One thing has become clear in recent months: many Americans recognize the attempt to manipulate and rule over them through invoking hatred, dealing in lies, and making a case for an economy of death and fear – and they don’t like it, and are fighting back against it.
It is by no means only Americans who are making this clear. Mass protests in other countries, where streets fill with people rejecting collectivization and control, testify to how widespread the revulsion is.
But it seems that nowhere are the hate, lies, and death cult illuminated in such vivid, specific relief as in America. There is a simplicity and clarity to the propositions in America not necessarily found elsewhere.
If the same simplicity and clarity are approached, they seem to be most nearly so by the other nations of the “Anglosphere.” All of them – call it the Five Eyes club of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – are in varying degrees of meltdown at the nexus of society, culture, language, and moral spirit. From one day to the next it’s hard to decide who’s in the lead. Will Australia spin off the planet first, or will it be Canada? Will some redemptive earthquake in the United States clear the roiling fog and smoke, and restore a sense of order and balance?
We can’t know. The world has never been in this place before. There have been breakdowns of order over large swaths of the earth, but never before without the safety valve of ill-traveled, unmapped hinterlands, conveniently separating ruling hatreds from each other, muffling the echo of lies, and giving breathing space to life, against laws of predation and death.
It’s not small things Americans are dealing with at the moment: not small encounters with moral conundrums. I want to lay out only three whose grip we writhe in. If America does not defeat them, no one will escape them. No other nation is constituted with the idea of rejecting and defeating them.
One is the phenomenon collectively known as Critical Race Theory. I have no quarrel with those who argue that as an academic perspective, at the university level, it is suitable for debate and analysis. I disagree with its central premise profoundly, but let there be robust dialogue and argument.
The problem is precisely, however, that as it is administered in K-12 education, it is not subject to robust dialogue and argument. Rather, its central premise is taken as a given, and it is made the basis of orthodoxy that can’t be transgressed.
The central premise is that a racial divide engulfs all of human life in an inescapable reality of pernicious social patterns, producing forms of arrogance, privilege, animosity, and unfairness that are basically impossible to extirpate. The foreseeable outcome of teaching from this perspective is that every graduate of the resulting curriculum will hate life: his or her own, that of others, the patterns and events of life, its rewards, virtues, enjoyments, and obligations.
Parents who confront school boards are much wiser about this than the academy. We can argue about how intentional the inculcation of hatred is, but the real point is that it’s inevitable, given the perspective. The perspective is one of obsessing over resentment and a sense of perpetual imprisonment in an unjust situation for which there is no solution or even temporary relief. Everything is terrible; people, all people, are categorized and prioritized for hatred based on assumptions about race.
No one has ever overcome resentment or hatred by obsessively circling back to it and analyzing it. No one ever will. The pedagogy of CRT is entirely about this relentless horror: cultivating the worst sentiments of the human spirit, literally preaching that to reject that practice is to make everything worse, and validate all the things CRT says we ought to hate about each other.
The prospective scale of spiritual destruction here is colossal. Yet America’s education establishment is so determined to implement it that bureaucracies and school boards try to defame, attack, silence, and “cancel” parents who object. CRT in its guise as a K-12 education standard is the opposite of an academic proposition seeking independent thinking or the truth. It is the orthodoxy of a bronze god who demands conformity and brute submission.
The parents who encounter its implementation in their children’s schools recognize it as an attempt to rule their children, and one day their communities, by destroying young spirits. It’s not the parents who are sick in spirit here. Of course they don’t want their children to be ruled by a comprehensive theory of hatred that essentially makes hatred a god that must be worshiped and sacrificed to.
The second phenomenon is the category of lies, and in particular, rule by big ones. Now that we have seen some absolute whoppers laid bare before us over the last few years, I suspect many Americans have begun to question how much earlier the big lies started. The uneasy sense that we can’t be sure, and that the lies clearly have a purpose, is profoundly unsettling, but it can’t be ignored. Life and death can’t be faked; lies don’t rule them, and lies must not rule our orientation toward them.
One of the biggest, which many will think of as the first really big one they came to recognize, is the enormous lie that Donald Trump was in some sort of vague, undefined “collusion” scheme with Russia about the 2016 election, a scheme that required years of “investigation.” Oddly, I was in a position to see through that lie almost immediately, and yet it took me longer than immediately to recognize what the “investigation” was really intended for.
The information that told me the “collusion” allegation itself was a big lie was Devin Nunes’s initial revelation about the electronic spying on Trump and his associates. Nunes announced what he had learned in March 2017, and it took only a brief period of cogitation for me to realize that none of the allegations could be true. The Nunes statements meant that the Obama administration had already spied out years’ worth of information about Trump and his connections – and yet had obviously found nothing.
There would be nothing to find, therefore, and the original spies and the officials commissioning them already knew that. The outcome of the Mueller effort was just as expected. They found nothing, because there was nothing.
