Cheering and jeering vs. reasoned argument


It’s great to be back. I was “computerless” for a week.



The following is a letter to the editor published in the DeLand [FL] Beacon. It refers to a guy who writes a Trumpian column for the paper.

David Rauschenberger’s latest column is a perfect example of the festering political disease that’s eating away at our democracy. His column reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, about a prince who, to escape a plague, takes his friends and retinue inside a walled compound and welds shut the iron gates. The trouble is, in creating a would-be shelter, he has at the same time created unwittingly a de facto prison.

Predictably, the plague they’ve been fleeing soon breaks out within the palace compound/prison. Those who had thought themselves privileged find themselves instead trapped. Their pleasure ground becomes a charnel house.

Rauschenberger too wrote about a wall. Before doing so, however, he’d have done well to reflect, not just on the Poe story, but also on Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out….
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

Rauschenberger is no Poe or Frost, of course. Start with his title comparing immigration and abortion. Its childish absurdity is laughable. Then move on to his first paragraph: “Democrats don’t want to call it a wall.” [A lie.] “They don’t want a barrier at all.” [A lie.] “They did, before.” [A lie. We Democrats have never wanted either an open border or a wall. We have agreed to a partial wall only as part of a negotiated deal with Republicans.]

Enough. It’s clear already that Rauschenberger has no interest in building an argument that’s carefully articulated; logical; and based on solid, non-partisan evidence. Rather his interest is in assembling a shapeless, totally partisan heap of lies, half-truths, and insults.

For whom and for what purpose would a man pile together such nonsense? Not for those willing to be persuaded by rational argument, or for those who value mutually respectful differences of opinion. No, instead his column should be seen as equivalent to a high school pep rally, where true believers fire each other up to boost their own energy and morale.

Absolutely nothing wrong with that in and of itself, of course. The problem here is that Rauschenberger’s particular kind of pep rally rouses a fever pitch of fear, hatred, and disunity. Perhaps even worse it welds minds closed, like the gates of Prince Prospero’s compound. And, as with Prospero, what it walls in festers even more dangerously than what it walls out.


This is the cover of the issue The New Yorker that arrived today in the mail. Serendipitous!

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