I’ve been at this a long time, and looking back, most of the posts I make in this blog come down to responsibility and choice. Our right and freedom to choose, our responsibilities with respect to those rights and freedoms, and the rights and freedoms of others. After all, our rights and freedoms are the same as everyone else’s – or they should be – and we all have responsibilities to each other as members of society, of civilization. To me “onus” means “on us;” to get and keep what we want as a society is on us.
Some Americans who wanted to believe their candidate won, despite literally all evidence to the contrary, have now switched to wild OMG-there-is-a-Democrat-in-the-White-House panic. There is the usual alarm that Democrats will take their guns (as if, but the NRA needs to keep sales up) and force them into marriage with someone of the same sex and help poor people eat (the horror!), but some of it is worse than usual. Or maybe it’s been getting worse gradually since the 1960s. Part of the fearmongering from the GOP as we prepare to change over from the Trump regime to the Biden/Harris administration consists of wild stories about Democrats putting Republicans into “reeducation camps.” I can’t speak for Democrats, of course, but if the education we provided you didn’t work the first time, Hannity, sending you to camp when you’re in your waning years is probably a waste of time and resources now.
I can’t help but think that the “reeducation camp” idea, though far-fetched, comes from a Trump cultist’s obvious preference for autocratic rule combined with random social media posts suggesting that people who don’t have any interest in facts must lose rights because of their beliefs, First Amendment be damned. Never mind that Democrats and progressives are not interested in forcing anyone to do anything; GOP thinking leans this way so they assume everyone else’s does, too. Thankfully, I haven’t seen this sort of oppressive messaging from any Democrats or resisters with any power, but I still see it from people who should know better. After all, we’ve been seeing that sentiment from crazed Trumpettes for years. If we can’t recognize fascism when it comes from our allies (or ourselves) we have even more to work on than I thought.
When it was getting clear that Biden had won the election and Democrats had held the House and even gotten some seats in the Senate, I started seeing another disturbing idea batted around. It is variations in how we, the nation, should cover the costs of mental health services for all these twisted Trump cultists. Now, I do agree with them, but not for the reason they think: I believe health care (including mental health services) should be available to everyone. Period. I believe healthcare is a right. But that’s not what they mean. They are saying they believe that all of those millions who voted for #3 are mentally ill. They must be, right?
But let’s stop and think about this a moment. It’s true that we as a society generally find that people who believe things that aren’t true are mentally ill. We also often blame mental illness for cruelty or for people harming or trying to harm others. And sure, many of #3’s fans are paranoid, hateful, have persecution complexes, and can’t – or flat-out refuse to – recognize facts. Many literally took part in treason because of their shared delusions. People died for these choices.
But this is about choices by people who have the capacity to make their own choices. Don’t make excuses for them. And don’t accept their excuses.
People don’t choose to be mentally ill. They can, however, choose to ignore facts, to ignore truth. It’s quite popular in the USA, as a matter of fact.
If I went around talking to or even shouting about my invisible friend, telling people what my invisible friend thinks they should do, people would think I’d lost it. They’d consider locking me up depending on what the conversations with my “friend” were about, if I was dangerous to myself or to others. But isn’t that exactly what Christians and members of other religious groups do? They know there is no evidence of their invisible friend existing, but they’re proud to proclaim their faith in its existence, anyway. Knowing it’s a lie, they choose to believe. They’re happy to tell you all about it. The only difference between me with my invisible friend and them with theirs? Theirs is a shared delusion. In the case of religion, it’s also a scam to get people to part with their hard-earned money, but that’s another post entirely. The important difference between the two scenarios is that their delusion is shared by more people than just me. So why would that make me “crazy” but them “religious?” Why is it perfectly acceptable, even valued, in much of our society to have and brag about that invisible friend?
Cultists can believe crazy stuff. We talk about Trump’s believers “drinking the Kool-Aid,” a saying that came from the Jonestown Massacre back in 1978. Looking back on that event, we assume the cultists were all crazy, but more than 900 of them died, and many were decidedly not crazy. They did, however, share the delusion. They chose to believe it all; they took their own lives for it.
Things have changed since 1978. We have the internet now. The truth is available to all of us. To not believe in facts is a choice. What of the fantasy world Trump and his GOP have set up to manipulate their followers? Should we let Trump’s cultists blame mental illness for their choices, for actions and crimes rooted in contradictory, bizarre, and unfounded “Q” conspiracy BS, etc. espoused by #3? If we did that, it would enable them to claim mental illness as a defense from their offenses at the Capitol Riots and for their other hate crimes and terrorism over these last five years or so.
