I know that the name of our community here is "steady." And that means staying true to a certain set of ideals, seeing the big picture, not getting too caught up in the roller coaster of a particular news cycle. But sometimes being steady also means being really, really ticked off. (If we were in person, I might even use stronger language.) Because what I am witnessing today has me about as hopped up as a bullfrog on five shots of espresso.
At the U.S. Capitol the hearings underway for the committee investigating the violent, terrorist insurrection fueled by the sitting President of the United States, should be a place where a broad array of sober minded leaders from across the political spectrum affirm their commitment to America's most noble democratic ideals. The testimony of the police officers facing mortal danger and racist attacks was sickening, even though it confirmed what we saw in the hours of video recordings. But hearing anew their words, their sadness, their fear, their indignation, should move everyone's (and anyone’s) hearts. Isn't this the very demographic, law enforcement, that Republicans claim to revere? But instead we have the House Minority Leader saying he was too busy to watch the men who helped save his life recount their experiences.
And in a brazen display of moral cowardice, the high ranking Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik issued a blitzkrieg of lies somehow blaming the attack on Nancy Pelosi??? Shame.
Meanwhile, across America, Republicans have spent months using COVID as a political weapon against Democrats, and the truth by dismissing the deadly threat and stigmatizing life-saving vaccines and masking. The results are depressingly predictable: spiking cases, especially among the unvaccinated. So even if they try to change their tune now and say vaccines are necessary, they have sown poisonous ground. Listen to Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and the state vaccine official Dr. Jennifer Dillaha getting shouted down by those who have been heavily marinated in conspiracy theories.
Of course these conspiracy theories can be found in every corner of mainstream Republican discourse, from the Big Lie, to all the distortions around Democratic policy initiatives, to dismissing the truth of American history. This mountain of mendacity has been built over decades through talk radio, Fox News, and the chief conductor of bullshine, the former president. It would be one thing if the danger of these lies was self-inflicted and only limited to those who believe them. That would be tragic. But these lies threaten all of us, even those who live in reality. It means our democracy is under threat. It means our public health is being damaged by breakthrough infections and a breeding ground for the next mutation which might be much more capable of evading the vaccines.
We’ve been told that we need to understand those who believe these lies, that we need to find ways to reach out. That is true to the degree that we need to be a nation, with as much unity as that can afford. But I am also sick and tired of being lectured about the feelings of people who are so boisterously proud of their callousness to the feelings and safety of others. We are told by those that cheer on violence against police that we need to respect law enforcement more. We are told by those who are triggered by the truth that those who want to grapple with the hard realities of climate change, racial injustice, economic inequality, and all the other important challenges that face us at this moment in history are somehow “snowflakes.” Those who denounce “cancel culture” are eager to cancel anyone who doesn’t confirm their warped vision of reality — including such former Republican stalwarts as Liz Cheney.
It is time for everyone who can see what is really happening to stop grading on a curve. We can’t give those who are attacking democracy and public health points for just being part of the public debate. They have not earned the goodwill they so eagerly deny for others. This is particularly important for the press. Reporters are vital for shining the sunlight into a world engulfed in the darkness of lies. And headlines, which often drive social media hits, bear particular scrutiny. They must clearly be rooted in reality and protect against false equivalence at all costs. All sides are not equal. Far from it. I know many Republican officials know the truth. That they are driven by cravenness to push lies is, if anything, an even greater moral indictment on their character in a moment of national crisis and urgency.
What gives me hope is that I think the majority of Americans, those who are vaccinated and those who revere our democratic norms and abhor violence, are losing patience. Yes, lies can be weaponized. But so can the truth. Show these brave officers’ testimony. Tell the stories of those dying from a horrific disease for, and because of, a lie. That vaccine rates seem to be going up is a vote for truth. That vaccine mandates are starting to sweep the country is a vote for sanity. That two Republican members of Congress have proudly joined the effort to grapple with all that happened on 1/6 is a vote for democracy.
The lies upon which the Republican Party has tied its political fortunes in the Age of Trump are so easily undercut by the truth. Show the videos of those beating police officers with American flags. Show the COVID death rates of the unvaccinated. I get a sense that waves of recognition and resolve are starting to hit. Americans are saying, “Enough!” Enough of the lies, of the idiocy, of the recklessness. The United States of America is a real place — where action or inaction has real consequences. We have no choice but to be subject to the laws of nature. And we should choose to be subject to, and uphold, the laws of our Constitution. If the United States is real, it must exist in reality. Enough of all of those acting otherwise.
Ok. I’ve said what I wish to say. Steady.
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