Republicans are confusing feelings with facts — and it's dangerous
Last week's Republican National Convention was like jumping into a time machine, landing in one of Timothy Leary's psychedelic mushroom experiments, and finding out the cast of Merry Pranksters — speakers like Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Antonio Sabato Jr. and Scott Baio — were planning on spending the next eight hours yelling in your face, instead of braiding your hair with soft hands. The one theme that seemed to emerge in the chaos and confusion of the RNC was, John Oliver pointed out onLast Week Tonight, feelings were king, and viewers experienced a "four-day exercise in exercising feelings over facts."
Anyone who has ever kissed a married man or woman because of a strong "feeling" can tell you this: feelings are, at best, fifth in line to the throne — sultry, like a bearded Prince Harry. But they're no Queen Elizabeth demanding Prince William stand the hell up during an RAF air display.
Donald Trump's speech, which brought the house down after an awkward few days in which speakers honed in on his business acumen, and a slithering Ted Cruz refused to endorse him, will best be remembered for his promise to put America first. As for globalism, well, never again, maybe, who really knows for sure... His speech was filled with "facts" that were meant to prove how much more danger American citizens encounter now, mainly through the rise of violent crime and illegal immigration, and how we were better off before President Obama, Oliver pointed out.
Many of Trump's facts were true, and bravo for that. But it's misleading to deliver some of this information without context in an effort to play with people's feelings and heighten their fear to the point where they cling to that fact — and to any leader with a loud-enough voice to make them feel safe. For example, while there was an increase in murder in some cities, violent crime in major cities like New York is down since Obama took office. When Trump refers to how places like Libya, Egypt and Syria were under control before Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, he leaves out the part where Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia in 2010, which became the catalyst for the Arab Spring. Maybe he feels Clinton was behind the Arab Spring.
And about feelings: Trump — and Rudy Giuliani, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence and Scott Baio — threw the word around like a beach ball to describe how the economy "feels stuck" (Ryan's words) or how the nation and its people don't feel safe and secure.
It was as if Trump's greater message was this one, Oliver said: "The world is dangerous and only I can make you safe." By building a wall. By making it so you never have to deal with another threatening face or hijab or accent that makes you want to crawl back into the womb, and ensure humankind never has to evolve past the fetus stage.
One of the most egregious examples of how feelings were turned into facts at the RNC came about when Newt Gingrich was interviewed about why he won't admit violent crime across the country is actually down. Oliver showed the clip, and Gingrich's answer was infuriating. "No, that's your view," he said plainly, as if that should have ended the conversation. You take a view on whether the Ghostbusters reboot is worth your $10 or if Vermeer was the most influential Dutch painter of all time. Numbers and stats don't require your view.
Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort then went on record as saying the FBI's statistics on crime can't be taken as fact because the agency recommended Clinton not be charged for her private email embarrassment. What does he think should be taken as fact? Feelings, those fickly biochemical energies that change from the time you have breakfast to the time you have your midday snack. "People don't feel safe in their neighborhoods," Manafort told CNN. "I'm not sure what statistics you're talking about."
No one wants to knock feelings. Feelings are great. Our feelings add a lot to what we know about the world and ourselves through rational thinking. And no one can imagine how bland and blank a great romance or the love of a child would be if we didn't experience both through strong feelings and emotions. Does that mean we should vote for our next president because we feel he might do a great job because we feel that our country is stuck in the mire based on our feelings of fear? Feelings are only going to carry us so far before we have to start making up lies to justify those feelings. Choose the ugly/beautiful Picasso-like, tear-open-your-eyes-and-set-you-free truth. Always.