Of Trolleys and Tanks

 
New Mount Carmel Center on fire during the siege of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, TX.

New Mount Carmel Center during the FBI assault on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, TX.

There are five people tied to the tracks of an unstoppable, runaway trolley. Their death is imminent. However, in your hand is a switch. If you flip that switch, then the trolley is diverted down a different track, away from those five people… and down a track onto which one person is tied. Death is certain no matter what you do. Flip that switch and you have actively assented to the death of a fellow human being. Do nothing and you have passively assented to the death of five fellow human beings. What do you do?

The Trolley Problem is a thought experiment that is often introduced in college freshman classes on ethics. Many people are familiar with the problem and its point: There are some situations without fully ethical solutions. One decision is just as ethically questionable as the other, and each decision is ultimately and solely based on the decision maker’s own principles. However, the Trolley Problem suffers as a thought experiment because it lacks context. It is very easy to imagine how one would behave in a no-win situation when that situation remains a safe and detached theoretical. Unfortunately, we no longer have such a luxury.

Never before have I experienced a dilemma which maps so readily to the Trolley Problem as this year’s presidential race. There are only two possible outcomes: Clinton is our next president or Trump is. And individual people, based upon their personal principles, find one or the other outcome to be morally repugnant. In this Trolley Problem, the #NeverTrump position, either through abstaining, writing-in, or voting third party, is that of passively assenting to Clinton, while the #NeverHillary position is that of actively assenting to Trump. As with any Trolley Problem, neither position can claim to be more ethical than the other.

As I have stated before and often, my personal position is #NeverSoros, which currently places me in the #NeverHillary camp. As such, I would like to make an honest and respectful appeal to the people of #NeverTrump and to their principles. In doing so, I must add some context to our shared Trolley Problem.

This particular bit of context must be added because I expect that it hasn’t been added already. The reason I expect so is because the context is pitch dark. It is a source of deep national shame. It is a stain on our history so horrific that few choose to look at it. I doubt that it is taught in our schools. I doubt further that Millennials have even heard of it. We don’t talk about it, because it’s easier. We dismiss those who mention it as fringe, because it’s too unsettling. But it is there. And, God help me, I’m putting it on the table.

Sixteen years is a long time, a long enough time to forget the horror show that was the Clinton regime. It would be easy to mention mundane outrages such as the Clinton’s looting of the White House and their administration’s trashing of it on their way out the door, or even their tacit admission to corruption with their Soprano’s video spoof. But such mundane outrages rise only to the level of vulgar, a word that is often cited in arguments against Trump. But, for all of his bluster and showmanship, for all of his vulgar coarseness, let me remind you of some things that Trump never did.

Donald Trump never served as a high ranking official – a so-called Co-President – in an administration which rolled military tanks on an American civilian population. He never served in an administration which forced a protracted stand-off which ended with a community in ashes and the majority of its population, including the majority of its children, dead. He never served in an administration which did all this and then claimed that it was done to protect those very same children. He never served in an administration in which, afterward, no one, to my knowledge, was held to account for one of the worst law enforcement tactical blunders in American history. He never served in an administration which, instead of granting due process to the most deplorable of Americans, granted overwhelming, terrifying, military force.

Hillary Clinton did.

We treat Islamic terrorists better.

In a recent email leaked by Wikileaks, John Podesta claimed that Hillary Clinton, “has begun to hate everyday Americans.” Hillary herself has called Trump supporters “deplorable” and “irredeemable.” These everyday Americans, these deplorables and irredeemables are your neighbors, your friends, your family, and given Hillary’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” rhetoric, maybe even you yourself in the #NeverTrump camp.

The 2016 election trolley can not be stopped from rolling. But, #NeverTrump-ers, perhaps something a great deal more terrifying can be. Consult your principles. I will respect your choice. The switch is in your hands.

There are 115 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Rick Poach: What do you do?

    Tie more people to the tracks.

    • #1
  2. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Blow up the Trolley and built a new, better one.

    • #2
  3. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

     

    • #3
  4. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    Rick Poach: The Trolley Problem is a thought experiment that is often introduced in college freshman classes on Ethics.

    There is a Tom Stoppard radio play called “Darkside” in which the lead characters are a philosophy student and the boy from the thought experiment set to the album “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd.

    If you like Tom Stoppard plays, it’s worth a listen.

    • #4
  5. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    livingthehighlife:Blow up the Trolley and built a new, better one.

    With blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the trolley.

    • #5
  6. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Re-program the experiment and create a third track called the Kobayashi Maru … (with Captain Pence at the helm of the train)

    • #6
  7. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    In a recent email leaked by Wikileaks, John Podesta claimed that Hillary Clinton, “has begun to hate everyday Americans.”

    I hate Ms. Hillary Rodham with the heat of a thousand suns.  However, in the interest of fairness, I am compelled to point out that the context of Podesta’s email is crystal clear:  He was referring to the catchphrase “everyday Americans” (you know, the catchphrase conservatives ridiculed?) – not to actual everyday Americans.

    • #7
  8. OldDan Rhody Member
    OldDan Rhody
    @OldDanRhody

    You announced this post in the PIT: were you expecting anything better?

    • #8
  9. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Johnny Dubya:

    In a recent email leaked by Wikileaks, John Podesta claimed that Hillary Clinton, “has begun to hate everyday Americans.”

    I hate Ms. Hillary Rodham with the heat of a thousand suns. However, in the interest of fairness, I am compelled to point out that the context of Podesta’s email is crystal clear: He was referring to the catchphrase “everyday Americans” (you know, the catchphrase conservatives ridiculed?) – not to actual everyday Americans.

    This may be so, but some of these people who they demean as “everyday Americans” are your neighbors, your friends, your family, and maybe even you.

