Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Living in a Stupid World

You gotta remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land, the common clay of the New West, you know? Morons.” Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles

It is late spring, and an election year. The candidates for president have already been chosen, and on one side we have an aging but highly competent old-style Democratic politician, and on other side, we have Donald J. Trump. How that managed to happen is a mystery to me. It would appear that choosing an avowed anti-democratic, authoritarian, insurrection inciting, megalomaniac who threatens the United States, its constitution and democratic institutions to lead a major political party in the same country is acceptable to a large percentage of our population. I am, unfortunately, baffled by this sentiment espoused by my fellow Americans, and I can’t understand why they find democracy so loathsome and personally dangerous to them that they would want to abolish it?

However, behind the scenes and hyperbolic political rhetoric is the fact that these right-wing politicians are pandering to a group of citizens who feel that they alone are justified in changing the way that the nation governs from a constitutional representational republic to a single party autocracy just because they feel that their privileges are threatened (they are not), and that they are not getting the respect and empowerment that they righteously deserve. They appear to be willing to foment violence and insurrection to achieve their objective. Our nation’s government is supposed to be by the people and for the people, and that means all of them, not just a certain group. The fact that these individuals are predominantly Evangelical Christian (although, not all of them) who believe that their white, Christian, cis-gender privileges are under siege, and that they believe that their way of living and believing is the only correct way, is to me, quite disturbing.

Magicians, Witches, Pagans, Occultists and purveyors of alternative belief systems, philosophies and metaphysics have always been a vulnerable group. In Nazi Germany, they were rounded up and put into concentration camps along with Jews, Communists, regime detractors, intellectuals, gypsies, and other folks who did not fit the racial profile of the Aryan archetype. The Jews suffered greatly and millions of them were exterminated, but less known, so were many occultists, and metaphysical intellectuals, and members of occult societies. If someone felt that they should stand by their beliefs and principles, then they were liquidated with all of the other social outcasts. When I place my vote and perform my civic duty, this insight is foremost in my mind. I would never vote for anyone who would take away my rights to practice my religious beliefs as I see fit without intervention or interdiction by the government or some socially appointed proxy.

I see this distinction quite starkly, and I don’t need to ponder the political issues or play the role of both-siderism, as the MS press seems to happily to play, or pretend to be non-aligned, independent, unbiased or impartial. When I vote, I am voting for my own economic self-interests and my democratic principles, that all citizens are equal and deserve equal human rights, and that our right to worship as we see fit is one of the main rights that I strongly believe in. To equivocate or puzzle over minor disagreements is a complete waste of time. I know who can aptly represent me, and I know who is inimical to my religious and magical practices.

As I look at the upcoming election, there doesn’t seem to be any equivocation on my part. One party has abandoned democracy, and the other party has become its champion. I know that I will happily vote for all of the Democrats running in my locale, state and the nation. There is no guess work for me. I may not agree with all of the policies that the Democratic Party espouse, and I certainly have great misgivings about the role America is playing in the Israeli Gaza war, but overall, I am satisfied that their representatives will defend our constitution and preserve our democratic institutions. I will not vote for any Republicans, and I will urge all of my friends, family, neighbors and those sisters and brothers of the Craft to vote for the Democrats regardless of their differences of opinion on this policy or that principle.

In this election in November, we are deciding on what kind of country we are to become, a continuation with the democratic experiment begun over two hundred years ago, or the founding of a new religious autocracy, backed by a Christian religious oligarchy. I am not engaging in hyperbole, since Trump has stated his intentions for a second term of office. If he and his Republican minions win, there will likely not be another election, or there will be show elections where the outcome will be predetermined. Even if Trump loses, he promised not to respect the outcome, and we as a nation can expect some difficult times ahead even after his defeat.

This brings me to my great puzzlement. If I can see how one-sided this coming election is turning out, why is it that so many other of my fellow Americans can’t see it? Why are some of these people so against our representational democracy, the constitution, our laws, and the institutions that support this organization. One would think that anyone who was politically conservative would be most ardently interested in preserving the nation and its institutions as they currently exist. How have these people lost faith in such a successful experiment in governance that other nations have been copying it in some form or another ever since that faithful day when we became a nation governed by laws and institutions and not a nation governed by one or a few?

During most of my life, I associated political conservatism with the preservation of the nation and its institutions, and a robust and even macho engagement with the rest of the world, particularly the battle against Communism and the nations that supported it. While the Democratic party represented the introduction of socialism into our national fabric, which actually helped to make our nation more fair and economically balanced than it had been in the 19th century, they, too, engaged the world as a conflict between autocratic regimes and their proxies, and the free world. That was the ideal in regards to geopolitics, but the reality was a lot more dirty, unethical and complicated.

Democrats and Republicans, and even independents, had to compromise and work together to accomplish their goals. We were never about a single party having all of the power, at least not until the 1990's. It was Newt Gingrich who brought out the partisan perspective of polarization, that the other side of the aisle was somehow evil and had to be neutralized. That attitude grew and waxed under the direction of George W. Bush, but still, democracy persevered, although in a more partisan and polarized atmosphere.

