The Road To Hell Is Paved By True Believers

These days, divisiveness is the norm. Divisiveness bordering on — if not fully enshrined by — hate expressed in venomous comments by one party or group directed at another party or group; comments that dance on the edge of being criminal, often threatening actual physical violence.

This now-accepted behavior of offering vile and crude insults laced with threats of physical violence is so far from civility that I fear we’ll never find our way back.

Where does it come from?

In part, it’s the result of political, social, and news organizations drumming into people that “the other guys” are a danger to you and your family.

Let me reiterate: you’re not just told that your opponents are wrong, but that they actively mean you harm. If not you personally, to your way of life and the future of your children.

Painting those who do not share your beliefs and who question your actions as nefarious, lets you dismiss and ignore their reasoning and concerns.

While the tactic works toward solidifying the ranks of your chosen group, you also trap yourself; once you have vilified and denigrated your opponents, there’s nothing they can say that will move you from your self-righteous throne. Your custom-fit echo chamber is complete and tightly sealed.

The danger of these echo chambers is that unchallenged by differing views, you can be made to believe anything (pizzagate and 9/11 truthers). Lest people assume I’m speaking only about Conservatives, understand that Liberals like conspiracy theories as much as Conservatives).

The danger of these echo chambers is that any course of action can be justified by invoking the greater good.

As I write this, Trump is busy eliminating EPA regulations dealing with clean air and clean water. The argument is that these regulations cost jobs, hamper growth, and ultimately hurt the economy.

Even assuming that is the case, I marvel at the number of people applauding the action. THIS article lists some of the Trump Administration plans when it comes to the environment and the EPA. When I hear Republicans speak about this, they sound almost giddy.

To me, it sounds as if Republicans don’t want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

And yet . . . don’t Republicans have kids? Grandkids? Other family members, friends? Do they own a pet? I mean, hurting a dog is considered pretty much the ultimate crime a person can commit. People will put up with blowing up terrorists and their families, but hurt a dog? Now you’re going too far.

I  believe Republicans do care about their kids, about their grandkids, about their wives and husbands . . . and yes, even their dogs.

So, what’s up? Why are Republicans so obdurate? By the way, Democrats are no better when it comes to their own pet beliefs, and indeed, some of those pet beliefs are what drove the pendulum to swing and give control of the government to Republicans.

Obviously — like Democrats before them — Republicans think they are doing the right thing . . . and that’s when two sayings come to mind, the first being:

 “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

My core suspicion is that  — like Democrats and the Obama administration before them — Republicans and the Trump Administration are greedy and everything they will do while they run things will be focused on helping themselves, helping their buddies make a lot of money, and the citizens be damned.

I suppose there is a small chance both Republicans and Democrats really mean well and believe what they are doing is for both the immediate and future good of the country and its people.

Assuming that’s the case, this is where the other saying comes in:

“Lord save us from the true believer.”

I don’t have a source for this saying, and there are various versions of it floating around. It applies here because much of what each political party and every administration aim to accomplish is based on the aforementioned insular and unquestioned shared belief about how the world works.

That belief is often driven by political ideology and NOT on hard data and that’s a HUGE problem.

It’s a flagrant example of why echo chambers are a danger. They allow you to dismiss the opinion of experts, to dismiss data, to dismiss literally what’s happening in front of your face as irrelevant because when you dismiss criticism, your views make sense, your ideas sound good, and you hold no doubts your plans will work. Further, when everything goes to shit, you can blame the “other guys” for not being on board with your wonderful ideas.

That’s the current political and social norm; beliefs are more important than facts, and opinions carry more weight than data and that’s both scary and depressing.

I can understand fanatics. Fanatics are not in touch with reality and their actions are driven by something besides financial gain. For fanatics, that can be pride, nationalism, the belief of one’s racial superiority, or any one of a dozen paths to feeling superior, of achieving some worth as an individual because of one’s allegiance to this or that imagined supreme being or adherence to a social ideology.

It’s the rest of the players — typically, leaders and pundits — that piss me off because they have a financial stake in parroting misleading and patently false proclamation and who will personally benefit from doing so, usually at the expense of others.

They rationalize lying, cheating, and screwing as many people as possible for maximum personal benefit.

