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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rampant Gullibility: Ah, so that's how it happened

A common reaction from students learning about the Holocaust 40, 50, 60+ years after the fact is, "How could the world have let that happen?" or "How could the German people let that happen?" The latter comes after reading about all the German people who claimed not to have known what was going on in the concentration camps, even while soot, thick with the incompletely incinerated remains of humans burned in the crematoriums, fell on their homes and in their yards. We are repulsed by what that country did to the world---and yes, we blame the entire country. "How could they not know?" "How could they let it happen?" "How could someone who was so clearly demented come to power?"

By promising to make Germany great again.

By promising to fix the economy.

By placing the blame for all the woes of the "Aryan race" on "others"--anyone with dark hair, dark eyes, swarthy complexions...

anyone different: homosexuals, foreigners...

anyone who could recognize and call out the lies: intellectuals, scientists, journalists...

Anyone not gullible enough to believe Josef Goebbels propaganda machine, the fake news spewed out with little regard to even a passing acquaintance with credibility.

Those were the enemies of the state who were to blame for all of German society's ills and against whom Hitler and the Nazi party directed all the animosity, hate, and revenge of the small-minded, ignorant, and gullible. Those like them.

Trump. Bannon. Flynn. Pizzagate.

The ignorant and hateful, led by the ignorant and hateful, spewing lies by and to the ignorant and hateful. The reality is already playing out. When members of Trump's team blatantly post fake news, when his minister of propaganda runs a "media" outlet that's not only known for, but proud of, how well it can get gullible people to believe its fake news, when followers read not only fake, but so ridiculously-over-the-top-that-only-a-complete-moron-could-believe-it news, when an ignorant and gullible Trump-supporter will drive hundreds of miles to shoot up a pizza parlor and "free the children held captive in the basement" because of that news, there can no longer be any doubt about what you--Trump voters--have wrought on this country.

I am repulsed by those who voted for Trump, and even more so by those who continue to support him. If you voted for this deplorable man, you are deplorable. There is no rational reason for it--the economy has steadily been improving, slowly but surely, since the devastation of the Bush administration, so it can't be the economy. It can't be in support of his policies: there were no policies, there were no remedies proposed in his campaign, only blame and lies.

Some initially wanted to be patient, give him and his ilk the benefit of the doubt (because 2 years of campaigning wasn't enough to see the real man? How stupid and slow are you?) But now we're seeing more and more that what he spewed for those two years does show the man he is, and he proclaims it loudly and proudly with every appointment to his transition team, with every Tweet, and with every refusal to disavow the clear and obvious fake news spread by those with whom he surrounds himself. Hell, who he surrounds himself with is more than enough evidence of what a misanthropic, manipulative, mean-spirited man he is.

If you're still waiting to see, to give this deplorable excuse for a human being a "chance," I wonder how you'll respond in 10, 20, 30+ years when people ask, "How could the US have let that happen?" and "How could they not know?" "How could they not have stopped it?"

Future generations will judge us. They will judge you. They will ask how you could be so ignorant and gullible. And like millions of people judging the Germans after World War II, who don't separate out the German people from the Nazi party, or those who didn't vote for Hitler from those who did (yes, he was elected to office), they won't separate out those who committed atrocities from those who claim to have opposed them but did nothing to stop them, or those who will claim ignorance.

We will all be judged, and we will all be blamed for the atrocities that have already started.

How far will we let this go? I'd like to think we'll be smarter, braver, stronger than the Germans who opposed Hitler were, but so far, all evidence is to the contrary. So far, this country is exhibiting the same rampant gullibility the Germans did when Hitler came to power, with no sign in sight that we have the ethical or intellectual will to stop it. No sign we'll stand up for what is right, good, and decent.

We should all be very ashamed of our country. More so with each passing day and each new assault to democracy and truth that the incoming administration heaps on us. Instead, we're taking the easy, lazy way out, saying "this to shall pass." That might be true, but maybe we should ask Germany about what can happen between now and the time the evil passes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fathom the Depths of Imagination

A moving article by Jeffrey Davis, Fathoming Black Lives, is so worth spending a few minutes reading. And hours, days, years contemplating.  I think his idea of imagination--the ability to consider the plight, the feelings, emotions, history of "other"---or the inability, for many, is a dividing line that needs more exploring.

