Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Remember that? The civil war was upon us, two dramatically different views of the way to live our lives as Americans – of what rights meant – about what our economy should look like. How the government should behave. Mutually exclusive, one side had to win – the only time in our history that was the case. All the other moments – Vietnam and Civil Rights and Universal Suffrage – were just that, moments. Not existential fights about national survival but instead ways of organizing ourselves and treating each other in a country of laws run by a messy lot like humanity. About living up to our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.
Which, I suppose, is why I’m a little baffled at America these days. The media, the elites, the entitled – joined by the managers in our managerial oligarchy – those who lost a periodic election have embarked upon a strategy of annihilation. It seems that they would embrace national failure, even if it means their own destruction. Their weapon of choice? Poison. Poisoning the well is; “a rhetorical technique and logical fallacy that uses the association of negative emotions to distract a subject from actual evidence in an argument. Poisoning the well is an appeal to hate.”
Of course poisoning the well is dangerous – a so called “nuclear option” for public behavior because once the well has been poisoned, it continues to be radioactive for all who would use it – friend and foe alike. Argument, temperament, reason, balance, objectivity, compassion – all these have been jettisoned in an attempt to destroy. 24 hour news cycles all primed and aimed and fired, but at who? Turns out, eventually, at themselves. Ayn Rand said in Atlas Shrugged, “People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked…The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on…There are no white lies, there is only the blackest of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all.”
A lie – because the fact is things are going pretty well these days. The Supreme Court is whole – and with a remarkable, honest and gentle addition; Assad will think twice about using chemicals again; the economy is booming (yes, it has everything to do with confidence and deregulation); jobs are up, jobless claims are down; companies are reinvesting in the United States (it’s about encouragement); the healthcare challenges of a hastily passed and un-debated law are on the way to being addressed; illegal immigration is way down (no, nothing to do with a wall. Yes, everything to do with application of the rule of law). ISIS is being pushed out of Mosul. And the federal government’s thought war against half of its citizens is over. We should all shrug and go grab a beer, right?!
So why the bitterness, the hate? I return to the article “The Urban Archipelago”, the ‘progressive’ manifesto. “We no longer have to concern ourselves with the survival of the family farm, nor do we have to concern ourselves with saving fragile suburban economies from collapse. They’re against us; we’re against them. This is a war.” An appeal to hate, if there ever was one. Lies, because they require no nuance, no understanding – no feeling, only action.
A house divided. Of course, the ‘liars’ don’t see this, because as Rand says, they have “made that person (to whom they lie) their master” and are now wholly invested in those lies, lest they should prove to be just that – and they become powerless. It’s a scary place to be, no wonder they fret so publicly and transparently. They are the slaves of the world.