Truth, Justice, and the American Way

The old black and white Superman television program’s opening informed us that Superman stood for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” I’m not quite sure who is to blame, but Superman seems to have dropped the ball because now we have “Alternative Truths, Lack of Justice, and the Autocratic Corporate Way.”

The above photo is obviously of a different time. Superman could stand to put in a little time at the gym, and Jimmy Olson appears to be getting ready to cop a feel from Lois Lane. It’s a reminder that even the good old days were far from perfect, and getting lost in visions of a idyllic past are little more than indulging in self-deception and delusion. Still, there were some values back then that are worth reclaiming – and doing a better job of living them out while we are at it. Not the least of them is truth. In Superman’s world, people were embarrassed if they were caught in a lie. People still lied of course – it’s hard to overcome human nature – but it wasn’t seen as a virtue. Someone who was caught compulsively lying would have problems finding a job, whereas today they earn a promotion.

Integrity may be old fashioned, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It’s still a virtue. In fact, it has been so ignored by our culture that it has become counter-cultural to tell the truth. It’s ironic that the Republican Party in America, which used to hold itself up as the party of virtue and values, now has a President in the White House who wouldn’t know the truth if it dropped on his head like a ton of bricks. How to reclaim integrity and truth? We reclaim it by practicing it in a grassroots movement that starts with each one of us. What’s holding you back?

Conspiracies and Monsters Under the Bed

When I was a child my brother had a toy robot that would walk a few steps, its chest would fly open, laser machine guns would pop out, and lights would start flashing as it fired at you. After about five seconds the doors would close and the cycle would begin again. It was actually a pretty neat toy, especially for the early 1970s. At night I would have nightmares that Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows lived in our basement and would send that robot toy up the steps. When it fired at me I couldn’t move, and it would walk up to me, lift up its robot arms and grab my calves, inflicting excruciating pain. For those too young to remember, Barnabas Collins was a vampire on a daytime soap opera called Dark Shadows. I’m not aware of any Barnabas Collins conspiracy theories, but if Dark Shadows was on television today I am quite sure more than a few lunatics would think he was real and determined to influence the next presidential election through voter fraud.

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins

As a younger child I believed there were monsters under the bed. My paternal grandmother always used to tell me “don’t let the bedbugs bite,” and since I had no idea what a bedbug was I was pretty sure they emerged from under the bed looking more or less like a lobster. The belief that monsters live under the bed is normal and age appropriate for healthy children, but if a person reached thirty years old and still was afraid to look under the bed that would indicate some serious issues that would require professional help. Imagination is wonderful as long as it is voluntary. If we find ourselves sliding into imagination and fantasy in an involuntary way it can become not very wonderful at all. In fact, it is one of the hallmarks of a delusional state and quite possibly serious mental illness. Imagination can be a very effective way to hide from reality, but that escape comes at a cost. When we find ourselves slipping into delusion involuntarily, we may be in deep trouble.

Over the last few decades, unscrupulous people in the media have sought to take advantage of those inclined to dwell in fantasy, whether voluntarily or not. Most of them have been discredited, but that doesn’t damage their credibility among their followers. To the paranoid, the fact that one of their icons has been discredited actually adds to their credibility. While these people believe their spokespeople are the victims, the real victims are their patsies and those who have been impacted by true tragedy and so are targeted by the Alex Joneses of the world. While to you and me these hucksters and their message are obviously false, to someone who yearns to feel wise and accepted or for whom the world as it is structured isn’t working out for them, the most outrageous nonsense seems an opportunity for them to finally know more than everyone around them. These people need the monsters under their beds to be real. While we might be tempted to reason with them, it won’t work – it will only reinforce their paranoid delusions.

I mention all this because we have a President who preys on these people as well. He is already attempting to lay doubt about the integrity of the upcoming election, despite the fact that the evidence is clear that his election was in part the result of interference from Russia. Of course, the people to whom he appeals will believe him, and won’t change their mind about him (or Sandy Hook) because he makes them feel wise and insightful. Our job isn’t to change people’s minds. That can’t be done because most people’s minds are shut. Our job is to vote anyone who would take advantage of others the way this President seeks to do out of office and to do our best to ensure people like him never find their way to public office again – no matter their party affiliation. That task is so crucial that the future of our republic depends on it.

