On July 26th, President Trump announced that the military would no longer be allowing transgender troops to serve in the military via Twitter.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The President immediately faced swift backlash. The first two critiques were the most obvious. First, Trump’s own State Department and military leadership was blindsided by the move (so much for consultation). Second, critics said, anybody who is willing to die for the country should be allowed to serve.
The other critique, coming almost exclusively from the left, was more complicated. To them, the issue runs much deeper than just statistics about the effects of transgender troops on military medical costs and unit cohesion. This sparked a contentious debate that’s been running hot in the country for the last few years about what it means to be transgender and what role society should play.
For Conservatives and Libertarians, the argument is pretty straightforward. Conservatives believe the transgender is a form of mental dysphoria, often attributing it to the degradation of the family and societies abandonment of traditional religious mores. Libertarians disagree, arguing that anybody should be able to do with their body what they please.
For the left, the issue is much more complicated. As they do on most social issues, liberals borrow from the Postmodernist movement when discussing what it means to change ones gender.
The core tenant of postmodernism can be boiled down to a simple phrase: truth is relative and objective facts don’t exist.
Postmodernists believe that the binary with which we discuss gender is flawed, because gender is a social construct. Sure, they acknowledge, there are differences in chromosomes and reproduction. But gender is much deeper than that, and the way in which we define it is simply a product of our environment and the norms we constructed. There is as much variation within the category known as men as there is between men and women, so it makes little sense to box an individual into a gender label, a Postmodernist might argue.
All Politicians Lie
Let’s pivot for a moment away from the transgender discussion to talk about the Trump presidency. Liberals see Trump as a unique danger but, as we’ve seen in the last 7 months, it’s not because he’s some evil genius. From a policy perspective, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and even Vice President Mike Pence are far scarier than Trump. They know how to pull strings and truly push through legislation that liberals deem harmful to society.
Take the healthcare debate. Mitch McConnell was 2 solid no’s from Lisa Murkowski (R – Al) and Susan Collins (R – ME) and a wavering John McCain (R – AZ) away from getting the Senate “skinny repeal” passed. Initially, 7 Senators had announced their opposition to the GOP bill. So how did McConnell get that number down to 3? Through kickbacks, incentives, and shady promises that the House would revise the bill once it was passed. Had Mr. McConnell succeeded in getting just one more Senator to vote yes, and Mr. McCain possibly would have been that Senator if not for his recent experience with a brain tumor diagnosis, tens of millions of Americans would have been on their way to losing their health insurance. That’s devious political maneuvering, what Mr. Trump does is childish grandstanding.
No, what’s so insidious about the Trump administration is its complete divorce from an evidence and fact based worldview. The world is a dangerous place, and it’s terrifying to know the man leading is wholly dishonest and untrustworthy.
Virtually everyone recognizes this fact, as Trump’s lies are so preposterous you would have to either be a lobotomized loyalist or buried under a rock to not acknowledge them as such. And yet, Trump fans defend him by making the argument that all politicians lie. That’s just how politics work, they say, it’s not Trump’s fault.
To an extent, they’re right. All politicians lie and bend the truth to their advantage. It’s also worth noting that all people lie and bend the truth to their advantage, but it makes us feel holy when we pretend it’s just those dirty politicians doing it. To be fair, however, the stakes are much higher for a Senator or a President than they are for you or me.
Fibs and Lies
Let’s look at the most notable untruths from recent Presidencies and put them in context.
“If you like your doctor you can keep it.”
“Saddam Hussein has Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
“I did not have sex with that woman.”
Obama’s lie about keeping your doctor was a fib to shore up support to get major health care reform passed. Bush wasn’t 100 percent certain that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s, but he certainly knowingly jumped the gun on questionable-at-best intelligence. Clinton’s lie was an attempt to save his Presidency and not be impeached.
There’s a theme here. While not to be excused, these dishonest statements were about the ends justifying the means. Obama to get his biggest legislative accomplishment passed, Bush to overthrow a regime in a move he (laughably in retrospect) thought would bring Democracy to the Middle East, and Clinton to not be impeached.
Some of Trump’s lies are in this same vein. Trump’s promises to provide healthcare to everyone, to bring back coal jobs, and to crack down on China were the means to the Presidency. Again, these lies are not to be condoned, but one can at least understand why they’re told. They’re the same strategic lies each of us tell to save our own asses, whether it’s faking a sickness to get out of work or telling your kids the Elf on the Shelf is watching them so they behave appropriately.
Our first Postmodernist President
When Trump lambasts “political correctness,” he’s often taking a shot at those who abide by postmodernist philosophy. The type of people that want you to call transgender people by their correct pronoun and carefully distinguish between different sects of Islam so as not to offend draw the ire of Trump and his crowd of faithful supporters.
And yet, Trump has totally embraced the Postmodernists in a way that no other President to date has. For Trump, truth is relative. Truth is whatever Trump wants truth to be.
I’m not talking about the deceitful promises above about everyone being covered with healthcare, but the lies Trump tells on a daily basis that have no end to justify their means. This began on day one, when Sean Spicer infamously marched in the briefing room to scream at reporters, insisting that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest on record. This launched the “alternative facts” meme after Kellyanne Conway attempted to explain away the bizarre presser on CNN. But Conway wasn’t being hyperbolic, whether she knew it or not. Donald Trump does live by a set of alternative facts.
The list is far too extensive to exhaust here, but I’ll run through a quick list:
– He continually insists he’s signed more bills than any President in history through an equivalent amount of time in office.
– He tweeted on March 20th, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”
– He maintained that the New York Times wrote about the Obama administration wiretapping him
– He repeatedly claims the U.S. crime rate is at an all time high.
– He continues to claim that he won the popular vote except for millions of illegal immigrants voting.
He says he has the all-time record for gracing the cover of Time Magazine.
Through their first 178 days in office at least 6 President signed more legislation than President Trump. The NSA and FBI explicitly told Congress that Russia did influence the electoral process. The New York Times did not say the Obama administration wiretapped Trump tower. The U.S. crime rate is at its lowest point in 40 years. The claim that millions of illegal immigrants vote has been proven false time and time again, including when the Bush administration commissioned a study attempting to find illegal voters. Donald Trump isn’t even in the top 30 for the most appearances on the cover of Time Magazine.
Not only are these all lies, they’re easily falsifiable. Most can be debunked with a simple Google search. Furthermore, many of Trump’s lies don’t serve any purpose. How many voters do you win over by claiming to be on the cover of Time more than anyone else?
This is Postmodernism taken to its extreme. In the postmodern paradise that is Trumpland, facts are relative. You say whatever makes you look good or feel good, truth be damned.
This is a dangerous time in American history. Not because Donald Trump is likely to pass any major legislation that harms millions, he’s shown himself to be less then competent on that front, but because of the erosion of trust in the Commander-in-Chief. Even President Obama’s harshest critics believe him when he stated facts about the world. Liberals disagreed with nearly everything President Bush did, but they still counted on him to relay information about foreign policy to the public.
Trump is eroding this trust with each dishonest claim. As legislation stalls and his approval rating continues to plummet, all indications are Trump’s lies are only going to become more preposterous. If this sets the bar for future Presidencies, our country is in serious danger of having a crisis of reliance.
Restoring faith in objective reality will be the first order of business for the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.