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Balancing Act

Despite the cliché, perception is not reality. Subjective reality and actual reality can be two very different things. There’s often a big difference between perception and reality, especially when one’s perception is confounded with maniacal predispositions. Despite what a schizophrenic might perceive, the voices in their heads aren’t really there.

… And despite what a Tea Partier might believe, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker are not really Republicans.

As such, the political perception of what constitutes a Republican has changed drastically over the past few years. Although I’m often called a RINO (a label that I wear proudly) so too would Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater wear that same label in today’s partisan discourse. Although the perception from the GOP electorate has changed regarding what constitutes reasonable socio/economics for the party, that doesn’t deter from the reality that today’s Republican perspectives are an utter departure from what they were when the GOP helped build the largest middle class and strongest economy in the world in the years following World War Two.

But now the manner in which we choose our political affiliations is more akin to how we choose our sports teams. We are a nation of Yankees and Red Sox fans, whose ideologies are rooted in the disdain for the other. We’re reflexively rooting for D’s and R’s. But that’s not how rational people make determinations, especially when the reality is, that as Americans, we all play for the same team.

Regardless of what political party anyone identifies themselves with, rational people remain independent until the reasons for said affiliation are warranted. Will most people find themselves leaning one way or the other? Sure. But anyone who is reasonable will not make their political determinations by who proposes legislation, but rather by what the legislation proposes. Somewhere along the line, my fellow Republicans have lost sight of that.

Which is why political centrism is so important.

Contrary to popular understanding, centrism is not about being in the middle of every, or for that matter, any issue. It is about not allowing a coalition to make determinations for you. The center relies on socio/economic facts in favor of party affiliation. If facts tend to coincide with a particular political ideology, then so be it. If that dynamic occurs disproportionately, then so be that, too.

Balance for balance sake has no place in our political discourse. The journalistic obligation is to report stories in successive order as they pertain to national importance, and to do so truthfully. It is not to make a concerted effort to counter-balance it with something random from the other side of the political aisle. What the false “balance” dynamic imposes is a license for special interests to run amok, secure that regardless of how many socially regressive or economically nonsensical items of legislation they propose, “balance” requires that something from the opposition deserves equal media scrutiny.

The reality is that the TEA Party, Corporatists, and Theocrats have taken over the GOP, and they are not only not Republicans. Neither are they mentally stable. The political right has gotten so irrational that when one speaks truth to stupid, and exposes the socio/economic lack of reason continuously exhibited by TEA-publican candidates, they are accused of “Liberal Media” bias. It’s political hipster-ism for those who lack introspection, and/or acumen.

In the present political climate, there is no Democratic equivalent for the sheer crazy that pours from TEA Party Republicans. There are no Alan Wests, Michele Bachmans, or Todd Aikens elected to public office with a (D) next to their names… nor are there any celebrity equivalents to Ted Nugent, Donald Trump, or Sarah Palin who get regular spots on FOX news. However the far right wingnuts require balance in reporting, despite the lack of balance from where the crazy originates. The idea that a responsible media would have to counterbalance a disproportional amount of lunacy emanating from the political right by manufacturing items from the left is not reasonable.

As the political “middle” moves further right in the wake of the Republican Party having been hijacked by extremist ideologues, the political center remains beholden to facts. It is incumbent upon rational centrists who identify as Republicans to make the distinction between the TEA Party/ lunatic fringe, and the socio/economic principles that defined the GOP from a generation ago. Because the political center is not the political middle. It is where the facts lie. And if the discourse cantilevers overtly to the right, –although the perception of where the center is might change– that does not alter the reality of where the facts of centrism reside.

The perception, and the reality of the political center are two very different things.

Spoons and Guns

It’s been a few days since Aaron Alexis ambled into a Naval facility in our nation’s capital and with his new, legally bought shotgun, articulated his angst. Twelve people who were going about their normal routine were killed. As such, with yet another on a long list of mass shootings under our nation’s increasing belt size, our legislators and news-ertainers will begin their monthly debate on guns and their relationship to bullets ripping through the vital organs of innocent Americans. It should continue, with the utmost sincerity until –at least– the next celebrity meltdown.

