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Category: Politics

Knowing Better
I am willing to admit that Marjorie Taylor Greene, the new U.S. Representative from Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, does not know any better. She does, after all, believe in the QAnon conspiracy theory that claims the deep state and powerful liberal politicians are cannibalistic pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring.

I don’t think any of the aggrieved parents of those children has actually stepped forward to complain, but never mind that. In Marjorie’s mind, her online sources are unimpeachable. You wouldn’t expect her to know better about any subject, no matter how insignificant.

On the other hand, you might expect U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley would know better. And you would be fully justified in that expectation. Both attended elite private high schools and went on to study at the best universities (Cruz at Princeton, where he graduated cum laude and Hawley at Stanford, where he graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa). Both went on to study law (at Harvard and Yale, respectively) and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court justices. After that, they had successful legal careers and rose to hold public office at several high levels of government.

You’re damn right they know better. And yet, they participated in Trump’s transparent lie about a fraudulent election and clung to that lie unapologetically even after the Capitol was overrun by murderous domestic terrorists. All the while knowing better.

Many politicians make decisions based on their own political interests rather than on the good of their country. That is a sad truth grounded in their human weakness. It is rare, however, to see that weakness metastasize into ambition so naked that it becomes a thing of evil. They are not alone in their knowing better. With the possible exception of the QAnon believer, just about every pol who voted not to certify the electoral college results knows that their position is dishonest and dangerous.

I guess that we should advocate to have such people removed from office and forever shamed. That sounds good to me, even though that would leave Marjorie the whackjob in charge. On the other hand, at least we’d all be safer.
For the Greater Good
Here we are in a new year, and we’ve got our work cut out for us. There’s the pandemic, of course, and global warming, and the rise of authoritarianism, and…well, the list goes on. One thing that catches the eye, however, is the surge in worldwide poverty. And right next to that phenomenon, we can’t help but notice the corresponding explosion in the wealth of the world’s richest people.

One might be tempted to link those two data points and suggest that the rich thrive on the poverty of others. Or, you might be led to think that, under a capitalist system, that mass starvation and plagues are good for business. I will not go that far here (although it’s an appealing digression). I do, however, have some practical suggestions that might help bring some balance to this teetering misalignment.

Before I get started, I think it would be fair to alert the super rich about my plans for their wealth. Guys, we’re going to be needing that money. Not all of it, of course (we don’t want to kill your entrepreneurial spirit), but, like, 95%. Maybe a little more, depending on how things go. I hope you’re not upset. We wouldn’t do this if it weren’t absolutely necessary.

Don’t worry, you can keep your mansion. The chateau at the lake, too. But that island (you know the one, with the nuke-proof underground paradise with a thousand-year store of supplies) has got to go. You (or rather, we) can’t afford the upkeep.

Furthermore, it is only fair to tell you that we’ll be forced to take most of your annual income as well. Under my plan, the more you make, the higher percentage will be reserved for the public good. That just seems fair. I’m not saying that your effort to make more and more and more money is the cause of all the misery in the world, but no one other than your most slavish toadies in politics believes that it’s actually helping.

I know that some people (your toadies, mostly) will say that such measures would stifle your drive to compete in the marketplace. That argument does make sense — until we remember that you are, at heart, a greed addict. I’m not judging here, mind you. Greed is a perfectly natural human motivation. Even your obsessive, runaway avarice is part of the grand human scheme. In fact, I am counting on that mindless drive to keep you striving even if you’re only keeping .0000001 percent of what you haul in. It’s for the greater good.

The super rich, no doubt, will not see eye to eye with me on this. They might hesitate at first to relinquish their bloodstained, infected treasure. I get that, but I have faith in my fellow human beings. Reason will carry the day. So, in that spirit, let me just say to my hideously rich friends — we can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. Thank you for your cooperation.
One More Try
I am now willing to admit that my quest to find an explanation for the MAGA phenomenon may never find fulfillment. I have even come to accept the possibility that “understanding,” in the strictly rational sense, may be unattainable.

