The other day at a rural intersection, I pulled up behind a pickup truck towing a small trailer. At the stop sign, his left-turn signal light was blinking on the trailer. So, naturally I expected him to turn left. He turned right. As he rounded the corner, I could see the turn signal on the right rear of the truck, blinking away, just as the left turn signal continued to blink on the trailer. Ah ha! He had his wires crossed between his truck and trailer tail lights.
Now, there’s a metaphor, I thought, for the state of our world today. We certainly have our cultural, economic, and political wires crossed. Listening to almost any politician, then look at what he does. (it’s usually a ‘he’ who gets his wires crossed, except for Senator Susan Collins, of course.) Behavior is just the opposite of pontifications. Principles and values proclaimed are rarely consistent with behavior. We live in a world of propaganda and prevarication.
Illusions and Ideology
The term, “Fake News” used to be a critical twisting of the name ‘Fox News’ by those who criticized the Fox editorial policies of brazenly distorting facts to fit its ideological agenda of supporting the political and corporate right wing and denigrating anyone sho supported progressive or liberal viewpoints. Walter Cronkite would have turned over in his grave at the thought that we might consider any of it to be journalism. All the principles of propaganda are at play and the American people are unprepared to wade through the barrage of distortion.
Now Trump has taken over the “fake news” trope with his endlessly tweeted travesties of “truthiness” and endless made-up claims about his many perceived enemies, including the most eminent climate scientists and epidemiologists in the world. No limit seems to exist on the bold prevarications of the pretend president when facts of pandemic or extreme weather events confront his illusions of greatness. However, his autocratic impulse is so very real.
Delicate Democracy and Ruthless Rapaciousness
But our predicament goes much deeper than what many consider a political aberration—an unprecedented deviation from obvious facts and a uniquely complete lack of compassion combined with a ruthless pursuit of cruelty. Putting aside Trump’s personal pathology for the moment, we must consider that the policies he has proposed and enacted are simply the extreme endgame of a pattern that has grown for decades.
We must wonder how Moscow Mitch and his band of financial bandits, who control the US Senate, could pursue such cold-hearted rejection of any compassion for the American people. Their complicity in the woeful denial of the clear-cut facts of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned upside down or snuffed out entirely Millions of citizens’ lives. Their bold attempts to censor scientific reports from the formerly most respected public health institution in the world go far beyond shamelessness. Their parallel resistance to taking action to confront the climate emergency places the nation and the world in grave existential danger.
No Country for Old Pseudo-Aristocrats
The founders of this republic, as diverse and conflicting as their religious and political philosophies were, envisioned a nation the government of which had the sole mission of assuring the security and welfare of its citizens. As the intense minority of Trumpist acolytes amp up their racism and hatred, egged on by the sociopath in chief, the nation’s most sacred institutions come under deeper threat by the forces of individual and corporate greed. We have rested on our laurels so long, assuming that democratic institutions survive without our vigilance, that we barely notice that the nation’s political wires have been crossed.
This nation will not survive by turning in the wrong direction because it has its cultural and political wires crossed. Diverse as we are, we must pull together on the fundamental threats we all face. That may require reflecting upon the nation’s violent roots as well as its ideals and moving on to a new commitment to ourselves and to the Earth System our crossed wires are destroying. It looks more and more like the key to national unity may reside in community self-organization to mitigate sources of climate chaos, suppress the deadly virus, exercise direct democracy, and institute racial, social, and economic justice. We cannot wait for the federal government to uncross the wires that bind it; we can only become activists, VOTE, and hope for the best.