The Reality-Challenged Right

What is it that prevents right-wingers from accepting reality? What is it that leads them to reject facts that any thinking person knows are obvious? Is it willful blindness? Delusions of infallibility? Plain ignorance?

What is it that prevents right-wingers from seeing the clear evidence of global warming? An analysis of recent House votes showed that on every environmental issue, about 80% of Republicans voted against environmental wisdom, and an equal percentage of Dems voted for. The evidence for the decline in the global condition is undeniable, but deny it they do. Have they not seen it? I am mystified, and so is most of the rest of the world.

Perhaps they need it to become personal before they understand. But global warming is becoming personal in the US, with heavy snowstorms, hundreds of tornadoes, ocean shore erosion, drought, flooding, radical heat waves, etc. this year alone. Perhaps we need more dramatic and more obvious effects, such as the collapse of a tall Miami Beach hotel into the ocean as its foundation is undermined by rising waters–which would have happened already except that Miami keeps trucking in more sand.

The irony is that it is already too late to do anything significant about global warming. It is here; it will continue to advance, very much like an incurable progressive disease. It advances regardless of right-wing beliefs, because that is reality. But the tragedy is that they have blocked all possibility of addressing the problem. Denying this reality is rather like the pope who punished Galileo for proving that the earth is not the center of the universe. Somehow the pope’s beliefs didn’t have the last word. Reality did, and reality will have the last word about climate change.

But right wingers are also incapable of drawing rational conclusions about the economic direction the country is taking. All the evidence says that what they want to do—the austerity punishment—will not accomplish what they say it will. It didn’t during the Great Depression or any recession, and it will not now. But they don’t care about what will work; they care about doctrine, about ideology. They remind me of my aunt, who died of a common cold because she believed her Christian “Scientist” teachings that said God will cure all.

It’s one thing when a fringe group believes in one sort of nonsense or another. It’s quite another when a significant percentage of the country, including half our elected officials, believes it. It’s yet another thing when they act to prevent the country from even beginning to address the problem.

It’s surreal. Our fate is being determined by people who deny the evidence of science, and who rely on obviously impossible beliefs to guide their lives, and restrict ours. They have somehow become powerful enough to sway government in the direction of anti-intelligence, anti-education, anti-science. They control the lives of all of us, and everyone on the planet, in fact.

It comes down to the question, What is reality? The educated world, except for right-wingers and Christian fundamentalists, seems to understand that science informs us about the reality of the physical universe. Most of us are readily able to accept that there are aspects of reality that we cannot see directly, but that can be demonstrated conclusively with science. We cannot see light traveling, but we can measure its speed. Economic reality is that right now what is needed is jobs, not spending cuts, which make everything worse.

Texas governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry led a stadium-sized prayer meeting for “A Nation in Crisis”. It is telling that he relied on prayer rather than reality to address the crisis. Sorry, prayer will not address the fast-approaching global climate catastrophe, control Wall Street greed, balance the budget, or solve any part of the governmental crisis that is almost entirely a creation of conservative Republican policies over the past three decades. To even begin to address the condition we must first accept science and reality.

We are in a terrible predicament. People who are sworn to irrational beliefs control our lives, because they control the political process. The consequences of their beliefs are clear to those who understand science, but not to them, and their fantasy beliefs may end up costing millions of lives.

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