Wheels coming off

What unifies this country: Common values and common knowledge.


A culture’s health bottom line—what enough good citizens know and how they know it. 

Along with shared values and goals, what else but consensus on language, the rules of logic, and reality unify a functional culture? If enough malcontents defy once rock-ribbed values, relentlessly pushing a contrary reality, as Lindsay Graham quipped, “Ain’t enough money in the world to get a loyal Trump person to change.” Or enough confirmed data, evidence, or proof. 

Bravo! Trump still pulls off his Pied Piper fix: blind loyalty is in, no matter what disgraces stain his character, motivation and seditious actions. His latest fascist obsessions, despite risking votes, signal our first truly Anti-president, the lord of misrule who destroys government in order to save it. That endless criminal disgraces (beyond fraud and rape) amps his primary approval number only speaks to crashing the guard rails. “Unfit to serve” barely captures this quandary.

To understand unstinting extremism, we must return to basics—and how language, logic and principles once linked together players that certainly disagreed on policy and direction. Item: Liz Cheney’s Never Trumpism. Differing on the archaic Constitution is one thing; defying the spirit and letter outright decimates both center ground and authentic exchanges. 

Right now, disintegration looms because one irate minority has betrayed core values, like judging leadership by promises kept and achievements done—even whether we are better or worse after a regime. Quibbling over needless COVID deaths, let alone pandemic solutions, pales when a candidate declares his presidency will have no checks on his powers. Missed that clause somewhere.

For two centuries, a vast consensus roughly shared the same basic language and logic that defined what passed for reality, let alone progress. Derangement has many faces and some are unbridgeable. When Trump, a hypocritical enemy of democracy rails against a stabilizing, centrist president as a “destroyer of democracy,” language implodes. When Trump lies that Biden is “weaponizing government against his political enemies,” when that’s exactly what the yahoo promises, language and logic (and fact) are driven to blithering incoherence. How hands-off Biden dictated to an independent special prosecutor, let alone NY or GA state prosecutors is a hallucination that mocks reason.

Law-breaker in chief?

Thus, the most contradictory, even insane inversion is when a democracy-denying criminal has the unspeakable presumption to take over executing the laws? Add in the logical mush when this Anti-president, with no bones about his wrecking ball, calls out myriad “enemies of the people” from reigning law, the Constitution, government, elections, the media, some GOPers and all Democrats. 

Nothing clarifies this contradiction (and the hypocrisy across the deplorable “base”) than when Trumpers not only won’t abandon the 91 count defendant but up their unabashed crusade to make “dictator” his next job title. Further, what total “innocent” maneuvers every delay tactic money can buy – plus outrageously vilifies judges, prosecutors, and courts if not terrified of outcomes? Here’s the iconic, unchecked egotist whose audacity alone dramatizes the perverse Yankee fascination with the flagrant renegade/outlaw facing down forces of  law, order and justice. Perversity, like derangement, has many faces, especially in an ultra right culture obsessed with the sick, irresponsible, anything-goes individualism.

Throughout history, even extreme right-wingers, except for Confederate rebels, did not violently defy fair elections or the idea of justice when executed by legitimate prosecutions. Only a twisted minority ever denied we are a successful immigrant nation, nor invent the baseless doctrine the USA was ordained a Christian nation. In fact, the Founders bent over backwards (fearing another Church of England) to separate church and state.

How many left or right mercilessly  demonized law-abiding minorities, so critical in building infrastructure (public and business), as obstructions to their “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? How many scoffed at all top experts (who dare disagree with the holy Trump), whether generals, scientists, trained researchers, or health professionals, with well-informed guidance? How many rioted against legal elections, seeding distrust in the only way democracies set priorities and lift up leaders? 

Divided, not United States

If the schism continues, welcome to the Divided, not the United States. If we don’t stop in their tracks those who abuse language, logic, and singular methods of confirming truthfulness, their utter ignorance about what “government” can and can’t do has excessive influence. It is not, say huge majorities, the role of government to intrude, even moralize about who gives birth when, or what classic books should be banned, or whether a state governor can blithely destroy his own education system.

In the end, any angry, fixated minority who can’t talk to the majority only invites more grief. Because five-alarm sirens are sounding, we must shift focus to more basic elements that purposely imperil communication. Right now, there is a Trumpian “dialect” that not only changes what words mean (the first casualty of truth, chronic lying) but how logic works – and how instability rises when millions dare disagree about the process that defines good proof. Like avenging demons commanded by invisible, higher powers, those who corrupt the public language corrupt public morality. “Happy Holidays” does not war against Christmas.

Every complex system must integrate an equally complex matrix, as a computer shares its master circuit board or trains a central station. We really swim in the same pond, like it or not, and we rise or fall together. Community, even if it’s  agreement on traffic rules, demands common ground. The history of human achievement puts the lie to the delusion of radical self-reliance – as if individuals succeed solely on his or her talents or good fortune. Cooperation explains our global species dominance, reflecting brainpower and working together, mandating a unifying language and parallel goals.

Preliminary engagements

So, welcome practical advice on bridging differences? Ask your right-wing (or left-wing) opponent what they mean by a word, phrase or value statement. If they cannot define it without partisan bias, banish the blather. Second, demand the explicit standard for legitimate evidence: how do they know what they decide is true, and how would they test and confirm any assertion. Ask how much they know about law, sedition or Constitutional checks and balances? 

If you cannot reach consensus about the definition of a fact, let alone a legal threshold, find another bar. Don’t underestimate how outraged people go ballistic when informed they don’t know what they think they are talking about, oblivious to semantics or logic. Simple questions will demonstrate whether the opposition can do more than pontificate. Without sufficient common ground, in language or values, one is not conversing but playing crude show and tell – or just heaving grenades.

Without clarity, language loses its foundations, standards vanish, and apparent “discourse” descends into a food fight in a madhouse. Either confirmed data, like well-tested statistics and concepts from professionals, bound reality—or delusion reigns. In the end, everything important—democracies, law, marriages, traffic safety, elections—come down to communal trust. While Trump shows exactly who he is, that does not make him trustworthy or fit to lead. 

As a shrewd lawyer once confided to me during during a pitched battle, at times you just have wait for the dinosaurs to die off and hope their offspring get more education, enjoy more diverse life experiences and gain a full understanding that fair-minded majoritarian politics dies on the vine when rabid minorities seize control. Balance of powers is the be-all and end-all, or else we have an Anti-president iniquitous enough to think he can do whatever he pleases—and get away with it. 


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.