August 2016

Thoughts on the GOP platform

By Peter Miesler

The GOP Convention gave me a reason to read the 2016 Republican Platform. This is the distillation of their rank and file’s world outlook along with their wish list, so it’s worth paying attention to. I had intended to report on its sketchy content. Instead, I found myself overwhelmed by their attitude, which needs to be considered before the content can make sense.

For someone like me, a liberty-loving rationalist who’s into the scientific enlightenment (the one that rescued humanity from religious superstition), someone who believes in evidence-based constructive learning, it’s a horrific document.

What makes it especially frightening is its absolute self-certainty, along with a disregard, if not hatred, for all who are outside of their religious/philosophical tribe. It reads like there’s no more room for reason with this new Republican crowd; it’s their way or else, consequences be damned.

Here’s how they start: “We believe in American exceptionalism. We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.” This sounds more like over-compensating barroom braggadocio than any sort of serious adult contemplation about our complicated world and USA’s place in it.

“Exceptionalism”? America certainly is unlike any other country in the world, but does that make us, its citizens, superior to all other peoples on our planet? Isn’t that totally counter to what our Declaration of Independence declares – “All men are created equal” and all of that?

A point most overlook is that it’s not we who made our country exceptional. It was the land and resource cornucopia our pioneering forebears found from sea to shining sea. The land and its opportunities made us an exceptional people! It was not the other way around. Yet the GOP willfully ignores such physical and historical realities.

Finishing their mind-numbing preamble, I had the distinct sense of a people lost in some imaginary past and incapable of absorbing the profound changes in the greater world. Sure, we remain the world’s superpower, but given all that has happened these past decades, running around proclaiming our “exceptionalism” seems childish, if not foolish.

The GOP’s platform frames all our problems as someone else’s fault. It seems as though they have a pathological aversion to recognizing their own mistakes and constructively learning from them – and god forbid communicating with or learning from an adversary. Thus we are doomed to repeating cycles of escalating disasters.

To me it seems neo-Republicans are so frozen within their fear-driven echo chamber that new information has no way of gaining access. Instead they double down on giving lip service to ancient tribal holy books and pretend cherrypicked passages can guide us in these radically changing times.

Trump’s preacher Mark Burns put it this way during his convention invocation: “Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him – that we, together, can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus’ name – if you believe it, shout Amen!”

Later in an interview he confirmed: “I was just doing what I’ve always done for Mr. Trump at his rallies. And that’s just to rally the people and to declare to them that – not so much God is on our side, because God represents everybody for those who believe in him, but that – to remind the people, you know, we are a country under God, indivisible.”

God represents everybody “for those who believe in him,” and the rest of us can go to hell.

I’m still trying to figure out what “to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus’ name,” is all about. What I do know is that Jesus was a great man and a wonderful guide and support to help many of us through our own trials and tribulations – but to think that he’s “God Almighty” and in charge of the solar system and our planet, that’s simply disconnected.

Preacher Burns’s own words convinced me he and his flock are too full of themselves to have the slightest appreciation for the unknowable “God Almighty of Time and Creation, Life and Love” or he wouldn’t talk with such simplistic egomaniacal certitude. Their own Bible warns them in the book of Job, God is beyond human understanding. But do any take heed?

No doubt Burns and his fellow New Age Republicans have a god they believe in passionately, but that’s their beloved personal affair, a figment of their communal imagination, rooted in primal human dreams and needs, as opposed to being rooted in the physical reality of our evolving living planet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a personal truth, not a universal truth. Nor is it a guide to dealing with our challenging future.

Sadly, I and anyone else who holds these thoughtful views and who openly objects to their childish and oh-so-hubristic conceit of speaking on behalf of the God Almighty are perceived mortal enemies. It’s tragically counter-productive in an evolving world where more than ever we need each other to keep ourselves honest.

Peter Miesler writes from near Durango, Colo., and hosts a blog that confronts climatescience contrarians at http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com.