When I think about what set off the conservative movement to the course of autocracy, I can readily point to Obama getting elected. The fact that a brilliant politician and statesman was readily elected president of the United States wasn’t a new event in our history. However, the fact that he was a black man and a Democrat set off a firestorm in the Republican party, and it brought together a lot of people who felt that the country had changed too much, and that something had to be done to protect the interests of white socially conservative religious people. It also activated racists, bigots, and those on the political fringe who felt left out and disfranchised by a country that was demographically changing, and where the population of white people was slowly becoming a minority.

These people believed that their privileges were somehow endangered by a liberal elite that actually had little power and the ability to influence the country. Liberalism has always been on the political fringe, and that most of the country was politically in the center between left and right. Where before conservatives had seen Communism as the enemy, they now saw their non-white, non Protestant Christian fellow citizens as the enemy. They believed that they were being persecuted and soon to be outnumbered, so with that in mind, democracy, even a representational democracy, seemed to allow too many other undesirable people to hold equal power with them. Of course, that is the basic premise of a democracy, it has to have equal representation and equality before the law, and a fair economic basis in order to be truly realized. Our nation is still working that out, but we at least have a foundation that has proven the test of over two hundred years. We don’t want to overthrow it. We just want to make it closer to achieving the ideals that it espouses.

All of this, of course, is just recent history. The fact that a black man can become president of the nation is proof that the ideals of democracy are working. It doesn’t mean that somehow things have gone awry. Yet that is how some people in our country saw the Obama presidency. Then, in 2016, a highly competent but much maligned politician, the wife of a former president (Hillary Clinton), ran against a so-called populist media personality with no governing experience (Donald Trump), and the populist surprisingly won. We suffered four years under the rule of a president and a party that had lost ability to compromise or work together as a nation, and who was an unqualified disaster as a world leader. It took two years for the current president, Joe Biden, to fix what the Trump presidency had damaged in our homes, communities and in the world abroad, and he has gotten very little credit for the enormous work that he and his cabinet has successfully accomplished.

Donald Trump is also a crook, pathological liar, and an affirmed sociopath and malignant narcissist. His presidential cabinet was the most corrupt in the history of the nation, and his misguided policies ensured that a world pandemic killed over a million Americans. When he lost the election in 2020, he and his minions attempted to thwart the peaceful transition of power, even fomenting an insurrection on January 6, when congress was supposed to certify the election results.  Now, with over 90 indictments for various crimes that he has been accused of committing, he is running again for the presidency with the full backing of his party and their constituents. All I can think about is why this is happening?

I understand that some people are afraid of the changing demographics, and that we are slowly becoming a more secular population that tolerates a diversity of viewpoints and personal perspectives. However, the very laws and institutions of our nation will continue to operate to ensure that people are represented and that their differences are respected. It has never been a perfect system, but it is a good system of government, and it should be continually updated and made more fair and balanced. As FDR said so many years ago, “The only thing that we have to fear is fear itself.” If we as a people can keep faith with our government, then we can be certain to continue our American experiment in a representational democracy.

Still, there is a movement in our nation to abolish our government and democratic principals for a single party autocracy, that it somehow will ensure that a white Protestant Christian minority will remain privileged and empowered. Of course, that won’t happen. Only an invested oligarchy and a compliant and fixed autocracy that serves it will benefit, and the lower class or poor Evangelical Christians will not be the beneficiaries. We, the little people, will get screwed over in that brave new world, and those who are not social conservatives will end up in concentration camps, along with illegal foreigners, LGBTQ folks, liberals, non-Christians, and other undesirables, and that includes me. Everyone else who survives will live a very diminished existence, with no legal representation or rights.  

Certainly, there is enough recent historical accounts that should help anyone who is considering such a change to rethink their priorities. We spent several years fighting against fascism in the world, and decades after that fighting autocracies in a cold war. How is it that today there are people in our nation who are attracted to abolishing our government for a single party autocratic theocracy?

The answer to this question is that there are a lot of misinformed, low-information, intellectually challenged people living in our country, and most of them are white. They are, in a word, stupid people. What can we do about stupid people? We can try to talk to them, and we can certainly listen to them, but at some point, we need to point out the terrible flaws in their logic and show them a rational alternative. We can help them, certainly, but they have to get out of their habit of   epistemic closure, and they need to relearn to use deductive reasoning and acquiring an open and curious mind.

Meanwhile, stupidity does cause a lot damage, and it can be undone, particularly at the ballot box. Despite Trump’s popularity during these hyper polarized political times we live in, my hope is the he and his party are thoroughly trounced this autumn, and also in subsequent elections. If enough people reject this kind of political and religious revisionism, then it will decline in popularity and adherence. This is a powerful conflict to root out mass-stupidity wherever it exists, and it is something that afflicts not only our country, but other parts of the world as well. We live in an age where stupid people have the power to undo all the good that has been accomplished in the last 100 years, and since they are easily duped by unscrupulous leaders, we have the populous of fools being blindly led by leaders, who are actually quite stupid themselves.

I hope that my belief that knowledge and wisdom will overcome stupidity and selfish ignorance in our nation and our world will show signs of happening starting in November and proceeding onward into the future.

Frater Barrabbas

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