The outrage must not dull 

What’s going on – the ban on transsexuals, the removal of civil rights protections, the equivocation on nazis and white supremacists, the assault on immigrants, the pardon, and so much more – is not about Bannon or Gorka or Miller but about the man who hired them and all those who excuse, justify or stand silent.

As people reel from lie to lie, from abuse to abuse, the outrage must not dull. 

24 Responses to “The outrage must not dull ”
  1. Larry Katz says:

    Thanks for continuing to help point the way ahead, Alex

  2. I completely agree, Alex. The Americans got themselves and the rest of us into this mess, and only the Americans can clean it up. Surely, if nothing else, their national pride should demand ongoing outrage and much, much more.

  3. Robert White says:

    Given that there is a new social outrage added to the extensive list of outrages that emanate out of the White House on a daily basis, it is difficult not to permit that collective outrage to dull in light of the frequency of offensive, and anti-social drunken meanderings that manifest via ‘tweets’ in the early morning hours on a weekly basis. Frankly I, for one, think that the ‘deep state'[, and Wall Street financiers like the Treasury Secretary, should have vetted this abomination to civilization appropriately before deciding that they would throw their support in his direction and usher him into the executive of the USA.


    • himelfarb says:

      The danger is just as you say, that too many become immunized to the hourly outrages, that these outrages become normalized. That cannot be. This is not normal. I knew it would keep getting worse, but this is worse than worse.

      • Robert White says:

        Well over 1000 American Psychiatrists that are sanctioned via the American Psychiatric Association have signed a petition to oust the racist/proto-fascist at the helm in the USA. They have abandoned the ‘Goldwater Rule’ that was instituted back in the 50s, and they are united in their condemnation of the White House executive. Clearly, a majority of people are now wholeheartedly standing in opposition to this abhorrent so-called ‘presidency’ and he will be turfed from office very soon, Alex. If he is not summarily fired, or turfed within a month, I will be mystified at the lack of real leadership across the board. Don’t think for a second that I will not stand up and fight back against the social regression. It offends me as much as it offends you, and others. Racism will never be accepted by those that are educated. A lack of education is the causal connection IMHO. And Trump is uneducated in the extreme, methinks.


  4. Mark Hammer says:

    The problem is that all of these precipitants for outrage emanate from a White House, and president, that is fundamentally shallow, and was elected (more or less) by folks who also hadn’t really given a lot of thought to what ailed them and what they needed (which is why they were so easily persuaded by jingoism). Let me emphasize, that constituency is not evil or stupid; they just don’t think very much or know very much about how their problems arose, and aren’t in a position to judge when a strategy or platform is substantive, based on the logic and evidence of its argument, versus how readily it arouses their ire. I won’t blame voters for not being policy wonks. However, I WILL blame party officials for deciding that whatever seems good for the party is intrinsically good for the nation.

    For me, any outrage in opposition MUST be **smarter**, and 3 or 4 steps ahead in terms of its thinking. In an era of “identity politics”, three-word-slogans uttered by legions of protest marchers will not do the job, and will only persuade opponents that whomever they view as the “other” side is simply stupid, evil, anti-American, or whatever. Only manifestly *better* thinking about real issues (“here’s why solution X is a more effective solution to the problem than solution Y”), in conjunction with supporting evidence about why other choices are better choices, are going to do the trick.

    Much of that relies on decidedly better communication than we’ve seen from current WH opponents. I’m on-side with them, but tend to be very disappointed in their communication skills. As much as I side with them, I find it immensely difficult to be persuaded by them. They need to step up their game.

    And welcome back. We missed ya.

    • himelfarb says:

      Thanks Mark. I agree with much, most, of what you say. Not everybody is, wants to be or ought to be a policy wonk, and there are many reasons for Trump’s electoral win and not all supporters are racist. And I agree that we need to provide a progressive alternative to inequality, environmental degradation, eroding democracy and widespread insecurity rather simply opposing the ugliness and defending the past. But part of that must be to call out fascism, to condemn the racists and those who give comfort to them, to challenge those who stand with Trump and ask them whether they truly want to stand with racists. It’s important to be vigilant about the rise of authoritarianism and to ensure that we don’t contribute to its normalization. So granted progressives have to do much better but at two things- pointing out the threat and providing a positive alternative to nativism and authoritarianism.

      • Mark Hammer says:

        I’m not as persuaded as yourself that applying derogatory labels – no matter how justified they may be – accomplishes the desired goals. For my money, I prefer to identify the hollowness and baselessness of the policies. For instance, in the case of the proposed transgender ban in the military, no one had to call anyone anything to illustrate its folly. Is it based on prejudice more than anything else? Sure. All one had to do, though, was read the response from military leaders indicating no protocol, and the responses from current transgender members of the military who – as far as I had read – didn’t call anyone anything, but concretely illustrated how their gender identity was no impediment to the quality of their service. That, and noting the much larger military expenditure on Viagra than on gender re-assignment, were quite persuasive.

        I think when the history books get written, it will be fine to describe this period and administration in more pejorative terms. For now, the problem is that there is a D-to-D+ student in a job that requires at least an A- to A. The sub-groups that this administration seeks support from may be abhorrent, but the larger problem is the lack of competence, and the cowtowing to groups that encourage that disdain for competence.

