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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mama Bagger

When we were in the 6th Grade, a conversation started in the classroom one day about the U.S. moon landings, the first of which, the famous "one small step for man"-one, had taken place only three years earlier. All of a sudden, a girl in our class announced that it hadn't really happened. Everyone, including the teacher, turned to her and said, "What?" She went on to explain that we hadn't really landed on the moon, that it was all a hoax. Everyone laughed, but then some attempted to explain to her how we had all watched it on t.v. and how everyone in the country knew about it, but no matter what we said, we couldn't sway her opinion that it just hadn't happened. That was an early lesson in life that no matter what the facts or truth might be about something, there will always be people who just don't believe them. What we've learned since the 6th Grade is that the reason why some people refuse to believe in a particular thing is because they don't want to believe in that particular thing.
(dana loesch on friday's "real time with bill maher")
This phenomenon was on full display this past Friday night on "Real Time With Bill Maher". One of Bill's guests was St. Louis radio host and Tea Party organizer, Dana Loesch. And if you've ever wondered what the Tea Party is really all about, all you have to do is watch this episode, and it suddenly makes a lot of sense. We're not going to attempt to provide the word-for-word transcipt of the show here, but to summarize: Loesch came across as a reasonable, relatively sane person, so we were actually excited that we might have an honest, intellectual discussion of differing political opinions, with the Tea Party side being defended by someone other than a nutjob. But then the wheels came off. No matter what the topic, whether it was TARP, the bail-out of the auto industry, the deficit, etc., the reaction from Loesch was always the same. As Maher, and others on the show who make a living studying the facts of these issues, explained to Loesch what actually has happened, such as the fact that the federal government has been paid back most of what it lent to the Big Banks, with interest, Loesch just kept saying, to paraphrase, "That's not what I've heard," or "There's evidence out there that that's not the case." Of course, Loesch had no facts to back those statements up, she just kept repeating the mantra of "I don't believe that." Wow. We flashed back to that girl in the 6th Grade who could not and would not believe that America had landed on the moon.

As MSNBC's Laurence O'Donnell like to say, "You're entitled to your opinion, but you're not entitled to make things up." In other words, is the U.S. government perfect? No way. Are both Democrats and Republicans corrupt? Most definitely. But with most issues, there are hard facts, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to look them up. So why do most of the Tea Party folk seem to be so ignorant of the basic facts of most political issues? The only reasonable explanation is that, like our 6th Grade classmate and like Dana Loesch, they don't want to know the facts. But why would people who seem to care so much about their country choose to remain ignorant? The answer to that question is hidden in complex discussions of psychology and the human mind which we have no interest in discussing here, but to simplify, we suspect that facts scare the Tea Partiers because facts get in the way of their "beliefs" and the myths which drive those beliefs.
Sarah Palin is the perfect embodiment of that phenomenon. She just spoke in California this weekend where she rattled off a list of Pres. Reagan's accomplishments, the only problem being that most of what she listed as having been achieved by Reagan, Reagan didn't achieve. America has always thrived on myth, and it's been those myths that not only make every poor person in the world want to come here, but it's those same myths that have buoyed us when we've faced crisis. Myths can be incredibly powerful things, and when repeated enough times, many people start to accept them as truth. And when you try to convince those people that they're being swayed by false myths, they often react with anger and defensiveness. To have destroyed what one has believed for one's entire life is a shattering experience. And this, we believe, is at the heart of the Tea Party mindset. Tea Partiers are the people that have always believed that America is a blessed-by-God, righteous country that has never done wrong and where you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and that the people who interfere with that belief, i.e. Democrats who criticize America, non-white minorities, lazy people who want to live on welfare, etc., are traitors and are evil. The facts don't matter to these people, only the continued belief in the American myth. They don't want to understand that America has always had elements of socialism in its government and society, all they seem to need to know is that "socialism is evil". So, just as we learned in the 6th Grade, to try to convince someone to give up their beliefs, no matter how misguided, is a waste of your own breath. All you can do with the current Tea Party is to hope that some of them accidentally pick up an American history book, or a textbook on civics, and they accidentally read it before someone in their community attempts to ban it. Short of that, you just have to sit back and do what we suggested a couple of days ago, enjoy the three-ring circus that will ensue when some of these people actually arrive in Congress. And hope and pray that they're not able to do too much actual damage in the short time they'll be in that Congress.

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