That’s Just Like, Your Opinion, Man


Other than occasionally liking a post on Facebook, I have never been very public about my politics. I was raised in New England, and inculcated with a sense that public proclamations of belief, or politics, or really anything personal, was not only oafish, but a sign of insincerity. The person who made a great public show of their beliefs was likely doing it for praise or adulation. But there comes a time when you must speak out publicly. When failing to do so cannot be attributed to propriety, but rather cowardice, or at the least, apathy. I have reached that time.

The issue at hand for me is politics. Yep, I felt 75% of you instantly tune out. And I understand! We’ve all been bombarded by rants and links and earnest pleas and all of it, for endless months. This is honestly another reason I’ve been hesitant to speak out about politics – doesn’t it feel like a bunch of people preaching to their friends, or yelling at their enemies, and no one is actually listening? I just hope that you will bear with me since I have always been silent on such matters but finally feel compelled to speak.

In brief, the republic is under threat. Our nation’s future is at risk. I’m sure you’ve heard this a few times over the last few weeks, but I am concerned for slightly different reasons. Donald Trump is not the threat to our nation’s future – he’s a symptom of the real threat.

You can see the symptoms in other places. One example: armed men took over a government facility, were tried for it, and found not guilty. Even if you agree with their cause (which is inane,) it is impossible to deny the objective truth that they took over a government facility using weapons. This is not a matter of opinion, or spin, or feelings. But a jury clearly didn’t think that truth mattered.

And so, feelings outweigh objective truth.

Another example: The FBI recently inserted themselves into the political process. The damage was (hopefully) mitigated when they revealed that they had no new information, but the furor around the whole thing brought to light the fact that there are FBI agents who dislike the democratic nominee, Secretary Clinton, and wished to use the power entrusted in them by the American people, to derail her candidacy. Our law enforcement institutions – like our military – are meant to be apolitical. They are entrusted with power and authority, and it is a tenet of our nation’s structure that they should not use that power to influence the political process.

In the Roman Empire, the Emperor’s bodyguard/police force/shock troops, called the Praetorian Guard, became politicized – assassinating emperors, placing other emperors on the throne, and more. It sounds insane – bodyguards declaring the next emperor? But great power collects in such institutions, and the moment they step into the political fray, everything goes to hell.

The FBI agents who wanted to use investigations and leaks to influence the US election are not stupid. They must know that they are bound to do their duty objectively, without becoming involved in politics. But they must have decided that their feelings and opinions outweighed a fundamental principle of our nation.

And so, feelings outweigh objective truth.

A third: foreign meddling in our elections. The government now knows that the hack of Secretary Clinton’s campaign was conducted by the Russian Government. The organization Wikileaks ended up with the data and has been trying to release it in the most damaging way to the Clinton campaign. The real example to the threat facing the US is not that foreign entities are attempting to influence our election – why wouldn’t they? The real threat is how many Americans are thrilled about it because they hate Secretary Clinton. They are not outraged or furious about it, they revel in it and try to use the illegally obtained revelations in order to sink the Clinton campaign – i.e., doing exactly what these foreign entities wish them to do.

Objectively, these people know that it is terrible for foreign entities to influence or sway an American election. But they must have decided that their feelings and opinions (and their hatred of Hillary Clinton,) take precedence over the illegal and clearly terrible precedent.

And so, feelings outweigh objective truth.

Finally (there’s more than 4 but I’ll mercifully stop here,) there is the matter of US Senators who have been unprecedented in their obstructionism. The fact that they refused to even vote on the US President’s nominee to the Supreme Court a year out from an election is simply mad. They said they did it because the American people should have a say. Of course, the American people did have a say when they elected President Obama in 2012. But their argument was never sincere in any case – the moment it looked as if Hillary Clinton would win, these same senators began to say they would block any nominee but forth by a president Clinton. Apparently the wishes of the American people were not so important after all.