And what do our fellow Americans mean when they suggest we’re supposed to pay for therapy and deprogramming for 70 million + Americans? When it’s almost half the country, it’s not a mental health issue. Hell, one could argue that those of us struggling in the real world to interact with those around us in their nonsensical alternate realities are the ones who need therapy covered by society. It’s a good-sized chunk of society that has gone in this direction and caused the harm to us. We’re the victims, those of us still on this plane and the hundreds of thousands who didn’t make it to inauguration day 2021.
We’re finally starting to see some pushback against the lying and hate and cruelty. After years of begging social media and print media to be responsible with their choices, we’re starting to see some pressure by way of “cancel culture.” We’ve recently even seen some “cancel culture” in the courtroom; some Trump-appointed judges didn’t play along with his nonsense. It’s about time. We’ve let these millions of delusional cultists spout their lies (and repeat Trump’s) and get away with spreading some dangerous ideas. It took a coup attempt to reach this point, literal violent insurrection in the Capitol. Too few of our elected representatives have stood up for us, for truth, for law. It’s past time society pushed back against the bigots and fascists and their dangerous propaganda.
I don’t believe this is a mental health issue; it’s societal issues that go right to the truth of how we were set up in the first place. In a base system of authoritarianism, patriarchy is a feature, not a bug. It’s all of us, a broken society issue. It won’t end, won’t be magically “fixed,” at noon today when a new president is sworn in. This problem is dug in.
Everyone has the right to be stupid. Everyone has the right to say or think wrong things (with some limitations, of course, including hate speech or threats). But we also have the right to call out ignorance, stupidity, cruelty. All of these things are choices.
America provides everyone with 12 or so years of education on facts, figures, literature, science, history. We teach planning and critical thinking skills. We give people basic tools, and most have libraries and the internet to learn more, to take those skills and put them to work for lifelong learning. The onus is on us to get the facts so that we make intelligent, responsible decisions.
I’m not saying some of these people aren’t mentally ill. Lots of people are. Hell, I am; I’ve struggled with depression my entire life. But I can tell right from wrong, and I can learn from my mistakes. I can take in a new piece of information, check it and accept that it’s true, replace something else I thought was true with the new information and adjust my opinions accordingly. I choose to believe facts even when they’re inconvenient for my opinions. That should be a basic skill for any adult, a simple choice. And we cannot keep rewarding people, making people famous, for choosing to be be ignorant or cruel. There must be an incentive from society to choose reality, to choose truth, responsibility.
Like hate, ignorance is a choice. We already offered everyone in this country a good education with critical thinking skills. It’s on us to pursue truth, to get the facts, to check what we think we know before we believe it and share it. Perhaps the answer is putting back some form of the Fairness Doctrine plus societal changes back to rewarding achievement/intelligence over ignorance. Whatever, it’s on us to make truth matter again and to hold everyone responsible for their choices. Everyone.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope this post made you think about where responsibility belongs for the choices everyone makes and why we must always pursue truth and not make excuses for people who choose to damage us and society. My Patreon if you are so inclined. Your financial support is much appreciated!
If you know who took the photo at the top of this post, the one with the tinfoil hat guy at the Capitol Riot, please let me know. I’d like to give credit.
Link: “Law Firm Abruptly Withdraws from Representing Trump Campaign in Pennsylvania Suit” – by David Enrich, Rachel Abrams, and Jessica Silver-Greenberg at The New York Times
“How White Evangelical Christians Fused With Trump Extremism” – by Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham at The New York Times
“The Boogaloo Bois Prepare for Civil War: As the FBI warns of violence, anti-government extremists are ready to get in on the chaos.” – by Michael J. Mooney at The Atlantic
“The Capitol attack was White supremacy, plain and simple” – opinion piece by Daniel Black for CNN
Link: Through – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Not Up For Debate – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Truth Ism – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Facts Matter – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Forget or Forgive – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Hate is Ugly – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
TL;DR: millions of people can’t or won’t accept facts, but choosing to live in the fantasy world created by conservatives isn’t necessarily a sign of mental illness. It’s a sign of a problem in society. Choosing to live in a fantasy world doesn’t absolve any of them for the choices they make and/or crimes they commit here in the real world because of their twisted beliefs. Choices must have consequences in law and in society.
#GMOnus #FactsMatter #TruthMatters