The Failures Of Fanatics

One notable feature of our nation over the past several decades is the finger wagging intrusions into our personal decisions and thoughts by armies of activists, bureaucrats, celebrities, academics, and self-styled experts who are intent on explaining why so many seemingly decent and patriotic Americans are actually evil cretins whose voices must erased from our public discourse.  Aided by Big Tech, the censors and shamers have been remarkably successful at circumscribing the range of acceptable speech and opinions.

The problem with avoiding ideas that contradict ossified ideologies that neatly divide the world into victims and oppressors is that the determined effort necessary to push back against stubborn reality tends to produce a grim and narrow fanaticism that is at odds with the reasoned and respectful discussions necessary in a healthy democracy. 

Just listening to, for example, the electric vehicle cheerleaders blithely ignoring the problems with access to the rare and expensive minerals needed to produce massively toxic and unreliable batteries that must be plugged into an inadequate national electrical grid typically powered by–wait for it!–the fossil fuels they so disdain, one has to wonder how it will ever be possible to explain the physical and monetary limitations of their quest to those who are oblivious to how the world actually works.  If not for hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies, the entire electric car business would likely collapse overnight, but this simple fact seems only to invigorate those who feel American taxpayers should be on the hook for funding their fantasies.  Critics are neither welcomed nor heeded.

There are also, for reasons that defy all understanding, vocal and entrenched advocates within our medical establishment who demand the right to help confused and unhappy children and adolescents alter their bodies with medicines and surgeries in order to change a gender identity that they believe is the root of all their personal problems.

Moreover, as recent scandals at Boston Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center illustrate, those who see nothing wrong with removing the breasts from pubescent girls, performing hysterectomies on minors, or creating a facsimile of a vagina out of the remnants of a teenaged boy’s penis are both appalled and angry when their practices come into public view, believing that any criticism is the result of bigotry and ignorance.  Immune to any notion that their own beliefs might be wrong, cruel, or outlandish, those who perform so-called “top” and “bottom” surgeries believe that scrutiny, rather that allowing for thoughtful debate, is a source of danger to themselves and their patients, so any criticisms must be ruthlessly squelched.

We see this same censorious dynamic come into play when policing and criminal justice are discussed.  Given the stupendous and terrifying rise of violent crime in America over the past several years–recently, for example, a former Governor of New York State himself declared that he had “never felt as unsafe as I do now just walking around” New York City–it seems apparent that we need to reconsider recent efforts to defund the police, halt prosecutions, and immediately release those charged with crimes back onto the streets.  

However, the claim by activists, academics, celebrities, and many politicians that our police and courts are so irredeemably racist as to no longer be credible deterrents to crime forestalls any efforts to have reasonable and evidence-based discussions about how to best ensure public safety.  To even suggest that imprisonment is sometimes necessary, a point of view derisively dismissed as emblematic of a “carceral state” mindset that is unworthy of further discussion, or that police officers perform a valuable public service only tends to subject the speaker to accusations of bigotry and fascism.

Working from the assumption that crime is an inevitable artifact of the inequities in our society and should be studied rather than punished, discussions about how to make our streets safer often degenerate into quasi-Marxist diatribes that signal nothing other than the impossibility of reaching common ground on an issue that negatively impacts, ironically enough, communities of color far more than the the affluent, typically white liberals who argue that arresting a suspect is an unacceptable infringement upon the dignity of an oppressed individual.  Apparently, the dignity of someone who has been robbed, raped, stabbed, assaulted, or murdered is of no consequence.

Homegrown fanatics are the greatest threat our nation now faces.  If our democracy is to survive, we must be able to speak freely and without fear.