"Sarah Toscano discusses an exhibition at PAAM with children participating in Children's Art Adventures" by Grace Ryder O'Malley is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: The Prindle Institute for Ethics, which hosts The Prindle Post, has recently been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the institute’s director has engaged in advocacy work for the National Humanities Alliance.

The logic of President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget has left even some of his supporters scratching their heads. First, there are the cuts to programs including the New York Police Department and airport security programs – proposals that are especially perplexing, given Trump’s longstanding emphasis on keeping America safe. Then there are cuts targeting programs widely seen as both uncontroversial and beneficial. Such programs include Meals on Wheels, an organization that delivers food to the elderly and the poor. While many expected Trump’s budget to reflect a hard-line conservative approach to federal spending, cutting programs like Meals on Wheels has taken even some GOP members of Congress aback.

"Mike Pence" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

A little over a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, chaos continues to swirl around even the most basic of the administration’s operations. High profile controversies – most notably, the emerging details about Trump surrogates’ contact with members of the Russian government during the campaign – continue to roil the nascent administration. From within, leaks to the press abound, painting a portrait of a chaotic White House even more defined by power struggles and botched policy rollouts than usual. And all the while, Trump continues to make inflammatory statements, most recently asserting without evidence that then-President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Screen capture from "Extended Interview: Jorge Ramos Talks Race with Jared Taylor" via Youtube.

This week, a debate between Jorge Ramos and Jared Taylor went viral in Spanish language social networks. The debate was originally an interview for Hate Rising, a documentary that aired last October. Ramos is one of Univision’s anchors, and he was infamously expelled by then-candidate Donald Trump from a press conference. Taylor is the editor of American Renaissance, a white nationalist organization that became one of the most visible representatives of the alt-right; he also enthusiastically supports President Trump.

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"Apokalipsa" by Albert Goodwin is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus is usually thought of as a major ethical teacher (the famous slogan “What would Jesus do” is a major testament to this), but most of his preaching was not so much about how we should live, but rather, what will happen in the upcoming apocalypse. Yes, he gave a lot of ethical advice, but as Albert Schweitzer frequently reminded us, his ethics must always be understood in the context of apocalypticism. Jesus was, above all, a doomsdayer.

"Hollywood" by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

Recently, we have seen some upward changes to the Hollywood film industry. For example, six Black actors from four movies were nominated for this year’s Oscar awards, unlike the past two #OscarsSoWhite years. These nominated movies are about, directed by and/or starred by Black people. The 68th Emmy Awards nominees and winners are also a diverse group of actors and actresses. But has the industry really become more inclusive?

"Buddha" by Francis Chung via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the beginning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, people of all faiths all over the world are asking the question, “How should our faith respond?” Buddhists are no exception to this. With important religious precepts centered on nonviolence and compassion, Buddhists are asking how they can apply their code of ethics to help those in need. Unique from other religions like Christianity and Islam, Buddhist texts and teachings make little reference to organized political or social activism. However, past historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi have used Buddhist precepts to dramatically change society. Gandhi used the profound principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, to dismantle the British occupation of India. Once again, a turn to Buddhist principles is needed to encourage compassion in the unfolding months ahead.

"Monumento a la Federacion Venezolana I" by Rjcastillo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, Venezuela’s government honored the 200th anniversary of Ezequiel Zamora’s birth, in national celebrations. According to the official leftist party line, Zamora was a national hero that led guerrilla warfare against Venezuela’s corrupt governments in the mid-nineteenth century. Hugo Chavez’s political ideology was founded on the so-called “tree of three roots” (árbol de las tres racíces): Simon Bolivar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora.

Bolivar and Rodriguez are heroes universally admired and respected by Venezuelans throughout the political spectrum. Zamora, on the other hand, is a much more divisive figure. According to historical revisionists, Zamora is no hero.

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"Plato's Symposium" by Anselm Feuerbach is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Is colonialism a bad thing? It is fashionable to think so, and with good reason. Genocide, racism, slavery, depredation, epidemics, cultural inferiority complexes, etc., are all traceable to Europe’s colonial expansion beginning in the 16th Century. It would be naïve to think it is over, even if the United Nations’ list of non-self-governing territories is rather short. Colonialism persists. Whether it is America invading Iraq to get its oil, or Nike setting up sweatshops in Bangladesh, colonialism is alive and kicking, and it continues to cause great damage to people of color.

"Newspaper" by Pezibear is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

Last week, I saw a group of people cross the street to avoid a guy wearing a Trump t-shirt.  On Facebook several days ago, my friend shared some pictures of a big pile of pink hats made by her knitting circle.  Her aunt, also a crafty type, asked her what they were.  When my friend replied that they were “pussy” hats for the Women’s March in L.A., her aunt replied, “Geez.  Sorry I asked.”  

"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

It is a time-tested notion of politics that the delivery matters just as much as, perhaps more than, the message. It is also a notion that feels painfully appropriate to describe our current times, as the country prepares to inaugurate a former reality show star to its highest office. In light of Donald Trump’s ascendence, and in preparation for the days to come, those looking to rein in the President-elect’s most unethical tendencies are approaching this lesson with fresh eyes.