Monday, May 1, 2017

Donald Trump's Civil War question actually isn't that stupid.

Donald Trump is wrong and stupid and evil about a lot of things. In a world where we entertain counterfactuals, though, it is not wrong and stupid and evil to ask the question, "Why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?" The sniffy responses are getting out of hand.

As a libertarian friend of mine is fond of pointing out, the UK abolished slavery decades before the U.S. did, and did so without a shot being fired. So it is within the realm of possibility that a nation which entertained slavery can end it and not end up torn to shreds over it.

I'm not endorsing Trump's point of view. I think counterfactuals are of limited use: History played out the way it did, probably for reasons. I just think it's silly — in a country where somebody's written a "What if the Nazis had won?" novel every year for the last 70 — to get sniffy about this question.

More to the point: History is not inevitable. We are its actors. The president is a uniquely powerful actor. If he's showing signs of intellectual curiosity, let's not discourage it, eh?

Yes, Donald is often wrong and evil and stupid. Let's try to distinguish focus on the real problems instead of acting like posing a Philip K. Dick question is a sign of trouble. I keep saying this: We who consider ourselves Trump's opposition need to be smarter, better, and have higher standards than we think is present on the other side. Otherwise, what's the point of being on the other side?

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