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  • Deah Curry PhD

Pretzels for Brains

The increased vitriol of election seasons since 2016, would be enough to have to deal with. But I can keep the news turned off so that at least the shouting can’t reach my brainwaves.

The exponentially multiplying conspiracy theories about almost everything believed by previously intelligent people should be shocking. Intentional distortions of history and science are poisoning the impulse to grant benefit of doubt.

But I can decide not to believe anything from anyone these days in order to keep a desire -- against the strong urge to be stingingly sarcastic – to be at least kind in my speech, if not my unspoken thoughts.

The disastrous mishandling of a lethal pandemic by the administration, the cabinet, the senate, and several state governors who all seemed to have pretzels for brains caused travelers from this country to be banned from most of the rest of the world. For the first time in history, we've seen Americans globally pitied and distrusted. While individuals are not their governments’ policies, we are recipients of the consequences of those policies nonetheless.

I despair for the distress of the people and governmental structures of the US. When this era is analyzed from the distance and objectivity of history, it will be said that this was the year when America unraveled, when the worst of our instincts were unleashed. Despite the nation-wide protests against racism, injustice, and police violence, legitimate grievances are met and distorted with “what-aboutism” and “blue lives matter” as if black lives don’t. Those employing these defenses either fail to see how those responses trivialize well founded complaints – or they do so intentionally to sow confusion.

Unfortunately, while thousands assemble to exercise their first amendment rights, looters, property destroyers, and agitators infiltrate peaceful, sincere demonstrators, exacerbating tensions, giving local police and the federal government excuses to perform as a military force fighting a war against our own people. It’s unclear if those who are bent towards violence have political motives because their identification as such can’t be trusted, given that it comes from biased, scared, power-abusing sources.

The reality is that it is as likely that the violent actors are right wing as they are left, but the right won’t admit that, yet. Instead, there is a deadly game being played that twists facts, calling the left “fascist” when it is from the right where fascism has always been bred. A quick check of history shows this fact.

To be sure, the left has a streak of anarchy in its background, but the desire to destroy government (which is the aim of anarchy) is not the same as the desire to centralize authoritarian power (which is the action of fascists). Anarchy and fascism are diametrically opposed, yet conspiracy theorists in 2020 confuse the two in what seems like a deliberate act to frighten voters.

I grieve for the devolution into and strengthening of toxic tribalism in which people in positions of elected power as well as average citizens appear to be unable any longer to listen to differences of perception. Most academics and every couples counselor knows that it is listening to each other that leads to solving problems, that nothing gets solved without understanding why those you oppose are upset.

I may, in my sleepy little suburb, sit safe and relatively free from major inconvenience of these times besides guilt of not joining the protests myself. But my soul cries for the suffering millions here and abroad. I cry especially for those I hold dear to my heart who are held hostage in the distortions, disinformation, and conspiracies, unwilling to question what they are told, seeking only confirmation of agreement.

Sadly, the best I can do in the interest of preserving sanity if not friendship is to withdraw from conversations that attempt to persuade me to the dark side. No politics allowed in my preferred dark side.


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