Beware the Beginning of Unreason

We’re watching America turn unreason against itself on a massive scale, and the whole world is watching too. By the day now, even by the hour, we’re losing ground – the ground of reality and truth.

Ignorance doesn’t know it doesn’t know, so it’s hard to make a dent on it. When you add entitlement and hatred to it, ignorance hardens into violence and destruction.

Our current state of affairs was long in the making but its undoing is happening quickly.

Immense catastrophes can have banal beginnings. World War I comes to mind. It was moved by local events none of which by itself could have possibly portended the unleashing of the long-lasting darkness that followed. One by one, countries made choices that got tangled up in the pre-existing web of alliances and ententes, quickly leading to The Great War. It lasted four years, brought down four empires, and created such immense debris the world today is still recovering from it.

One by one today, the errors within the United States are piling up. Tensions are mounting. But our life-long habits and expectations die hard so we keep rationalizing away the absurd.

When scared, we go back to what’s familiar. We hold on to it, trusting it will be there no matter what. Like a prayer, we defend from anxiety by denying the gravity of our massive current decline.

The Titanic was unsinkable until it sank. And like the Titanic, American might also can sink.

We’re past the time of “normal” politics, or normal anything. We have a dire national emergency staring us in the face. The Covid-19 stimulus as planned and defined so far, will be far from sufficient to redress our abysmal economic descent, and yet the political will to do more is lacking, like reason is lacking. So mistakes accumulate, too many too quickly, from all directions and we can’t catch up, let alone change course.

We’ve been asleep at the wheel, and perhaps lulled by past glories of empire we failed to check in real time and in a timely fashion, the relentless torrent of incendiary disinformation with which Trump and followers have been drowning our national reason and our rational governance. Trump was allowed to spread unreason and Covid-19 at the same time and no one ever stopped him.

In recent years, American reason has not matched the energy, the rage, the aggressiveness and the sheer brute force of American unreason which stops at nothing. Unreason is unburdened by facts, logic, history, common sense, or commity. Does reason not know how to fight?

It is true that American unreason is formidable now. It has the momentum of forty years of neglect and abandonment by its own neoliberal, financialized government, owned and managed as it is by a small number of people with extreme wealth and influence.

We’ve already hit the iceberg of Covid-19, recession, racial animus, and climate change. Only a realistic assessment of the damage incurred could lead to effective action. But with half the country living in unreason, refusing reality, and denying any crisis is taking place other than their unthinkably bizarre conspiracies, this assessment will not get done. The impasse will slow, or even block the implementation of an effective recovery.

Long ago, KGB poachers in Russia spotted Donald Trump from oceans away as the obtuse pachyderm of ego he is. And Trump delivered for them even more than they expected.

Today the GOP is an irrational, dysfunctional cabal still bewitched by Trump’s shadow. It has no agenda going forward. It delivers nothing besides treasonous insurrection and the Big Lie of a stolen election in 2020.

The GOP has not only ceased to be a political party, it is now a fact-free fifth column wedded to QAnon conspiracy, and firmly committed to destroying the American government as it stands. Their only plan is more voter suppression, and the politics of brute force. Their authoritarian existence is about seizing total power for its own sake, wanting nothing to do with democracy or with the interests of the American people.

Reason, already something of an insecure entity in many of Trump’s QAnon followers, can be entirely dispensed with.  Breaking things and looking for people to hang are clear, concrete actions that are visceral and cathartic.

The unreason of conspiracy is effective for many because it is simple-minded — anyone can get it — and it serves to vent emotion.  For the true believers, the unreason of lies and fantasy also confers on them a special insider status: secret knowledge that no one out there suspects.  The whole thing works like a cult, complete with those who are considered initiates.  Membership is thrilling. It gives a home to many disempowered people who now have a simpler alternative world they can understand, and where they’re actually welcome.

What’s not to like?

On the tabula rasa of their ignorance Trump rewrites reality for them. His message comes fact-free and simple, loud and flamboyant, custom-fitted to whatever racist or nativist prejudices may be there which Trump reinforces. That’s his energizing nexus with them.

Trump bribed everybody. He gave poor Whites the satisfaction of hating the so-called caravans of Brown people invading the US.  The military got more cash than they ever asked for. Wall Street wealth received a two-trillion dollar tax windfall.  The NRA had a boon. Even Evangelicals got Trump’s attention in his infamous photo op when he brandished a Bible in their behalf, upside down as it was but mostly no one minded that.

We’ve just been through four years of the gaudy Trump piñata going around, spreading a few peanuts but mostly planting rage, lies, and coronavirus disease. With great skill, Trump gave the whacking stick to various groups of people who then pounded away with it at whatever they liked to hit.

This is why unreason finds Trump invigorating. You don’t have to think to hit a piñata, you do it with your whole body, like breaking windows and doors at the U.S. Capitol, and looking for people to lynch.

And speaking of lynching, to this day there is still no written American law against lynching that has ever been approved by both houses. As we head towards unreason, new anti-lynching legislation is urgent. Biden could add that item to his already endless to-do list.

At this point in time I regard the men and women in Congress who promote unreason and the Big Lie to be a fifth column. Some of them are well educated, which makes them far worse than Trump’s street thugs.

These Republicans in Congress may not like Trump in private, but in public they keep diving again and again into his effluvia for their own personal profit, like hyenas diving whole into a rotting elephant carcass.

Their cowardly unreason is really hurting the United States, although with the Congress this may be less a case of unreason and more one of treason.