September 4, 2017: Has America become a nation of liars? [1]

In Kurt Anderson’s September 2017 Atlantic article, How America Lost Its Mind, he argues that 1960s Postmodernist relativism served as an assault on conservatives who did not view their religion, traditions, and values as mere subjectivity. [2] Anderson writes, “…by the 1970s [Michel Foucault] was arguing that rationality itself is a coercive ‘regime of truth’—oppression by other means.” [3] Coupled with what Anderson calls ultra-individualism this became pick-your-own-reality and free choice morality. This relativism also served as training-by-example for Right-wing “alternative facts” used to disempower what they view as liberal elites in science, academia, government, and the press. A construction of the Left which years later would invite Rush Limbaugh, global warming denial, and the Creationism of Intelligent Design from the Right. In a society where so many feel they have lost control, lies are one way to get it back.

Stuart Rachels wrote, "Moral thinking begins when we try to see things as they are… Morality is the effort to guide one's conduct by reason." [4] But relativism dismisses "things as they are" as unknowable. Originally a Left-wing perception, both sides now embrace it. Compare the Left's dismissal of moral judgments - as the communal construction of morality became a matter of individual free choice - with the New Right's dismissal of morality in their affinity for lies. Or the Left's embrace of "blank slate" all-nurture-no-nature claims that make gender purely a social construct open to choose, with the New Right's rejection of evolution and the Big Bang - both in violation of science. [5] Morality and science are now matters of political convenience. Conservatives feel they've thrown relativism back in the face of liberals. Ironically, with tools of Enlightenment reason the postmodernist Left warped reason. Soaked in technology we approach a pre-Enlightenment Middle Ages mindset through imitation of the Left by the Right. [6]

Per Rachels’ warning, crippled moral standards release restrictions on immorality. As Anderson’s article implies, this topic has become something of an American obsession. My own observations of this trend began early. Part “loss of innocence,” part witness to history, my starting point commenced with parents who were products of the Great Depression and WWII. Born later in their lives I was raised like an only child. Not privileged by middle-class standards of the time, I was also not penalized by society at large. Well cared for, never hungry, I wanted for little, in part because I didn't know there was more outside our 900 square foot home among so many others like it.

At ninety-one, my mother still recalls her embarrassment among other girls at school when each day she revealed the quarter stick of butter for lunch her mother wrapped in newspaper that morning. The sole provision all eight children in her home received after a stale slice of bread with coffee poured over it for breakfast. Yet about the same age in my own life I was convinced the reason I received what I did was because I deserved it.

One evening as a 4 year old I stood in the checkout line behind my mother at the local grocer as she and the clerk made small talk. Loitering, I spied 1-cent Tootsie Rolls displayed quite obviously for me. I casually inspected the most desirable of these identical treats and put five in my pocket. Back home I presented my gift to the family: one Tootsie for each. After the inquisition I was marched to convene with the grocer’s manager. He hovered above me. Head down, I thrust out that tiny hand I had then to expose five kidnap victims as proof of my crime. I cried and apologized before an audience of shoppers. Unsure of further consequences, I begged the punishment not be too severe. Not merely at bedtime, but before the Lord himself in his house I had work to do at church on Sunday—pray for forgiveness.

So it was I received my first lesson that I was not deserving, but lucky. Lucky my parents had the hardships they had without having them myself. As Chantel Delsol wrote, “A people are made by hardship. They are also made by its absence.” [7] Hardship provides moral perspective, a kind of conscience fetched from suffering that is anything but relative. When it comes to morality, abundance can be a curse. Such are the teachings of Buddha and Jesus.

My parent’s pointed me toward what the word morality meant. Such lessons notified me of a standard. They instilled a trust of others, high expectations of their moral stance, and mine. Except for the occasional typically-boy fistfight, I remained under this impression well into adulthood. I’m grateful for that upbringing. I consider it healthy, wholesome, and entirely naïve for the America we live in now.

One adult lesson came from a woman with no higher education. It was from her I formally recognized motivated-morality. Wrongs done by her, her friends, family, or political party were excused. Only other tribes received moral judgment. Values were a matter of utility. After she had an affair with a married man, which she held not to be adultery (she too was married), I severed ties and never saw her again. She was a Christian woman. The kind of Christian with four-square-gospel jubilation for every word of Christ, and paradoxically, the Ten Commandments. By then, I’d left the faith unable to square the Bible’s self-contradiction of love and slaughter in violation of its own morality.

