Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 | 2 a.m.
By now, most of us have decided who we will vote for in this, the most consequential election of our lifetime.
But with a newly pending 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, reluctant Trump voters should feel free to reject the immorality of the president’s actions, words and policies. It may be helpful to think of the metaphor Aristotle created of a moral target: Hitting the bull’s-eye is the admirable goal, but there are an infinite number of ways to miss it.
I plead with these voters, and all Las Vegans, to make our mutual goal of truth the moral target. Not only are we living through a global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, we are also living through what seems like a post-truth epidemic. And sadly, President Donald Trump embodies the culmination of a decades-long attempt to discredit factual and scientific evidence when it doesn’t fit a particular narrative.
David Markowitz, assistant professor at the University of Oregon, studies how lying affects communication processes and social relationships. He says one of the most consistent truths is that we are all mostly honest. Most of us tell one or two small lies per day, on average, and few of us know prolific liars. Trump, on the other hand, has averaged 23.3 lies per day from the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to April, according to The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker. The problem, according to Markowitz, is that not only do Trump’s lies cause us to question our institutions and the value of information, they erode our country’s sense of honor and affect our trust in family and friends, as well. “The fabric that holds our relationships together begins to fray,” he says.
Media bias is real in that news outlets select which facts to deliver, omit or explain. But that reality does not justify Trump’s “fake news” label, which creates the false assumption that the media are flat-out lying or making up stories. “Fake news” does, however, describe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s social media disinformation campaign, as well as conspiracy websites such as QAnon.
Reputable journalists who source, confirm and validate do exist. Truth is not hard to find, but we must be willing to accept it even when it’s uncomfortable. We have very real and pressing problems regarding the health, safety and well-being of ourselves and our planet. But if we can’t agree on the factors in the equations, how can we ever find solutions to the problems?
As members of a diverse community, Las Vegans know we need a moral leader who believes in the humanity and dignity of all people and who at every opportunity condemns the lies of white supremacy. We need an ethical leader who promotes anti-racism not only in individual behavior, but in policy aimed at equity in our systems and institutions.
We need a kind, empathetic leader who can help heal the festering wounds of hate and division. We’ve had our shots at decency, respect, honesty and civility. But those who refused to condemn or justify the illegal and immoral actions of the president looked away. Let us not miss that mark again.
Finally, I plead with my fellow citizens to vote for the integrity of our democratic institutions and elections. Trump invited foreign interference into our democratic process. In giving him a pass on that, the Republican-controlled Senate missed the mark. If the voters miss it too, Trump will be emboldened to continue breaking the rules, laws and ethics that keep us from sliding into authoritarianism.
We simply cannot abide another four years of Trump’s amoral leadership. This presidential election is unlike others, where morality and ethics were found on both sides. It is, however, like Aristotle’s moral target: There are many ways to miss it, but only one way to get it right.
Paulette Stauffer Henriod is a wife, mom, physical therapist and member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. She has lived in Las Vegas for 17 years.