It was the Trump apologist Salena Zito who, by way of defending Trump, suggested that his words should be taken ‘seriously, not literally.’ (She offered this defense in a deceitful effort to absolve Trump from the plain meaning of what he said, at any moment. Instead of considering his statements, one was supposed to take Trump’s words not as they were – lies or calumnies – but figuratively as vague policy goals.)
Her effort toward Trump’s absolution has proved a failure: Trump is responsible for his literal claims and should also be taken seriously for the destructive policies that derive from those stated claims. He’s unfit in both words and deeds.
Zito’s formula, however, has use beyond her fruitless defense of Trump. There is, of course, a difference between statements (the literal) and actions (what’s serious as a consequence of action or policy).
Applying this formula to Whitewater’s local government, one finds an application in reverse of its original usage: one should take Whitewater’s local government literally, but seldom seriously.
Officials are responsible for their words and actions, but for Whitewater (and likely many other communities) the words alone are more tangible than policy results.
That’s a situation both ineffectual and absurd: words should lead to effective results, and an environment where policy goes no farther in effect than declarations and pronouncements reduces local government to a bad poetry reading.
That is, however, where Whitewater’s local government find itself. Following a long local custom of grandiose press releases and vainglorious claims, local government has little more by way of policy than more press releases and hollow declarations.
That approach is literal, but not serious.
Doubt not: officials are responsible, personally and often collectively, for acts of misconduct and injury to others. Those actions must always be taken seriously, and be met with redress.
Beyond that, however, Whitewater’s officials should most often be taken literally for their statements, but not as often seriously (as most local pronouncements will achieve little or nothing).
There has been, and will be, for example, controversy over local regulations during the pandemic. The seriousness – the effectiveness – of those regulations rests on cultural compliance beyond the ability of Whitewater’s local government to assure.
A different local government might have had this kind of cultural influence; this one does not.
That’s truly regrettable, as we’ve a cultural problem with public health compliance. This local government is unlikely to be able to effect sufficient, needed change. I supported a mask ordinance for example, but an ordinance is a poor substitute for committed, responsible private conduct.
Those depending on city government or university officials to see Whitewater through this pandemic are relying on too few, and too little.
Whitewater needs to develop means of persuasion apart from government officials, politicians, and others of the same-ten-people ilk. It’s hard to develop those means in the middle of a public health crisis, but the sooner they’re developed the sooner we’ll be ready for future challenges.
And so, and so – always literally, not as often seriously.