Whoever Knew Truth Put to Second Best When Scattered to the Four Winds?

I don’t generally post stuff from Rachel Maddow because I figure that if you read my little blog you already follow important people such as Maddow, Jon Stewart, Atrios. But last night Maddow was so on-point that I think it’s worth posting what she had to say.

Of course, Maddow’s assertion that there are real problems in the world and that the country could benefit from an engaged Rapeublican Party is the first hurdle. At the moment, there’s a huge disconnect between the Rapeublican Party’s list of problems and the list of problems that actually make life worse for most people in America. Tax levels on millionaires (which are currently far lower than they were during, say, the rather productive nineteen-sixties) are not a real problem for Americans and, as Maddow says, lowering taxes on millionaires has never been shown to create more jobs. Pensions for teachers and fire fighters aren’t the problem with our economy. Gay people being allowed to marry does not in any way, shape, or form harm the marriages or families of other people in this country. Allowing women access to (some currently, frankly, quite limited) reproductive health care does not create problems for Americans, one third of whom will either have or have fathered a pregnancy that will end in abortion and the vast, vast majority of whom engage in sex in which at least one partner uses birth control. Separation of church and state does not cause problems for any Americans, even those who believe that their religion is the “true” religion. Under the most stringent separation of church and state, members of even minority religions are (I would know) free to worship as they please. “Illegal” immigrants are not the reason that Americans are out of work. And as for President Obama’s birth certificate, Jeremiah Wright, Sharia law in America, etc., well, Maddow handles those. I could go on, but you already know what I’m saying. The list of “problems” that the Rapeublican spin machine has thrown up over the last couple of decades are none of them actual problems. What they are is distractions, designed to convince the gullible people in Kansas not to look at that man behind the curtain and wildly successful attempts at “othering,” which, again is designed to distract the gullible from the real problems.

And, for quite some time, the Great and Powerful Oz has been successful. The gullible, the frightened, the disenfranchised have been spun up into a frenzy over non-issues that allow them, at least for a moment or two, to ignore how little control they have over their own circumstances. Democrats, who should know better, accept the Rapeublican framing and discuss “tax cuts” instead of “revenue increases,” try and position themselves as not-too-in-favor of “icky” causes such as marriage equality, access to medical care, and protection of First Amendment freedoms (see what I did there?).

During WWII, the U.S. prepared a psychological profile of Adolf Hitler (pace, Godwin) and said that one of Hitler’s primary rules was that:

people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

And, you know, Hitler was right.

Until he wasn’t.

Eventually, your lies catch up with you and you wind up mad inside a bunker, getting advice on the most efficient way to kill yourself. The Karl Roves of the world, who are the people who actually never think, in Ayn Rand’s words, beyond the “range of the moment,” are always surprised when Ohio gets called for Obama. It’s not surprising; Rove is reported to be the guy who insisted that conservatives could “create” their own “reality.” Well today he’s hiding from a loose affiliation of [angry] millionaires and billionaires.

I love Maddow’s call for all of us to re-engage with “the factual lived truth of the world.” Sadly, the need to stay present to the factual lived truth of the world is one that we all share. Think of the Pagan organizations that fall apart because they want to believe that enthusiasm can make up for a lack of bookkeeping skills, or fundraising expertise, or the need to talk an egotistical leader back down off the window ledge from which s/he alienates all who are not “true believers.” Think of the Pagans you know who are sure that their Pagan bookstore, Reiki practice, crowd-funded blogging experiment will allow them to support themselves as professional Pagans. (I’m not trying to discourage anyone from following their one, true dream. I’m just suggesting that a realistic business plan, adequate advance capitalization, and a partner with a day job are not bad things.)

Each of the times when, in my own life, I have really fucked things up (and there have been, trust me, many) it’s been due to my attempt to ignore the factual lived truth of my world and to imagine that, if I just want and believe hard enough, an unacceptable partner will be a good partner, a dysfunctional job or organization will be turned around by my best efforts, a budget that can’t work will somehow stretch because I’m a really nice girl and I try really hard. And my life has only turned around when I’ve finally been willing to sit down, have a good think, admit that the fantasy I’ve been living isn’t working any longer, and decide that I’m going to actually begin to address my own factual lived truth. It’s a good question to ask yourself each morning in daily practice. “Which factual lived truths am I trying to ignore?”

