Warning: The following post contains absolutely zero facts. It is pure conjecture. Take it with many grains of salt.
My smart, thoughtful, social worker wife tells me it’s confirmation bias. She tells me that people are overlooking the plainly stated and burying themselves in the nuggets of information that confirm their perspectives. More importantly, she informs me that it’s so very human.
I can’t help but watch that video, the latest in a daily stream of videos and bizarre Twitter rants, and think about all of the people in my life who support this man, who consider him some sort of Mensa-level genius playing some master game against The Illuminati.
I love many of these people. They’re family, close friends, etc. In other aspects of life, they can be kind, giving, sincere, and sweet. They also rigidly defend a xenophobic racist and succumb to fears about “the other.” It’s a belief I understand as partially inherited and partially advertised to them by conglomerates looking to maintain a stranglehold on American politics.
Fear, I get, even if it’s amoral and depresses the hell out of me.
This though? Holding strong despite the countless videos and Twitter feeds of a senile old man rambling and ranting about whatever thought enters his consciousness? Sure, diplomats and politicians make off-the-cuff statements all of the time, especially when they’re caught off guard. But when they’re giving press conferences? When they’ve prepared with the intention of making a point or proving a position before a crowd?
We rally around politicians “on our team” during these moments and use them to defend against those off-the-cuff moments. Yet, with our current president, there is no preparation or planned speech. It’s all stream-of-conscious and off-the-cuff. The heavy lifting in defending this man is done by fringe conspiracy sites (and FOX) that post articles I don’t want to provide back links to them for. People who support Trump rely on unfounded, ancillary articles constantly referencing what’s “really going on behind the scenes.” It’s definitely a leap of faith, sure, but it’s more than that.
You have to actively watch videos like the one posted above, the one using the argument of having to flush a toilet “10 times, 15 times” as a reason for rolling back EPA regulations, and still press on with that leap of faith. One has to stifle laughter, wipe it from mind, and make the choice to continue.
And I see this every single day in my circle of family members, friends, etc. Otherwise intelligent people further burrow into their beliefs, despite being assaulted with videos like this where the one they support is speaking freely and without interruption or backlash. There’s no pressure, and yet, eloquence, poise, and thoughtfulness are adjectives far away and opposite of what we see in these clips.
It’s another nail in the coffin where my faith in humanity lies. If we’re this tribal, if we’re this beholden to our fears and illogical notions, what hope have we as a species?
It doesn’t help that in our mind-numbing fear, companies like “Red Pill living” (as seen in the ad to the left) further divide us with these baseless, frightening notions and prey on those gullible enough to fall for them. If they’re advertising, someone gave them the capital to buy that add space. Someone is buying.
And this, dear reader, is where I make a heel turn in my mental processing of this madness. Because advertisements like these make me angry.
I think of the anti-vaxxer movement. I think of the herbal remedy and homeopathic crowd. I think of all of the old-timey “medicinal” cures Alex Jones endorsed when Infowars was taking over the fringe conspiracy theorist community.
Opportunists who beckon people into these folds and overcharge them on baseless cure-alls are a special breed of predatory. They claim to be fighting the establishment or “big pharma” by luring people away from medical tools that could help them, by luring Americans down a murky road that could very well lead them to an early grave.
These predators have always walked among us. It’s a common phrase to slap the label of “snake oil salesman” on someone trying to sell us on a remedy that both parties knows is wrong.
With the advent of the Internet and social media, these predators have had a feeding frenzy, and as much as I want to wash my hands of humanity and be done with it, I have a duty to stand with my fellow humans. We all do. It’s what’s right, and just, and what we’ve proselytized since our ancestors first started forming tribes and communities.
Losing my faith in humanity doesn’t benefit me. It doesn’t benefit family or friends or community. It doesn’t benefit my wife or the population she serves in her social work. The only entity it benefits is the snake oil salesman, the predator out there in the fog of the political and social maelstrom serving up questionable remedies and leading loved ones astray with political ideologies they may not truly believe in.
When I climb that ledge, when we climb that ledge, and step off from humanity, I’m (we’re) guaranteeing that this nonsense that makes me, us, so angry continues. We may try and fail to stop the predator, but it sure beats letting this beast continue to operate without any obstacles.
When I was around six years old, there was this depressing, dystopian Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon that would air on syndication at 6 AM on weekday mornings. I would set my alarm to wake up when it was on, watch it for half an hour, and then read a book in my free time before I had to get ready for school.
Each episode, Sonic and his band of guerrilla animal activists would take steps to gum up an imperial government ruled by a man, Dr. Robotnik, who turned all of his subjects into soulless machines. Throughout the series, Sonic would occasionally sneak into the capital city to visit his uncle, Chuck. Chuck looked like a machine version of Sonic, and the sight of his nephew would often activate that living side of Chuck’s brain.
Chuck would become his old self again for a few seconds, bond with his nephew over some long ago memory or shared emotion, and then revert back to a soulless machine. As a small child, this semi-frequent dynamic to the show was heart-wrenching to watch, but it fascinated me.
Because Sonic never gave up on his Uncle Chuck.
I think about that sometimes. That unyielding urge to never give up registered with me then, and it’s important to remember now. These people I lament that have fallen prey, they’re my “Uncle Chuck.”