“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” Thomas Jefferson writing from…Charlottesville, VA.
I never thought I would live to see our nation in this much chaos and dissension. Seems those fumes of the Founders and the Enlightenment are mere vapors today.
In the early 1980’s, I began (haphazardly and randomly at first) studying Eastern philosophy as a teenager. Upon completing “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand in 1984 I had fully converted and transformed myself into an autodidact, but one whose entire interest was the Enlightenment, Aristotle, Locke and those other historical figures who so best and bravely embodied and fought for their belief in reason and individualism over collectivism, hearsay, nihilism and disbelief in an objective reality.
Looking back, it was a comfortable armchair discursion and exercise: even as recently as the early 90’s, in the heyday of Fukuyama’s claim of “The End Of History,” it was apparent to all–including my younger self–that Western values had won, specifically coinciding with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the incredible, symbolic destruction of the Berlin Wall, a metaphor for the West’s triumph if there ever was one. All we had to do was ideologically build on the triumph and the rest of the world would, naturally and through the laws of causality, fall into place.
Now, here we are–and I am–in 2017, on the brink of a very real nuclear showdown with North Korea, facing Islamic terrorism and dealing with crazed, extremist lunatics both on the Right and the Left in the hometown of Thomas Jefferson.
I call it “Nightmerica.” What to do?
Robert Tracinski, a longtime Objectivist and current writer for The Federalist (and someone who would probably take my call at anytime as he has in the past) wrote the following about the riots in his hometown of Charlottesville very recently:
“The two sides are mirror images of each other, and both have an interest in making our politics devolve into street fighting. Both sides have also been priming their people to be ready to kill for the cause, and it appears that (alt-right leader Richard) Spencer’s gang got there first, with one of his followers ramming his car into a crowd and killing a young woman.
The ominous implication of this weekend’s riots is that we are letting our politics descend into a brutal, unprincipled, physical brawl between two illiberal caricatures—which drowns out real debates over opposing ideas and marginalizes any unifying principles that we might draw on as reasons not to just kill each other.
The Left has been doing this by styling themselves as revolutionaries and ‘the Resistance,’ and by indulging its young ‘antifa’ anarchists—Communist ‘anti-fascists’ who behave a lot like fascists, employing rioting and street battles as their main form of political activism. On the Right, the problems are summed up in President Trump’s lame statement on Charlottesville. Claims that Trump was somehow excusing white nationalism are overblown, given that he also condemned ‘bigotry.’ But his only answer was a series of vague bromides about national unity and loving each other—a solution he has never managed to practice and for which he cannot be a credible advocate.”
I think Tracinski is correct in his observations. He’s echoing many of the same things I’ve been saying for several years.
So, again–What to do?
I’ve been beating the drum as an advocate of economic truth, reason, rationality, civility and calmness for years, mainly to a limited audience. I understand that.
But the majority of the citizens of the nation we reside in–these UNITED States–must realize that fringe groups and sick individuals are steering our country’s dialogue–with the assistance of a media wanting ratings and, let’s face it, absolutely thriving on dissension–to a point where there may indeed be no return.
Sometimes facts are uncomfortable but they must be faced as the true representations of reality.
What to do? Be kind to your neighbor. Black, white, Muslim–whatever. If they voted for Trump, so what? They’re not automatically racist contra Rachel Maddow or her liberal colleagues. Your neighbor has a portrait of Barack Obama in their house? Don’t get uptight. It is their right to admire who or what they want as long as no harm is inflicted upon your person regardless of what Sean Hannity may be ranting.
Study. Learn. Face facts that may be uncomfortable or that force you to admit you have been wrong in your thinking, if that’s the case.
I’m sorry to say but I fear that the days of reason, rationality and logical discussion are almost gone if more of us don’t do the above. Immediately. Nowadays it’s all about buzzwords, social media posts and fitting in with like-minded people, whether they are right or wrong, conservative or liberal, honest or deceitful. Truth–or adherence to reality–is taking a backseat to feeling. Add to all that the fact that there’s money in creating division: book deals, speaking engagements, media coverage, honorary degrees. You can cash in on the irrationality.
No one ever said logic was pain free. Or easy. Sometimes facts are uncomfortable but they must be faced as the true representations of reality.
Wishing, hoping–rioting–won’t make facts go away. Or help your cause du jour win out.
And the REAL fact is? This country’s citizens must become more reasonable and tolerant–in the sense that they respect other’s views, however repellent or wrong they might appear to them.
Otherwise, Charlottesville will be just a harbinger–and the “Long Hot Summer of ’67” a picnic.