Professed beliefs are perhaps not real beliefs

Dear President Trump,

Recent events have me going back to Barbara Kruger’s installation at the Hirshorn Museum. I told you about it when I visited there in 2017 and since I’m sure you don’t remember, I’ll remind you that it involves the entire central open space of the museum’s bottom floor as well as the outer surfaces of the escalators (yes, it’s still up and you could go see it) all of which are covered with huge pieces of red and black vinyl with ginormous white printed words saying:

WHOSE VALUES?
FORGET EVERYTHING
MONEY MAKES MONEY
WHO IS FREE TO CHOOSE?
WHO IS BEYOND THE LAW?
PLENTY SHOULD BE ENOUGH
WHO SPEAKS? WHO IS SILENT?
A RICH MAN’S JOKES ARE ALWAYS FUNNY

The reason for bringing the installation up today is the title of the show, which holds pride of place on the wall visitors see first thing when they come down the escalator:

BELIEF + DOUBT = SANITY

It should be obvious why this is relevant right now, but I’ll spell it out – sanity appears to be in short supply these days. We’ve got lots of people espousing strong beliefs and because so few are willing to temper those beliefs with some healthy doubt, we’re skating on very thin ice and it’s threatening to crack and tip us into insanity.

What prompted me to pull Kruger’s warning to the fore are the recent quotes by Lindsey Graham about what he believes you believed about Biden and Ukraine when you asked Zelensky for that fateful “favor.” Here’s the Graham quote from this morning’s HP article by Arthur Delaney:

“The president believes that what happened in the Ukraine with the Bidens was inappropriate. Now, whether or not that will withstand scrutiny, I don’t know…. All I can do is tell you that from the president’s point of view, he did nothing wrong in his mind.”

There’s all sorts of doubt missing here – Graham essentially says he has no doubt about either your Biden beliefs or that you did nothing wrong. How the hell does he know what you really believe? How does he know that you don’t have some doubts about it or (more likely) that you aren’t just saying you believe Biden did something wrong while you did nothing wrong because this is the easiest way to slime out of all this? His professed lack of doubt about your professed beliefs is deeply problematic. Just because you say you believe you did nothing wrong doesn’t mean you really believe this and nor does it mean you did nothing wrong. I’ve got so, so, much doubt going here and it’s only somewhat balanced by the belief that you (and they) believe you need to take this stance to save your asses.

Since I’m calling this out, you might think I’m being hypocritical because it probably seems like I don’t have any doubt about your guilt or the GOP’s complicity. A reasonable assumption to be sure, but I really would be prepared to temper my belief in your guilt if there were some hard evidence that your actions vis a vie Ukraine were ethical and not self-serving. I’m holding open the doubt-door enough that if you were to produce documentation and reasonable testimony to this effect, I’d be willing to entertain the possibility that things are not as they appear and that perhaps you did not attempt to extort a politically motivated announcement of a bogus investigation from a vulnerable ally. But you’ve got to give me something real to work with here.

I’m not sure why I got this particular bee in my bonnet today, but I did. Maybe it’s because I would so like to shake you, or wag my finger in your face and scold you, or watch you be escorted to a prison cell wearing an orange jumpsuit and full shackles. Maybe it’s because I’m just so sick of all the lies about lies (meta-lies?), the dubious professed beliefs that have zero (no doubt here) integrity.

Can’t we be done with this shit already?

May we be safe from lying liars.
May we still be willing to have just enough belief + doubt to stay sane.
May we hold on to healthy skepticism about supersonically loudly professed beliefs (including mine).
May you not bomb anyone else.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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