Chapter 96 – Idolatry

       It is important to me that you understand that these things I say in this blog are not meant to convince you that I am right about any opinions I express. My opinions are offered to convey my point of view only, for the purpose of providing you a perspective that hopefully will enable you to refine your own point of view and not necessarily to adopt my point of view in its entirety. The nicest thing you can do for me is to point out how from your perspective things don’t look the way I see it. The purpose of true communication is to expand the consciousness of the communicators. We all have a unique perspective on life that can’t be experienced in the exact same way by anyone else on Earth. The tragedy of our country is that we have abdicated our unique perspective in favor of some narrow tribal perspective that doesn’t serve us as individuals or as members of a tribe. Consequently, for over a decade, there has been no meaningful communication between Americans of differing point of views.

       In the spirit of communication as I have just described it, I’d like to offer my opinion of where we went wrong as Americans. I’ve heard clergymen describe idolatry as the choosing of things over people. America lost its way when it decided money was more important than relationships. Somewhere in the bible, there’s a passage that proclaims, “The wages of sin is death”. The Buddhist expression of that same idea is, “You will not be punished for your anger, hatred and greed, but by your anger, hatred and greed”. Both expressions imply that we are in a hell of our own making. 

       I thought about how and when we, as Americans, first lost our way. It’s important that we all think about that because I don’t think this nightmare we are living in today will end if we all don’t come to an understanding and agreement of where we collectively sold our souls as a nation, and set the stage for what we are now living. I believe the lead up to these past four years, began with the election of Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. In reaction to the massive inflation that plunged us into a recession in the late 1970s, we opted for personal expedience and self-indulgence over old fashion American sacrifice and altruism, of the kind we displayed during World War II. One candidate campaigned for Americans to invest in education and full employment through rebuilding of our infrastructure and the other campaigned for conspicuous consumption by the average American for the benefit of big money interests and private corporations. Reaganomics and the so-called trickled down economy set the stage for the values we’ve been living by ever since. We blame the poor for being poor, we use our taxes and military to support corporate interests abroad instead of their intended purpose of providing for the general welfare and we all but destroyed our public school systems rather than racially integrate them. More significantly, Reagan legitimized long standing segregationists like Jessie Helms and Jerry Falwell, thereby undermining the civil rights movement and violating the taboo of mixing church and state in one felled swoop. All of the segregationist, anti middle class policies and values inspired by Reaganomics were made possible by linking all government institutions and programs put in place to insure a level playing field for the middle class, to what they portrayed as undeserving black people (even though the overwhelming majority of public assistance beneficiaries were then, now and always have been, white). The Republican establishment has done a great job at vilifying black people making it easy for the electorate to vote to build more prisons rather than to vote for better schools and better neighborhoods, against the country’s own interests.

       Since 1980, the prevailing politics and social norms have been based on lies and racist propaganda, in my opinion. In the wake of 911 the white electorate gave the Republican party what it had been working for since the New Deal – complete control of the government. America’s reward for that was the bankruptcy of the middle class. The backlash of the bankruptcy was the catalyst for the election of a very competent black man as president. He had two years to put in place the policies that would have solved most of America’s economic woes, beginning with health care for all. Instead, the white electorate once again succumbed to highly racially charged rhetoric, and elected a Republican congress and Republican state governments that did nothing but undermine the efforts of the black president to work on the county’s behalf for six years, including blocking all his judicial appointments. Finally, 2016 the white electorate went all in on a white nationalist agenda and that has lead us to where we are today.       

Depending on how you look at it, Trump has either been the worst or the best thing that’s happened to America over the past four years. Say what you want about him, but you can’t say he didn’t tell you exactly what he was going to do if elected. I still don’t fully understand white America’s deal with this devil, but he has clearly shown us the wages our sin. His election is symbolic of our four decades long empowerment of things over people. It symbolizes our preoccupation with personal gratification at the expense of family and community (it is by no means a coincidence that many of our president’s closest friends are millionaire and billionaire sexual deviants and felons). We are experiencing the impact of our divestment of public education. For at least two generations, we have empowered weaponized religion, intuition and myth over science, rendering many of the population vulnerable to any crackpot idea for controlling the spread of the epidemic, resulting in our country having the worst record of performance of any nation in the world for controlling COVID-19, which has resulted in unnecessary death and damage to the economy. The Trump presidency and all of the almost weekly crisis’ surrounding it, have clearly shown us how continued support of a status quo based on immoral and unjust beliefs and policies, will lead our country to oblivion if we continue in that vain. If we recognize that and move to correct it, as we appear to be doing, it will have turned out to be a blessing. But if we continue to empower it in spite of the evidence that shows we shouldn’t, it will have been the ultimate curse.

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