Monday, April 1, 2019
Assuming the Worst
“Never assume anything, it makes an ass of you and me,” is the nifty little maxim I learned from one of my NCO's while serving in the United States Army. Yeah, it's a cliché but one whose truth can't be denied since young and dumb soldiers, like I was back in the 1980's, can really screw up a situation by making stupid assumptions. While over time I generally learned not to presume anything when no real facts were present, over the years evidence seems to suggest a lot of people never assimilated that lesson.
Now most assumptions are harmless, such as an acquaintance of mine recently making the statement he didn't understand why the Columbia, South Carolina area didn't have any used books stores. While we do not have used book stores on every street corner, I was able to name off three such businesses to him off the top of my bald head. While this person's assumption was harmless, the look I received after casually telling him about the used book stores I knew about was not one of gratitude.
I had overturned his mental applecart and derailed his usual argument that the country was going to hell in a handbasket. Yeah, don't ask me how he was connecting the lack of used book stores with the demise of Western Civilization in general and the United States specifically. It's a long and complicated story with more than a few sprinkles of White paranoia mixed with barely hidden racism and a touch of alt-right fascism. The fact remains that I disproved this person's assumption causing him a momentary revelation that he was not as smart as he presumed. No worries, like most individuals these day, this acquaintance brushed off this small fact and quickly returned to his usual right-wing Chicken Little attitude.
The thing that honestly worries me is that this acquaintance makes assumptions on subjects that actually matter. Given my description of this person you have enough evidence to understand he is a Trump worshiper who totally accepts any information he sees or reads from the usual right-wing outlets. This includes baseless and conspiratorial propagandic theories like that several mass shootings here in the United States were perpetrated by left-wing types in an effort to overturn the Second Amendment. Something I heard him repeat in hushed conspiratorial tones to his cohorts.
Circumstances require that I have daily interaction with this person and others like him who hold the same views. It's beyond surreal to listen to these people talk about subjects they have absolutely no factual information to base their opinions. They speak in certainties and absolutes that defy not only commonsense but logic because each and everyone of them have tools, such as smart phones, that would easily allow them to find the truth. This will sound cruel and arrogant but I've heard five-year old children carry on more rational and intellectual conversations.
Yeah, the human race has had to deal with barely sentient “Bubbas” from the beginning of civilization. The difference now is that there is next to no wiggle room to put up with their ignorance. Such people are easily manipulated with appeals to stunted patriotism or frenzied religious belief. One of democracy's fatal flaws is the uninformed mob being lead by their emotions, or even worse, a charismatic demagogue. Millions of people have been killed over the centuries using such tactics.
The United States has always has certain percentage of individuals that wallowed in willful ignorance and blatant hate. They have been responsible for some of America's worst crimes against Humanity. But these people now have a leader that refuses to condemn the worst behaviors of his followers. This demagogue and his followers almost daily edge ever closer to unleashing their anger and rage on anyone who dares to speak against their view of the world.
An important British politician of the early Twentieth century once said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, and we will not see them lit again in our lifetime.” I'm taking a few liberties with the meaning of his words but honestly, I believe they fit the situation we now find ourselves in this country. Unless a miracle jumps up and bites us on our ass, I believe things are going to get far worse. We're living in dangerous times folks, I'll make what I feel is a safe assumption and write that you might want to begin thinking about the unthinkable.