        I’m reminded of something a good friend and former fellow grad student once told me. He worked in the Canadian correctional system with violent sexual offenders for a number of years. One of the things that influenced his departure from that work to an academic position were the many hurdles that stood in the way of such offenders becoming improved human beings after serving their sentence. And one of those hurdles was the unimaginably broad network of women who corresponded with those offenders, absolutely convinced that they had been wrongly convicted and further entrenching the offenders’ resentment towards “the system”, and resistance to any sort of rehabilitation. I *must* emphasize I am not equating the POTUS with a rapist (though I can understand how some might say “Not so fast” after the infamous “grab ’em by” comments). What I am saying is that the “rallies” serve the same function as those letter-writers; confirming for the POTUS that he does NOT need to change, and impeding any sort of productive working relationship with the rest of the legislative and bureaucratic sides of government. He likes validation, and unfortunately his legions of supporting give it to him. They will not be persuaded by “calling out” anyone or anything any more than the women who write to sexual offenders can be persuaded that “really he’s not such a nice guy”.

        Opponents to this administartion’s excuse for policy simply need to be better at their jobs, and the sooner the better.

      • himelfarb says:

        I think we will have to agree to disagree. Profoundly. Nothing worries me more than treating what’s going on as just more policy disagreements. This is not normal and treating it as anything other than an aberration will fail both the practical and moral test. Even the founder of the Godwin Law recognizes that there are times where outrage is not only acceptable but essential.

  5. Bruce Manion says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Alex. However, it was not that long ago that we had our own version of a leader who seemed to have signficant issues with democratic issues and the use of dog-whistle politics, but certainly not to the same degree as we see with the leader south of us.

    • himelfarb says:

      Given the reluctance of some in the CPC to distance themselves from Rebel media, just to cite one current example, we’d be wise to be on guard here. We are certainly not immune, starting with the shame of our treatment of First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples, but also including hardening attitudes towards immigrants, persistent religious bigotry and outright racism. We have work to do.

      • Bruce Manion says:

        Very true Alex. An interesting question that flows from this for me however is how does a professional, non-partisan public service help guard against a radical departure from what one would definbe as “Canadian Values”?

      • himelfarb says:

        I guess the bottom line is that a public servant can never be directed to do anything illegal or unethical. Fearless advice and loyal implementation within a framework of rule of law and professional ethics. Here John Tait’s report is a good starting point.

      • Mark Hammer says:

        A public servant *should* follow the dictum Alex describes, whether here or south of the border, or in any other democracy with a public service. But when it comes to leadership that chooses to pursue a path of expediency, and perhaps ignore the constitution or law, any resistance on the part of a public servant to willful blindness by leadership, rests on the soundness of that public servant’s knowledge of the law and the constitution.

        I won’t question the sincerity of the public servant’s perceived defense of the public interest and the law, but they’re not all lawyers and constitutional experts. A 2010 report from the Merit Systems Protection Board noted that many disclosures brought forward, of perceived wrongdoing in government, were dismissed by the courts and other adjudication bodies because they were deemed “debatable managerial decisions”. In other words, while perceived as wrongdoing by subordinates or other employees, and conceivably the very definition of “bonehead move”, such acts fell within the legal purview of the manager, and were thus, by definition, NOT “wrongdoing”. Again, I mention this because what is rightfully rejected by public servants as unlawful requires that they *know* the law, and that’s a bit of an Achilles heel. I’m certainly not encouraging *anyone* to shrug and yield if they feel they are being asked to act against the public interest or the law (which are hopefully one in the same), but there are hills to die on, and hills to not die on. And first, ya gotta know something about the hills themselves.

        On a slightly different note, Bruce, the GovLoop website is an American social media site for public servants in the U.S. at the state, but mostly federal, level. Whether it is a desire to remain good neighbours by building good fences between other participants, it’s interesting how discussion on the site has almost systematically skirted *around* the topics being discussed here. From the various blogs and discussions posted, one would think that everything is just la-de-da, and the only things to be concerned with are getting a promotion, diversity in hiring, I.T. issues, dealing with problem employees, and budgeting. Not that such matters are unimportant, but the silence regarding the current administration from the thousands of public servants on that site is deafening. Perhaps they direct their ire and criticism to other venues, rather than simply not caring.

      • himelfarb says:

        It’s easy to get advice on what’s lawful. It’s much harder to find the courage

      • Mark Hammer says:

        As the young folks say: “True dat”.

  6. Bruce Manion says:

    I agree with your comment about public servants having to know the hills before choosing whether or not to die on them Mark. This was a lesson that my late fathwr, a long-time federal public servant in Canada imparted on me.

    I am not surprised in the least to hear about the absence of discussion of these topics in American social media used by public servants there. It is the same here in Canada from my personal observation. This is a sad state of affairs.

    • himelfarb says:

      I think that all public servants, elected and unelected, would benefit from a reading of Tait’s Foundations Report. It talks not just about professional values, but also people values, ethical values and societal values, and calls upon public service leaders to promote ongoing discussion of these, about what it means to be a public servant in the Westminster system, about how the public interest must always trump private interest, about respect for diversity and democratic discourse, about federalism and the Charter, about service. He also talks about when resignation is the right response but also when it is the weak response. It anticipated the difficult times that followed.

      • Mark Hammer says:

        I read the Tait Report some time back, and it was as inspiring and strong a guidance document as Alex depicts it to be. A pity it isn’t plastered to the inner walls of elevators so that folks can see it daily. Perhaps I should reread it (although I have but 4 Monday mornings left as a public servant).

        The so-called “Peelian principles”, established by Sir Robert Peel, over 150 years ago should also be something that law enforcement officers skim every day before hitting their beat. Also clarifying and inspiring.

        There are probably other “classic” documents, speeches, reports that senior officials, public servants, and elected members could stand to take a gander at now and then. It’s just too easy to get bound up in the little stuff and “partisan parsley” and forget what the meal is supposed to be. Sadly, one of the perennial weaknesses of humans.

      • himelfarb says:

        I had the great privilege to have served on John Tait’s Task Force. He was the finest public servant I have ever known and we are lucky that his core principles live on in his report which most assuredly deserves to be revived.

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