Trivial Pursuits

I love trivia. I live for trivia. In fact, in my mind there’s an inverse relationship between the importance of a fact and likelihood I will remember it. I revel in useless, pointless, utterly worthless factoids.

But sometimes trivia isn’t trivial. It can be a distraction. It can take your focus off what matters.

And it can even be used as a weapon.

In the upcoming presidential election, there are a lot of important issues to discuss. The economy. Foreign policy. ObamaCare. The debt.

And there are a lot of so-called “issues” that are, for lack of a better term, “bullshit.” Trivial, irrelevant matters whose sole purpose is to trip up candidates — almost exclusively Republican ones.

For example, evolution vs. creationism. It’s an utterly abstract argument; it has no application to daily matters. Further, it’s almost never a federal matter; it’s almost exclusively argued at the state and local levels. But it’s used as a weapon against conservatives; to answer it, one either comes across as a religious nut and anti-science bigot, or willing to go to war with the deeply devout. So that’s why I was glad to see Chris Christie, when confronted with this idiocy run amok, simply say in essence “MYOB.”

For another, the Confederacy. This year marks 150 years since that war started, and it’s been over for 146. The Confederacy was bad, and it lost. End of story.

But it wasn’t pure evil. Johnny Reb wasn’t Adolf Hitler. And it’s human nature to romanticize the past, especially the parts we’re tied to. Not everyone who says the Confederacy was not the moral equivalent of the Nazis is a raging Ku Klux Klansman just itching to break out the whip and go lord over some cotton fields. And to try to hang that on someone who says something less than horrid about the South’s past is nothing short of cheap partisanship.

Similarly, the Civil Rights Act has been used to go after the Pauls, father and son. They made the “mistake” of saying they thought that parts of the Act violated the Constitution, and should have been defeated. Which, of course, makes them psycho white supremacists and in league with the Devil.

You know what? They have a point. They might not be right, but they have an arguable position. The Commerce Clause has been stretched well past the breaking point to justify federal interference in a lot of cases, and the parts of the Civil Rights Act that the Pauls were discussing were based on it. It could be a worthy discussion for intellectual debate, but not now — it’s been demagogued so badly that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the One True Doctrine that the Civil Rights Act was divinely inspired and perfect, as only a creation of God can be most likely has a set of shackles in their closet and just can’t wait to start running slaves from Africa back to the US. (Fortunately, there are plenty of Muslims in Africa who are already running slaves, and would welcome new customers.)

Finally, race. My colleague Mr. Graves has said a bit about this of late, but I’m going to expand on it. The racism of the past — as recently as the 60’s — is much like drunk driving, to me. In both cases, acts of discrimination were pretty much always illegal. But it took a social revolution to make it unacceptable. The casual racism that was still prevalent even through the 1970’s is now grounds for ostracism. In brief, the left won.

And good for them. It was one of the few times they were on the right side. We’re a far better nation for it.

But they just can’t seem to take “yes” for an answer. They’ve committed the mortal sin of salesmanship — they’re selling past the close. They can’t accept that the battle’s over — they need to re-fight it over and over and over again, find new boogeymen, new racists, new white supremacists to play the villain so they can pretend they’re still the hero.

How ridiculous does it get? To what ludicrous extremes will they go? Oddly enough, just this morning John Hawkins assembled a little list, and it’s hard to resist laughing — or crying.

I dunno the best way to fight back against this. My own inclination would be, when confronted with these hanging points, would be to simply stare at the questioner for a long moment, then ask “that’s a stupid question. You got anything relevant to ask, or are you just here to show how stupid you are?”

That seems to be Chris Christie’s attitude, and more power to him.

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