Priorities?!

By Alex M

Kelly Anne Conway has been telling us all how we need to look only at President Trump's heart, not his words. Well, I can think of no better way to assess a person's heart than through examination of their priorities. Those are clearly evident in the actions taken by Mr. Trump in his first week in office. 

Credit where due, of course. He has kept his promise to keep the nation out of the TPP, a trade deal that very well could have had negative consequences for working class Americans and the environment. 

Beyond that, though, laypeople, especially those without European ancestry, male parts, and stock brokers should be concerned. All other presidential priorities put paid to any notion of togetherness, honesty, and concern for the working man. Most especially, they belie any claims that he and his party intend to make anything "great again" for anyone who is not already in that one percent. He has unleashed two pipelines verified independently as economically marginal but which clearly offend huge swathes of the population and risk denigrating native heritage. Pointless "screw you's," basically.

He has signed off on building a wall that offends millions and costs billions but which is unnecessary in a time of net outward migration back into Mexico. Only now, the American taxpayers are going to have to pay for it, despite promises to the contrary. It still serves no purpose, also independently studied, but adds costs and blatant ethnic elitism. He has also signed an order specifically curtailing immigration only from a handful of predominantly Muslim nations, not coincidentally those nations where people need help the most. This not only defies the offer of religious freedom and sanctuary promised by the Constitution and Statue of Liberty, but it makes no sense. The best way to get the most motivated, ingenious, and loyal immigrants is to offer welcome to people fleeing troubled lands, which is when the brightest and the best are most likely to seek homes elsewhere and when the opportunity will be most appreciated.

From the other side, is it not likely that a foreign policy specifically excluding people from largely-Muslim nations is likely to add to the risk of terrorism here? It amounts to public verification that this government is against people of that particular faith, and is racist to boot. Talk about a ready-made ISIS recruiting tool, especially for people living here and marginalized, exactly those folks who you cannot keep out but are insisting on arming. As such, his heart, as displayed in his actions, appears intent on furthering the marginalization of the already downtrodden and promoting divisive projects specifically for the sake of the divides and hierarchies they promote. 

However, there are still (fairly) sensible folks making (slightly) sensible claims of conservative pedagogy surrounding some of these decisions. Let us then give those a pass. Still there remains one last first-week presidential priority that embodies the potentially devastating arrogance and anger of this administration and its Congress. This should be a line in the sand, a red line never to be crossed in this nation: a presidential decree that specifically silences many federal scientists from publication of their research. Not dissenting politicians, opinion writers, nor even journalists, but scientists. These are people dedicated to facts for the sake of facts, nothing else. While they are humans with political viewpoints, this is a discipline built specifically on the foundation of seeking objectivity and privileging evidence over all else. Thus, this amounts very simply to the suppression of knowledge. 

There is no conservative argument for silencing science. In fact, it is antithetical. If, as the conservative logic goes, we should run this country based upon the values and premises of those Europeans who colonized and conquered it, developing the foundation for the modern nation, then science should be elevated. The only thing that separated those pale-skinned founding fathers from the rest of the world, the thing that allowed them to reshape the globe, the source of those values held dear by conservatives today was science. Knowledge gleaned from the scientific model applied to the fortuitous combination of resources and germs is what made those men so "great" at the time. It was a dogged pursuit of knowledge and science, applied throughout life that allowed the U.S. to become a global power economically and militarily. 

Simply put, you cannot "make America great again," (had it ever stopped being such, even on that scale) without a commitment to advancing knowledge. Science is the fuel to greatness, especially in a connected, global world. You also cannot suppress science part way. That is a slippery slope, and since all scientific fields are now interconnected, you cannot draw lines or build fences around the new knowledge you want to build. 

Silencing scientists is not Nazi-like. I am sick of politicians, especially on the right, adopting that analogy and desecrating the lives of their victims in the process. Plus, Nazis actually promoted science heavily for their evil agenda. This knowledge censorship is more akin to McCarthyism and Stalinism, demagogue autocrats who bullied and suppressed in the name of philosophical ideals to which they did not actually adhere.

This reflects an absurd and dangerous fallacy that has recently been adopted by Mr. Trump and many of the conservative stalwarts. They have falsely vilified the broad concept of science and its participants. But scientists are not the enemy nor is science. It is not a single-minded leviathan at all, let alone an agent of progressivism. Whether or not many scientists tend to have any particular political persuasion, it is just about the most decentralized, independent-minded institution possible. By design and dedication. The people who dedicate themselves to science are generally those willing to largely forego economic and social rewards because they are so committed to knowing the truth. Typically they are the brightest, most idealistic folks around. It is literally impossible to have a concerted scientific collusion for political purposes. 

In fact, while they may tend towards progressive politics... a direct result of that commitment to facts and evidence as a decision-making guide... most scientists actually live very "traditional" lifestyles. Having lived and worked among scientists most of my life, I can tell you that the vast majority live quiet existences, raising their children in predominantly two-parent households and taking almost no social services. They would often otherwise be described as model households for conservative values, even if they don't often vote that way. Thus, this muzzling can be seen as nothing except a desire to put down good people simply for doing their jobs well, simply because the knowledge they produce is inconvenient. More than that, if the argument that climate change is not huge and human-driven were true, why would there need to be any suppression of scientific research?

Scientists are also not a group predisposed to histrionics or strong reactions, overall. Therein lies my silver lining. The scientists I know are decidedly upset about this development. Scientists are crying. Scientists are even organizing a march. That is entirely unprecedented from a group of people that collectively prescribes to the presentation of facts in an understated, dry manner. If the producers of knowledge are in open protest, the true priorities of the first week may have crossed a line. Mr. Trump and his cohorts may be quickly inspiring the solidarity across class, race, gender, religion, and sexuality that is the one thing that can overpower and halt a spread of hate and divisiveness. Let the scientists march, and let them publish, for the sake of knowledge and freedom.

Alex M is a brother who is a currently incarcerated. 

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