What planet am I living on? I have grown up with the idea that conservatives were those who value tradition and defend the status quo ante; who support the institutions of our society. But now it seems that “conservatives” believe that it is wrong for the president of the United States to talk to the nation’s school children despite the fact that Ronald Reagan did so; that it is OK to carry an automatic weapon to a public meeting with elected officials; that un-fact-checked statementscirculated by unknown bloggers and radio entertainers are to be believed over independent newspapers with long histories of factual reporting.
Part of the problem is simply ignorance combined with complex issues and the do-it-yourself value that leads people to think they can determine the facts for themselves without any expert help. For example, a reporter told me this morning of an Email from a woman who told him to look at a specific page in one of the health reform bills in Congress. She told him that there was proof on that page that if the bill were voted, it would mean that every citizen must have a card with an account number or they could not get any health care. When the reporter read the page and the section that it was in, he discovered that it was a list of information that health insurance plans would be required to place on their ID cards so that hospitals and doctor’s offices would not have to phone or Fax and get the basic information they need in order to treat a patient, thus saving time and money.
The distrust of government has become so pervasive and so extreme that I cannot help but think what would happen if America faced another 9/11 type emergency. Would people and their children die because they refuse to believe official announcements to take cover or boil water, etc.? Part of this is political manipulation by unethical people who are willing to use widely-believed lies to their advantage, but underlying that is a sector of our society so fearful of “socialism” or “liberals” (or perhaps people of color) that they are (probably unwittingly) sliding into anarchist positions. It is the combined effect of the assasinations of the 1960s, Watergate, terrorism and the popular culture of grand conspiracies such as The DaVinci Code, the Left Behind series and the
This breakdown of trust could be a significant danger signal for America. Increasingly the polarized elements of our democracy define the world so differently that they really do live on different planets. This has some potential, over time, of drifting into the kind of situation that existed in America in the years of “bleeding Kansas” and “the wild West.” It is my prayer that those who value our Bill of Rights will see that they have a patriotic duty to give greater emphasis to shared values than political differences.
Reposted with the permission of the author. Originally posted by Monte Sahlin on his blog, Faith in Context, a commentary on religion, values, and contemporary issues.