Having passed the previous two weeks at sea returning to Monterey from San Diego where I wintered following my Mexico cruise, I feel ready to express a thought or two about the state of our species: Us. The U.S., and our still persistent democracy.
From the relative tranquility of our Pacific coastal waters, the foremost observation I can offer about all the squawking voices assaulting us citizens from every possible land-based media is: “Good grief, what a relentless babel!”
Where shall I begin? Perhaps with the ultimate controversial subject: the basic question of the puzzling presence or absence of a God in politics? Why not? I note that fervent fundamentalist Christian believers constitute a major portion of those who elected Mr. Donald Trump to be leader of our fair land.
This is to me a national demonstration of the same phenomenon documented some few years back by the book titled, “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” This publication carefully produced evidence of how U.S. political rightists had captured the heart and soul of extreme populist American conservatives.
This “Kansas” book investigated how a group of Americans were persuaded to vote consistently and persistently against their own best financial interests. It explained they were so easily duped by clinging desperately to an ideological passion transcending all rational financial logic.
This I propose now mirrors the primary condition of the present Trump supporters.
After having elected him due to a specific set of promises, Trump’s present followers continue to support him as he reverses course on practically every issue they elected him for. Further, as he blatantly backpedals on his promises, they continue to praise him. “It’ll all work out; just wait and see,” they say.
As example, two men I consider close acquaintances, even friends, are such conservative ideologues. One is a middle-aging entrepreneur, the other an 82-year-old retired ocean fisherman and salesman.
Both men consider Liberals to be accursed devils: the ultimate enemies of mankind. How and why they and I have casually stuck by one another over time, I am not sure I can explain. To my eye at least, they are each simply what back in my home state of Oklahoma we call, “Good old boys.” Fellows easy to like, despite their beliefs.
They and I have been able over time to admit we are politically out of tune with one another, but still enjoy each other’s company – at least now and then, in moderate doses. Perhaps we get along because somewhere down deep inside we just don’t take one another’s viewpoints seriously.
Either that, or we simply agree with the principle that in America it’s OK at bottom to disagree, that’s it’s utterly American to maintain friendship with philosophical adversaries. Whatever. We seem flexible enough to stay in touch, on at least our casual surface level.
If another accrual American fighting civil war erupted, whether we would be shooting at one another is – I imagine – possibly the real state of affairs regarding our personal relationships. Hopefully, it never comes to that. I vehemently disagree with them, but I like them. I would surely dislike shooting either between the eyes.
One buddy, unless he has changed his mind, still believes in Christianity. However, his seems to me a strange brand of this popular religion. Once while visiting him I found a book of his that proposed his being, (I paraphrase here) “A Guide to Teaching Your Young Son How to Become a Warrior.”
It was precisely that: a philosophical primer on how to transfer Christ’s lessons into being a literal killer of your enemies as a member of your own country’s military. It was a convoluted justification of an utterly illogical premise.
My other buddy does not seem to be either an outright rejecter of, or believer in, Christianity. Like most people as they age, however, he does not look kindly on the prospect of dying. He still hopes, I suspect, that somehow he may get to live on after death.
I am left with the simple observation that their mutual leader, Mr. Trump, who heartily professes his own Christianity, simultaneously supports a massive increase in the defense budget of our country although we already spend more than the next ten nations of the world combined.
How one justifies such opposing beliefs is beyond my intellectual grasp. I note that all three: Trump and my two buddies, are fervent believers in Capitalism. At least one buddy is: the entrepreneur. The other, an avowed anti-socialist living on a semi-socialistic U. S. Veteran’s Pension, seems only mildly conflicted by his two opposing economic loyalties.
Ideology is an addiction. I see this in the Left and the Right, in Democrats and Republicans, in Socialists and Capitalists, in Christians and Atheists. Whenever members of a group deviate from a middle pathway between extremes, they leap headlong into a chasm of chaos. When any group of people identify dogmatically with any extreme, logic is commonly cast to the winds.
In any case, to conclude this abbreviated treatise on the absurdities of the 21st
Century’s Digital-Age-of-Humanity-Abandoned, we are left to deal with the last. word in the title of my commentary, to wit: “Guff.”
Guff is, according to the dictionary: “Nonsense, Baloney, Back Talk.” That sounds right to me. From my present position at sea, Guff is what all the babel of the airways, the Internet traffic, and the TV news appears to amount to.
The human animal is a mass of klutzy contradictions. The paradox is that this particular animal has become so expert at methodically killing one another with superb efficiency that its violent behavior has become our norm.
How does one make sense out of all these brutal contradictions? Looking for a clue from two immensely stalwart fellows of our human past, I’ve lately been reading the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi and the biography of Albert Einstein. Their common solution was, and is, so marvelously simple. They both advised:
“People, stop acting stupid; the answers are obvious.”
Too obvious, apparently, for many of us.
A casual lady acquaintance recently commented that my choice of reading Gandhi and Einstein likely will not help me establish any viable competition for Oprah Winfrey’s popular book club.
Well, thank you. As much as I admire Oprah, that’s OK with me. I’m not running for any office and don’t presently have to please anyone I can think of except myself. So I believe I’ll stick with my friends Gandhi and Einstein, if you don’t mind. And with my relatively tranquil and logical sea.
BUT, WAIT! I don’t feel comfortable stopping here. My conclusion does not satisfy me. Permit me, therefore, to add this Coda:
I titled this piece, “Gods, Guns & Guff.” I did so as a veiled allusion to the political strategy of Mr. Trump’s administration. Let me set the record straight regarding how I feel about it. What follows is solely my opinion, which as a American citizen and as a writer I am by U.S. law authorized to state plainly and clearly.
From his Twittering and other public utterances, it appears obvious to me that Mr. Trump does not know U.S. history, does not understand the subtleties of U.S. governmental checks and balances, and has little, if any, concept of the refined art of discretion
No such committed political ideology as his can override the protective brilliance crafted by our nation’s founders during their inception of our country. The thinkers and writers of our country’s defining concepts did not toss dice or play simple card games for our future.
Rather, they assumed and finely documented various principles they intended to support individual initiative and freedom. And to – most vitally – provide a bulwark against authoritarianism of any description. They did this by establishing in writing fundamental guidelines attempting to help safeguard all citizens, rich or poor, of all faiths.
Mr. Trump to my mind is an exemplary role model for the total intellectual corruption of the ideals and principles America’s founders established. And any who admire his blunt pride, his utter lack of humility, and his blatantly obvious financial profiteering share in his intellectual corruption.
Mr. Trump and his admirers do not appear to comprehend the dominantly unique American cultural belief of the majority of ordinary citizens: our basic well-intentioned commitment to the fundamental goodwill of all common people toward all other common people of the earth.
Basing his political strategy on God, Guns & Guff, he has politically and cleverly attracted a narrow and deluded market of Americans to get elected. But now he is facing – from both dedicated government workers and private citizens – an organically emerging loyal opposition for whom longstanding ideals of basic honesty and empathetic human concern dominate.
I have written this before, and I write it again: I believe the preceding will prove eventually to be the undoing of Mr. Trump’s administration. If I am pushed to the point of defining who the deviants are from the true ideals of America, I am firmly convinced who has the predominant truth tucked in their pocket.
It is the common American citizen down in the trenches, the guy and gal who have to work for a living – and who do so in the face of a relentlessly profiteering opposition operating under the guise of patriotism.
Those Americans who stubbornly hold to a far broader and intrinsically more humane vision of life own my loyalty. Because I know we are right. And because I know we will win this ideological civil war with quality conviction and crucial words.