By Ed Farmilant
[Cross-Posted, with permission from the writer, an Arizonan, from Daily Kos]
[Note to readers: If you run for office, and you’re lucky, you’ll meet an Ed Farmilant or two along the way. I met Ed in 2008 and we’ve stayed friendly since. He has a wonderful perspective, which this guest post gives me the opportunity to share. Hope you enjoy it!]
The bumper sticker on the car slightly ahead and to the right of me said something like “The Constitution: vexing liberals since 1789”. My first thought was doesn’t the driver know about the ACLU?
But, then I realized that even if he did, (and how could he not?) it wouldn’t matter; this level of what is called cognitive dissonance has to be high for him to think that message made sense.
Although I try not to profile, as I pulled even with him, I saw that he was a gray haired white man, with a determined look and absolutely no joy in his face. So I knew all about him.
I know something about true believers; I grew up in a house of zealots, although on the other side of the political spectrum. My mother was a card carrying Communist. Not a fellow traveler, mind you; that would have meant that she was not fully committed. I define a zealot as someone whose beliefs create their facts.
Growing up, I thought ‘fully committed’ meant that the proletariat came first before any other consideration. But now I think it also means that you never allow doubts to intrude on your beliefs. Never question leadership decisions. Never say ‘yes, but’. You must ride along with the abrupt U turns in direction, never wear a seat belt, never look at a map or a compass or you might question why this road was being taken and then you would be suspect. Other left of center groups were anathema; you had to be 99.99% ideologically pure or you were shunned and attacked. (Got that, Moderate Republicans?) This litmus test prevented, (what I hope was an unintended consequence) forming alliances with other like minded groups on issues they could agree on and maybe accomplish something.
I think that the guy in the car is sure that his bumper sticker is clever and therefore the truth. I think that his trust in his beliefs about what makes the world go round is deeply felt, as I know my mother’s trust in hers was. Otherwise I can’t explain why she didn’t think there was something wrong about the Hitler/Stalin pact, or after repeated reports of anti-Semitism in the USSR, even from people she knew and respected, said it was all lies and propaganda; they were the ones being duped. She was convinced that Russian Communism collapsed because Gorbechov was in the pay of the CIA!
That level of being so uniformed, by someone so political, can only come from a refusal to read or watch anything that doesn’t preach to the choir. Unwillingness to put two and two together must be by choice. This is the arrogance of the zealot.
My mother genuinely wanted only what was best for people, (which meant that she knew what was best for them). I’m sure that the man in the car and his fellow travelers want what’s best for the people too, but they come from different philosophical starting points.
I’m sure that when Sam Brownback, Governor of Kansas, cuts funding for the safety net because ‘it makes people dependent’, he really believes dependency is worse than starvation. So no need to consider any of the research that comes to the opposite conclusion. Or the climate deniers, who only quote the 3% of scientists who say it’s all a hoax. Or the NRA stalwarts, who parrots ‘a good man with a gun can stop a bad man with a gun’ have, therefore, solved the problem of the tens of thousands of yearly gun deaths in the US, so there is no further need to debate the matter. (After all, The Second Amendment.)
I could go on and on; somehow it’s okay that W lied us into a war that took the lives of tens of thousands of people. And, Dennis Hastert, Josh Duggar, Oliver North, Charles Colson and Jimmy Swaggert, are good fellow Christians who made an error in judgement and so their crimes do not represent, had nothing to do with the logical result of arrogant, selfish power. Besides, they have the same skin color, philosophical beliefs and go to the same church, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, as my man in the car.
They all intuitively understand that compassion for the other is naïve; (isn’t that what their guru Ayn Rand preached?) Individualism, a concept that goes hand in hand with free market ideology and unfettered greed, has become, since Reagan, the received wisdom and supported by the main stream media.
The man with the bumper sticker is against background checks for gun purchases, a livable minimum wage, Obama Care and collective bargaining for others, because he doesn’t want government telling him what to do. He is for anti-abortion laws, state’s rights and marriage inequality because he wants government to tell others what to do. His beliefs inform him completely. Facts are for tree huggers.
Why is it, in his mindset that anyone who wants to make life better and easier for people is a clear and present danger and anyone who wants people to compete for everything, (Hunger Games) is above suspicion? (A bit sociopathic, no?)
So, even as Republican legislatures gerrymander their states political lines and pass voter suppression laws (voter ID okay, but no poll tax, so it’s just politics) and pass draconian laws against women’s rights, children’s health, education funding, gun control etc., opinion polls on all these social wedge issues show that these legislatures are not representing their constituents.
The American public has become much more progressive than most of their legislators. In the past five years, self- identified conservatives have dropped from 39% to 31%, while self-identified liberals have risen from 22% to 31%, even as the Koch brothers gave millions to the Tea Party, universities and reporters to mold our thoughts.
The disconnect between Republican lawmakers and their constituents has resulted in some jaw dropping legislation. The Kansas Supreme Court voted against the administration on a school funding issue, so the governor and legislature are poised to defund the Court and reduce its authority. (Who needs checks and balances when the governor is doing sacred work). This and other actions that violate the social contract we have with our three branches of government (Citizens United, NSA spying) has and will create increasing tension between the needs of the people and our political power structure.
In her book, The March of Folly, historian Barbara Tuchman tells of past governments that were destroyed by their own doing. One of the conditions of being a chapter in her book was that there had to be contemporary voices correctly predicting the dangers of the decisions that brought about the downfall. The arrogance of those in power caused them to ignore these voices and they were doomed. (Just saying.)
There are signs all around, of people organizing protest movements against anti-human state and federal government actions and these are growing in number. I know this because of Daily Kos and the Nation and not TV or newspapers.
Just one example; The Moral Monday Movement that started in North Carolina is quickly spreading to other Southern states. A coalition was formed of groups with separate issues, when they realized that the spokes of a wheel meet at the center. What started with a few people marching has become thousands, demanding their legislators define morality in human and not corporate terms.
While there is some civil disobedience, these movements are nonviolent, but if the basic needs of the people; jobs with livable wages, affordable health care, adequate housing, availability of nutritious food, first class, affordable education and all without discrimination of any sort, continued to be ignored, these protest movements will escalate until the United States gets a chapter in an updated “March of Folly”.