My second adult tutorial came from a man I worked with, educated to the highest level with a PhD. He was not a religious man. Our field is one in which the peer review process makes mistakes public, and not infrequently, embarrassing. This man recast those public embarrassments as conquests. He’d then wait to see if I would endorse his lies to patch his ego and satisfy his required loyalty. For a time I practiced diversion. I changed the subject or complemented something else he did. I began to question my own morality in exchange for peace. The work was fascinating, surroundings like an idealized Lyceum, the minds of others in our group, exceptional. But one by one they peeled away because they knew something I didn’t: rarely are we faced with big events to reveal our moral fiber. Minor transgressions are portentous. Midway among the exodus, jolted by external events, I quit, and moved to California. Years later I heard of an international scandal that made headline news of the Houston Chronicle, centered on the man and place I left behind as it imploded.

About this time Bill Clinton was lying about his sexual escapades to a Grand Jury and inquiring about the definition of “is.” Truth revealed, followers rallied: “We all make mistakes,” “Bill and Monica are in love,” “But he’s our first feminist president.” More irony, and motivated-morality as Senator Packwood from the other party was pursued for his own infidelities. Intensified by my experience I recoiled from these people and their excusers. Immorality and its supporting lies were not confined to my small arena, but played on a national stage.

Then came Iraq. I was back in Texas, part of a research group headed by one of the most devout, moral, honest, and truly good men I’ve ever known. But nationally, lie leaders spun a willfully complicit public, yearning for retribution after the 9/11 terrorist attack. [8] Working for the world’s largest defense contractor I was staggered by how many of the most educated people on earth refused to see blatant violations of reason in our march for Saddam. I made it my duty to correct them. Furious and outspoken I felt the need to tell my supervisor I was not a security risk, and did. All this culminated in a realization that childhood lessons had been compromised. Not recognizing I had one, I divorced my Right-wing tribe and stopped lying for it. [9] Evolving fantasies, from 500 tons of invisible yellowcake uranium to WMDs never found before or after the ruse were a crash course in worldwide lying, and most Americans embraced it. Then, we gave birth to ISIS, doomed 4500 US troops, 150,000 Iraqis, $2T, and with zero connection to 9/11, Saddam Hussein—a favor for Osama bin Laden and Iran who’d been hoping to kill him for years. [10] The power of lies.

Now, fueled by political correctness, valid populist anger perverted by talk-radio propagandists, and horrid political opposition, 63 million Americans preferred a lifelong liar and thief for what historian Tom Ricks notes as, “certainly the worst president in America history.” [11] After seven months of Trump’s attacks on the Constitution his followers claim to love, the stench of Russian money laundering, Trump’s vulgarity, ignorance, incompetence, and clear mental derangement, who are his most ardent supporters? Three quarters of Christian evangelicals who cheer when Trump hits back “ten times harder;” who relish Trump’s caustic blame of others for his own failures; who endorse his lies in order to patch his fragile ego, parading their loyalty because only winning matters. [12] And yet their Savior urged to “Turn the other cheek,” [13] “Pull the plank from your own eye first,” [14] “The truth will set you free,” [15] not the lie, nor the liar, and “What good is it to win the whole world and lose your soul?” [16] Such people failed to ask if Jesus would embrace such an unrepentant beast. Another adulterer, like Bill Clinton whom these people despise for his adultery.

Before our evolution of relativism, lies, and immorality, the presidency came with expectations of moral character. [17] But Trump was never required to return what he’d stolen. [18] With his mental perversions born to excess, our own Caligula has no moral bearing. [19] Nor does his cult, applying motivated-morality only to others. And it’s these people, not Trump, who matter most. We’ve seen to what ends Trump will go to mend his bottomless complex of inferiority. When Trump is impeached or expunged by the 25th, will this minority whom Trump schools at his rallies retain any decency? If, after impeachment, to hoist his ego Trump makes a call to arms under guise of 2nd Amendment protection from tyranny, will they? History shows, zealot minorities trigger revolutions.

With these examples spanning the political spectrum, the gamut of education, gender, class, believers and non-believers, I ask the obvious question: Has America become a nation of liars?

