I never thought I was much of a pessimist, but the times, they are a changin’. Not that I ever saw the world through rose-colored glasses, but I did not think I was THAT negative. I am not so sure anymore. I always thought that I was somewhere between Lincoln (you can’t fool all the people all the time) and P.T. Barnum (there is a sucker born every minute).
I am currently reevaluating this position. Certainly, the balance between the two (consistent fools and those who cannot be fooled, at least not all the time) has shifted. There are more people being fooled and certainly more suckers out there. Think about how many times in the last month you have heard, read, or seen a report that says something like “the anti-vaxxer [State Official, Sheriff, Mayor, Pastor, Police Chief, Local Councilperson, Local Loudmouth, etc.] has died of COVID.” I mean, is there anything more Darwinian than an anti-vaxxer dying of COVID? And is my reaction not the very definition of schadenfreude?
How about the fools who spend their time worrying about the pedophile ring being run out of a Washington, DC pizza parlor? Or that the 2020 presidential election was stolen?
And the suckers who believe that the couple hundred million dollars raised by Trump is being spent supporting candidates? And then, continuing to swallow that incredible line of bullshit even after learning that the former president was forced to return over $120 million to previous donors?
There is a seemingly endless supply of BS and fools and suckers ready to believe. More examples: believing that naturally high testosterone levels are terrific for male athletes but must be controlled in women athletes to avoid an unfair advantage. Or that the Team Russia that was banned from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is different from the “Russian Olympic Committee” athletes competing in the current games.
I think we have enough proof that you can fool most of the people most of the time. The big lie works. It worked for Goebbels, it worked for Mussolini, it worked for Stalin, it worked for Trump, and it is working well today for Messrs. McConnell and McCarthy and Santis and equally well for Mses. Tlaib and Omar, Boebert and Greene.
We have become a society where extreme and preposterous positions are now normal and expected. Here is a smattering of the nonsense we are being asked to accept as legitimate behavior:
- Blaming the January 6 insurrection on Nancy Pelosi. I don’t think even Kevin McCarthy or Jim Jordon are dumb enough to try that one. Then again, maybe they are. Yup, they are.
- The city councilman in Texas who called a fellow councilperson, African American no less, by the N-word, in public and on tape and then blamed the African American mayor by saying she said it first in a “private” meeting, an assertion which she, unsurprisingly, denied. Wait, I bet the councilman states he is “not a racist.” Yup, he did.
- The Tennessee Pastor who threatened to “kick-out” members of his congregation for wearing a mask. I love how this guy practices “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I am pretty sure Jesus would not be approving.
- Representative Cori Bush of Missouri who, according to the Kansas City Star, “was one of just three Democrats, along with Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, to oppose the $1.9 billion security legislation for the Capitol Police, a response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.” The increased security, she argued, “will not expose the root causes of the attack, or ensure greater safety.” Bush put it bluntly on Twitter the following day: “Investing more money in policing is always bad, actually.” The reductio ad absurdum here is that no money for police is the best possible good? Bad logic. Dumb Statement.
- Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin who, in opposition to the infrastructure bill, showed a graphic illustrating that “a stack of 1 trillion-dollar bills would be 67,866 miles high.” “That is what we are debating spending,” Johnson said. “A stack of dollar bills that extends more than halfway the distance to the moon.” While only some of his numbers are correct, the real question is what is relevant about this obscure fact? And, by the way, the distance to the moon is 238,900 miles, half of which is decidedly not 67,866 miles. Also, compared to what? The US economy’s GDP is almost 20 trillion dollars annually. Considering that the infrastructure bill covers 8 years, we are talking about 0.00625% of total GDP (and a total of almost 11 million miles of dollar bills). Ron Johnson is dumb as a stump.
- The motorcyclist who passed me, the car behind me, and the slower car I was following (doing perhaps 50 miles an hour) in a no passing zone going up a mountain on a two-lane highway in rural Vermont. My guess is the guy hit 85 or so. You know what those in the motorcycle business call people like that? Organ donors.
- Texas Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz (R) who had to delete a tweet calling gymnast Simone Biles a “national embarrassment” and then issue an apology after his boss, the state’s Attorney General came to Bile’s defense and criticized Reitz’s “very inappropriate” tweet. In what might have been an episode of actual self-realization had he written it himself (which I doubt), Reitz tweeted this: “In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I opined on subjects for which I am not adequately versed. That was an error. I can’t imagine what Simone Biles has gone through.” That last line should be tattooed on his forehead.
- Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), or Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). This (s)quad of lunkheads “attempted to hold a press conference in support of the people who have been detained because of their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. But the event, which was scheduled at the same time as the Jan. 6 select committee’s first hearing, never really got off the ground because the members of Congress were drowned out by a small group of protesters, including one very persistent whistler.” (Source: The Week) This speaks for itself.
- All the people who have decided to risk their lives and mine because we had a President who was too much of an idiot to say, “take care of each other and get vaccinated.” And I am grateful that I am not a health-care worker who has to deal with these ridiculously stupid sick people.
- How about conflating asking for vaccination record with the Nazi’s requirement for Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing.
Trust me, I could go on for pages on the recent behaviors, beliefs, and statements that would once have been classified as irrational or unbelievable or nonsensical that are now accepted by millions of our fellow Americans. We have been subject to the largest experiment in desensitizing ever attempted. And it is working. The apparent ratio of knuckleheads to rational thinkers is being tipped in the wrong direction. The shitty truth is that millions upon millions of Americans believe this bullshit and/or perpetuate it for personal gain.
When I contemplate what the future might look like if current trends persist, there are days when I am grateful to be 65 instead of 15.
Melting glaciers, out-of-control wildfires, fascist insurrectionists, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers infecting other people, our collective inability in this country to feed the hungry and provide a living wage for everyone, restrictions on voting, continued gerrymandering, demonizing legal immigrants, the insipid interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, the even worse interpretation of the 1st Amendment, giving free speech rights to corporate donations. The idiot conspiracy theories and the idiot candidates and elected officials who believe their own bullshit. Reigniting the old Southern canard of “nullification” and applying it to election results the state party in control doesn’t like.
No wonder young people are skeptical of our political system and our planet’s future. Who can blame them? They are demonstrating the appropriate cocked eyebrow at the mess we’ve allowed to fester. I am surprised we don’t have an epidemic of teenage projectile vomiting unrelated to COVID. Because it sure seems like that would be a legitimate response to the idiocy they are forced to observe.
But there is hope. By and large, most of the teenagers and young adults I have met are not fools. Or suckers. In fact, quite the opposite. They know their elders have fucked things up beyond recognition and they are committed to behaving differently. Pray to every and any deity or power you prefer that they are successful.