To Ride the Whirlwind

It is, as they say, just a piece of cloth, or in this case nylon. To me, it is the symbol of the United States of America. I assume it still is. That American citizens are hardly united goes without saying (even though you just said it… I know, I know.)

This week has, however, brought that further into relief as a mob, egged on by the President, stormed the capital as Congress was in the middle of certifying the election of Joe Biden. My reaction was to put up the flag. I tend not to at this time of year, as it mostly gets sogged out in our dreary winters. But I needed a little symbolic reassurance that it was still there. It’s kind of important to me.

By now, much has been said, by many, concerning the events in DC, and other state capitals, so I’ll spare you my derivative take, and focus on what might be the way out of this craziness.

Truth. Good ol’, plain ol’ truth.

That would start with public officials when acting in an official capacity. Trump can lie all he wants in whatever con he’s pulling, but not as President of the United States. Cruz and Hawley and the other Republicans whining about the elections–and yes, the same applies to Democrats–cannot make false statements in the halls of Congress as senators and representatives, just as a lawyer can’t make false statements in a court of law. It’s perjury, and should carry the same penalty as it does it court: censure and disbarment, or in the case of legislators, removal. It’s one thing to be concerned that there might have been irregularities in the voting process, and there’s nothing wrong with contesting the results, but there has to be basis for that: evidence. And after multiple actions in multiple courts, with both liberal and conservative judges, none was found to warrant overturning any election. In the words of Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, “It is not true—and it never was true—that this election was stolen. That’s why such a charge was never even made in any court of law, where perjury penalties would hold, but only in social media streams and demagogic rallies. No matter what one wanted to happen in the election, as the saying goes, ‘facts don’t care about your feelings.’” (I came across this here. This is an excellent article, by the way.)

Truth is equally important when weighing (and I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that the insurrectionists did) the consequences of your actions. With all the selfies and live posts, you have to wonder if the people busting into the Congress, vandalizing property, and assaulting the police gave any real thought to where this might land them. Maybe they thought there’d be a massive uprising of the American people to throw off the shackles of… of what? And don’t use the vandals at the BLM protests as an excuse. They, too, were sought by the police and arrested for rioting and property destruction. At least they can say they weren’t attempting to overthrow the government. But most of it seemed like a hallucinatory piece of performance art, where there were no legal consequences and plenty of likes by “friends” on Facebook or Twitter.

Speaking of which…

Truth is vital in communications, and yes, I’m wagging my finger at Facebook and Twitter and Youtube and all the rest of our facilitators of BS. A lie is a lie is a lie, and when the truth is subsumed for profit and loses all meaning, the idea that anyone can say anything and it’s all relative and subjective renders society meaningless and dysfunctional. If all that matters is stock valuation and preening billionaires with little regard for the dross they allow to be flung at the walls of the information highway, then we as a country that stands for anything, will cease to exist. Lies, however cloaked in “free speech”, do not free us or lead to a better world.

Truth has to matter. Leadership has to be responsible to that. It’s one thing to criticize a legislative agenda or political philosophy, but when duly elected officials, and I’m wagging another finger at disingenuous Republicans, do nothing but delegitimize the government for their own political gains, it only further erodes people’s belief in democracy. Just ask this guy at the National Review.

But what about those who believe and dismiss any attempt at argument; truth be damned? There’s a part of me that is sympathetic to the people Trump and his enablers have lied to, like the people who truly believe they’ve found love only to have their savings stolen from them by a heartless grifter (and you can take that however you like). There’s also a part of me, though, that thinks a lot of people have given up on any mindful consideration of the situation or the information out there, and given in to their wishful fantasies. Con artists and liars bank on that. They aren’t doing it for the benefit of the nation, or making fantasies come true; they’re doing it for their own selfish enrichment.

I realize I might be the only person to believe this, but I don’t think so. I don’t think lying to people is the answer to a thriving society, and it certainly doesn’t make us great. Truth has to matter, has to be vital to who we are and how we conduct ourselves. Otherwise the flag is nothing more than a wet piece of nylon.

©2021 David William Pearce

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