Looking for the proper response to the specious “what-aboutism” that Donald Trump is aping to defend statues to swiftly toppling traitorous Confederates? You don’t have to enflame Greg Belfrage with a rhetorical call to blow up the morally complicated Mount Rushmore. Get the proper logical three-point response from a debate coach:
The main arguments against removing the statues– here the term “argument” is stretched to the point of being nearly unrecognizable–have been “what about this person’s sin or transgression or moral failing or slave ownership or . . . ”
When debate class starts in a few days, my young’uns will be taught that “what about” is a red herring. (I will stay away from the hot button issue of the day, but there are examples aplenty.) They will also be taught three responses. First, the “what about . . .” response doesn’t answer the question under consideration. Second, the fact that two people committed the same act doesn’t mean that both should be celebrated. Freshmen might simplify that to “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Third, “what about . . . ” doesn’t refute anything. In the current controversy, pointing out that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves doesn’t assert that slavery is moral or that rebellion against the United States was justified. It’s saying that both Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jefferson committed the same moral crime, slavery. The assertion, however, doesn’t show that Jefferson led soldiers into Pennsylvania to wage war on the United States of America [Leo Kallis, “What About That One Time In 1972 When That One Guy Did Something I Didn’t Like,” The Displaced Plainsman, 2017.08.18].
Confederates were traitors to the United States Constitution shooting U.S. Army soldiers to defend slavery. Nothing you can say about Thomas Jefferson changes the historical and moral facts about the treasonous, racist Confederacy and the logical conclusion: Confederates do not deserve public statues.