Two Petitions Worth Signing

I have the somewhat tedium-inducing sense that the next four years of our lives will involve a lot of petitions–reading them, signing them, and enduring widespread derision for doing so.

Tedious it is, but don’t let that stop you. It’s doubtful (I know) that petitions serve any straightforwardly instrumental function: it’s not as though the Trump Administration will recoil in horror at the discovery that 20,000+ academics deplore his Executive Order on immigration, and that 272+ academics deplore the attitudes he’s expressed toward Mexico–and then decide to roll back his immigration policies. But those of us who oppose Trump and his policies feel the entirely healthy desire to do something to oppose his administration, and signing a petition is something–not much, but something. At the very least, it gives us something cheap and easy to do while we figure out what else to do. It serves an expressive function, which is not nothing, and offers solidarity to those adversely affected by the policies, which, though not much, is better than nothing.

In any case, I just happened to sign the two petitions mentioned below, and encourage eligible readers to consider doing the same. Both strike me as well-written and well-reasoned. An added benefit of signing them is the exercise of reading and mulling them over, which may help clarify the stakes involved as well as the case against Trump. Both, I believe, are intended for academics, and though I know it sounds like guild chauvinism, I’m inclined to think that academics have done a better job of stating the case against Trump than most people. It’s what we do.

I’ve mentioned this one before, but here is the petition for Academics Against (the) Immigration Executive Order. The three arguments it adduces against Trump’s Executive Order strike me as just right, both in style and in substance.

I just signed US Philosophers Against Trump’s Policies Toward Mexico as well, sponsored by the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (I’m signature #272, in case you were wondering, and I hope you were). It’s short, sweet, and rhetorically effective.

The word “dignity” comes up a lot in petitions like these–a fact that will gratify some and irritate others. Whatever you say about dignity, however, please don’t say that because you don’t know what it means, it’s “meaningless.” Arguments from self-induced semantic blankness are cheap, tempting, and easy, but unsound. Similarly, don’t expect its meaning to be as transparent and obvious as the meaning of “table,” “chair,” “iPhone,” or “insurance premium.” It’s just not that kind of concept. You’d have to be all-out moral skeptic to reject it as meaningless and moral tabula rasa to confess yourself entirely ignorant of its meaning.

If you’re really lost as to its meaning, start here. If that’s too technical, try this. I don’t agree with everything in either item, but both articulate what we’re in danger of losing in this country through the untiring efforts of the current administration. Dignity, we might say, is the first casualty of rule by the shameless. Unfortunately, no petition will bring back what we’ve already lost. The best we can hope for is to slow the moral descent we’ve begun. The bad news is that we’ve got a long way to go. The worse news is that it’s a long way down.

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