We live in confusing times

J. Martin Rochester, Curators’ Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is the author of 10 books on international and American politics, including his latest: “New Warfare: Rethinking Rules for An Unruly World.”


I have been accused by some readers of being terribly confused. I plead guilty. I am confused, increasingly so, by a culture that makes less and less sense with each passing week.

Perhaps someone can help me understand the following:

• When Donald Trump invited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles football team to the White House for the standard commemorative celebration, and only one of the original 80 team members who had initially accepted the invitation announced their intention to attend, why was the onus put on the President for canceling the event?

• If NFL players are so passionate about their right to engage in social justice protests, why not avoid the controversial kneeling during the national anthem and instead simply remain in the locker room during the pre-game ceremony or, alternatively, boycott the games and give up their million dollar salaries?

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• Why is it suddenly wrong to use the term “illegal alien” to refer to someone who is a foreigner and has unlawfully entered the country, when the term has been routinely used in jurisprudence for over 100 years not as a slur but as a factual descriptor? That’s how Bill Clinton used it in his 1995 State of the Union message when he proudly noted his administration had “moved aggressively to secure our borders . . . by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as before” and “by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.”

• Why is the slightest mention of Islamic terrorism considered Islamophobia in liberal circles, while the likes of Joy Behar can avoid the charge of Christianphobia despite equating love of Jesus with “mental illness” as she did in ridiculing Vice-President Mike Pence? How does she still have her job on ”The View”? And how does Samantha Bee still have a job on TBS after using the “c” word against Ivanka Trump, when she would have been fully frontally assaulted had she used the same language against Chelsea Clinton or Michelle Obama?

• If we are serious about combatting the “objectification” of women, why stop at eliminating the swimsuit and evening gown competition in the Miss America contest, as organizers just announced? Why give the Red Carpet treatment to pop culture icons in slutty attire at MTV and Grammy awards shows? And why not start calling Jay-Z and other hip-hop performers the misogynists they are rather than glorifying them as “artists,” as the New York Times and other cultural gatekeepers do? Shouldn’t we be as woke to Kendrick Lamar as to Bert Parks?

• What is more vulgar, watching Miss America contestants in evening gowns or watching Robert De Niro utter F-bombs at the President to wild applause at the Tony Awards? Why not just shut up and act?

• Why does New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio consider it “unfair” that almost 70 percent of the students admitted to Stuyvesant and the other elite public high schools are Asians, when they had to pass a difficult test in English and math to gain entry, they did not have any “white privilege,” and almost half are low-income students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches? Why should diversity – the desire to admit more black and Latino students – trump merit and in the process discriminate against people of color, as Asians rightly argue? If only about 10 percent of the 5,000 admissions to the prestigious high schools are African-American or Hispanic, why not try to improve their academic performance in K-8 rather than eliminate the current standardized admission test and dumb-down the standards?

• If diversity bean-counting is all that matters today, then how is it conscionable that out of a total of 450 NBA basketball players, only roughly 10 percent are white Americans while the overwhelming percentage are black? For example, at the start of the 2016-2017 season, eight NBA teams had no white players, while ten had only one white player. Did you see more than one white player (Kevin Love) in the starting lineups during the NBA Finals this year? Does anyone seriously think that this reflected discrimination against white players, any more than Asian overrepresentation in elite New York City high schools reflected discrimination against blacks, as opposed to merit being the main operating principle? Should merit be any less important a principle in our education systems than in sports? Really?

• If Donald Trump lies a lot, can’t the same be said of the mainstream media that report on his lying? As UCLA professor Tim Groseclose reports, based on an extensive empirical analysis in Left Turn, “partly because of their own ideological views, and partly because of institutional factors within the news industry,” journalists “are more likely to report facts and statistics that liberals want you to learn and less likely to report facts and statistics that conservatives want you to learn.” This “biased sample” is particularly evident in media coverage of Trump, as a 2017 Pew Research Center study found that “[c]ompared to other recent presidents, news reports about President Trump have been more focused on his personality than his policy and are [twice as much] more likely to carry negative assessments of his actions,” according to an NPR report. 

• Does anyone seriously believe that CNN and other mainstream media hope Trump will succeed in getting North Korea to denuclearize?  The only thing less likely than Pyongyang surrendering its nuclear program is the major media fully crediting Trump should he achieve that objective. No?

• We can agree Trump’s performance at the recent Moscow summit was very weak, especially his failure to hammer the Russians on their meddling in U.S. elections. However, was he wrong to meet with Vladimir Putin, when every American president since FDR has felt compelled to meet with his Russian counterpart in order to avert a cataclysmic war between great powers? Was Trump any softer on Putin than President Barack Obama was in his dealings with the dictators in Cuba and Iran, who merited less deference? And was Trump any more critical of the CIA than our liberal media and leftist politicians who have bashed our intelligence agencies for the past half century during the Cold War and post-Cold War era, for their excessive secrecy, treatment of terrorist prisoners at Gitmo, and other sins?

• How is it possible that today’s teens are considered the most “stressed” of any generation, in need of reduced homework demands in Kirkwood and other school districts, when they find time to spend an average of nine hours a day entertaining themselves with electronic media? Has any previous generation had the benefit of the degree of pressure relief now afforded by massive grade inflation, combined with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” designed to alleviate anxiety and spare discomfort? We are always told that “inclusive” classrooms are necessary to prepare students for the “real world,” but what about classrooms that challenge students to cope with offense, hardship and occasional failure — with life?

Any answers to these questions would be much appreciated. I can be reached at [email protected] Or you can write a letter to the editor. But, please, no micro-aggressions.


J. Martin Rochester, Curators’ Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is the author of 10 books on international and American politics, including his latest: “New Warfare: Rethinking Rules for An Unruly World.”