It’s Memorial Day weekend (or the Fourth, or Thanksgiving) and this year in particular, the year of Trump, when politics and religion are not, or should not be, on the table.

In the Boston Review of  June 07, 2016, Jonathan Kirshner has this to say, among other things, about Donald Trump:

One of the two major political parties in the United States has chosen an ignorant, unqualified, strutting game-show host as its candidate for president. An upper-class scion cultivated in the cloistered hothouse of inherited wealth now posturing as a populist-nativist, Donald Trump is a dangerous huckster drawing on the dog-eared pages of the demagogue’s handbook, rallying his supporters with the timeless tropes of fearmongering and scapegoating. The only thing that makes this pampered princeling stand out from the rogues’ gallery of his predecessors (and his global peers) is that he comes across as even more vain, entitled, and thin-skinned than the average preening Mussolini pounding his chest from the balcony.

And among the replies to Kirshner is this one:

The other republican candidates–with very few exceptions–that strutted up to play their miserable role in this election impressed me as astoundingly obvious hypocrites whose lightweight ‘minds’ scare the bejesus out of me.

Hillary too does not impress me, except perhaps for her word-perfect regurgitation of the usual, age-old and threadbare cliches.

Trump strikes me as quintessentially American–proud, smart, humorous, made of tough stuff, honest–you know, the way the US of A used to be, when it (they) still counted for something of worth.

America (and the rest of the western world) seems  to have totally forgotten how it  got to me a leader among nations.



There you have it, in these two passages you have the reason why in this instance politics, but religion also, are not on the table at our national holidays, —the reason why we mostly avoid talking politics (and religion) when with our family and friends. For we find as our differences rise to the surface, while not turning to thoroughly disliking, if not hating, one another, that we do begin at worst by screaming at one another our different opinions, or at best we may hit the pause button, turn away from one another, and then go our own separate ways until the next family get-together brings us back.

Now in this Trump vs. Hillary election year probably most of us will hold more or less one or the other these positions, either that Trump is an ignorant, unqualified, strutting game-show host, or that this same man Trump is quintessentially American–proud, smart, humorous, made of tough stuff, honest.

It seems to me that these sorts of sharp, often ugly differences among us most often seem to rise up in just two areas, in addition to politics, there is, of course, religion. And hence both subjects are, as we have learned over and over again, to be scrupulously avoided if we would hold onto our friends and family members possessing radically different political and religious positions from our own. Why is it this way? What is it about politics and religion that leads to these clashes?

Why cannot one’s political or religious beliefs be subject to reason and compromise, why cannot a middle ground be found? In the past these differences have most often led to wars, the European Wars of Religion for example, these being after all for the most part wars over nothing but different opinions.

And in parts of the world today this is still the case, as we see right now in the Middle East. Why can’t rational, frank discussions among thinking individuals replace wars, which after all are never an answer? And why do those bits of non-rational discussion, the loud and shouting exchanges we so often have with one another when we get together, only lead, never to revised opinions, but only to further entrenchment of our respective positions?

I suppose we have made a kind of progress. Steven Pinker, for example, has charted the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present, claiming that we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

And it’s true that no one expects the shouting differences appearing during the present election campaign at the candidate rallies and party conventions will lead to shooting wars. However, it is the case that our representatives in Washington, separated as they are mostly by political or religious differences, or both, are as a result unable to compromise, meaning unable to forget their differences and act for the good of the country as a whole.


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