The American political landscape these days is fraught with conspiracy theories, rumor-mongering of the worst kind, fact-less assertions as moral truth and outcries that threaten trust in government, defy the American Constitution and weaken democracy. This is really troubling. As citizens we have a responsibility to listen and learn from facts, not to be swept away by fictitious interpretations of reality. We have to discern what are truths and what are lies.
I heard a statement that caught my attention while watching the news the other day: “Truth becomes relative when one is driven to acquire or hold on to power through any and all means.” People who swear by family values and who take oaths to uphold the Constitution have become feckless followers of a dangerous movement to unleash anger, fear, lies, deception, bigotry and violence.
Congressman Adam Schiff in speaking about his new book, "Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could," cites the often quoted statement, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He suggests that what power does is it reveals the true character of people who masquerade their desire to maintain power at any cost with baseless lies and empty talk. Being honest with ourselves, we know exactly what he is talking about.
This kind of leadership is fake. It is disingenuous. It is deceiving. It derails purpose and is divisive. Why are so many people swept up in this destructive vortex? For example, it is well established that the corona virus is real. It has caused a global health pandemic and economic crisis. Over a thousand, mostly unvaccinated people die in the U.S. each day of the virus. Yet, some leaders continue to claim that it is a hoax. There are leaders who refuse to promote the COVID-19 vaccine to their constituents, even when they themselves have gotten vaccinated. Some powerful state and local duly-elected officials are prohibiting schools and private companies from mandating masks. Their minions are flooding school board meetings, scaring school board members with death threats and disrupting practices that are meant to protect children.
There is a sea-changing effort by some to limit people’s voting rights and protections. This is another hallmark of democracy that is being threatened at its core. School districts and universities are besieged by protestors who clamor for whitewashing (pun intended) the curriculum taught to students in schools. Arguments are growing into violent confrontations between groups who feel that students should learn the full history of America’s lived experience and those who want to censure and limit knowledge. Can you imagine having Guam history, Micronesian studies or CHamoru language and culture banned on Guam? Imagine if we couldn’t teach the truth about the impact of colonization on our people, our land and our language and why self-determination is vital. That is what is happening in some states presently, with the histories of people of color being thrown out of the curriculum.
Being civil means agreeing to respect each other even when we disagree. What has happened to the values that promote civility and respect? It is often said that when the U.S. sneezes, the territories get pneumonia. We really have to be vigilant and on guard against catching the bug of perverse politics. As a community, we can expect to face “intricate or difficult problems.” This is how Merriam-Webster defines conundrum.
As a Catholic, I believe in the sanctity of life. A moral conundrum that I confront is that while some single-issue activists claim to be pro-life, these same activists oppose gun control and support capital punishment. While they have the right not to get vaccinated, they also oppose masking and social distancing mandates which are meant to protect life. Some deny climate change. My dilemma is that some pro-birthers do not seem to care one bit about children after they are born. What about the victims of mass shootings, or the millions of American children who go hungry each day? Some are willing to reelect leaders who are known to have engaged as sexual predators.
People who are passionate about their rights and freedoms do not always distinguish between exercising freedom while being responsible and freedom devoid of responsibility. These moral contradictions are what keep me up at night.