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Editorial: In this binary world

Let’s make it official: We are binary. We are ones and zeros, black and white, good and evil. That which we believe is absolute. There is no need to pretend otherwise any longer.

We are witness, right now today, to a historical proceeding – the third ever impeachment of a President of the United States – yet it feels as historic as a traffic report. Why? Because the fix is in. We knew how the game would end long before it was ever played. Why? Because we are ones and zeroes, and no amount of manipulation and finagling will ever, ever turn a zero into a one.

We knew going in that Donald Trump would be impeached. We knew going in that Donald Trump would not be removed from office. Everything else is theater and timing.

We are left to consider the age-old problem of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. A physics aficionado might answer thusly: The unstoppable force will bounce off the immovable object and continue on its course. The force will remain unstoppable, the object will remain immovable. Both sides will achieve their objective, and nothing will change.

The danger in all this is that we still believe the opposite, we believe that if we tug hard enough on each end of the zero, we can turn it into a one. If we just keep hurtling forces at objects, one side will give. We are playing to win, but in a binary world the winners and losers are pre-determined so the game itself is just theater and timing.

Political analyst Yuval Levin writes this about our current state: “Every scandal will proceed in whatever way is maximally damaging to public confidence in our core institutions. Each twist and turn and revelation will give everyone on all sides of our politics … just enough reason to believe that their side is in the right.”

He is describing a socio-political thermonuclear reaction in which there are innumerable unstoppable forces colliding with countless immovable objects at the speed of Twitter.  Really, that’s a pretty good description of our world right now, isn’t it?

When was the last time you have actually seen someone’s mind changed? When was the last time a reasonable argument won the day, or a compromise was reached and resulted in the best possible solution? When was the last time two people even agreed on what the problem was?

Can we – the ones and zeroes, the Rs and Ds – can we at least agree that the foundation of American society is liberty? Levin’s point is that eventually all of this intractability erodes liberty clear away. The unstoppable force and the immovable object are not free to choose their own path.

The outcome of these farcical impeachment proceedings is predetermined. It is baked in, the cost of doing business. It is an unstoppable force and there is no liberty to be found. We are ones and zeros. 

Yet hope persists. Our earlier answer to the unstoppable force, immovable object problem was answered only by a physics aficionado, a wiki-professor if you will. The truth is that the very idea of the existence of either predates a better understanding of the physical world. They are philosophical constructs, but scientific impossibilities. An object cannot be immovable, and a force cannot be unstoppable, the physicist will tell you. But we not only can change, we must. In binary code, ones and zeros combine to spell out greater and greater solutions.

Even in this binary world, liberty wins again.

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