Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2017

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The high cost of the theater of the absurd.

Now that the manufactured government shutdown has ended and we have avoided the unimaginable cost of the United States defaulting on its debt obligations for the first time since we became a country, the challenge is to find those responsible for turning our lives upside down and exposing them for the charlatans that they are.

It’s real easy to point fingers at the Tea Party cohort of the Republican Party because it is squarely to blame. But that’s too simple. Next time it could be a fringe equivalent of the Democratic Party that causes all the problems, however unlikely that could be.

While the national media, especially the cable news channels, are trying to find the culprits responsible for this fiasco, I already know who it is.

He lives in Henderson and his name is Bob!

I will not use his last name because my purpose is neither to ridicule nor embarrass, merely to use him as an object lesson for why so much is wrong in the United States of America. Besides, he knows who he is and how wrong he has been. Private shame should be enough.

When the shutdown started, I wrote how our democratic system was designed to work. I suggested that what the Founding Fathers had created should not be put asunder by mean-spirited and childlike legislators who were unhappy with the philosophical direction a majority of Americans had chosen in the most recent presidential election. I also, as I often do, used a little tongue-in-cheek humor to describe a real-life and unfortunate situation in which one particular air traffic controller found herself as an unpaid, yet essential, government worker.

Shortly thereafter, Bob wrote to me. He said, in part — and with lots of uppercase letters which I’ll spare you:

“I’ll get right to the point; you are a liar, but you already know that. I also admire the way you insult your readers’ intelligence. These are the people who put bread on your table.

“You(sic) ‘lead’ was “Holding Nation Hostage is No Way to Negotiate.”

“…As is my habit, I skipped to the last paragraph to find you describing a government employee without health insurance whose husband can’t work and isn’t drawing SSI or unemployment insurance. She’s been laid off from her air traffic controller job and you have to drive to LA. So sorry for you, but the rest of the flights are operating just fine, presumably with the other controllers at work.”

I never said the lady was laid off nor did I suggest that other air traffic controllers weren’t working. In fact, the column had very little to do with air traffic controllers other than to suggest that essential employees with financial problems and very sore teeth were not ideal workers in the high-stress environment of an air traffic control tower.

No, the column was about the absurdity of allowing a small band of not-so-merry men and women on the fringe of the Republican Party to shut down the government because the House speaker would or could not act like a parent and control the kiddies. In hindsight, that’s exactly what happened!

But Bob missed all of that because, as he admitted to me in a subsequent phone call, he never read the column!

He did tell me what his IQ was. It was respectable. He did tell me where he was educated. Again, very respectable. And he did tell me his profession. Respectable yet again.

So, why the willful ignorance?

Why did a seemingly educated, intelligent man not only take exception with me but call me a liar without even reading my column?

The answer is that there’s an entire group of citizens whose worldview is based not on fact but rather on whatever headlines fit their views. What they think they know often is nowhere near what they need to know. What they need to know is the truth. But that doesn’t stop the Bobs of this world who choose to vote their beliefs – which is fine – but not if those beliefs are based on faulty or no knowledge, which is not fine.

I have never suggested or thought that I know everything about everything, or even anything, but I have always been willing to read and listen and learn. But what we are all experiencing today is a growing group of Americans who choose not to learn, choosing instead to live in an alternate world where facts don’t exist. At least not facts that might challenge their wishful and wistful worldviews.

And that is very dangerous in a democracy. What we have witnessed these past few weeks is child’s play compared to what we could face if those who refuse to be educated, those who relish the role of the willfully ignorant, and those who eschew knowledge in favor of some kind of blissful ignorance continue to be a growing part of the electorate.

To misquote that great American Pogo, we have met the enemy to democracy and his name is Bob. And there are millions more just like him. Fortunately, the Bobs of this world are thisclose to being great Americans, too.

All they need to do is open up their minds, pick something uncomfortable to read, and actually read the whole thing.

That is the very least a citizen can do for his country.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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