TO THE EDITOR:
In response to your editorial consensus regarding the Trump protest earlier this week, I have a few points that I would like to discuss: firstly, there is much to be said to your credit regarding the vulgarity of the protest.
Much of what Mr. Trump has said and done in this election reflects the reality that a large segment of the American people very much value political spectacle. On these grounds, your criticism concerning the profanity of the protest has reason for applause.
If we are to claim the high road we must work to ensure that we maintain our course on the high road. Those of us who are alienated by Mr. Trump’s approach to democracy often fancy ourselves champions of “discourse.” We are able to understand, empathize and articulate without offending, degrading or, heaven forbid, “regressing.”
Secondly, I must therefore also agree in your conclusion that discourse is the preferred method of conduct in the political arena.
As the framers of the Constitution wrote and as our civic institutions have unfalteringly upheld, political discourse is vital to the functioning of this democracy; the health of our civic society (which translates thus to the well-being of this republic) depends tremendously on the discourse that is the product of a plurality of opinions in the public sphere. It is no coincidence, after all, that our freedom of speech is guaranteed in the First Amendment of our Constitution.
However, this brings me to my final point in assessing the concept of discourse as it relates to this election. Discourse bears a strong relationship to public sentiment, which is relevant to our discussion here because public sentiment holds the power to effect a shift in the social order of a society.
Discourse, as it were, acts as a mechanism to steer public sentiment through the legitimization of such in the public sphere. In other words, it legitimizes public sentiment. Therefore, if we endeavor to uphold certain sentiments over others — acceptance over exclusion, decency over vulgarity — we are tasked with discerning between what is worthwhile discussing and what is not.
To put it another way, we are responsible for choosing topics on which to engage through discourse, as the simple act of engaging in such will inherently legitimize a sentiment and thus enable it to influence the ideological composition of our social order.
While some would willingly partake in what they would consider meaningful discourse in regard to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, many of us opposed to his candidacy hold the belief that doing so offers an avenue by which the sentiments he holds can gain validity in our society (which arguably has already taken place).
It is therefore my opinion that while you are quite correct in your assertion that discourse is invaluable to civic society in this country, we must also be scrupulous in deciding which sentiments we legitimize by such means.
Mr. Trump’s potent rhetoric has proven resilient thus far, partly due to the fact that we have engaged it in serious discourse. We have given his hatred a platform on which it has not only survived but grown; it would be ludicrous to now call Mr. Trump’s candidacy a “fringe” movement in any sense of the word.
And so, I would ask that we consider what it means to willingly interact with Mr. Trump’s rhetoric in any serious manner (other than in condemnation).
Indeed, we are now only a week out from the presidential election and yet just the other day I read a headline regarding the feasibility of a wall on our southern border — a ridiculous proposal that has only survived because we’ve allowed it to.
By Quinton Couch