Imagination: the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

Empathy requires imagination. Reading, writing, and being pulled into fictional worlds requires imagination. A 2013 study by Castano and Kidd showed that reading literary fiction increases one's empathy. They conclude that, because literary fiction requires more mental processing than genre fiction or nonfiction, "readers of literary fiction are tasked with interpretation, or critical thinking. Literary fiction, they posit, has the power to “disrupt our stereotypes”; what’s more, it is full of “complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration.”"

Another study conducted by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar found that reading activates neural "that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness."

In another study by the same researchers in 2006, 94 subjects were asked to guess the emotional state of a person from a photograph of their eyes. “The more fiction people [had] read, the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and…correctly interpreting social cues.”

In 2009, wondering if “devouring novels might be a result, not a cause, of having a strong theory of mind,” they expanded the scope of their research, testing 252 adults on the “Big Five ” personality traits — extraversion, emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness — and correlated those results with how much time the subjects generally spent reading fiction. Once again, they discovered “a significant relation between the amount of fiction people read and their empathic and theory-of-mind abilities” allowing them to conclude that it was reading fiction that improved the subjects’ social skills, not that those with already high interpersonal skills tended to read more.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is critical to really comprehending the world around us. No, I can never be a black man. I can never fully know what it's like to be an undocumented immigrant, but I can imagine and feel the stress and the terror that is a part of their lives every day. I can also empathize with those who cause that stress and terror--not sympathize, but I can attempt to get into their head and imagine what they're feeling and why. And no. That doesn't make me sympathetic to them. It makes me angry.

It makes me wish they'd read more fiction as a child.

Friday, November 11, 2016

It'll be interesting

No. I haven't come around. No. I'm not ready to think you're anything less than a cretin if you voted for that blowhard. He said what he said, he did what he did. People who voted for him, to defend themselves, are saying they didn't take it literally. They didn't really believe he meant it.

I'm not ready to accept it was all hyperbole. His words were his words, with no disclaimers from him, no matter how hard his campaign workers tried to backpedal. So, yes, I do still think you're deplorable if you voted for him. He's scum. If it was all an act, well....we'll see. Time will tell. But, even if it was, that's no excuse for any moral and sane human to vote for him after all he said and did. You're still deplorable.

So, no. This isn't an easing of my position. But a surprising, eye opening moment of consideration. I actually think Glenn Beck is being somewhat sensible about something. Read what he said HERE.

No. Don't want to talk to you right now. Can't talk to you right now. Still have to process the fact of his words and actions--the evidence of who he is and what he represents--with your vote, showing your support for those words and action; and try to figure out how your acceptance and support of those words and actions makes you anything other than deplorable. I'm not there yet. 

But, some of Beck's words make sense. Possibly because I've always suspected that Beck isn't nearly as scary-nuts as he acts. That's the key. It IS an act for him. He's just fucking with all the conservatives who listen to him. I'd even planned a book around that idea. A sane person saying, "look how stupid and ugly these conservatives are. I'll bet I could really expose them for who they truly are." He gets on talk radio and shoots to superstardom. It's a funny joke for him, his girlfriend, and other friends who are in on the joke. But the joke backfires when he gets caught up in his own hype; addicted to the attention; to his power to really pull out the true nastiness in humans. In the process, he loses everyone he loves. Only when he's balancing on that razor's edge, a hairs breadth away from stepping over the line does he realize what  he's become. But by then, it's too late. He has alienated all of his truly good and decent friends, including his girlfriend. There is no happy ending, no matter how hard he tries to redeem himself. I think the real Beck is in that position now.

Beck tried to redeem himself by not supporting Trump. It was too little too late. Today, he put himself in the hot seat, exposed something of a soft underbelly. He tried to explain to those of us hurting over this election that, if we keep the lines of communication open, well, we might be surprised. Not much of an olive branch, but it's a start.

As I said, I'm not there yet, and can't be sure that I ever will be. If you voted for Trump, you are a deplorable human being. But, if there's hope for this country, hope that some of our institutions can survive, hope that some of the deplorables will snap out of it in time and act, in the way Beck said he will ("If our Mr. Trump, or any future president, should decide to round up Muslims (or any group) as America did with Japanese during World War II under Franklin D. Roosevelt, I will declare, “I am a Muslim.” My values, honor, integrity and the Bill of Rights demand I stand for those most unlike me — that is when it counts,") well, then maybe there is hope for this country, and maybe I am wrong about you all being misogynistic, racist, homophobic bigots.
I think I'd like to find out I'm wrong. I'm still pretty sure I'm not, because as nice a thought as it is, Glenn Beck didn't vote for Hitler/Trump, but you did.