But they built a narrative barrage of allegation, insinuation, and innuendo that kept many people believing for a long time that there must be something to find. It was over time, rather than instantly, that I came to see the purpose in this. It was to hold the Trump presidency at perpetual risk and seek to undermine and sabotage it by turning public sentiment against it, as government institutions meanwhile attempted to thwart it using the tools of law – most of the time in ways that constituted abuse of those tools, and that the courts, when applied to, did not uphold.
We have only begun to understand the damage done to all our social intercourse by the rule of this big lie over America for the last four-odd years. It has emboldened the media and recurring groups of officials to try new lies because of all the profit they reaped from the “Trump collusion” lie. The “Trump” lie made real things happen for years, ruining lives, ruining finances, sending human beings to prison for process crimes, usurping vast territory in the infosphere, making Americans feel for a very long time that things were deeply wrong.
Some number of Democrats still apparently believe the incoherent tale that Trump could be spied on thoroughly and then investigated for more than two years and yet somehow escape having his awful crimes found out.
But over time, the rest of America awoke to the reality that if there had been something to find, it would have been found. The narrative, which never made much sense, fell apart entirely, and I suspect most of the people have lost interest in the narrative, per se. At this point, what they recall is that the news was a cacophony of partisan innuendo for month after month after month, and the fact that there was no conclusive outcome, but only more innuendo, means innuendo was all there ever was.
Since the “Trump” lie reached its climax, we have seen a number of public issues dealt with using lies as the first resort. This doesn’t mean the issues themselves are nothing but great, gaseous lies, but it does mean that discerning what’s true is so difficult that people don’t find any value in trying to sort out a steady barrage of conflicting statements and obvious propaganda. Instead, they decide what makes the most sense to them and dismiss the clutter of importunate noise.
Issues in this category include the irregularities in the 2020 election, the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot, COVID-19, and now the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Each of these is a real set of events. Affirming that they occurred is not a lie. But much of the narrative from public officials and the media about them is a series of lies that keep falling apart.
When the common understanding is being ruled or forcibly overwritten by lies, it can be hard to remember what the actual lies are, as opposed to disputes of opinion. In the case of the 2020 election, the big lie is not what people probably think. The big lie is the claim that anyone has ever genuinely investigated the extensive evidence of irregularities and demonstrated that they didn’t affect the electoral outcome.
That has never happened; it’s a lie to say it did. It’s opinion, on the other hand – which each person has a perfect right to – to insist that either Biden or Trump won. As gratifying as it is to express these opinions, they don’t get us closer to the truth. Unless the big lie is at some point turned into the truth, by the actual investigation of evidence, what’s ruling us is a big lie, along with the insoluble clash of unfalsifiable opinion.
The particulars differ, but similar points can be made about the other big-lie enterprises; e.g., COVID-19 is something that’s really happening, but key lies have been retailed in relation to it that have sent public health and human-rights policy decisions off the rails.
Americans in the millions recognize as never before that we are being ruled by big lies: big lies that make real things happen, that set our schedules, that browbeat us for our attention and increasingly can hurt us by deforming policy, or if we don’t mouth fealty to them on command.
As with CRT, Americans are saying no. Perpetually-stoked hatred is not a way to be ruled or governed. Neither is having our civic arrangements whipsawed by lies.
The third phenomenon is one that has been with us so long, we have all but forgotten that it is, in fact, about a cult of death. Because it is, millions of Americans cannot simply come to terms with it. Its insidious effect on our spirits is evident in all the spectacular death rising in a tsunami around us: both death in life and clinical death, whether by casual murder, suicide, overdosing, or the unhealthy habits that attend discouragement and depression and lack of hope.
The third phenomenon is the economy of abortion, in which dealing death to innocent human beings is called the solution to a problem. No one can see death – or life – in this light and avoid spiritually destructive consequences. It’s not possible. Seeing death dealt to others – literally, death itself – as the solution to a problem alters us in ways that irrevocably corrupt all our affairs as a society. If we did not learn that in the Holocaust, we are unteachable.
We can’t be the masters of this death-as-solution viewpoint. It masters us, and we become its slaves, just as we are fated to be slaves to whatever hate we cultivate, and whatever lies we agree to be ruled by.
There is no elegant post-Enlightenment argument to defeat these forms of enslavement with. Outside of theoretical treatment (e.g., in sophomore seminars), they have to simply be rejected if individuals and society are to be whole and functioning. Perhaps they can dance on the head of a pin, with the right music – but they are no way to live, and that’s what counts. Being governed by them is why we can’t claw our way now out of increasingly insane institutions, deranged public policy decisions, and demented spectacles on the streets around us.
These moral confrontations define our time, something I think far more of us see in hindsight than saw coming. They are the battle we have to fight and win. The good news is that law and government can’t “fix” these things for us.
It becomes a terrible world in which we think the tools of law and government can fix our problems of spiritual orientation. The parents repudiating CRT are on the right track in that regard. The vast majority of human problems, the armed state is incompetent to solve — certainly not through indoctrinating the people’s minor children. It is a very, very good thing that Americans are rejecting the siren call to a common commitment to hatred, a common submission to lies, and a common belief that there is a solution of convenience – individual or collective – in death.