A Summer Of Delusions

In 1978, while I was still a college student, I spent a summer teaching English as a Second Language in Tehran, Iran.  It was, to say the very least, a fascinating adventure to be suddenly immersed in a culture wholly different than any I had experienced to that point in my life.  

However, what I now remember most clearly from that long-ago summer are all the simmering, obvious, and irrefutable signs that a nation-shattering revolution was close at hand—the evidence of which so many in power chose to studiously ignore.  It was a useful life lesson in the dire dangers of delusional thinking, and I have not forgotten it to this day.

Whether I was being spit at from passing cars—the tall, blond, clueless American was an obvious target—or directly observing the state-controlled local press suppressing every bit of information about the street protests and deadly violence that took place that blazing hot summer, the sense that the reality of anger on the ground and the fake news pumped out by the official media were wholly unconnected pervades all of my memories of those months.  I could easily see—as could anyone with eyes—both the people’s hatred of their country’s corrupt, totalitarian rule and the desperate efforts being made to cover up and ignore the widespread discontent that would topple the government just five months after I left.

I’ve been having a similar, queasy feeling while watching events unfold in America this summer.  

Delusional thinking about the popularity and successes of the Biden administration’s policies seems the modus operandi of the talking heads who continually assure us that anyone who opposes the radical agenda now being implemented is a mere troglodyte who can be shunned into non-existence.  I am certain the Shah of Iran and his loyal minions in the government, bureaucracy, and military felt exactly the same way when they peered out of the palace windows at the protests in the August of 1978.

I am not, for the record, predicting that our current government will be violently overthrown.  However, the clear signs of a more subtle resistance to policies and personalities that many believe are profoundly unwise and deeply un-American abound.  As much as those living within the comforts of America’s own palace walls might prefer to believe otherwise, there will be a point when subtlety is discarded in favor of an open dissent that could manifest itself in many disturbing and disruptive forms.  

A nation of Americans weary of lockdowns, fearful over their financial futures, concerned about rising crime, wary of a rapidly expanding welfare state and its crushing government debt, distrustful of official pronouncements, and hating those who openly hate America are now discovering their voices—and causing a great deal of difficulty by withdrawing both their consent and cooperation.  Is non-cooperation an effective tool for kicking an entrenched governmental structure out of power?  Yes, it certainly is.  This is particularly true when tough questions are suppressed by corrupt elites who live in the shadows of power.  Their smug disdain just adds more fuel to the fire of the people’s anger and frustration.

We are told that we have a free press in America, but watching the mainstream media cheerleading for Joe Biden and his policies, it is hard to not notice a decidedly Soviet vibe of propaganda masquerading as objective facts, and this can only backfire in the long term by leading more Americans to believe their many concerns are being ignored.

Aside from the extraordinarily fulsome nature of so much of the news coverage of Joe Biden’s blundering presidency thus far, it is difficult to ignore the news media’s stunning lack curiosity about so many ongoing disasters.  COVID policies change weekly.  An idiotic Afghanistan withdrawal will lead to a powerful and dangerous Taliban nation in the Middle East.  Efforts to subvert the legitimacy and power of The Supreme Court are an ongoing concern.  An abject surrender to Russia regarding the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has given Russia and Putin an unprecedented stranglehold over the energy supply of the European Union.  Spiraling prices for virtually every life essential—including food, fuel, housing, education, and medical care—are stretching average Americans to the breaking point.  

It gets worse and worse each day, but our blindly partisan media continues to sing a happy song, regardless. Our federal government has just blown through the national debt ceiling—yet again—and could be forced to shut down in the fall due to a lack of cash.  A blissfully ignorant approach to harsh budgetary realities is colliding with insanely wasteful multi-trillion spending proposals to expand the powers and reach of Big Government control over our daily lives.  A shameful and frightening Biden administration failure to enforce existing laws regarding our nation’s border security is a national disgrace.  Crass efforts to use federal power to subvert legitimate inquiries into the questions surrounding the 2020 election are further eroding our faith in our democracy.  The collapse of public trust in almost all of our nation’s basic institutions is both worrisome and unsurprising, yet those clinging to power seem to have convinced themselves that faith will rebound once the brilliance of their leadership is properly understood by the uneducated and un-Woke.

America has, of course, survived through tough times before; many were certain that our nation could not survive the horrors of The Civil War in the 19th century and the economic meltdown of The Great Depression in the 20th century.  We have overcome the foolishness of stupid and shortsighted ideologues and idiots since the founding of our country, and our Constitution has proven itself to be remarkably resilient in the face of threats both domestic and foreign.

Nonetheless, we are facing choppy and dangerous waters dead ahead.  Implacable and irreconcilable differences regarding our basic moral values and our beliefs about the proper role and responsibilities of government divide us, and the battle lines are more entrenched than ever.  I do not expect the kind of street fighting between competing factions that so many other nations have experienced in similar circumstances; the public’s awareness that every move we make is now tracked and documented electronically is a limiting factor for all but the most brave, lawless, or outraged.

However, we can expect that non-cooperation will meet the heavy—and increasingly desperate—hand of government power in the months and years ahead.  Totalitarianism via pervasive and intrusive technology such as that now experienced in China could be the dismal future ahead for America, or we could see the currently unlimited powers of agents monitoring and manipulating our lives severely curtailed by those concerned about digital threats to our freedom and privacy.  

Of course, as many have already discovered, technology can also be used as a tool of revolt by those who can today disseminate images and information those in power can no longer hide away in a locked file cabinet. The powers that can be exerted by a determined population of rebels are far different than those possible in 1978, and it could be the case that the Internet—combined with the fundamental American love of freedom—is simply too strong and durable a foe for those extremists who seek unprecedented control over what we can think, do, and say.

Therefore, I believe our new ideological Cold War within America itself will have to sort itself out in a million small battles over the course of the next several years.  The outcome will likely be an uneasy and shaky moderation that frustrates the extremists on both sides, but this actually could be the best we can expect for the foreseeable future.  The partisan delusions that rule our nation will eventually pop like a soap bubble when the contradictions between fantasy and reality become untenable.  I sincerely hope this will be the case soon.

The alternative to common sense compromises is too awful to contemplate, and I have no desire to have my memories of the summer of 1978 further revived in my mind.  I expect peace to prevail, but we must be keenly alert to the dangerous and divisive passions now driving our country apart.  To continue to privilege pie-in-the-sky theorizing instead of cold, hard facts is a prescription for a disaster that will please only the delusional extremists now dominating our national dialogue.

The loudest are rarely the smartest, and we will need calm adults to step to the forefront in the years ahead.

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