These Senators argue that the constitution does not compel them to act. But it’s clear – 100% crystal clear – that the intent of the system was for the president to appoint judges and the Senate to advise and consent. If the President put forward an unsuitable nominee – not one that you dislike or disagree with, but one actively unfit for the job – then the Senate should block that nominee and demand a new one. There is no notion that the Senate should block every nominee from a certain President regardless of the nominee’s merits.

This is not an interpretation of intent based on how I want things to be. This is well understood by all parties involved. Yet these Senators are following an interpretation that they know to be incorrect, because they believe that their thoughts and opinions on the matter are more important than fundamental principles of the republic.

And so, feelings outweigh the constitution.

This is why I think we’re in trouble – many people have lost sight of what is real, in favor what they wish to be real. I read a lot of history, and this seems to me to be something common in civilizations that are beginning to crumble – they become detached from reality, and spend more time infighting than in maintaining their nation or civilization. I use the word “crumble” very intentionally – decline is slow and can go on for a long time. Crumbling, not so much. I fear we are at that point.

John Adams, second President of the US, said something relevant: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

He was likely quoting proverbs that had existed for some time. But the fact that this proverb existed, and that he needed to say this at all, shows us that these are not new problems. But it seems that people back then were able to rise above the petty squabbles of the moment and agree that there are objective facts, and that the idea of America should be stronger than any partisan squabbles.

We seem to have lost that ability.

That’s a lot of doom and gloom. If you’re an American citizen, there is something you can do about this. But it’s not easy. You can punish everyone who strays from reality, by going to the polls, being informed, and never, ever failing to vote.

“Oh,” you say “this has just been an extended get out the vote rant! You could have said that much quicker, Brian!” While “get out the vote,” is part of this, that isn’t really the main point.

What I’m saying is that the age your parents – or even older siblings – grew up in, where you could coast through life blissfully unaware of politics, where you could say “oh, they’re all the same. I don’t follow politics,” – that age has ended. It’s not fair to you I suppose, but you live in a different, and very dangerous time.

If you are an American citizen, you have an obligation – yes, an obligation – to save this nation. You don’t have to go on social media and rant at people. You must learn. Study the facts, study the issues, keep abreast of events. Don’t’ believe something because your friends, family, or people you admire think it. Don’t use one news source. Don’t use five. Learn, learn learn. There is objective truth out there, and you must find it.

Show up to vote, every single time. Every presidential election, but also every midterm. Municipal, county, state elections. Do it with one objective – punish those who have detached from reality. Do that consistently, and they’ll get the message. They’ll hear, and learn. “We’ve got to stick to facts and reality, and somehow advance our political agenda within those bounds,” they’ll say to themselves. Sometimes both parties seem detached – but there is always one party that is clearly more detached than the other.

This time, it’s the republicans who have cut the moorings and drifted off into fantasy land. They should be punished in the election. They should be kept from the white house, and lose their majorities in congress. (They won’t lose the house this time because of gerrymandering – another practice intended to thwart the point of our democracy.)

What about third parties? If your protest vote fails to punish the major party who is detaching from reality, then you have not helped our reality problem. If you think you can actually elect a third party candidate, and you think that candidate is the most truth-based, then great. But if your vote instead has no relevance to the outcome, then you are not punishing those who have strayed from reality.

This is not a partisan call, however. (Unless you consider me a partisan for reality, with a factual bias.)

This time it’s the republicans – but if they lose hard enough consistently, they’ll get better, and very likely, the democrats will get cocky and start thinking that facts are not something they need to worry about. And then you’ve got to punish them.

You may feel that just showing up to punish a political party is a terrible way to set the course for your government. And you’re correct. But it’s the least bad option right now. Once we are able to get our politicians and public institutions grounded in reality, then we can aspire to better and more noble goals.

But while they operate with impunity in a fact free, truth averse dimension, nothing else will be fixed – because nothing means anything.

It’s not really enough to study the facts and know the truth and then vote accordingly. I fear we are entering an age where you will have to be politically aware and active all the time. But let’s start with baby steps. Study the facts. Learn what is really going on. Demand logic, facts, truth. Vote accordingly.

And let’s see what happens!