A Smart Answer To A Stupid Question


During the second presidential debate on October 9 between Idiot 1 and Idiot 2, Gorbah Hamed asked:

“Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I’m one of them. You’ve mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?”

(You can watch the exchange between Hamed, Trump and Clinton here)

If I had polled better than Gary Johnson had and earned the requisite 15% so I could participate in that town hall with both major party Idiots, I would have responded:

“Good evening, and thank you for your question. Despite some of the fallacious pillars it is built upon, it is one of the better ones that has been asked tonight, because it concerns an issue that is rarely ever discussed at these dog and pony shows, and that is, ‘What is the proper role of government?’

I am going to give you as honest and direct an answer as I can. You took the time to attend this town hall and to ask your question, so you deserve an answer that is not a load of rambling, nonsensical fear-mongering, and I respect you enough to not pander to you with an answer laden with platitudes and utopian claptrap.

To give you an honest answer, I must provide a quick refresher course on what office we candidates are actually running for: it is the Executive Branch of the federal government. That means it is my job to oversee a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy to ensure that the laws of this country are faithfully executed. So, I cannot write laws; I can only enforce them.

As I said previously, there are some stolen bases in the premises of your question. I would submit to you that Islamophobia is most likely at the lowest it has been since 9/11. If there was ever a time where Islamophobia would have been at its height, it would be in the days just after 9/11, and after other Islamic terrorist attacks. If you could quantify it, anti-Muslim sentiment would rise just after Islamic terrorist attacks, and gradually fall with each day that comes after each attack.

You asked, if elected, how would I help you deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country. You do not provide examples of what those consequences would be, so it is difficult to address your question.

If you were to suffer physical injury from those who hate a peaceful Muslim such as yourself, local police will investigate your assault and bring to justice those responsible for any violence against you.

However, if you are discriminated against, and those consequences do not involve a physical injury, then I would do nothing. If you are asking me, as president, to prevent prejudiced people from thinking you are a threat, I will tell you straight out that you do not understand what the proper role of government is. It is not in my power, nor is it in anyone’s power in government to protect you from the words, thoughts and hateful glares of those who are ignorant enough to allow stereotypes and prejudices to guide their thoughts and words.

My opponents would have you believe they are capable of ensuring prosperity and safety to everyone, as though by magic, just so long as you vote for them. Mr. Trump fancies himself Colossus of Rhodes, standing athwart the Rio Grande, casting his critical gaze upon immigrants who arrive to our shores and be able to pick the ones out who would do us physical and/or economic harm. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton portrays herself as Lady Justice, adorned with the blindfold of Objectivity, and holding the scales and sword of Reason and Justice.

Both are risible.

Government is not prescient. It can’t predict which of the country’s citizens will commit violence against someone else. Our law enforcement agencies do not have Pre-Crime divisions like in the movie Minority Report. Government can only punish those who commit violence. If you object to being labeled as a threat because of your religion, and the source of that label is government, then I can instruct our law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies to review any evidence they have against you for accuracy, and to revise your threat level accordingly.

But, to borrow a frequently used line from President Obama, let me be perfectly clear: my administration will offer no safe space for you from offensive language. I believe in the American exceptionalism derived from the negative rights of our Constitution. I will never use the power of government to punish those Americans whose ideologies and speech offend other Americans.

I can not, and will not attempt to protect you from non-violent prejudice. To outlaw prejudice would be to erode freedom of speech. If we were to pass and enforce laws to protect a segment of the population from offensive speech, we would be setting a precedent that would be very difficult to contain. It would be a Pandora’s Box, for as we’ve seen time and time again in tyrannical countries, those who attempt to control others and purge them from society for being out of step eventually get purged themselves. I do not want that instrument of control to be used against you.

So, even if I wanted to eradicate prejudice using the power of government, I would be severely limited in doing so, for it is outside the scope of, and quite frankly, the competency, of government to perform that undertaking. But, if you find you are the subject of prejudice by some private citizens, I encourage you to approach those men and women, and introduce yourself to them. Shake their hands. Speak with them. Prejudice is eroded at the grass roots level, not in the halls of Congress nor in the West Wing of the White House. When people learn that you are more than your sex, race or religion, based on personal interaction with them, they will not treat you as a threat to their safety and way of life.

Government cannot force people to not be prejudiced, but you will be able to exercise your freedom of speech to convince those who are prejudiced that they are wrong to view you as a threat simply because you are Muslim. Freedom of speech can seem like a double-edged sword, but it is a great tool afforded to the citizens of this still great nation.

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Dillon Eliassen is a former Managing Editor of Being Libertarian. Dillon works in the sales department of a privately owned small company. He holds a BA in Journalism & Creative Writing from Lyndon State College, and needs only to complete his thesis for his Master’s of English from Montclair State University (something which his accomplished and beautiful wife, Alice, is continually pestering him about). He is the author of The Apathetic, available at Amazon.com. He is a self-described Thoreauvian Minarchist.