Photo by Edward F. Palm)

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Me and Michael Steele

[A Patriotic Caddy, Smyrna, DE, 2003]

Michael Steele, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, recently wrote to me by name. I don’t know how he got my name. I’ve never registered as a Republican, but somehow, Steele seems to feel that I’m a kindred spirit. He wants me to fill out a survey form—which, again, is registered to me by name and by a “verification” number.  
     Just to be a contrarian, I was tempted to fill out this form—until I read the questions closely. Most of the questions exhibit the logical fallacy those of us who have had the pleasure of teaching freshman composition call “begging the question.” To “beg the question” is to ground a question on a premise explicitly or implicitly assumed to be true but which is unproven or still very much at issue. Here is an example from Steele’s survey:

Are you in favor of creating a government-funded “Citizen Volunteer Corps” that would pay young people to do work now done by churches and charities, earning Corps Members the same pay and benefits given to military veterans?

Only three answers are possible:  "yes,” “no,” “no opinion.” The strategy here is especially insidious. Whichever box I checked, I would in fact be lending credence to not one but four dubious premises: First, that the approval and formation of such a Corps may be imminent; second, that our charitable and service needs are already being adequately met in the private sector; third, that this Corps would push aside the churches and charities that have been meeting the need; fourth, that the stay-at-home members of this Corps would be given the same benefits and entitlements that military veterans receive—a real hot-button, emotional issue.
     Other questions raise the specter of a 23.1 trillion dollar national deficit, amnesty for illegal immigrants, retroactive Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants granted amnesty, unlimited eligibility for welfare, and increased educational funding without accountability.
     Predictably, at the bottom of the survey instrument was a place to enter my credit card information and to specify the amount of my donation. The Republican National Committee, Steele explains in his cover letter, very much needs donations in order to head off this brave new socialist world the Democrats are trying to impose on all of us.
     The funding, of course, is needed to put out more fear-mongering demagoguery. Steele’s rhetoric reminds me of the sort of hysteria I’ve been hearing lately from Glenn Beck and his disciples. These people are convinced that we’re losing our liberties and being oppressed. The other day, I actually heard one of Beck’s callers wondering how much more “the people can take” before “law enforcement and the military” begin to rebel. While Beck said he could not “yet” envision such a day, he agreed that the people are indeed angry and right to feel that way.
      Bizarre, and more than a little scary that conservative pundits are trafficking in such agitprop! Once again, I’m reminded of that rhetorical question my friend used to pose whenever he heard a politician make some disingenuous claim: “How goddamned dumb do they think we are?” Pretty damned dumb, I guess. We can only hope that not too many of us are all that dumb.
     Some of us are sort of smart. --EFP

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