CHURCH & STATE: CAN AMERICAN DEMOCRACY SURVIVE TRUMP'S REIGN OF LIES?

Author:Boston, Rob
 
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My mother was a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, and I grew up hearing a lot of their music. I came to appreciate the folky duo as well.

One of my favorite songs by the duo is "The Boxer." I've interpreted the tune as mostly a rumination on the loneliness and alienation emanating from the cold and unforgiving streets of New York City, but there's one line that, especially in light of our current political situation, seems to say something deeper. It's a line that has been coming back to me a lot these days:

All lies and jests!

Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

I often think of this line when I scan news headlines. It came to me recently as I read a story in Politico about a reporter's visit to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a city not far from where I grew up. The reporter talked to a number of people who had voted for Donald Trump in an effort to determine if any of them were disillusioned in light of Trump's glaring incompetence.

The reporter quickly learned that these people still love Trump. They think he's doing a great job, and they're convinced that any problems he may be having can be laid at the feet of the media, which is laboring to make him look bad. (As if he needed any help!)

I was struck by the fact that many of these people simply have no idea what's going on. One man complained about how often President Barack Obama had played golf. When the reporter told him that Trump plays even more frequently, the fellow was momentarily flummoxed but quickly rebounded to say that's all right because Trump works harder than any other president whereas Obama slept until noon each day.

Neo-Nazis are marching in the streets of major cities. Anti-vaccination cranks have made diseases like measles and whooping cough a real threat again. Around the country, groups of people are meeting to debunk the "conspiracy" that the Earth is round. People are denying climate change, even as glaciers continue to melt. A pedophile ran for US Senate in Alabama and nearly won.

Has the country lost its collective mind?

One of the most frustrating--and sad--things about modern life is that we've never had easier access to information, yet many people choose to remain ignorant. The rise of the internet has taught us that wider access to information alone doesn't change things. After all, the same internet that can turn you on to Plutarch, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Percy Bysshe Shelley can lead you down a rabbit hole created by kooks who...

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