Maybe it’s just me…

I find myself put off by overly aggressive appeals to get me to join a cause, and it doesn’t really matter what that cause is. When people start pitching their cause by saying it’s the most important cause that ever was or ever will be, I start to feel as if I am at a corner used car lot listening to a guy in a loud plaid sport coat try to sell me a car. It’s not that I don’t think that the cause people are trying to sell me is worthy, anymore than I think the guy at the corner car lot has nothing but lemons on that lot. What is happening is that I hate that hard sell.

The hard sell makes me feel that there is something you are hoping I will overlook under pressure. Back in the old days car salesmen would take your keys if you wanted to test drive a vehicle. Getting those keys back without buying a car often required threats to call the police and charge the dealership with unlawful detention and grand theft auto. (I actually did that once.) That is bad business and it is bad advocacy. Make your case and allow me to decide. Don’t try to tell me that supporting your cause is the only way to prove that I am a good person, because that is nonsense and discredits your cause. Don’t tell me that your cause is the only valid one that exists, because any thinking person knows that is not true. In short, if you can’t dazzle me with the brilliance of your cause, spare me the attempt to baffle with bullshit. I have been around too long for that to work. All it will do is make me take back my keys and walk out.

Somewhere along the way we fell in love with hyperbole as the primary tool of persuasion. In fact, it should be a tool of last resort. It is often based in a poverty mentality – the idea that there isn’t enough. The poverty mentality says there aren’t enough resources, enough potential supporters, enough time to accomplish our goals. That’s simply not true, but if you convince yourself it is you set up a self fulfilling prophecy. You will drive resources away with your false sense of urgency, and then there really won’t be enough – but it will be a situation you created.

This is not a political post

This is not a political post, though it does involve people in politics. Think of it this way – if I wrote about the personal choices of a football player, that post wouldn’t be about football. I wouldn’t be saying that I like the team the person plays for more than another team. The same is true when I write about politicians. Writing about the choices and attitudes of a politician does not constitute a judgment on their political party. Now that we have established what should be a self evident point, we can continue.

Across party lines, we are facing corruption and cowardice in government like at no point in American history. A would-be dictator occupies the White House surrounded by yes men and women on a scale that would make Nixon blush. Politicians of all stripes are loathe to stand up against the nonsense that passes for leadership in Washington, making them complicit in the largest threat to democracy America has seen. The great unwashed have elected one of their own. Should we be surprised the whole thing stinks?

Remember when character mattered? Remember when John Kennedy wanted to sleep with every woman in sight but had the decency to know that it was wrong, and so had them slipped in the back door of the White House while Jackie slept and the press looked the other way? Remember when Nixon was regularly too drunk to function and so others ran the country? Remember Teapot Dome during the Harding administration, the corrective for which the current administration has undone?

Okay, maybe it has only been the appearance of character that has mattered. Still, qualifications did matter. The old adage that any boy could grow up to be President of the United States simply wasn’t true. Candidates for President and even Congress were expected to have a certain pedigree that suggested the educational and experiential foundations to effectively serve. We have a man who has made his living deceiving the public now in the highest office in the land, a massively unqualified con man who has very little idea of what he is doing – and was elected on that basis!

Not surprisingly, we now hear that there is nothing more important that pretending everything is normal during the worst mismanagement of a pandemic imaginable. We are told that if only we create the appearance of normalcy, everything will be fine. It doesn’t matter if grandma and grandpa die to create a lie; it doesn’t matter how many workers – most often in poorly paying jobs – risk their lives to open restaurants, bars, and beaches; it doesn’t matter how many teachers and students will get sick and die to reopen schools. This is true not because it will change anything, it will only change the appearance of our circumstances. It will seem like everything is normal if we can just slip the bodies out the back door in the middle of the night and send them to the mortuary without anyone noticing.

Does that make any sense to you?

Good Lord, I hope not. I hope there is enough decency and intelligence left in this county to know that, whether we like it or not, what happens to one of us impacts all of us. We have failed at education and are reaping the rewards of that folly. We have failed at morality and in exchange made money our God. Our politicians worship that God, and we are reaping the rewards of that folly as well. We have taken a deep dive into selfishness from which we may never emerge as a nation.