Of course there are millions of Americans who strive to live honest and moral lives. Among the many examples of courage and compassion as I write this, my friend in Houston tries to rescue dogs belonging to a stranger, trapped by hurricane Harvey. While simultaneously from my radio Rush Limbaugh establishes the day’s false premise: humans don’t create hurricanes (ignoring exacerbation), thus any association of Harvey’s record rainfall with the “global warming hoax” is also a hoax. Conflating storm category with rainfall, Harvey “is not unprecedented,” he says. “Everything in America’s been politicized, folks.” [20]

Harvey beat the old record by 4 inches. Liars make every circumstance conform to their distorted morality.

Until next time, the first Monday in November the 6th.

[1] The Title: Such a question must demand the question, Does this apply to the claimant?
[2]Kurt Anderson, How America Lost Its Mind, The Atlantic Monthly, September, 2017
[3] Relativism might be said to begin with David Hume (1711-1776) who claimed that "reason is slave to passions." A fact that apparently did not apply to him.
[4] Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 6th Ed. McGraw Hill, 2010
[5] Brett Williams, Why America’s anti-science is a moral matter. Part I: The Right, March 6, 2017
[6] Of course, rejection of reason is selective for both sides, depending on convenience and party creed.
[7] Chantal Delsol Icarus Fallen: The Search For Meaning In An Uncertain World, ISI Books, 2003
[8] For a fascinating tour of Iraq War immorality, see PBS FRONTINE, The Secret History of Isis. Corrupted mostly by Vice President Dick Cheney, the scandal took a large step when Cheney swapped a CIA report destined for Collin Powell's UN speech with a fabricated report more incendiary. CIA consensus was that Saddam Hussein had no connection to Al Zarkawi in Iraq whom Osama bin Laden himself disavowed. What Powel read instead was the lie that Saddam and Al-Zarkawi-as-Al-Queda were affiliated, 21 times. As Treasury Secretary and required security meeting attendant Paul O’Neil said, "Taking down Saddam was Topic A ten days after inauguration." CBS News, Bush Sought 'Way' to Invade Iraq, Jan 9, 2004. As the Al Queda connection frayed the mission became to cleanse Iraq of WMDs. But if we wanted to remove such weapons, why not pay a visit to China, Russia, India, Pakistan, or Israel? One: because they can fight back. Two: because that was not Topic A. All to compensate for the humiliation of a desert tribe’s success against the world’s superpower.
[9] As noted in a previous post, my work and its search for truth in nature was the backdrop. Iraq was in the foreground.
[10] Daniel Benjamin, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda Are Not Allies, September, 30, 2002
[11] On Point with Tom Ashbrook, A Historical Perspective On Trump's White House, August 26, 2017
[12] Not all Christian evangelicals support Trump. One in four do not. Some are vociferously opposed and practice the teachings they hold dear. Eric Sammons, Christians' Support For Trump Undermines Their Public Witness, The Federalist, October 12, 2016
Neil J. Young, Dear Evangelicals, A “Begrudging” Vote for Trump Is Still a Vote for Trump, Religion Dispatches, October 4, 2016
Russell Mooresept, Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?, New York Times, September 17, 2015
[13] Mathew 5:39
[14] Mathew 7:5
[15] John 8:32
[16] Mark 8:36.
[17] With five Vietnam deferments, Trump claims to have been a "brave soldier" in his "personal Vietnam" for not acquiring sexually transmitted diseases. He now awards the Medal of Honor.
[18] Except, so far as we know, $25M returned to students defrauded by his fake University. For which he remarked, "I got a great deal." Either he did and thus defrauded more money than he lost, or this is it another of his automatic lies to patch his inferiority complex. See more here .
[19] Nicholas Kristof, There Once Was Great Nation With an Unstable Leader, August 26, 2017. People Magazine, Trump Boasted of Avoiding STDs While Dating: Vaginas Are 'Landmines … It Is My Personal Vietnam', October 28, 2016
[20] Rush Limbaugh , Monday August 28, 2017. Notice how Limbaugh conflates storm category 4, which the 1900 Galveston hurricane reached, as have others, in order to say there's no global warming influence on Harvey. Hurricane category is defined by wind speed, not rainfall. Harvey is the current record. Galveston is not in the top 10 Texas hurricane rainfall maximums.
Revised 2/17/19. Changed ASCII quote type, and added Mark 8:36. CanNOT believe I missed that opportunity to skewer my old tribe for their betrayal and hypocrisy. And to imagine I once thought this my best written post. Horrifying.
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Published on September 04, 2017 12:13
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