Science Wars: The Last Republican President

Science Wars: The Last Republican President December 17, 2017

Original Title: BLDG21_0023.jpg

Is it stupidity?  Is it self-destructive impulsivity?  Or is it malignity?

Like 20th Century observers of the podium changes at Soviet May Day parades, progressive Americans in 2017 are left speculating over the motivations for pronouncements and policy changes under Trump and the Republican supermajority.

Here are some of my guesses so far:  Trump’s “good people on both sides” comments after Charlottesville?  Malign.  The Republicans’ tax plan and efforts to kill Obamacare?  Ditto.  Trump’s tweets admitting obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation?  Impulsive.  The appointment of grossly unqualified lickspittles to his cabinet?  Stupid and malign.  Trump’s and the RNC’s promotion of a probable serial molester of teenagers in the Alabama Senate race?  Malign.

In a similar vein, I’m left pondering this weekend’s news about the Trump administration’s decree that seven words are verboten in budget proposals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In case you missed it, the seven naughty words in this Orwellian dictate are diversity, entitlement, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, science-based, and vulnerable.  As a physician, I’d like to offer my analysis of the motives behind Trump’s choice of words, as well as the overall significance of this maneuver to me, in my identity as a practical scientist and an American humanist.

(It’s worth adding here that I regard the Department of Health and Human Services’ pushback on this report as utterly untrustworthy.  In an administration where press conferences with Spicer and Huckabee Sanders have been grotesque parades of lies, I consider leaks from disaffected bureaucrats to be far more reliable than official statements.  Besides, this pattern of making an outrageous statement, then backpedaling, then doing the outrageous thing anyway has become the modus operandi for Trump and company.)

So, let’s consider the banned words one or two at a time:

  • Diversity: Trump and the GOP Congress transparently believe that only white privileged lives matter.  Naturally, a word that smacks of political correctness to them, that implicitly values a multiplicity of ethnicities and beliefs in our melting pot nation, would be scratched from the official vocabulary.
  • Entitlement: The first sentence regarding diversity applies equally well here.  Trump and the GOP plutocrats salivate at every chance to eliminate government programs that aid the poor, disabled, and elderly.  Bye bye, entitlements!
  • Transgender: This one is clearly a sop to the Religious Right.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, their warped worldview doesn’t allow acceptance of the notion that gender and gender identity involve anything but the binary heterosexuality of masculine penis-bearers and feminine vagina-possessors.  What easier way to allow denial of the toxic impact of this belief upon the mental wellbeing of LGBTQ+ individuals than to erase such a word from government vocabulary?
  • Fetus: Another deleted word that panders to the white evangelicals who reliably vote Republican.  To placate anti-abortion fundamentalists, I suspect embryo will be next, making unborn child the only acceptable moniker for the object in a pregnant woman’s uterus.
  • Science-based and evidence-based: I suspect multiple motivations for these choices.  Our president is manifestly a scientific ignoramus, as shown by his comments on the bogus vaccine/autism link and his refusal to accept human-made climate change.  In addition, his evangelical base is anti-science in other ways, most notably in their opposition to teaching evolution in public schools.  I’ll comment more about this below.
  • Vulnerable: I see the excision of this word as nothing less than a display of Trump’s sadism, the same trait that propels him to taunt and name-call in his tweets, that toys in a feline manner with folks like Mitt Romney and Chris Christie.  This is a man for whom winning is everything and losing is the sole vice.  Why acknowledge the suckers of the world when they have no worth?

It is the attempt to expunge science-based and evidence-based from government-approved discourse that most grates upon me as a physician.  Equally offensive is the proposed replacement phrase:  “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

This clunky statement is antithetical to the scientific method.  The application of this method, when done correctly, has nothing to do with community standards and wishes.  In fact, scientific advance has much to do with their contravention:  Galileo, Darwin, and germ theory, anyone?

It is no exaggeration to state that suborning science to communal wishes would be disastrous.  If we follow the anti-vaxxers, we put the frail and immunocompromised in mortal danger.  If we continue with abstinence-based sex ed, we know that teen pregnancy rates will rise.  If we bestow governmental blessing upon Christian counselors to pray the gay away, we can confidently predict that depression and suicide prevalence among this vulnerable population will increase.

In this vein, as an American humanist, the attempt to remove vulnerable from our vocabulary is the greatest outrage. Count me with Jean-Paul Sartre, in believing that moral truth in a society is best determined through the eyes of the least favored.  Yet, a review of Republican action in 2017 shows priorities that are the polar opposite:  tax cuts for the rich, gutting Obamacare, stoking homophobia and racism, entrenching punitive rather than therapeutic drug addiction policies.

Thus the subtitle for this article, “the last Republican president.”  Trump and his equally toxic GOP goons in Congress have managed in 2017 to make America an unrecognizable, abhorrent place.

In its present incarnation, the Republican Party is analogous to cancer.  If chemotherapy cannot transform the affected organ back to benign functionality, than excision is demanded before terminal metastasis occurs.  If Trump is not removed from office, if the 2018 elections don’t radically alter the American political landscape, then we can be assured our country will only become deadlier for the non-privileged, for people of conscience.  In the face of nuclear peril from an impulsive, immature president, the future existence of our country and the world is literally at stake.

The title of this article is of course a reference to latest Star Wars installment that just arrived in theaters.  Until the news out of the CDC, it was my plan to review The Last Jedi today.

It is a small thing to give up writing a movie review, yet it is emblematic of the joy-sucking trauma of existing in Donald Trump’s America.  Anecdotes are the weakest form of scientific data, but it is still worth mentioning the countless stories I’ve heard in 2017 of intrapsychic distress, family estrangement, and ruptured friendships due to Trump.

And I’ve experienced all of those things personally.  How can a caring person not feel dread at what the daily headlines might reveal?  How can an intelligent person stick their head in the sand and pretend that life is not demonstrably worse under Trump?  Similarly, I find it impossible to respect Republican friends and family members who continue to acquiesce to the rise of plutocracy and fascism in our country.

Thus, if Trump is not the last Republican president, in the party’s present iteration, he will be my last Republican president.  Right now, we are all victims of domestic violence in America.  And more often than not, the best choice in an abusive relationship is to leave.


Image credit:  Public domain


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