Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Talk me out of my pessimism. Please.

So I've been getting pretty political lately, here at Skeptophilia headquarters.

Some of you are probably glad to see me address more serious topics, while others might wish I'd get back to Bigfoot and ghosts and UFOs.  For those latter, I'd ask your indulgence for (at least) one more politically-oriented post, that I was spurred to write because of comments from readers.

The conservative members of my audience have responded to my admittedly liberal bias with reactions varying from encouragement to outright scorn.  Some have said, "Come on, now, it's not going to be bad.  Just wait until some of the new administration's ideas are enacted, and you'll see that it'll make things better."  Others have said "buck up, Buttercup" or "suck it up, Snowflake" or other such helpful phrases.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

So I thought, in the interest of trying to understand those who disagree with me -- the basic gist of yesterday's post, and more or less the overarching theme of this entire blog -- I'd address the part of my readership who are saying that things are going to be fine, and ask some specific questions.

First, it's undeniable that President Trump and his new appointees -- not to mention the Republican-controlled House and Senate -- have a lot of us pretty worried.  And despite the "Snowflake" and "Buttercup" responders, it's not simply because we're pissed at having lost.  I'm 56, and I remember vividly the presidencies of Reagan and both Bushes, and I can never recall being this specifically upset at this many things, this early into the administration.  Without even trying hard, I came up with the following, all of which happened in the last few weeks:
Okay.  You get the picture.

I've been dragged, rather unwillingly, into political discourse largely because I am so alarmed at the direction our leaders are taking.  Honestly, I used the words "liberal bias" earlier, but I'm really more of a centrist; I do think we need to rein in spending, I do think we've got a good bit of government bloat, and I do think the "nanny state" concept -- protecting people from their own stupidity and poor judgment -- has gotten out of hand.  But this?  I look at this list of actions, all in a little over two months since the election, with nothing short of horror.  I see a corporate interests über alles approach, a move toward less transparency, a morass of conflicts of interest, a complete disregard for any kind of consideration of the environment, and a reckless surge forward to reverse changes in policy on medical insurance coverage and lending practices without any clear vision of how to improve them -- or what impact those might have on low-income families.

So, conservative readers: you tell me not to worry, that everything will be fine, that Trump et al. are going to Make America Great Again.  Okay, convince me.  However I think Donald Trump is kind of repellent, personally, I have no desire to see him fail.

The stakes are way too high.

I'm a facts-and-evidence kind of guy, and I'm listening.  I promise to consider carefully what you say, if for no other reason because I hate being a gloom-and-doom pessimist. 

On the other hand, if all you have to say is "suck it up, Snowflake," my response is gonna be "go to hell."  So be forewarned.


  1. Crickets....

    Seriously though, while I don't have any solace to offer ( I am as dismayed as you are), I would like to address the "Holiday" assertion.

    If I understand it correctly, presidents can declare National Days for all kinds of things but it doesn't mean anyone necessarily observes them. So I'm not sure they are technically holidays.

    You can browse a list here:

    I guarantee you haven't even heard of most of them. So I'm not even sure it means anything that the DJT designated January 20 as a "National Day of Patriotic Devotion."

    Although if there were such a Day I would think it would make more sense to be on "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November" - which really SHOULD be a day off work in this country.

  2. I wish I had the patience to write this. I am commenting so I can see the responses because I, like you, am eager to understand why people shouldn't be worried.

  3. "just let him work"
    here in Italy we already heard this story and it didn't end well

  4. Jan 20 is not a new holiday...Jan 20, **2017** was the "day of patriotism". It doesn't continue to any future year. It seems to be kind of a tradition for presidents to declare the exact day of their inauguration as some kind of day. Obama did it too. Other than that, I think pessimism is well-justified, although for me it is focused on Trump's disregard for democratic institutions rather than on any of the customary left/right political issues. We can handle four or even eight years of environmental backtracking, especially if it does helt to get the economy going. But we will be real sorry if, say, there's a terrorist attack, state of emergency, and Trump installs himself permanently.

  5. I'm making an assumption here, and I'm sorry if it's wrong, that most of the people telling you it's going to be ok are straight, white, christian, cisgender males. They (and I am one) won't face persecution from the new administration, but they're still pretty fucked when sea levels rise.

    Carry on, Gordon. This stuff needs to be said. And don't forget, enough snowflakes can make an avalanche.

  6. I have a dismal view of this administration and the Republican-majority legislature. They seem ready and eager to do any number of terrible/dumb/destructive things that will harm me, my loved ones, and the people who voted them into office.

    One glimmer: we no longer have any illusion that things will somehow work out OK, and that the politicians who share our views will take care of things for us. It's up to us to act, to take direct, effective, nonviolent action to let our elected officials know that we will stand up to them. Such as this: