Civil Discourse and Hyper-Sanity

My concerns about SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett can be summed up in one short phrase “Separation of church and state’. But expressing that concern on-line got me trolled. Trolling began with deriding me for being concerned that Supreme Court remain a secular body.

I pointed out that, like the rest of our government, the Supreme Court is and was intended to be a secular organization. I assumed that all Americans learn that the intent of the men who founded this country was to separate church and state as no individual has a god-given to rule over others. I responded as though this person actually knew American history.

But I was then told that as an ordinary citizen I was unqualified to express my concerns and that it was up the all-accomplished men of the Senate to decide. So I had to explain that in a democracy, the members of the senate are actually elected officials that are responsible to those who voted them into office. Their responsibility is then to represent their constituency to the best of their ability and my responsibility is to express my concerns so that my representatives can act on them.

I am still taken aback by the next attack. I was informed that I am wrong because the founding fathers were, and I quote capital letters and all ,’Men of God’. Worse, the writer insisted that their godly values and intentions miraculously happen to coincide precisely with those of the writer. Anne Lamott encapsulated my reaction best, writing:

‘You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.’

And I am concerned with the relentless intensity of the personal attacks Trump’s supporters feel entitled to. Because the next level of reaction, according to the troll’s more quotable responses, was that my concerns have no validity because I obviously hate and fear Christians, I am ignorant of the difference between spirituality, religion and Christianity, and I am a psychologically disturbed ‘snowflake millennial’ who is in emotional denial, indulging in emotional excess, exuding frustration and more, apparently all at the same time.

I do not take these comments personally. But I am concerned that the trolls celebrate verbal violence that leads to physical violence. I am concerned that they aspire to a government that suppresses dissenting opinions at any cost.

Because that is not a democracy. It is a fascist dictatorship. And these trolls are not the exception, they appear to be the rule.

As Neel Burton MD argues in his new book, Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking, ‘many “normal” people… have a restricted worldview, confused priorities, and are wracked by stress, anxiety, and self-deception. He says that it is not just that the “sane” are irrational but that they lack scope and range, as though they’ve grown into the prisoners of their arbitrary lives, locked up in their own dark and narrow subjectivity. Those that are unable to take leave of their selves hardly look around them. They barely see beauty and possibility and rarely contemplate the bigger picture. Ultimately, they engage in destructive, even dangerous behavior, driven by fear of losing themselves, of breaking down, of going mad, using one form of extreme subjectivity to defend against one another.

Interacting with the online trolls brought home the utter failure of our educational system. I responded to my attackers as though we shared the knowledge and yes, the cultural background, of the founding fathers of the USA. Granted, I am DAR (Daughter of the American Republic) and those men are part of my tribe.

But I am still struggling to come to terms with their profound ignorance. Anyone versed in the history of the USA would do their very best to laugh off the founding fathers being anointed as ‘Men of God’. Taking the accusation seriously is difficult because it is so deeply offensive and contrary to all they stood for.

So in the interests of civic education and civil discourse, I’d like to remind people that George Washington himself refused to be made a king, never mind anointed as messiah. The founding fathers of this country might have been theists, but none of them were ordained in any Christian sect. In fact, they were adamantly and ardently against the idea that anyone had a god-given right to rule over others.

I want more people to know that the American Revolution actually began as a fight to preserve the rights and liberties enshrined in the Magna Carta. And in the 17th century the Magna Carta was the legal basis for refuting the divine right of kings. Then the success of the American revolution was sustained by the French philosopher’s ideas of human rights and equality.

What makes America great is our each doing our best to hold to the principles of the founding fathers. Especially those laid out in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.– That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.[10]

Granted, the founding fathers were flawed human beings who failed to live up to their ideals in many ways. But at least they had the gumption to state them. Now, it is up to us to fight to make those ideals a pragmatic daily reality.

Because far too many ‘normal’ people are not willing to learn our history or abide by the principles of democracy. They do not want to hear that bypassing the vote to keep a criminally dishonest madman whose cultish supporters claim he is chosen by their interpretation of god in the presidential seat is against everything that the founding fathers aspired to. They are not willing to admit that refusing to learn and practice basic principles of civilized discourse means we do not have a democracy.

Holding to our democratic ideals in the face of this current mass eruption of irrational reactivity and magical thinking is a challenge. But hyper-sane people are calm, contained, and constructive even in the worst circumstances and under extreme provocation. They have the forbearance and the perseverance to perceive a larger scope and range and work towards a long-term goal.

And I am hoping there are enough out there to weather this storm, educating people by example. Because, as Neel Burton MD points out, life — mysterious, magical life — will continue to literally slip through our fingers if we do not step up and act hypersanely now.

2 thoughts on “Civil Discourse and Hyper-Sanity

  1. This is an important post. You have pointed out the history of your country and how it relates to what is happening today. As I observe from north of the Canadian border I am very concerned about recent developments and the upcoming election.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.