Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hey, Police Department of Glen Carbon, Illinois

Seventeen years ago (yes, I know I have way too much time on my hands) an officer from your department told me that in some places 2 + 2 = 4 is an opinion.  So, according to him the certainty of this rather simple arithmetic equation depends upon location.  I used to think that this claim was self-evidently absurd.  But I was, of course, wrong to doubt armed authority.  A person with a badge and a gun can never be wrong.  Because he has a badge and a gun.  Therefore, everything he says must be completely reasonable.  And, so, the claim that the certainty of basic arithmetic depends upon location must be reasonable according to a very simple syllogism:  1)  Anything a person with a badge and a gun says is reasonable, 2) A person with a badge and a gun claimed that the certainty of a simple arithmetic equation depends upon location, 3) Therefore, this claim must be reasonable.

But, then again, if a person with a badge and a gun says that such syllogisms are valid only in some places, then, well, all bets are off.  But I haven't heard an armed, badged person say such a thing.  Yet.  And until one does, I guess I may assume the universal validity of properly-ordered syllogisms.  I just hope a police officer never tells me that he is lying right now because he might shoot me if I doubt him or if I believe him.

Anyway, the above syllogism, absent any police officer's statement to the contrary, is valid, and since it is valid, I would like to ask you, the Glen Carbon Police Department, how the certainty of a very simple and apparently self-evident equation depends upon location.  Would you, please, explain this to me?  I thought I had mastered basic arithmetic in grade school.  I thought I learned that a simple equation is true and certain everywhere, that 2 + 2 is as certain to equal 4 in St. Louis as in New York, in the U.S.A. as in the Congo, on Earth as on Saturn, etc.  But I was very, very wrong.  I apparently was asleep when the teacher explains to us how basic arithmetic is geographically contingent.  And I really feel embarrassed to have missed such a basic lesson, especially now since I am middle-aged and long past the age when I could have blamed my ignorance of such rudimentary stuff on immaturity.  I got to face it.  I am not three anymore.

So, Glen Carbon Police Department, would you please teach me what I missed in grade school?  Please, explain to me how the certainty of basic arithmetic depends upon location.   Pretty please?

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