When we were high school students, mercilessly sentenced to the constitutionally prohibited, “cruel and unusual” punishment, of “intermediate algebra,” ultimate relief, when stymied by an assigned problem, was obtained by surreptitiously sneaking a look in the back of the textbook for the correct answer. Virtually all physical and empirical questions and problems, similarly, have readily accessible source references to consult for relief. Questions regarding physical subjects such as weights and measures, lighting, chemical composition, electrical current, geographical location, highways and routes, literature and authors, history and the environment, just to make mention of some, are referentially and easily answered. It is reassuring to know that there are texts, treatises and other resources to satisfy the need for answers, almost as accessible as peeking in the back of an algebra text.
Standard, empirically proven, factual answers to questions, enable us to communicate effectively, to work, to successfully build infrastructure, to practice law and medicine, to engage in societal activities, to find our way; in short, to perform virtually every reasonable task, as may be desired. Mutually shared and reliably accurate solutions to problems, additionally, furnish a universally accepted baseline and a comforting sense of shared reality.
However, we vigorously protest the accuracy and value of the aphorism, (as we do, all aphorisms) which artlessly states: “For every question, there is answer.” As we have observed in an earlier post,” THE COOLER SIDE OF THE PILLOW,” not every question has an answer, and not every problem has a solution.
No sensible person could, or should, expect human behavior, generally, to be explainable or predictable by reference to a field manual or text. This is so, because most human behaviors are motivated by various and individualized emotional considerations and nuanced perception. There are, in any event, societal norms, red lines, expressing the limits of unorthodox behavior and remedies, expressed socially, medically and legally, as needed. Such unorthodox behavior, in any event is explainable, socially or medically, and so, is not includible in our selected categories of “unanswerable questions.”
In the chapter of Lewis Carroll’s, “Alice in Wonderland,” devoted to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, the Mad Hatter poses a riddle to Alice, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” When Alice gives up and requests the answer, the Mad Hatter replies: “I have no idea.”
We are as frustrated and exasperated as poor Alice, at the absence of answers to many questions, with the crucial difference that our unanswerable questions are non-fiction and tragic.
In the 1930’s, the population of Germany was well educated, cultured and living in a democratic State (Weimar Republic). What caused it as nation, to completely succumb to the influence of a demagogue; a poorly educated housepainter, one, Adolph Schikkelgruber, (“Hitler”) a madman and sadistic wholesale perpetrator of genocide, with delusional dreams of world domination?
What could possibly be the explanation for the persistence, in the 21st Century, of the bloody conflict between the Sunni and Shia Muslims, concerning a 7th Century contested issue, as to the mode of succession to the Prophet Mohammad (viz., by familial succession or vote of the faithful)?
What was the possible basis for the Tutsi- Hutu genocidal wars, between peoples of essentially similar ethnos, culture and appearance, who spoke the identical two languages? (more than eight hundred thousand Tutsi’s were genocidally murdered).
How was it possible, that an ignorant, adolescent and egotistical, former television game show host, is elevated to the office of the President of the United States, the most powerful and influential country on the planet, and the leader of the free world? He had been universally determined by knowledgeable experts, to be entirely unfit and unsuitable for the position. Since elevation to the Oval Office, he has proven, by his overconfident and ignorant impulsiveness to be a complete embarrassment, nationally and internationally, and a literal laughing stock at the United Nations. He has proven himself to be a bigot, a public abuser of women, an enemy of the free press and the media in general. He has made friends with our historic enemies, especially autocratic governments, and has made enemies of our long- standing allies and friends, including Canada. His cruel immigration policy has separated young children from parents and destroyed very many families.
An additional, unanswerable question, considering Trump’s demonstrated behavior, [which also includes, incidentally, utter disrespect for the truth, and illegal profiteering from public office] is, why he, nevertheless, maintains substantial [“tribal”] public support? This would be bizarre and puzzling, even to a Lewis Carroll. How does one account for his uniform support by Christian Evangelicals, despite his flamboyant public boasting about his alleged sexual prowess and admitted, profane abuse of women.
With reference to the particular imponderable dilemma, listed immediately above, there may be no available answer; but there assuredly is an available and relevant response. Bearing in mind the world-shattering nightmare of 1930’s Munich, the responsible American citizen must vote, and vote responsibly. The solution may be, after all, almost as easy as peeking in the back of the Intermediate Algebra textbook; it is revealed by visiting our respective place of election, on November 6.