Like others lately, I have been avidly following the Jan. 6 Committee’s hearings into the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
It’s been a fascinating watch. Appalling, too.
Fascinating because of what we are learning. That that That … which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim.”infamous day in 2020 was no spontaneous display of patriotic emotion. It was coordinated and planned. Yet tuning in has been unpleasant, too, because of the many among the American polity who — with a sneer and dismissive wave of their hands — refuse to consider what the committee has turned up.
For them, no recordings, none of the images of violence caught on camera, none of the testimony received under oath, none of the accounts culled from online messaging between people at the highest levels of government will ever be enough.
What we are learning about that day comes from people who were there. From people who bled.
But minds are made up.
At one time, what the committee has shown would have counted as damned good evidence.
Yet, instead of saying, “Hey, maybe that day was not all Skittles and beer,” the diehards just dig in deeper. Or they shift their ground and chew the cud of new conspiracies, one of which asserts that the former attorney general of the United States was paid off by a voting machine company. For them, what’s happening in that room is part of a grand scheme hatched by the former president’s enemies to make him look bad.
Give me what the Apostle John had to say when he wrote of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: “That which … we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim.” He was there. That was the highest sort of proof he could offer in his day.
Once upon a time, that sort of thing would have counted for something.
Nowadays, we have instruments of technology unavailable in St. John’s day that can take us to the scenes of events on the other side of the world.
Yet what do we see on those instruments of technology? A stream of politicians standing before the cameras, and without a hint of shame or complementary blush, assuring us that what we have observed was nothing more serious than a group of tourists visiting the capitol — move along.”
Seems we didn’t see what we saw.
That is such a gross insult to our intelligence. It is gaslighting on a grand scale. I can only say that such people have to be counting on our gullibility.
And yet people believe it.
Too many turn to a favored news and opinion source to interpret for them what they’ve seen. There they are told that the villains of Jan. 6 were actually members of another group with which they themselves vehemently and violently disagree, events in which at the same time they perversely take pride in.
How is that possible?
And then later we hear people ape the line and react in fury — and even violence — to anyone who challenges the orthodoxy, the dogma.
That is precisely what it is: dogma. Maintained and watered with the passion of deeply held religious beliefs. It is an escape from freedom of thought. It never occurs to such that maybe, just maybe there’s something else going on.
As I get older, I am more and more certain of this: that the best people among my fellow human beings are those who are capable of changing their minds when contradictory and overwhelming evidence presents itself. It’s not a weakness to admit we were wrong. It is a strength.
I worry that this determination to hold to a position that has been flatly and repeatedly contradicted by evidence may one day be taken to its logical conclusion, resulting in a generation that no longer believes in the multiplication table.
The question I always ask is: how could anybody believe that bunkum? I know I am not alone in thinking that. Yet I see people making love to it everywhere I turn.
Why? I know they are not stupid people. And lest anyone wonder, I don’t regard this tendency as the possession of any one party or creed. I have seen people on all sides of the political spectrum and at every level of intelligence fall for palpably ridiculous theories before.
As I see it, whatever takes us out of what’s happening solely between our ears into the light of day is a good thing. Because there, the possibility of learning something, of becoming better versions of ourselves, still exists.
Recently I heard a comedian say every man should get downwind from himself from time to time. I suspect that for most of us, the reaction would be “Ooh, boy, I reek.” It’s painful, I know. But I think the exercise is well worth the pain.
In the Apology, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote that Socrates declared at his trial that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
I believe in that strongly. We must examine our biases, discover what gets up our goad and why. This includes recognizing our own capacity for scapegoating, which I am certain has a lot to do with our current national malaise.
What was the Holocaust if not scapegoating on a massive scale? What was 9/11 about but a bunch fanatics who had convinced themselves that the West was to blame for all the ills that beset their society, that they were right and everyone else was of the devil?
What we have today is an epidemic of human beings who refuse ever to consider that they may be wrong or acknowledge their own hand in the problems that beset this nation.
Sometimes the result of this failure to recognize our own role is that people visit former work places and blow away everyone they hold responsible for their problems.
Or even attack the government.
Robert Whale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.