To establish a standard of physical measurement — the meter, the newton, the kilogram — is to establish the possibility of objective answers to questions such as, “Am I allowed to carry my luggage on,” “How much will I have to work to cram my overstuffed suitcase into the overhead bin,” and “Is my luggage allowed in the cargo hold?” But what about the standards themselves? Is there, say, an objective answer to the question, “Is it good to use this definition of the kilogram?”
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.”
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.