Why It’s Close

To many observers, this political race for president of the United States should be about over. It shouldn’t even be close. On the one hand, we have a candidate who has managed to offend everyone from the disabled to the mother of a baby who had the audacity to cry at one of his rallies. On the other, we have a trained lawyer, a seasoned veteran who has been involved in international affairs at the highest levels, advised a sitting president, and was married to another. As I say, it shouldn’t even be close.

But, depending on what polls you read and when they were taken, the race is alarmingly close — “alarming” because if the former candidate (who shall remain nameless) should win it would be a disaster for this country given his twisted sense of reality together with his proclivity for alienating practically everyone and his inability to take criticism or advice from anyone who disagrees with him. The thought of this man (who shall remain nameless) with the nuclear codes is enough to wake the dead and cause them to dig deeper graves. This is the man, after all, who repeatedly asked, during a State Department briefing, why, if we have them, we could not use nuclear weapons. As has been said, America’s choice is between sanity and insanity.

But the race is closer than it should be and the obvious question is why. The answer seems to be that many people do not like Hillary Clinton. She is a strong woman with definite opinions and a hard exterior. However, I cannot recall any political candidate in my lifetime who has had to withstand the personal attacks and relentless —  and in many cases unwarranted — scrutiny that this woman has and she has handled it with remarkable equanimity. But, you see, she is a WOMAN. And there is the rub, it would seem.  We managed to elect a black man to the presidency and we now sit on the threshold of electing a woman– both “firsts” for a nation not known for doing the right thing of late.  And yet it appears we are afraid to take that step. Why is that?

Is it possibly because the candidate whose name will not be mentioned has scared the pants off a great many people in this country and created a fictional opponent whom he has pilloried on every possible occasion, hurling every ugly calumny at her?  Most of us under the circumstances would have wandered off to the local Home For The Bewildered babbling incoherently. Clearly, his mindless minions have bought into this diatribe. They have bought into it because (a) there are a great many people in this country who are sick and tired of “politics as usual”; they want to elect “someone else,” i.e., someone from outside the political mainstream. Hillary Clinton is decidedly mainstream. And (b) because they do not want a woman to hold that office, especially the woman who has been held up to them as the embodiment of all they hate and fear. As one of this man’s followers said in a recent interview, following a rally, regarding women generally : “No. A female has more hormones. She could start a war or anything. Hot flashes … BOOM!” By depicting this woman as the bearer of all of the vices any one person could possibly bear and holding that image before his mindless minions this candidate (who shall not be named) has managed to create the belief in the hearts of many that they must reject his opponent because she is weak and thoroughly evil while he is the only one who can save this country from perdition. And because those minions are mindless — and more numerous than anyone thought in his or her wildest nightmares — they have bought into it; as a result the race is so much closer than it should be.

Thus, those of us who see things as they are — and not as they are painted for us by a twisted mind — worry that this race will go to the wrong person and we shall have to deal with the consequences, consequences that are worrisome indeed, because it really is a choice between sanity and insanity and it shouldn’t even be close.

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Lies, Lies, Lies

In one of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld” George is giving advice to Jerry who has been asked to take a lie detector test to determine whether he does or does not watch a soap opera every day. He is seeking to impress a cute policewoman and is afraid the truth will put her off. George is giving him advice because George is so good at lying; it has become a habit with him. He tells Jerry, “it’s not a lie, Jerry, if you really believe it.”

Needless to say, this doesn’t work, because Jerry simply cannot keep up the ruse. But it seems to be working in today’s political scene as the Republican candidate (who shall remain nameless if not blameless) seems to be very good at lying. I suspect he has had a great deal of practice — after all he claims to be a successful business person when, in fact, his businesses have a habit of failing. But I also suspect that he really believes what he says. Or, perhaps, he doesn’t know what he says because he doesn’t listen to himself. His mouth seems to open when his brain is engaged elsewhere — heaven only knows where.

The problem is that his mindless minions who hang on his every word and grammatically incorrect sentence seem to believe whatever he says. One thinks of a cult where the followers blindly follow where the leader leads — or points. And this is a problem because when the lie becomes the norm, then facts are useless, even meaningless. Truth becomes merely a word that is used by critics to shame their leader who can do no wrong. Those “Fact-checkers” who claim to be neutral and only interested in setting the record straight are dismissed as biased and perhaps even in the pocket of the opposition.

Freud talks about the “reality principle” that operates as one grows older, separating fact from fiction, truth from myth. This principle is central to maturity in the human animal. Without it, he or she remains a child living in a make-believe world in which everything goes as planned and there is no pain or suffering. This, of course, is the world of those who continue to insist that there is no Truth (except what comes from one man’s mouth) and where lies are otherwise the norm. Reality is displaced by myth and the leader standing before you is larger than life and beyond reckoning. What others say about him are all lies. Everything he says is solid gold.

What happens in this case — and it is this case which is of major interest since so many seem to be living in this mythical world where one man has all the truth there is and everyone else is an inveterate liar — is that ears are closed to the truth as it relates to the real world: the real world has ceased to exist. The only world is the world in which the man standing before you says whatever comes into his head and it is taken for the truth, the only truth there is. Everything else is a lie, the only lies there are.

Philosophers will tell you that truth is attached to statements that correspond with facts in the real world. Thus, if I say the cat is on the mat, this is true if, and only if, the cat is, in fact, lying on the mat. But when the successful businessman standing before us tells us that the truth is what he says, and what he says alone, then the cat disappears and the only reality is the reality created by this man’s words — such as they are. We hear what he wants us to hear and nothing else. Our minds become closed to the fact-checkers because we are told they are biased. The word “lies” attaches only to those things said by those who oppose this man. The paradox is that he lies when he says that others lie. But we are no longer able to distinguish between the lies and the truth — except when it is pointed out to us by our infallible Leader.