The perfect way not to talk to Trump supporters
On February 11, 2017, Huffington Post published an open letter from Susan M. Shaw, professor of women, gender & sexuality studies at Oregon State University. She writes to "White, Christian Trump Supporters." The opening lines hinted that she sought a conversation, albeit one fraught with doubt:
I've listened to you my whole life, but I don't think I know how to understand you at all.
I took this as promising – that at some point, she would stop talking about herself and start listening to those "of the white working class ... of conservative Christianity."
Indeed, she repeats in the closing paragraph a vague vow to listen:
I need to know, is it more important to you to win than to do good? Or can we build coalitions? Listen to science? Rely on real evidence? Be effective? Put the needs and rights of all others above ideologies? Can we live the love of God we claim? You want me to hear and understand you. I get that. I also want you to hear and understand the rest of the world that is not you or your kind. Because they too are God's people and therefore are in the circle of those whom we must love. You taught me that when I was a child. If we can agree on that now, we have a place to start.
The column ended up not being a conversation. Susan Shaw was not, in fact, listening to anything; she was rather revisiting her own pre-existing repertoire of political tenets. At best, she prefaced an invitation to start a bona fide dialogue in some unspecified future – but only to answer questions loaded with controversial premises that she has defined as beyond challenge.
Most of the article was about herself, but not all. She did talk about her imagined readers (wherever they exist), summarizing for them her assumptions about what they believe and then arguing with these assumed beliefs in order to hector them with gossip about Donald J. Trump.
The text includes chatty summaries of what she believes drives their theology, such as here:
You say you want a Christian nation, but our founders were clear that was never their goal. In fact, the Constitution goes to great lengths to protect the government from religion and religion from government. I also get the sense that you think people are not Christians if they aren't Christian in the same way as you. But can't we find some common ground? … Do you really think a Christian, especially a biblical literalist, can want a wall built?
A biblical literalist is sure to be familiar with the Bible's story of Nehemiah, who went to great lengths to build a wall. Also, perhaps the founders sought to protect religion from government, but people like John Adams certainly did not hope to "protect government from religion." The latter would involve disallowing practicing believers from serving in public office. I wonder if one of Susan Shaw's colleagues might review the list of signatories to the Declaration of Independence and count how many of them were ordained.
Failing to recognize anything that resembles the beliefs of Christian supporters or the role of religious freedom in the nation's founding documents, I infer that Susan Shaw is engaging in a creative exercise here, visualizing a hypothetical Puritan conversing with her. It is like Socratic dialogue, only a monologue. This is what we in English used to call a "straw man fallacy," but things have changed dramatically in the world of rhetoric and composition, thanks to misapplications of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Jean-François Lyotard's postmodern models of knowledge. It is entirely possible that now straw-man arguments are considered the pinnacle of academic reasoning.
According to this article, Susan Shaw is white, grew up in Georgia in a Southern Baptist family, and had a father who worked in a pipe-fitting factory. She is also an academic and glows about how hard she worked to earn tenure, proclaiming the virtues of academia as a place of rigorous standards, fairness, and opportunity. I will send her a free copy of Wackos Thugs & Perverts, a recent book in which I discuss the rampant nepotism, graft, price-gouging, corruption, fraud, and racist discrimination blossoming in the heart of academia, even in places like Oregon.
Unfortunately, this open letter, even with its flaws, was actually the closest I've seen any liberal writer come to engaging with the voters who handed Trump victory. Even so, she presumed not to spend much time reading books published by the over 130 scholars and writers for Trump, since her reminiscences of childhood in a "small, conservative town in northwest Georgia" several decades ago should suffice as a full picture of why people in 2017, following an election Trump won, may not be eager to join her colleagues' efforts to malign, obstruct, and destroy Trump's presidency.
Shaw cites "science" and "real evidence" several times without clarifying which discipline. A great deal of research affirms conservative positions. For instance, there is now proof that the unborn develop complex human features far earlier than was believed when Roe was decided. Researchers now know there are copious health risks associated with repeated trauma to the (male or female) anus. In addition, a host of researchers have admitted that sexuality is so fluid that homosexual-identified men have the willpower and option to refrain from anal sex. Science tells us therefore that chastity is a viable position to uphold, even in public policy.
Normally I would write a "reply," but I cannot reply to a letter that was not addressed to me. Though I am Christian and support Trump, I am not white. Nor am I an embittered zealot with no knowledge of academia. Shaw says in her letter that professors like her "really do know a lot of what we're talking about." As a doctorate holder who went all the way to tenure but forfeited it because of academia's incorrigible corruption (again, read my book for more), I can't take that assertion seriously.
Trump supporters come in many sizes, nationalities, and personalities, but we have one thing in common: nobody who opposes Trump has yet demonstrated a real interest in engaging us respectfully in dialogue. That means Trump will have to fight for us that much harder.