These days it seems like everyone with a cause wants us to believe that their cause is the only one that matters. Nonsense. There are many, many causes that matter, so many that if they all are the only one that matters we will never make any progress. The way out of this morass is for each of us to find a cause that matters to us and dedicate ourselves to it in the way that best uses our unique sets of skills and abilities. This will take both time and persistence. There are no magic bullets, there are no overnight fixes, but that makes it even more imperative that we start today. Rest assured we will encounter criticism in a country with no shortage of do-nothing armchair quarterbacks. Everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean we need to take their opinion to heart. Don’t read your reviews, solve the problem.

Who’s the Snowflake Now?

bomb shelterBack in the good old days when I was a child, back yard fallout shelters for the soon to be arriving nuclear winter were all the rage. Those in the know and with the means had them installed and stocked them with canned goods in a kind of pre-survivalist form of denial. Everything you needed to survive, the theory went, could be stocked in your underground hideaway. The fact that it would take hundreds to thousands of years for your neighborhood to be habitable above ground apparently wasn’t of concern. You would be just fine underground, killing your neighbors who tried to access your shelter before you could seal the door. There were countless movies made during this time that played out these scenarios ad nauseum. Funny, though, I don’t remember any fallout shelters including a toilet.

This all sounds great, right? Except that if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the snowflakeskind of person who would have a backyard bomb shelter would never make it. It was the conservatives who were hawks when it came to war that wanted the shelters, and it’s the conservatives today who are crying about their rights being restricted after weeks (not decades) of staying at home in a decidedly half-ass sort of way. It’s the conservatives who don’t want to wear a mask to protect others and feel the need to strut around with their long guns at their side, something most definitely ill advised in the middle of a nuclear winter. It’s the conservatives who dismiss science in favor of their own opinion and feel the need to reopen the economy at the cost of thousands of lives. Clearly, they would feel the need to reopen the door of their fallout shelter against scientific advice as well. After all, they know their rights.

Nature really does abhor a vacuum, even if it is between the ears of a snowflake.

Freedom

All the brave protesters shouting "I am free,"
Spinning in their box for some pigeon feed.
Rage on their faces, rifles at their side,
"Don't mess with me because I know my rights!"

Convincing themselves much ado about nothing
So much better than a little blue pill.
Spending all your time compensating,
Still at the Statehouse you find time to kill.

A woman in charge simply will not stand,
At least not if you're an impotent he-man
So hide your face because you're brave
And play to the camera your freedom to save.

God knows it isn't easy to be effete,
Another 'Murican gone down to defeat.
Screw the dog, kick the wife,
Nobody can tell you to get a life.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States!

box-rocks-isolated-white-corrugated-cardboard-holds-several-colorful-small-rock-parcels-background-37986604

Unfortunately, the last guy was found to be too damn stupid to continue, so we had to replace him with this box of rocks, which has been verified to be a very stable genius with very large hands.

Yesterday, President Trump actually suggested that a light – either inside the body or outside – might cure corona virus. The he suggested household disinfectants, since they trumpdisinfectantclean surfaces in only sixty seconds, might be injected or ingested as a cure for the virus. CNN suggested that he was reaching for a quick solution. Nonsense. As I watched the video of him making these suggestions to physicians and telling them they should check these things out with medical doctors (does he not know these people are “medical doctors”?), I was struck by the fact that he most resembled a five year old child engaging in magical thinking. This isn’t a man grasping at straws, this is a man engaging in whartonkellytrumpmagical thinking at the level of a preschooler and pulling ideas from his intestines.

The truth is that we were warned about his stupidity. The rest of the truth is that a significant percentage of Americans either didn’t believe he was stupid or didn’t see it as a problem. That would be evidence of the stupidity of those people. You may not have to be a genius to be President, but you do have to be able to grab your own ass with both hands. Trump can’t even grab other people’s asses (an easier task), but apparently is proficient at grabbing their “pussy.” The fact that such behavior wasn’t a problem for American voters is evidence of a societal problem of epic proportions. bellcurve

As I have written before, intelligence – like every other naturally occurring phenomena – is distributed across a bell curve. Average intelligence falls in the middle. Half of the people are of above average intelligence and half are below. For every brilliant person you meet, there is an idiot somewhere that balances them out. Currently, one of those idiots is occupying the White House until the above box of rocks arrives to take his place. What do we do about this?