    Thanks for reading, John. And thanks for commenting on a main point of the piece.

    • #9
  10. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    OldDan Rhody:You announced this post in the PIT: were you expecting anything better?

    I announce all of my posts in the PIT. I like you guys.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Rick Poach:

    OldDan Rhody:You announced this post in the PIT: were you expecting anything better?

    I announce all of my posts in the PIT. I like you guys.

    The response is always more fun if you immediately send in the clowns.

    • #11
  12. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Arahant:

    Rick Poach:

    OldDan Rhody:You announced this post in the PIT: were you expecting anything better?

    I announce all of my posts in the PIT. I like you guys.

    The response is always more fun if you immediately send in the clowns.

    Being unfunny, we ward off the hysterics.

    • #12
  13. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Arahant:

    Rick Poach:

    OldDan Rhody:You announced this post in the PIT: were you expecting anything better?

    I announce all of my posts in the PIT. I like you guys.

    The response is always more fun if you immediately send in the clowns.

    As they say, the best defense is a good offense, and there’s not much as offensive at the PIT.

    • #13
  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Rick Poach: The switch is in your hands.

    I doubt it is, unfortunately. Probably not even in the swing states. With near-zero probability in the solid ones.

    • #14
  15. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    I think the last time I analyzed the trolley problem, I realized something about the intuitive sense of likelihoods that observant folks might tend to have that throws a wrench into the pure philosophical setup. Trying to remember what it is now…

    I like the two-year-old’s answer.

    • #15
  16. Josh Inactive
    Josh
    @Josh

    I understand the argument here. And I respect the premise much more so than coming from the other approach, where not voting for Trump is essentially kissing Hillary right in the mouth & laughing while dancing on Washington’s grave. I went through a Christian ethics class in seminary where a similar hypothetical was presented, & watched as a classroom full of future pastors & missionaries squirmed uncomfortably in their seats when asked for an answer. I’ve spent much time in prayer & thought over this issue, agonizing over the choice November brings. And ultimately, I arrive at seeing it a little differently. I see no difference in these two people. They are cut from two frayed ends of the same cloth. From where I sit, there are 5 people on both sides of the tracks, no matter which way the trolley runs loose.

    • #16
  17. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Josh: I see no difference in these two people.

    Thank you for reading and for understanding my framing of the argument as one made in good faith. However, I do see a difference between the two in that one has participated at a high level in an administration which rolled tanks on an American civilian population. The other has not. I personally believe that Hillary would have a much easier time doing it a second time than Trump would doing it a first.

    • #17
  18. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Rick Poach: The switch is in your hands.

    I doubt it is, unfortunately. Probably not even in the swing states. With near-zero probability in the solid ones.

    Dance like nobody is watching. Vote like no Democrats are posing as the dead.

    • #18
  19. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Rick Poach:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Rick Poach: The switch is in your hands.

    I doubt it is, unfortunately. Probably not even in the swing states. With near-zero probability in the solid ones.

    Dance like nobody is watching. Vote like no Democrats are posing as the dead.

    Given where I live, that’s particularly funny!

    • #19
  20. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Rick Poach:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Rick Poach: The switch is in your hands.

    I doubt it is, unfortunately. Probably not even in the swing states. With near-zero probability in the solid ones.

    Dance like nobody is watching. Vote like no Democrats are posing as the dead.

    Given where I live, that’s particularly funny!

    I’m here all week…

    • #20
  21. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    [Deleted] – Posted to wrong thread.

    • #21
  22. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Throw Hillary under he trolley.

    • #22
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    PHCheese:Throw Hillary under he trolley.

    Finally, someone who agrees with me on more bodies on the tracks.

    • #23
  24. Arthur Beare Member
    Arthur Beare
    @ArthurBeare

    Obama “rolled tanks on an American civilian population”?  Links please.

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Arthur Beare:Obama “rolled tanks on an American civilian population”? Links please.

    He is referring to the administration where Hillary was co-President, not SoS.

    • #25
  26. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    That’s not the best vid, but it was easy to grab and only forty-five seconds. I am sure we can get hours worth of the siege at Waco.

    • #26
  27. Rosie Inactive
    Rosie
    @Nymeria

    Thank you for posting this.  You are very perceptive in how much this situation is like the trolley scenario.  Personally, I’m getting exhausted with the Never voters who wax on about their philosophical purity.  Life in this terrestrial world is messy and at times brings choices we would rather not be forced to make.

    • #27
  28. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Arthur Beare:Obama “rolled tanks on an American civilian population”? Links please.

    Arthur, thank you for reading. Please re-read when you get a chance.

    • #28
  29. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Rosie:Thank you for posting this. You are very perceptive in how much this situation is like the trolley scenario.

    Thank you for reading, Rosie.

    • #29
  30. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach
    @RickPoach

    Arahant:

    Arthur Beare:Obama “rolled tanks on an American civilian population”? Links please.

    He is referring to the administration where Hillary was co-President, not SoS.

    [Video: 1993 Waco Siege]

    Yes, I was.

    Thanks for the vid link Arahant, even though I think that particular link plays up the conspiracy aspects of the siege. I’d like to make my argument absent that, i.e. Waco was one of the worst law enforcement tactical blunders in American history – one which was executed with Hillary Clinton as acting co-President.

    I find it very telling that most comments on this thread have been jokes about the Trolley Problem or the election, and that Arthur’s missed the point completely. I would like to suggest that that is how deep our national shame is over this incident. We don’t talk about it. We don’t think about it. We don’t mention it. This is part of the Clinton legacy. Who in the world would want that back in the White House?

    I chose the picture for this piece, Tank Man at Tianamen Square, for a reason.

     

    • #30

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