Moral Equivalence



I’ve been thinking about moral equivalence for a couple of days, and had to figure out what it was for myself.  There are many reasons why, and I may cover them if it helps, but here’s one tweet that put’s it in a nutshell for me:

There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so
Aug 15, 2017, 6:02 PM

It was clear to me, I was going to need a formula for my brain to process this based on how many times moral equivalence had come up for me in the last few days. I drew it quickly, on four sheets of paper, and went to bed.  Yesterday morning I used it to process two more issues I saw, and it worked.  I’m only going to discuss one here, because the issues where it’s useful to discuss moral equivalency are so highly emotionally charged that I feel it’s best to take them on one at a time and sleep on it.

I saw this in a thread on twitter that pointed me to this news article:


No matter what side of the issue you are on, I’ll bet you are angry right now.  In short, Trumps lawyers said [“You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two me.”] This is a flat-out lie.  But how can you prove it quickly in your own mind, or on paper to other people?  Simple: Moral Equivalency!  It dawns on me that this needs to get written down immediately, and fleshed out later so I can share it as quickly as possible.

The Formula:

Here are the original PDFs of my idea.  I think seeing how I did it best shows how you can quickly do it too, and then sleep on it.  Writing it down quickly, and drawing it on my own was the key to helping my brain process it quickly.

2017-08-18 – Moral Equivalence Formula Charts

In short, subjective truth and objective Truth are not the same thing.  Any given social issue has both, and balance is required.  After all, real life is messy.  People may tell you that balance is subjective.  That is the truth with a lower case t, or individual truth.  I’m telling you now, there is an objective truth as well, and it is the one we need to keep our eyes on.  Let’s call it the Truth with a capital T.  It is the “Truth we hold to be self-evident as Americans”.  But how do we find that Truth for ourselves when everyone one around is lying constantly including the President?

Who What When Where Why?

Write out all the who, what, when, where, why, and how answers you can think of for each subject. Compare them quickly.  Be prepared to re-evaluate your conclusions, and be flexible. If it helps, assign point values to the issues and find that balance for yourself. Talk to people you respect, and compare how you see it to how your heroes in the past have seen it.  Choose your current living heroes carefully, and be prepared to disagree with them.  Defer to experts, and ask questions.

In the example of comparing the statues President George Washington to Robert E. Lee we must look at the facts.  Remember we are comparing statues, and not the people themselves or their acts.  That was the original subject under discussion.  Make damn sure you aren’t changing the subject when you’re debating moral equivalency!  I find my own mind darting around and changing the subject.  Staying focused on emotionally challenging issues is very hard.  Writing it down is key.  It gives me a focal point.


Why were these statues erected in the first place?  This is the key fact that leapt out to me. Statues of Robert E. Lee were erected during the Jim Crow era to intimated uppity black people in the south and keep them segregated.  Those years are over.  Statues of George Washington were, presumably, erected to honor our achievements as a nation.  Not to idolize George Washington.  George Washington was a Stoic who re-enacted Cato for his troops.  George Washington didn’t even want to be president.  I simply do not believe George Washington would have played into idolatry in any way.  I’m not a historian.  But I know enough that there is no moral equivalence here.

I do need to say I’m no fan of tearing down statues because they are teachable moments.  That said, statues erected to intimidate belong in museums.

What about?

What about whataboutism?  Whenever I hear anyone say “what about?” I want to roll my eyes.  This is a question that seems to lead to endless fallacies.  Whatever.  Let’s cut to the chase.

What about comparing Robert E Lee’s act’s to George Washington’s?  I told you I didn’t want to go there, but OK!  George Washington engaged in diplomacy.  Robert E Lee was a traitor who disobeyed his commanding officer.  Why is irrelevant.  The laws were different.  We are all subject to the rule of law, or we have anarchy.

Truly, that’s the only reason I’m even writing this.  If we don’t get a handle on the Truth with a capital T, we are about to lose the rule of law.  If that happens, sorry, we are fucked.

Watch the video in this Huffington Post article for yourself:

If you see something, say something!

I’d like to end on a good note.  If we stand up, and shine a spot light on this behavior we can stamp it out.  I’d like to leave you with two ways that have worked in the past.  If you need a laugh, skip to the last one.


And, just for balance, look at what these trolls really are underneath all that hate:

I look forward to your feedback.  I’m not expert.  I’m just trying to figure this out for myself.  Also worth noting, none of this is my idea.  I’m just putting together bits and pieces I’ve found that help me.  I don’t know how to keep track of where it’s all from to reference it properly.  Don’t hesitate to help.


This is text of the Twitter thread I mentioned.  I’d like to put it in a footnote, but I don’t know how on WordPress.

@TeaPainUSA wrote this in a thread on twitter:


“In order to understand Trump’s unhinged actions as of late we have to put ourselves in Trump’s shoes for a minute. Due to his clearance and office, Trump knows more than any of us, even more than Bob Mueller, cause after all, who know more about Trump’s crimes than Trump himself. Mueller’s investigation had now entered all the way into the White House, includin’ former staffers like Reince Priebus. Mueller’s most likely has Trump’s tax returns by now and it’s a matter of time before indictments start bein’ issued. America will soon know that Trump committed treason with Russia to gain power. Trump’s only choice is to conflate treason with what “great men” like Robert E. Lee did when our nation was faced with a existential “threat” like HRC. Even though the confederate statue issue appeals to his racist base, the real argument for Trump is that we erected statues to traitors, so how can it really be a bad thing? This explains Trump’s own attorney forwardin’ an email comparin’ General Lee to George Washington. See? Traitors are “great men”, and treason is what great men do. It’s the only defense Trump has left.

He’s also on WordPress Here

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