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Bad Advice: On Answering Rhetorical Questions
Dear Reader, the best thing about having one's own blog, as I am sure all of you Mindsayers know, is ownership over one's voice. It is an elegant and zesty exercise in thought, reflection and writing. Others sometimes intrude on this aspect of blogging, just as an impertinent person may intrude on a conversation. With my "Bad Advice," I give cynical and sarcastic remarks in response to people asking for advice. A sister form to asking for advice is the rhetorical question. Asking for advice usually ends in a question mark, and also does the rhetorical question, but the rhetorical question is usually used to make a point. Yet the question mark is there, so I believe that a piece of writing using many rhetorical questions may be responded to, and the insinuations of the writer ignored.

I came upon a self-described "rant" by fellow Mindsay blogger Doot, and I wish to reply point-by-point to her rhetorical questions. See below; Doot in italics, mine not.

What is wrong with racial and ethnic profiling if it will prevent a terror attack? Racial profiling has been ruled unconstitutional, and the American court system usually frowns upon treating people differently based on the color of their skin (but not always, but I doubt most people would rather not return to slavery and Jim Crow laws). Racial profiling is a form of racism and prejudice that goes against the Constitutional idea of equality under the law. For instance, if a driver is pulled over because a police officer sees that he or she is a minority and has no other reason for pulling the driver over, our court system will usually throw out all charges. Racial profiling is institutionalized racism, where a majority of people think people of a certain race or ethnicity will do commit illegal acts directly because of that race or ethnicity, so the majority lets the minority race/ethnicity be treated unequally by police and the courts. If you think that a Middle Eastern person will harm others simply because that person is racially Middle Eastern, then that is racist thinking and prejudice.

The second part of this rhetorical question says "if it will prevent a terror attack". What Doot is proposing here would compromise Constitutional guards against inequality and unfair treatment for minorities in the hopes of retaining public security. Widespread racial profiling in the United States would be much more likely to let loose suspicion and racist feelings than actually prevent terrorist acts. Here's a rhetorical question to ponder: why not just make all Islamic and Middle Eastern people wear bright yellow stars on their shoulders? That would make us safer, right, and help us identify people that could potentially do others harm? I believe such propositions make a slippery slope, because historical precedent in Germany from 1935 to 1945 shows that the racial profiling of Jews was a bad idea. Further, racial profiling would effectively make a police state for some, who would be under constant harassment, but not others. And it seems to me that having a police state is a bad idea for all, and that the likelihood of terrorism does not justify such an increase in government power. In a sense, then, giving up rights gauranteed by the Constitution would essentially be giving in to terrorists, because that would change our American way of life.

I saw a bumber sticker yesterday that really ticked me off. It said, "War is NOT the answer[.]" Who really believes this?? Without war, we'd still be under English rule and be drinking tea at high noon! Without war, we'd still have slaves and our country would be split in half! Without war, perhaps Hitler or Japan would be ruling over us instead of President Bush!

The presidency of George W. Bush really shows us that those who want a war will find it, whether under false premises or baldfaced lies. Unfortunately for most people, the institution of war is under no threat from people sporting bumber stickers on their cars. If one wants war, one can find it. One argument against military buildup is that war will necessarily follow buildup. It's one thing if a person wants the United States to police the world, but I recommed rereading the above excerpt as a generalized praise of war itself (I believe it can be). How perverse is it to praise war as an institution? War is killing another group of people until they submit. War is bad. Whether it solves problems is another question, one put into question by the above-quoted bumper sticker. Doot points out that wars have both created and protected what we could call the American Way of Life. I think that that is true, but there are individual wars whose justifications need to be judged on their own. To couch all wars and include current U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in that group seems to me inaccurate. The above excerpt also praises war in general without seeming to mention other wars. So, all U.S. wars are justified in the excerpt. Is all war justified, other than the U.S.'s? As in, the countries that started said wars? I don't think so, which makes praising war the institution so perverse.

And it's true, Hitler or Japan is not currently "ruling over us," but to say that President Bush is "ruling over us" creeps me out a little bit, and surely would creep out founding father George Washington, too. Our first president refused noble- and royal-sounding titles in favor of the term "President" because he did not want nobility to be a part of America, and I for one will say Thank God for that. As president, George W. Bush does not and is not supposed to "rule" over Americans. Talk about a Freudian slip.

People who are spouting "our children are dying over there" -- let me ask you something -- do "children" sign up to be in the military? No. They're adults. They make the choice, knowing the risks. We marry them, knowing the risks. So unless you are in the military, or married to someone in the military - please - STOP SPEAKING FOR US!


If the issue is the word "children," then I will say this: our adults are dying over there. Well over 1,800 deaths, many more casualties--people getting PTSD and losing limbs. Only a person carried away by his or her rhetoric would celebrate such a mass tragedy. And also, in a democracy, the government very much speaks for the citizenry with its actions, and the citizenry has a partial say in what the government does. So in America, if I think Bush's optional war in Iraq is not going well, I can say so. Perhaps with a little more of this, public sentiment may be changed and less people can end up getting killed. I'm not speaking for military families if I speak out against a war that was supposed to take a couple months but ended up probably taking a number of years, many casualties (civilian and military), and waste billions of tax dollars. People that are not in military families and not active in the military also have a stake in Bush's wars, certainly enough to say what they think.

In conclusion: the overarching problem that Doot's points have is that she doesn't seem to realize that the U.S. military exists to garauntee the rights of U.S. citizens--to defend the Constitution, in other words. That's why we fight, and should be the only reason to fight. I don't think the war in Iraq meets that test--there never was WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and a threat to U.S. citizens from Iraq, and "protecting freedom in Iraq," which I think is empty rhetoric, has little or nothing to do with protecting the rights afforded by the Constitution. What's the use in protecting the U.S. if one has to go against the Constitution to do it? Racial profiling, quite obviously, goes against the Constitution's garauntee of equal treatment under the law. Dear Reader, try to think about U.S. policy in terms of the U.S. Constitution and not sappy, sentimental praising of the flag and  for "freedom." Those are the politicians' rhetorical friends and your enemies if you take the rights garauntee to you under the Constitution seriously. Freedom isn't free, true. It takes a little thinking in our own country as well as a preparedness to fight overseas.
--Adam S. writes Bad Advice

 
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