Understand, we’ve had successive administrations that did exactly that, some more egregiously than others, but not much different when it comes to the callousness of personal gain at the expense of other people’s lives.

I cannot think of a President in my adult life that served with the expressed idea of helping the citizens. Perhaps Carter, but I was not paying much attention then, so I can’t be sure.

Sadly, the current batch of opportunists jumped to a level that is difficult to describe and that hardly seems possible under a democratic system of government.

Trump can repeat this as often as he wants . . .

. . . but I’ve never seen — nor do I currently see — a shred of altruism in the man. In my opinion, the man has no class, is not a moral man, is not an ethical man, and I know from his own mouth that anyone below his “station” is considered “a loser.” His main and only consideration — given his actions and rhetoric — is aggrandizing himself.

The scary part? . . . he managed to lasso enough supporters to reach a position where he can do real damage. Again, in my opinion, the man has no interest in anything besides enriching himself and a few of his buddies. He is the poster boy for lack of character, lack of honor, lack of honesty . . . hell, just lack of whatever positive human attribute you care to throw in the mix.

I could be wrong. In fact, I hope I am but I’ve yet to see even a glimmer of depth that would lead me to believe him to be more than what I see and hear.

To be clear, this is not an opinion born out of listening to his “enemies”; I get it directly from the man himself. He may be a consummate liar, but he’s not lying to us about his character.  

For all that he lack as a human being, he is not as scary as people orbiting around him.

He gives them tremendous cover to do pretty much whatever they want and some literally want to bring the system down, believing that it’s not working, that it’s not worth saving, and that it needs rebuilding from scratch.

True believers who reason destroying and rebuilding is the only way to secure a better future and that no amount of suffering — actual human suffering — is too high a price to pay for achieving this supposed better system. Their words, not mine.

Some are tried-and-true believers in various incarnations of the Christian myth; they want nothing more than what Muslims have achieved in Muslim countries; a system of laws based on their holy book. A system forced upon everyone with severe penalties for people who don’t fall in line to their knees.

Rightly assuming support from the Trump Administration, attacks on secular rights are already proceeding through the legislatures of many states.

Others in Trump’s circle are just in it for the money. As long as coffers swell, they don’t care what happens to the country, to you, to me, to anyone who is not as ruthless as they are.

The irony is that to a person, they call themselves “patriots.” All see the Constitution as inconvenient to their goals, but they pay it lip service even as they work to dismantle what’s left of its protection.

The sad part is not that those men are in power, although that is sad.

The sad part is that so many “regular folks” see what they are doing as a good thing, not recognizing the harm being done to themselves and their future as they support these predatory beings.

Under the current administration, as long as the state-sponsored media (Fox News), and the state-supported religion (Christianity), and the state-supported business interests continue to reassure, appease, and mollify the easily swayed — right after they scare them with exaggerated or imagined threats — I see no hope for this “experiment” to survive.

The United States — as an ideal to be imitated — has already tarnished itself to the point that other countries, other nationalities, no longer see us as anything special.  

We embarked on a road where the people we elected will show us all as hypocrites to the ideals we profess to hold so dear, will show us as no better than snake oil salesmen. 

Understand, I’m not naïve enough to believe we ever met those ideals, but for a while, we could at least pretend we were working toward achieving them. We could even imagine we were making progress in that direction. 

I can’t, in good conscience, believe the current administration — and damn near half the country — still hold to those ideals, let alone aspire to them. I can’t even believe it of the other half of the country, the opposition party.

We, as a country, both left and right, have settled on the idea that winning an election — even by the slimmest of margins — entitles you to everything you want without consideration for the “losers.”

In theory, the constitution is supposed to step in and guarantee the rights of the minority. The reality is we no longer even bother giving lip service to that silly notion, and some reject it outright . . . live and on national television.

Given the shift toward nationalism, given the rise of the rabid right and lunatic left,  given the casual disregard the population has for the fundamental ideals anchoring the very creation of this country (other than when it benefits them), one is left to wonder if democracy — both here and throughout the world — can survive the combined attack by supposedly well-meaning true believers and opportunistic profiteers.    

The evidence I see leads me to conclude . . . not.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

The above photos can be found in THIS SmugMug Gallery and in the gallery below. 


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