But there may be another path. It was suggested to me recently that the forces driving the MAGAs could best be viewed as “feelings.” That insight has given me pause, perhaps because it is so obviously true. But this realization still leaves me with a knotty conundrum: what feelings could generate this kind of seeming madness? Finding my explanation in the universe of feelings could be even more challenging than my vain attempts to find any kind of logic or reason in that strange netherworld.

Still, I feel the need to try. Let’s start by removing intelligence from our consideration. Smarts have nothing to do with feelings. Skeptical thinking is also out of the picture, along with common sense, good judgment, education, expertise, and real life experience. And talking about facts would be irrelevant.

We do, however, have to look at evidence. Not evidence for or against some proposition or idea or assertion, but of feelings. If we want to know what feelings are in play here, we have to look at all the available data. Sadly, there’s not a lot to go on when trying to figure out what other people are feeling.

What people say about how they feel should be considered, but such declarations are notoriously unreliable. It is much better to examine how people act if we want to get an accurate take on their emotional state.

Let’s start with facial expressions. When I see our current president speak at a rally, I examine the faces of the supporters sitting right behind him, looking for clues. It’s not a pretty picture. There is laughter, but it is almost exclusively in response to put-downs. Indeed, many of the insults from their hero are founded on cruelty. I also see hatred. And petty grievance, and revenge.

I suppose we are all susceptible to such feelings. Like the MAGAs, we are human. But I would be more comfortable with these people if I could detect some compassion or gentleness or hope in their faces. Or something like love or genuine curiosity. This is not to say that these people don’t possess these feelings. But if they do, they are not bringing them to political events.

We can also look for evidence of feelings in the conduct we see from MAGAs. In that respect (though Matthew McConaughey will no doubt disagree with me), The Right seems much more at ease with physical violence than The Left. You know, killing people and stuff. Or maybe they just give in to their violent impulses more easily. Let’s agree, in any case, that both sides smash windows. Okay, Matthew?

I have not observed that MAGAs necessarily harbor feelings of racism. They do, however, hang out with a lot of people who do. In fact, they readily admit racists and white supremecists and nazis into their gatherings. Those are the deplorables you've heard about. That could simply mean, I suppose, that MAGAs tend to be forgiving and non-judgmental.

Unlike me. Oh, I can forgive, I guess, but I can’t help being judgmental. When I see people enjoying cruelty, when they seem drawn to meanness strictly for its own sake, when I see them reveling in hatred, I wonder whether such people are morally and ethically weak. Bad, in other words.

Let me assure you, Matthew, that when you say there are good people on both sides, I do not immediately think: yes, but there just happen to be a lot more of them on The Left. I do however, feel as if that’s true.
Now What?
Well, for one thing, I will be getting better nights’ sleep. We’ll still have to worry about What’s-his-name until January 20, but then he will be gone, and that is a very good thing for the world and for my own inner peace.

Republicans, of course, will have things a bit tougher. They must continue to take seriously their leader’s childish moods, a collection of traits that now features as its prime component the fact that he is all butthurt at having lost to Joe Biden. This case of butthurt, in fact, may be the most aggravated in all of human history. Being butthurt, in case this term is new to you, is to feel resentment or take offense when such a feeling is utterly unjustified.

Republicans must now pretend that the President is not butthurt at all, but rather a victim of multiple and complex schemes to cheat him. He says so, after all, and since they still live in such abject fear of him, they must affirm and mimic his foolishness. It is deeply demeaning for them, but on the other hand, these guys really had it coming.

If you are a Democrat, this is both entertaining and frustrating. For my part, I have decided to let go of the frustration. There was always going to be damage during the last days of What’s-his-name's regime. So be it; at least I’m getting some much-needed rest. After all, the end is near…and I am not a Republican.
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Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz