Trump and Muslims and a Question that Answers Itself

As a child, actor Ross Bagley repeated one version of a joke much older than was he:

Quick! What’s the number to 9-1-1?

The humor doesn’t last long, but I’m addicted to the logic.

What’s another word for “thesaurus”?

Yeah, I laughed when Steven Wright came up with that. But then, I usually laugh at whatever Steven Wright says.

When did the War of 1812 begin?

It’s one of the oldest forms of primitive humor, the question that contains it’s own answer. It loses its punch with repetition, but the logic still appeals to me.

What is Mr. Paine’s last name?

I suppose it’s a defense mechanism of sorts. When tragedy hits, and hits hard, I sometimes find a bit of refuge by thinking through odd distortions of logic by those employed by my government.

Lawyers and Trump administration aides had invested a lot of time and effort slamming the mainstream press for mischaracterizing the President’s travel ban by calling it a “travel ban.” It is an important bandying about of words. Multiple judges in multiple federal courts have struck down Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from several countries. They don’t like the idea of banning people because of religion.

Lawyers insisted the ban wasn’t actually a ban. And it had nothing to do with religion. It was really only a tightening up of the vetting process. On Muslims from those countries. Courts said no. You can’t simply apply a ban to exclude a religion.

The ban was then rewritten by lawyers so that it was not actually a ban. A few years back, an Obama reform of vetting had tightened the admission process for people from those same countries. So…the new process was only an extension. You could think of the new don’t-call-it-a-ban as hyper‑extreme vetting. This new extreme process just happened to make it pretty much impossible for visitors from those Muslim countries to enter the United States.

Kind of like literacy tests in Jim Crow days that kept black people from voting because the tests pretty much only applied to black people.

“How many days a year is the Supreme Court in recess?”
Hell, I don’t know.
“Uh oh, you can’t vote.”

The new vetting would pretty much affect just Muslims, but – hey – life is filled with little trade-offs.

These extreme vetting procedures would apply to everyone from these Muslim countries. Except, of course, those who were from minority religions. If they’re a minority in a Muslim country, they could be discriminated against because they’re not Muslim. So, the effect was just to ban Muslims, but that was just a policy coincidence. Right? The don’t-call-it-a-ban wasn’t actually a ban.

Courts still said no. It was a ban.

So the Trump folks still insist the ban is not really a ban and they are sending an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. Since the don’t-call-it-a-ban is not a ban, SCOTUS will certainly see it their way. Well, for sure.

But someone in the administration slipped up and started calling it a ban. A ban? Yep, a ban, just like the lawyers and spokespeople and aides and pretty much all those in the Land of Trump said it wasn’t: said, in fact, that it couldn’t be.

Sounds like someone should be thrown out of the administration. Except the culprit was Donald Trump, President of the United States. He issued the truth in a tweet.

So much for courts.

In his rage at Muslims around the globe for terrorism anywhere, Donald Trump had an additional score to settle. In past months, Sadiq Khan, the Muslim Mayor of London; Muslim, in case you didn’t catch that; had pointedly criticized President Trump for his verbal attacks on Muslims, and for his proposed anti-Muslim policies. So now, Trump used the tragedy to strike back at Mayor Khan as well as, you know, Muslims.

It can be tempting to engage in collective accusation in the aftermath of a terrible infliction of pain and death, blaming everyone who shares with the perpetrators a religion, or an ethnicity, or a skin color.

Generally, I was not fond of George W. Bush. But I was proud of the President when he condemned terrorism, but was careful to insist on a distinction between terrorism and the Islamic faith. He urged Americans to act against terrorism by simply conducting their normal duties without hesitation, without fear. Commuting, working, shopping, even vacationing were each a small but significant act against terrorism.

I recall one speech on airline safety, barely two weeks after the attacks. He urged Americans to vacation as they normally would.

… tell the traveling public: Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.

He reassured us that government was doing its part to keep us safe. We should be vigilant, but we should also be confident about our own well being.

The American people must know that my administration is confident. Tomorrow nine Cabinet members will board U.S. airlines to fly around our country to do their jobs.

Less than a week after the 9/11 attack on New York and Washington, President Bush spoke of the unique fear with which Muslim Americans had to live, fear that they would be harassed or attacked if they ventured on the streets of their own neighborhoods.

In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.

Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.

I thought of President Bush at his best as I watched an interview with London’s mayor. Sadiq Khan warned that more attacks could be expected, and soon. Like President Bush before him, he too urged vigilance.

People should remain calm and vigilant, carry on in their normal business. The threat level remains at “severe”… “Severe” means that an attack across the country is still highly likely, and so we can all be vigilant. If we see anything suspicious, or worried about anybody, please report it to the authorities.

Sadiq Khan spoke of the ordinary freedoms that those in Britain enjoy: the ability to associate, to relax with others. And he spoke with urgency about how to answer terrorism. This time, it was not about shopping or traveling, or airline safety. It was about maintaining democracy itself.

One of the things these terrorists hate is voting. They hate democracy. They hate elections, and the public choosing who should be our leaders rather than leaders being imposed on us. So I’m looking forward to voting on Thursday.

My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You’ll see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There’s no reason to be alarmed by this.

He explained why the police were there. They were there to protect us.

One of the things the police, all of us, need to do is make sure we’re as safe as we possibly can be.

Mayor Khan spoke of the ordinary freedoms that those in Britain enjoyed, the ability to associate, to relax with others. And he spoke directly about upcoming elections. He wanted voters to show up, to cast their ballots, to make democracy work.

And so, my President responded on Twitter to the tragedy.

It is hard to see how the Mayor could have been more clear. Terrorism remains more than a threat. There is every likelihood of another attack soon. Remain calm and vigilant. Above all, defeat terrorism by making democracy work. Vote, vote, vote on Thursday.

And don’t be alarmed by the presence of police. They are there to keep us as safe as possible.

In the aftermath of such a vicious attack, to carry a vendetta against a public official working for the safety of the people of his city, twisting his words into something completely different, well, you would have to be a real stinker. President Trump qualifies.

This time it is not humorous. The context is painful, tragic, as we add another example to questions that contain their own answer.

What’s another word for “thesaurus”?

What’s the number to 9-1-1?

and now:

Why would Donald Trump tell lies about a Muslim mayor of a city under attack?

The question answers itself.

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