Predictably, the same vapid arguments for the escalation of gun sales will commence. As has been the case since the Republican party has been compromised by Capital interests, they will find themselves on the wrong –not to mention factually inaccurate– side of this debate. Thus, gullible middle Americans will be frightened into over-arming themselves to their own detriment, and a false narrative will be blathered that the government (read: Black guy in the White House) is ‘coming for our guns”. The constitution will be bastardized to make a convenient case for capitulating to the gun lobby. And how one interprets the second amendment will become a metaphor for how they express anxiety over the cultural topography in our nation becoming darker skinned.

The racial dynamic of the NRA is the part of the gun debate that is being left out of our discourse.

The common rationalization is, that there is no correlation whatsoever between the common use of guns as mass murder weapons and ease by which said murders might be committed. Vapid, apples to armchair analogies are continually made by myopic gun advocates such as “if guns kill people, then spoons make you fat”… or some similar drivel. As if one person overeating had the capacity to kill thirty people around them in a single spoonful of carbohydrates. Or that criminals won’t obey gun laws anyway, as if that is a rational explanation for legislating the statistically proven lie that more guns will decrease violence. For that matter, why have any laws?

But in a way, the gun lobby is kind of right. Guns –by themselves– don’t kill people. Nor for that matter do nuclear bombs. However psychologically and emotionally damaged people, who don’t have to engage in background checks –not to mention convicted felons or those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list– who bring guns into crowds of people with malicious intentions do kill people. With ease, I might add.

So it is incumbent upon rational people to call out the lies emanating from the political right regarding guns, and moreover the irrational, post-Obama interpretation of the second amendment. It is of vital national importance to expose how the GOP’s and the NRA’s position on background checks have contradicted themselves since a black President was elected office, how this pertains to a bigoted cultural reaction, and how a false narrative has been created around the actuality of gun culture. Many gun advocates –whether they admit it or not– are preying upon cultural apprehension. The reality is, gun sales is all they care about, not the second amendment, you, or your lives.

Here’s the thing… Good middle-American gun-folk are under the general impression that their singular, covert background in whatever job they might have –be it in a cubical or lifting things– and their extensive training watching action movies and playing Grand Theft Auto will adequately prepare them for that moment when a homicidal maniac opens fire in a crowd. Somewhere in their attenuated synapses, the GOP/NRA electorate envision themselves heroically springing into action with a Rambo-esque disregard for their own safety. With bullets flying, pistol-packing Patriots would undoubtedly be there to protect their fellow citizens thanks to their constitutional right to carry a firearm and “pew-pa-ching” — gun down villains holding the very automatic weapons that the NRA claims every American sociopath also has the right to carry. Because true Americans like themselves will unwaveringly quell any carnage bad guys might impose on the populace.

Then afterwards perhaps a few news interviews and a spot on Letterman.

But the reality is that you’re much more likely to cower in fear and duck for cover. You’re much more likely to be Fredo than Sonny. The hero fantasy tends to fade when ones instinct for self preservation kicks in. I understand that armed brown people might seem scary in a lily-white suburban paradise, and that carrying a loaded firearm in Applebees in the company of other people’s children might appeal to your cultural anxiety. However statistically, you and your gun will do more harm than good.

The rational thing to do would be to juxtapose how we interpret the second amendment, against the constitutional mandate to insure the domestic tranquility. Perhaps we can even say aloud in public that the words “well regulated” precede the words “shall not be infringed upon” in the second amendment. But rationality doesn’t seem to have a place in our national discourse anymore, either.

Truths Self Evident

As it was during the sixteenth century European counter-reformation, the forces of anti-intellectualism are attempting a coup here in America today. Never in the history of this country has there been an assault on reason like we are experiencing now. We are enduring an unprecedented disregard for scientific consensus and a denial of peer reviewed evidence to the point where there is a significant portion of our population who truly believe that physics defying impossibilities are legitimate explanations.

There are purposefully self deceptive ideologues who are attempting an appropriation of the United States Government, and they go by the name “Tea-vangelicals”. And they have not just taken over the TEA party, but the GOP as well. Indeed, American Theocracy has found a political symbiant.

This movement is like nothing this country has ever seen before. It’s not just that Fundamentalist Christian Tea Partiers don’t understand science (and they don’t) … but they hate it. This is the difference between one who simply doesn’t possesses the ability to comprehend, and an anti-intellectual. TEA-vangelicals fight against knowledge so that they might preserve a literal interpretation of religious scripture long ago accepted as metaphor. It is a concerted effort at rationalizing willful ignorance so as to retreat from the scientific age of enlightenment –on which this nation was founded– back into the shadows of medieval fundamentalism. A frightened, uneducated proletariat is a Theocrat’s greatest ally.