Maddow’s discussion of how the Rapeublicans couldn’t believe that they were losing the election, even as it was happening to them, follows directly from their refusal to face factual lived truths. For quite some time, the Pagan group can continue to believe that their badly-organized board will pull the failing community center out of debt. For quite some time, I could keep telling myself that if I just tried harder, he’d stop being angry over every little thing. For decades, conservatives have been able to say with a straight face that global climate change doesn’t exist, that tax cuts will “trickle down,” that marriage equality will destroy America, that women who want access to birth control are evil sluts.

But eventually, we’re all Karl Rove sitting there on national television demanding a few more minutes before Ohio gets announced for Obama, even when there are only Democratic counties left to count. The community center has to close, I have to leave the abusive relationship, global climate change rips up New Orleans, New York, and New Jersey. All the tax cuts in the world don’t put Americans back to work . . . . In the end, the factual lived truths of the world will win out over even our most cherished fantasies. If nothing else, reality will eventually pop the factual bubble that Maddow urges needs popping. People who eat their seed corn don’t live to propagate the notion that eating seed corn is the way to thrive.

I hope that conservatives will follow Maddow’s advice. My dad loved, I think, the First Amendment more than life and he raised me on Milton’s Areopagitica:

[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

My dad often shortened that to say, “Whoever knew Truth put to second best when scattered to the four Winds?” I think that he, and Milton, and Maddow were getting at the same thing.

6 responses to “Whoever Knew Truth Put to Second Best When Scattered to the Four Winds?

  1. Upton Sinclair is supposed to have said something to the effect that “You can’t make a man understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.” The residents of the right-wing Bizarro-world version of the U.S. are, indeed, living in a reality bubble, and this bubble is maintained by a noise machine that is owned and operated by people who believe that it suits their financial interest to do so. I can’t bring myself to believe that the millionaires and billionaires who backed the GOP this time round, who created the Frankenstein monster of the Tea Party, and who run organizations like Fox News and other such media, really give a hoot in Hades about immigration, marriage equality, or women’s reproductive choice. These, and similar issues, are used simply to corral the sheep.

    And, for people whose only source of information is Fox, right-wing blogs, and other like-minded media, cognitive dissonance is the operating principle. If they are presented with incontrovertible facts that contradict their craziness, their response is to reject the facts and double down on the crazy, if for no other reason that they have too much emotional investment in the insanity to let it go. And, as you pointed out, they are totally unprepared to confront reality, even when the Russians are pouring into Berlin or Ohio is going Blue. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.” No, not one. And, no, not surprising. If your first and (apparently) only response to unfavourable polls is to assert that those polls are “skewed,” you will eventually get a wakeup call that you won’t like.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to the GOP over the next four years. It is possible that they may, for the sake of their own survival, purge the ranks of the ideologues and revert to being the party that it was before the Southern Strategy. Or, it’s possible that they’ll double down on the crazy and decide that they lost because their standard-bearer wasn’t Christian enough, because he triangulated to the centre after having galloped to the right to win the nomination, because their campaigns didn’t focus sufficiently on “family values,” and so on. And then we can look forward to a Santorum/Huckabee ticket in 2016–or possibly Jeb Bush.

    Congratulations to the U.S. for having dodged the bullet–this time. It should not have been as close as it was. I cannot fathom, for example, how any woman could have brought herself to vote for a single Republican candidate, given the current state of the party. There is still work to do. The Old Rural White Dude demographic can no longer be relied upon to hand victories to the wingnuts, but the numbers this time round are no cause for complacency. As Churchill said, in another context, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

  2. Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.

    Albert Einstein

    Yep — thought I heard laughter on election night!. Loved the Maddow speech!

  3. So appropriate, Jan! Great posting, HecateDemeter!

  4. Amen, Rachel. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  5. Pingback: The Illogic of Straight Lines and asking hard questions | Works of Literata

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