Pointing out that a doctor cannot treat an illness successfully if that illness isn’t correctly identified/diagnosed is to state the glaringly obvious. I would suggest that the same caution should be applied when we attempt to address the ills of society.
Charles Blow–in my estimation–has offered precisely that insight in a recent opinion piece the New York Times.
Blow begins with what is now a depressingly familiar litany of the sins of the party that calls itself Republican–a cult that bears less and less resemblance to what used to be the mainstream of that party. As he asks, what do you call members of a party who are invested in an obvious lie–not to mention a liar “determined to undermine, corrupt and even destroy our democracy?” What about that party’s leaders, who feel entitled to use that lie “as a pretext to suppress the votes and voices of Americans with whom they disagree?”
What do you call a party where many of its members have worked against a lifesaving, society-freeing vaccine in the middle of a pandemic, exposing many of their own followers to the deadly virus, all for the sake of being contrarian, anti-establishment and anti-science?
Those accusations–that litany–is, or should be, stupefyingly familiar by now. The contribution Blow makes in this column is his insistence that this is anything but “politics as usual,” and that we need to recognize that fact if we are to summon the will and wit to overcome the threat these people pose to democracy and the rule of law.
I have heard all the things that the moderates and neutralists have to say: Overheated language helps nothing and alienates people who could otherwise be converted. Don’t cast as evil someone with whom you simply have a disagreement. Build bridges, don’t burn them.
I could understand and appreciate all of that in another time. I can recall being impressed by how well a conservative argument was asserted, even if I disagreed with it. I can remember when conservatism was just as intellectual as liberalism, and compromises could be made to feel like the combining of the best of both…
But we should also not underplay or sugarcoat the darkness of the current season.
I don’t see how we continue to pretend that this is politics as usual, that it’s normal squabbling between ideological opposites. No, something is deeply, dangerously wrong here. This is not the same as it has always been.
Blow doesn’t offer a strategy for dealing with the situation that he has accurately described, and I certainly don’t have a solution, or even a proposed intervention. But I do know that you cannot solve a problem you are unwilling to recognize. A doctor cannot cure someone’s cancer if she continues to insist that what ails the patient is just a common cold.
Let’s be honest: A significant minority of the American public is dangerously mentally ill. (Mental illness, as Mitch recently reminded us in a comment to a previous post, is ” a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction”) A troubling number of those who have been drinking this generation’s Kool Aid are acting out their fantasies–shooting up pizza parlors, staging an insurrection, denying the reality of a pandemic…Failure to recognize the extent to which the moment we occupy differs from the ideological or political disagreements most of us formerly experienced will make it impossible to fashion an effective response.
I wish I knew what that “effective response” might look like. Other than a massive GOTV effort, I don’t. But I do know–and yesterday’s blog highlighted– that we aren’t dealing with the common cold.