. Therefore, we should support Trump regardless of what he does as President because God chose him. For the sake of this conversation ignore whether or not you believe in God, or if God is good, or if God is involved in United States politics. Let’s just concentrate on the logic of the argument.
In response my post was simply if you believe that God appoints the President, then why did so many Christians oppose Barack Obama and go as far to call him the Antichrist? If you don’t know who the Antichrist is, just imagine the opposite of Christ. If you don’t know who Christ is, then you probably stopped reading before this point.
My response was based on a fallacy to which I often succumb. I presumed that this person would be logical (free from emotion and consistent) and respond by posting something like “I did support Obama” or “Yes God selects all Presidents”. That would be logical based on his post. Can you guess what his response was?
The response was “Obama wasn’t the Antichrist, he was a tool of the Antichrist.” Therefore, Obama wasn’t chosen by God because that would violate his original argument about Trump. So my next post articulated my confusion. “I don’t understand. If God chooses a President, then he chooses all Presidents. If God chose Trump, then he chose Obama”.
Do you see my argument? It is free from emotion and consistent. I’m trying to have a logical conversation. As my syllogism is succinct and logical I expected capitulation. Instead what I received was the currency of the Trump community: an ad hominem attack.
Ad hominem is a phrase from Latin which means “aimed at the man.” It’s almost always used to describe a way of arguing or criticizing that ignores the larger issues at hand and just attacks someone’s character. Unfortunately, political battles in the media often boil down to ad hominem attacks instead of thoughtful debate.
Here’s a really simple example of an ad hominem attack that was used often when I was a child. Two people are having a conversation where they have opposite opinions. The conversation escalates into an argument. Eventually the person who believes that they are losing the argument becomes frustrated. And at a random moment in the conversation in a fit of rage the person with the losing argument yells out, “Yo momma!” What just happened? We were talking about the global supply chain disruption caused by internal political disagreements about the statutory limits of the executive. How did my mother enter this conversation?
That’s what the Trump supporter did. No he didn’t talk about my mother, but his response was a classic ad hominem attack. Remember my last post was “I don’t understand. If God chooses a President, then he chooses all Presidents. If God chose Trump, then he chose Obama”. His response? “You wouldn’t understand. Moron.”
We Deserve Better
On top of his response being ad hominem it was also petulant. This is the average Trump supporter – devoid of reason, full of emotion, and lacking consistency. Therefore, I have decided to cease any further conversations with Trump supporters. In fact I will take it a step further. Joe Biden should not participate in any debates with Trump. What’s the point? You are not going to convince or convert any Trump supporter. Trump is going to lie with reckless abandon. The entire exercise is going to devolve into a he said she said, school yard, third grade finger pointing contest. In the end Trump supporters will declare Trump victorious regardless of facts.
During a time when we are debating how to address the economy, unemployment, a global pandemic, global trade, the environment, and so many other topics we deserve so much more than to be dragged kicking and screaming into what I sincerely believe will be Trump’s act five.
So let’s say it together. I will not debate another Trump supporter!