Believing in Fairy Tales

We have entered a state in which the nation’s political life is in danger of being controlled by the impossible, by irrational beliefs, by fairy tales. This would be laughable if it weren’t so widespread among not only the public, but among their elected representatives.

These people believe in the equivalent of dragons and unicorns. If we allow the government to be controlled by them, very serious consequences for all of us are inevitable.

We’ve all seen polls showing that large percentages of the citizenry are “birthers”, refusing to believe that the President was born in Hawaii, although it has been proven by two releases of his birth certificate plus two newspaper notifications published at the time of his birth. It is a non-issue that will not go away, espoused even by supposed presidential contenders. Well, at least Donald Trump. Nothing will make these people see the light.

A few weeks ago I read an article about a Republican politician who had met with some Tea Party types, and he was shaken. Not only were they all “birthers”, but they were convinced that the president was a Muslim terrorist who was bent on holding the US hostage—or some such nonsense—and a whole lot of other stuff. But what did that politician do? Did he question them on the source of their beliefs? Did he ask what they thought about the facts of the president’s birth as shown in public documents? Did he gently inform them that there was no evidence for the things they believed, that they might just as well believe in dragons and unicorns? No. What he did was to immediately begin to figure out how to accommodate their views so he could win their vote. There can be no accommodation to believers in dragons and unicorns.

Tea Partiers are older, white, and angry. What are they angry about?: the health care reform bill, the government not representing the people, government spending and unemployment and the economy. 64% of them believe the president has increased their taxes. TV, specifically Fox TV, is their main source of news.

It is not just that so many embrace falsehoods along the “birther” line, it is also that they are willfully ignorant about things like their taxes. None of them believe that their taxes are anything other than crushing, despite the plain fact that they are rather low, and have been made lower by the president. The plain fact is that plain facts never get in the way of belief in dragons and unicorns.

Well, I’m older, white, and angry too, and it frightens me to learn that so many people are not only clearly irrational, but that they threaten to control our political life. Trying to accommodate their belief in dragons and unicorns is insanity. Such people must not gain influence. They do not understand reality, and a nation run on the basis of fairy tales will soon face disaster.

Unfortunately, the camel’s nose is already under the tent, as they say (a wonderful aphorism, no?). A much too large number of elected politicians appear to be unable to tell reality from unicorns, and it bodes ill for us all, because the more of them there are, the more time and effort must be devoted to debunking their beliefs. Even then, few of them will be convinced by mere facts.

While the numbers of the irrational in Congress are still relatively low, they include too many Republicans. (Dems are also, of course, capable of irrational beliefs, but there seem to be fewer such in Congress.) Lucky for us, most of the Republican irrationalities are not of the unicorn type, although some clearly are. Most of them are more or less honest beliefs about the way to run government, but based not on rational proofs of success, but on a system of conservative beliefs not unlike religious beliefs. Thus we have the current presentation of economic plans by the GOP, many features of which are clearly wishful thinking and based on conservative faith, and proven to be unworkable by previous experience and by expert non-partisan analysis. But they bring it as a serious proposal.

Then there is the issue of global warming. There is, of course, disagreement among scientists and others on the exact changes to expect in the future—foretelling the future is risky business, even with supercomputers—but there is no rational way to deny that global warming is happening. Yet, large numbers of people not only deny it, in spite of the evidence before them daily, they actively deny it, they proselytize against it, claiming it is some sort of plot by nefarious characters. None among them can explain who these nefarious characters are, let alone what they might gain by it, nor do they attempt to explain the evidence that is all around them.

Global warming is very real, it is bearing down on us like the tsunami we spy in the middle distance, and we must act now if we are to avert even a small part of the probable extremely serious consequences. But we don’t because there are enough believers in dragons and unicorns to block all actions we might take, and any Republicans with more sense are afraid to speak out. The true tragedy is that the consequences of global warming will arrive no matter what they believe, as they have already arrived in various locations around the globe, causing one small nation to be completely abandoned under water, and several million people in other places to lose their land to rapid erosion by the sea. By the time the symptoms become impossible to ignore it will be too late to do anything about it, if in fact it isn’t already too late.

Irrational beliefs are part of the human makeup. Each of us at some time believes in the truth of something that is clearly false. But the difference is that most of us will abandon a false belief the way we shed childhood fairy stories, in favor of something based on science, on proven fact.

But the believers in dragons and unicorns persist, and mere reason will never change their minds. We face grave danger if we allow them to control how our country is managed.

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Published in: on 2011/04/08 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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