There is also a peripheral ignorance which transcends science denial. Rarely does one repudiate scientific consensus about the origin of our species or the age of our planet and apply critical thinking in other areas. In accordance with the surrendering of one’s intellect to biblical literalism, deliberate incomprehension invariably allows for a dismissal of facts regarding a variety of socio/economic issues. Forming a political ideology that encourages anti-intellectualism –by its very nature– cannot permit reason to permeate its outer defenses.

Hence, much of the TEA party’s socio/economic policy has abandoned reason so as to coincide with its medieval understanding of science. There are very few Republican candidates that dare defy TEA-vangelical precepts, lest they not make it out of their local primaries. So they, too, surrender intellect for votes. Which brings us to the crux of the issue. Our political discourse is infected with fraud, hyperbole, and purposeful deception.

This is not a problem that will go away if ignored. If America hopes to become the nation it once was –the nation that built giant things, defeated fascists and sent men to the moon– we cannot allow the forces of anti-intellectualism — to exist in a century where diseases have been cured, and science has given people back their limbs– to deny facts derived from the very same peer review process that permitted these advancements. Contemporary fundamentalists do not have the luxury of their sixteenth century predecessors. Sane people can no longer blame demons for diseases, or for that matter, blame homosexuals for their genetic predispositions.

We cannot allow the pseudo-science of Christian fundamentalists to be placed on the same shelf as real science. For it is peer reviewed evidence (which survives the trials of scrutiny) that determines viability, not a collection of suppositions derived from a predetermination brought about by a book of fairy tales. We cannot — must not — allow less-than-sane religious assertions to be placed alongside science and reason in the name political correctness. Giving equal footing to blatant falsehoods spoken in the public square because they are delivered under the guise of religion is not being “tolerant”. It is an asinine, politically correct capitulation to crazy.

However the way to defeat the march back into the sixteenth century (and beyond) is to caricaturize voluntary stupidity for what it is. Although true fundamentalists probably can never be made to understand how a rational mind works, if the forces of reason push back against anti-intellectualism, others will become embarrassed to be a part of what can only be described as a socially regressive movement of crazy people who believe in fairy tales. Before fundamentalists have the opportunity to infect those around them with anti-intellectualism, they must be ridiculed as the bane of society that they are. Political correctness must not protect willful ignorance in the name of religion. For if it is allowed to breed unrestrained — like every fear based ideology– it will flourish in the minds and hearts of the intellectually assailable.

The lack of curiosity that accords magical thinking is an affront to anyone who ever endeavored to make the world a better place through knowledge. Sadly, there is probably no cure for Christian inspired scientific illiteracy. The chances are that those spouting the pseudo-scientific platitudes which disregard the laws of physics, the natural universe, or genetics have already been exposed to the facts. They simply deny them in favor of their psychotic delusion. So they continue to repeat the lies long enough, and loud enough so that others will believe them true. Ignorance loves company.

But anti-intellectualism has gotten to the point where people announce their lack of knowledge proudly. They wear it lack a badge of honor, and shout it to the highest mountaintops. A circular (lack of) logic is employed to undermine scientific truth, and with a cult-like devotion, anti-intellectuals are unable, unwilling, and too fearful to question their fundamentalism.

Where in the past, mentally debilitating cults could easily be written off as socio/politically inconsequential, contemporary, anti-intellectual, cult-like mind numbing is done within the confines of Christianity. As such, it automatically becomes a political force to be reckoned with. So we Americans have an intellectual civil war to fight here at home.

There are truths derived from scientific facts which have been proven beyond any reasonable doubt, and which must be acknowledged. Virgins cannot give birth. The earth is approximately four and a half billion years old. Humans have existed as a species for approximately two hundred thousand years, and we share a common genetic ancestry with other primates.

These are self evident truths, facts, and they are undeniable. To allow our political discourse to be influenced otherwise is to base our policy on a lack of sanity. For if we remain too afraid to confront metaphoric perfidy and allow anti-intellectuals an equal voice in the public square … how can Americans ever hope to find real world solutions to complex problems like we had in the past?