I believe the biggest thing we can do is insist that education is fully funded. No more defunding education to please the wealthy and provide a docile working population. No more encouraging ignorance to please manipulative politicians who want to be able to convince the voting public they have their best interests at heart as they steal their wallets. No more. We need to reclaim our power and demand better from the selfish pricks we have elected to national office. Nothing else will change our situation.

How Can I Cash In?

quote-the-secret-of-being-a-top-notch-con-man-is-being-able-to-know-what-the-mark-wants-and-ken-kesey-36-63-08When confronted with adversity, most of us try to come up with a way to overcome it. Only the most twisted among us look for a way to profit financially from the adversity others experience. Often, but not always, they are politicians. Other times they are little more than small time crooks looking to turn a quick buck. In most every case, they are sociopaths devoid of a conscience, the most severely mentally ill among us. They don’t get the same attention as the pour souls whose illness leads then to more dramatic outward evidence of their illness, and so they operate under the radar.

I once knew someone whose ex-husband was caught on hidden camera by a local news station trying to sell worthless products to the elderly. Most of us would have been humiliated by that experience but, ever the true sociopath, this guy claimed that he was victimized by the television station that caught him, unfairly persecuting him when many others were doing similar things that made his offense seem inconsequential. I ampatriotismlastrefuge quite sure his victims, living on a fixed income and defrauded by him, didn’t find his acts inconsequential at all.

Sociopaths can be quite charming, which makes them ideal politicians. They are more than capable of lying to our faces, saying they have our best interests at heart. They know what our best interests are, they just don’t give a damn. They are incapable of moving beyond their own interest, and for them the rules are something to be bypassed. If you believe you can change them, you are deceiving yourself. The only treatment for the cancer they are is removing them from positions of trust.

I am Discouraged

I’ll be honest with you – I am profoundly discouraged. A significant portion of America is either stupid, morally bankrupt or both. Truth no longer matters, doing the right thing no longer matters, the ability to analyze an argument seems to be beyond at least a plurality of Americans, and it seems that any behavior is justified if it brings me more bullshitpower and allows me to get the outcome I want. That’s true in politics, it’s true in social media, it’s true in casual conversation, it’s true in our churches (especially Evangelical and fundamentalist ones), it’s true in the judiciary – quite simply, it’s true more places than it isn’t true.

I have been thinking about this problem for a very long time. Realistically, we probably don’t have a higher percentage of idiots than we always have – though one could argue that the systematic disassembly of education by Republicans in this country has left us with more under educated people that ever before. What is different today is that we seem to have lost anything even remotely resembling a moral compass. That’s a situation that began with the political right crawled into bed with the religious right and presidentevilpower became the idolatrous god of both.

I have heard many people say that we will have to come together as a nation, that the left and the right and everyone in between will have to find a way to get along. I’m not so sure. When I see people in all walks of life advocating policies and practices which hurt other people so they can get ahead, when I see people supporting a President who is profoundly mentally ill and quite possibly devoid of a conscience, what I see is evil. I am not inclined to make nice with evil. Sorry, Charlie.

For a more in depth look at the issue of evil, check my other blog (www.theinterspiritualtraveler.org) tomorrow.

Fools Driving Disaster

20200323_104650Our nation is being led by a bunch of fools who value their wealth over your life. Let that sink in for a minute. Profits motivate more than science, lies more that facts, hallucination more than reality. Ego rules the day, bluster is valued more than fact, and the very party that prattles on about states’ rights when it is convenient to them are not making noises, along with Faux News a.k.a. State TV, that they the cure may be worse than the disease and shut downs may well have to end after two weeks.

The truth is that an overwhelmed medical system and a skyrocketing absentee rate due to illness will cripple the economy as surely as anything else. We can allow businesses to reopen, but if there aren’t enough healthy people to work they will simply close again in a month- likely for much longer as they struggle to replace workers who will not return. Even for those with microscopic attention spans, limited ability to understand things that cannot be seen, and profound struggles with math, the impact of a forty percent or trumpangryhigher absentee rate is something that people should be able to comprehend – especially if they are wonderful, successful, terrific businessmen.

What we have is a President who was elected by greedy people. For him and his ilk, greed is God, and their primary concern is enriching themselves. Their secondary concern is accumulating power to serve the first concern. Perhaps ironically, many of these people lack the intelligence to stop playing on the railroad tracks, even as the train of pandemic is honking its horn trying to get them to move. We all know how that story ends.