The Bill Moyers team ran an article after the last election that is worth reading in its entirety, but I would like to emphasize a few of the points made, as they seem the most salient to me.
It is important for us to acknowledge that we have now lost our place in the world. Anyone who has traveled abroad knows how Americans are viewed and treated, with a mixture of distaste, fear, and ridicule. This has gone on for a long time, but now it will be exacerbated by having a buffoon for President. The distrust and disrespect others have for us will only increase. The only thing that will force them to continue to seriously consider us is our military might.
It is also very important to point out that we are indeed no better than anyone else, and therefore do not and have never had the right or the ability to lead the free world or anyone else. This was shown in the Milgram experiments done in the early ‘60s at Yale. Anyone can commit the sort of atrocities that the Nazis committed, even Americans, and since with this election we have shown our shadow so very clearly, it seems to me that similar atrocities will indeed be committed by us. It is also important to remember the atrocities we have already committed, and not delude ourselves. Who are we to point the finger at anyone else? It is now impossible for us to honestly think of ourselves as superior, and someday this may be a salutary lesson for us. We should learn to take our place as an equal in a council of nations and not try endlessly to extend our gospel of capitalism ever further.
The Moyers team journalist stated
“Democracy can’t cope with extremism. Only violence and time can defeat it. The first is unacceptable, the second takes too long.”
This dire statement leaves us with our hands tied. In my opinion, the first choice is actually acceptable, but only after we have reached that place where there are no other options. The first law of nature is survival, and that is the level we are fast approaching; I cannot imagine that all of us will lie down and allow those with “authority” to destroy us. When up against the wall, people will fight back because they must. I can only hope that we don’t take too long about it.
A very large reason why this election went the way it did is because Americans have become utterly superficial, and so could easily be duped by the Trump campaign. It is enough for them to be entertained. In fact, they cannot tell the difference between a reliable source of information and an advertisement. It is edifying to read this article about a Stanford study done to examine how well students can evaluate online sources of information.
“When we began our work we had little sense of the depth of the problem. … Our first round of piloting shocked us into reality. Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite.”
Not only have we become superficial and complacent, we have also neglected critical thinking skills, so that people cannot tell the difference between authoritative information and advertising or propaganda. The Stanford study stated that this situation is a threat to democracy. I agree. As with extremism, democracy cannot function with an uneducated electorate. People must vote with their minds, not their emotions. If voting is done according to the feeling of the moment, we can end up with results such as those of last November. Now those results and their consequences will be with us for a long time to come.
“On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H. L. Mencken
Part of this problem is due to the fact that education in America has fallen behind, and now we are facing an impassable gulf between the educated and the ignorant. Brookings pointed out that
“The differences between these two groups suggest that the educational gap is an important factor shaping two distinct and increasingly antithetical worldviews. Today’s American politics wrestles with an increasing ideological distance between the Democratic Party’s socio-economic elites and the Republican Party’s disinherited working class. This cleavage helps us make sense of the populist challenge to leaders in democracies throughout the West, a challenge that if mishandled could extend to democracy itself.”
There is no way to communicate complex ideas to those who do not have the cognitive skills to understand them. Today’s world has very many crucial issues that are far too complex to explain in simple terms, and when this is attempted, the simplified idea is so simplified its meaning is changed. This is a problem that cannot be solved except by time and great educational effort, but it must be done.
Our Moyers journalist believes Trump will become a dictator, and this is highly likely. We must prepare ourselves, although there is little people can do, even at the state level, when a dictator is armed with the might of the American military and is not afraid to use it against us. It’s hard to stand up to a dictator when you’re dead.
The journalist could not provide much hope for his readers.
“We are not living for ourselves any more in this country. Now we are living for history.”
He sees our task now as survival so we can live to tell our story to the future, so our cautionary tale is not forgotten. I like to think there is a little more we can do. What might work best against the new ultra-capitalist regime are boycotts and strikes. Money is all they really want, and if we don’t produce it for them, perhaps they’ll listen. We are the ones who do the work, after all. That requires a vast majority of very stalwart citizens who are not afraid to face the real suffering that will ensue. Whether we have the moral fiber to do this remains to be seen.
I wish you strength.
Copyright © 2017 Teresa Chupp. All rights reserved.