Monday, October 31, 2016

Vote Like the Future... and That of Science, Depends On It

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  -- Edmund Burke

No math today, just blather about this craziest election of my lifetime….

Months ago, I surmised that if by some deranged alignment of planetary forces Donald Trump actually won the Republican nomination I expected a response from STEM people as never before seen in a presidential campaign: 100s or 1000s of scientists signing open letters from various organizations/societies and independent groups to denounce a Trump candidacy.  There have been a trickle of such efforts and certainly individual STEM folks have voiced their concern via Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc… but the large-scale outpouring I envisioned hasn’t materialized.

Many feel uncomfortable or even constrained (sometimes contractually) from involving themselves publicly in politics; it is not a customary activity for the science crowd, and perhaps many conclude they’d only be preaching to the choir anyway (…and, as unfathomable as it seems, some scientists even support the absurdity that is Donald Trump). 

But something is seriously wrong when folks who call themselves patriotic, or religious, or God-fearing, or simply concerned about the future, say they are voting for Donald Trump, as if wearing blinders. Gullibility and timidity of citizenry during the rise of German Fascism led of course to unprecedented human tragedy. I’m a bit ashamed by the lack of concerted, organized response from the STEM community to a narcissistic authoritarian in our midst — with demagogic speeches and political rallies reminiscent of Jim Jones’ assemblies. And please spare me your objections to the German Fascist analogies (they ARE apt, and I don't doubt for a second that if Hitler rose from the dead to campaign across America today, 30%+ of current voters would back him).

Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it’… Trump will most likely lose this election… but there are more like him coming down the pike. That his antics and laughably-shallow “policies” appeal to so many doesn’t bode well for the future. And science is in their crosshairs. Those who dare ‘preach’ evolution or vaccination or climate mitigation or brain science or particle physics or space travel or… or… are all vulnerable (no doubt Jews, gypsies, and trade-unionists, are as well). 
Perhaps America’s 200+ year-old experiment in democracy and slow liberal progressivism is simply running out of steam to continue against the regressive, anti-science, anti-rational sentiment and thuggery that is creeping across the globe. Make no mistake about it though, silence is not golden; it is complicit. Admittedly, whatever the outcome of this election the Trump cult will remain, potentially sabotaging the next four years, even worse than Republicans sabotaged the last eight.

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.' Good night, and good luck."
-- Edward R. Murrow (1954)
Good luck... Indeed! 

(...and if you have the option, vote EARLY!)


ADDENDUM (11/11/16):  When you turn voters against their government, as Reagan did, and against the press as Trump did, and against science, as the GOP has done, don't be surprised if democracy withers and dies.