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Most political podcasts with which I am familiar have a well-defined perspective, be it right, left, libertarian, socialist, or whatever. The hosts, the guests, the thoughts, and most of all the audiences hew closely toward some ideological mean about which controversy may take place so long as it does not go beyond the locally prescribed bounds of decency. Our political culture is such that (in podcasts, anyway) the unifying feature of discourse is the existence of the “other”: the ideological enemy which lies far outside of the conflicts we have among ourselves.
Nevertheless, to me, one of the great joys of politics and philosophy are the arguments you have with people you totally disagree with and yet, with whom you share a deep mutual respect. Such experiences help you realize that politics is after all only one of the relatively shallow aspects of the human experience. And a venue like a podcast where it is possible for people to actually complete a thought seems like the perfect place for such battles.
In that spirit, my co-host on the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast, Todd Feinburg, and I invited Emily Bazelon (“E-Baz!”), one of the co-hosts of the Slate Political Gabfest, for a bout of right versus left, cowboys versus Indians, freshman semi-formal dance boys versus girls episode of the HLC podcast which we call: “Is Trump Too Stupid to be President?”
And red meat was on the menu.
Since there have been few political proposals lately that have more thoroughly alienated virtually all talking heads and, particularly, that have sent the left further into fits of apoplexy than Donald Trump’s plan to temporarily ban Muslims from coming to the United States, we asked Emily what, after all, was wrong with that idea?
It is so counterproductive. We need Muslims around the world to be our allies fighting Muslim extremists. They’re the ones with the most power and ability to change that equation. Also there’s just no evidence that discriminating against people on the basis or religion and deciding to keep them out of our country is going to make our country safer. It’s just a really broad brush to be painting with…
There are lots and lots of Muslims in the world and most of them are peace-loving people and the notion that we are going to ascribe to the entire, huge group of people the most extreme, terrible views of a small minority makes me incredibly sad. I think it’s both wrong and absolutely the wrong way to try to fight terrorism.
Regarding the problem in Europe and the notion that the migration of basically peaceful people could conceal the motion of radicals, Bazelon argued that the basis of the problem in Europe was home-grown:
…Europe’s problem is that they’re not doing a good job of integrating Muslims into the culture and so you have these neighborhoods of really disaffected people.
As for the United States:
We have a really strong tradition of freedom of religion in this country and not discriminating against people merely on the basis of religion … I’m Jewish, and to me this idea of treating Muslims differently because they are Muslim reminds me of Nazi Germany. It feels to me like the kind of discrimination that leads to really destructive, fear-mongering, terrible responses that cost our society much more than we would ever gain.
There was lots more give and take on Islam that these quotations probably fail to capture. In addition to that, Bazelon, who is an expert on law and particularly the Supreme Court, shared her ideas about President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Court. But you’ll have to go here to check it all out.
Perhaps upon listening you will conclude (as right-thinking, Ricochet people) that Todd and I only scratched the surface — that our arguments were incomplete or altogether too polite. Perhaps you will find that we were too deferential. If so, let’s imagine that this is just the beginning and chalk it up to Bazelon’s skillful debate and our awkward bashfulness. Like girls at the freshman dance or Germans between the lines of barbed wire on Christmas Day, we don’t see liberals up close under friendly circumstances very often.
And what matters most, after all, is not who won the football game, but the fact that as fellow humans you played the game at all.Published in