This unraveling reality

Several months ago I wrote about “a point where it seems like the madness is enveloping us, and the question of whether or not to embrace it seems increasingly academic.”

It does not feel like America has distanced itself from that point.

The toxic Republican Party has been prying and pulling America away from reality, actively, for decades, ever since a critical mass of Republican elites wrote off any possibility of having an inclusive democracy, being honest about the consequences of their policy goals, and still advancing those policy goals. Instead they began the ongoing buildout of “the rightwing cinematic universe,” with think tanks and partisan media and conspiracy theories gradually building an immersive false reality in which their toxic party of sabotage and snarling gets to play heroes.

But as fundamental as that is to America’s problems, there just aren’t so many Republicans that they can be blamed exclusively. They can’t even be blamed exclusively for the problem of the toxic Republican Party, because its continued vast sabotage is only possible with many enablers. Bad rules factor in, too, but the bad rules also endure only because too many people choose to put up with them.

While Republican reality-denying is disproportionate in most measures, there is reality-denying all over, and it is also too much.

Observations from just the past few days:

News media has pretty much surrendered to dishonesty, having made it through the whole Trump era including the Capitol Insurrection without abandoning the same old habits. Every network had a Republican “Sunday Show” guest boosting the Big Lie about election fraud.

The liberal internet had a little West Wing fanclub swoon this week, when Justin Trudeau oh-so-diplomatically expressed to Joe Biden his relief that all that unpleasantness is behind us and American leadership is back. As I wrote in a Twitter mini-thread, this is fluff nonsense. The unpleasantness is clearly not behind America and no sound state should be looking here for leadership.

Today I checked out a Zoom panel on political independents, and while I support most if not all of the same reforms they would like, many seemed to be coming from a fictional idea of what’s happening in American politics. Sure I have plenty of complaints about Democrats, and if a large number of people want to wear “independence” as a badge while still getting to vote on who the candidates are, that’s fine with me. But don’t paint this picture of a sensible middle abandoned between two parties of the extreme. Horse shit. The Democratic Party remains ridiculously centrist, and for every prominent progressive firebrand there’s at least one status-quo conservative.

America remains ungovernable because Democrats’ unwieldy coalition needs perfection to get anything through a 50/50 Senate—in which most Republicans would not break ranks even to convict the man who incited a violent terror attack which would have killed some of them given the opportunity—and perfection just isn’t there. The Keep The Filibuster Caucus is of course baldly denying the consequences of supermajority requirement for reforms.

Reform advocates today published a 72-page report and the only direct reference it makes to the Senate is deeply misleading at best: “both the House and the Senate are moving forward with H.R. 1 and S. 1.” In fact, a majority of senators are to all appearances aligning to bury that legislation beneath a Republican filibuster.

The reformers ignoring that horror aren’t alone. The zeitgest of the Biden Restoration so far seems to be denial of reality in one form or another. Whether wild lying and conspiracy theories, or opting out pour cultiver notre jardin, or talking around the crisis-level problems, postponing the confrontation, trying to hold onto that Inauguration Day warm fuzzy magic.

This impulse is understandable, because the fundamental reality surrounding us is a disaster, and for individuals the additional choice to confront that is made even more unappealing by the huge number of people engaged in some form or another of escapist play-pretend. What do you do about that? What do I do about it?

I have riffed on Carl Sagan’s words about being “captured by the bamboozle” to propose that in the contemporary Republican Party, “the bamboozle has captured itself.” As Republicans remain in thrall to a human disaster singularity, that seems as true as ever. But the original feels intensely relevant to America as a whole.

In one way or another, so much of this country is now captured by the bamboozle because it is too painful to admit how badly toxic so many things have been for some time. Too painful to admit it, better to ignore it, tell a lie, deny, think about something else, believe anything else.

Because you don’t want to see it, you don’t see it coming.

Even if you notice it, you don’t say anything.

Even if you’re told, you don’t listen.

Then BOOM the end comes.

Bateau, “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”

(Featured image from Marvel Comics; Warlock series, dialogue and artwork by Jim Starlin)

One Thought on “This unraveling reality

  1. Pingback: La la land | Matt Kuhns

Post Navigation