The new moon was in the sky, making it a particularly dark night. That was a good thing. In Ivan’s line of work, the cover of darkness was a blessing.
He sat patiently, nursing a latte at a table in the back corner of the outdoor cafe across the street from the hotel. Sitting patiently and waiting was a large part of his job, so he was used to it.
He peered through a small pair of binoculars, alert to all movements outside the hotel’s lobby. He had already affixed the silencer to the barrel of his weapon, which he held on his lap. Ivan was totally ready to do the deed when the time arrived.
When he saw his target exiting from the hotel, Ivan stood up, stealthily ran across the street, and shot the man in the face before darting into an alleyway next to the hotel.
The president will be pleased, Ivan thought. One less hypercritical investigative journalist publishing fake news.
Everyone thinks, right? It’s what we do. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. Yet, it seems more and more these days that people, rather than exercising critical thinking, are okay with allowing their thinking to be biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced.
So what is critical thinking? Well, it’s not negative thinking. It’s not being argumentative. It’s not being blindly critical of someone or something. Critical thinking is the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. It involves the objective evaluation of data, facts, observable phenomenon, and research findings.
Seems simple enough. Don’t take things at face value. Gather the relevant information, objectively evaluate the facts, and come to a well-reasoned conclusion. Easy-peasy.
Apparently it’s not so easy-peasy. Our educational system seems to be more intent on indoctrination than on teaching students to think critically. As a result, a large numbers of Americans are uncritically consuming “fake news,” falling for conspiracy theories, and believing all kinds of crazy, baseless assertions about their fellow citizens.
America now has a reality TV star and questionably successful real estate mogul in the Oval Office. This man has a tendency to tweet to all the world his immediate, uncritical reactions to whatever he hears or sees. He has neither the interest nor the patience to gain any depth of understanding regarding those areas for which he, in his role as president, is responsible for.
This ill-informed man was able to persuade enough gullible Americans, who lack sufficient critical thinking skills, that he has all the answers. Without the ability to distinguish fake news from real news or to understand the basic workings of their own government, they fell hook, line, and sinker for his claims that he alone knew better than the generals or than anyone else how to “make America great again.”
And even with ample evidence that our president lacks the temperament, the emotional skills, and the intellectual competence to master the role into which he was elected, there are still those who look at him uncritically and believe him to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
We are witnessing the death of critical thinking in America.
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
If you haven’t read George Orwell’s book, 1984, in a long, long time — or if you’ve never read it — now is the time to do so. It’s particularly relevant these days when alternative facts (aka, lies) are being presented as valid options for actual facts (aka, the truth) and when real news is called fake and fake news is called real.
When the message offers you the truth, don’t shoot the messenger.
I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, you know. No siree, Bob! I’ve been around long enough to have experienced Vietnam and Watergate and how terribly divided this country was at that time. But I’ve never seen anything quite like what is happening now to the sanctity of American democracy under President Donald J. Trump. It’s taken its toll on me. I’m tired, very tired.
It’s not because I’m old, though, or because I’ve been having trouble falling and staying asleep at night. No, the reason I am tired is because something devastating has been happening in and to the country I love. And it’s draining me.
Fake News and Alternative Facts
For months before the election in November, we had been inundated with fake news, alternative facts, lies, racism, and misogyny. Since the election things have only gotten worse, given all of Trump’s conflicts of interest, blatant nepotism, and unprecedented incompetence at the highest levels of the government.
Our new president is purging (or buying off?) his perceived enemies and anyone he believes might do him harm, FBI Director James Comey’s firing is the latest example. Donald Trump is successfully … so far, anyway … turning our country into an authoritarian dictatorship.
And what I find truly remarkable and upsetting is that the spineless, gutless, “party over country” Republicans in Congress are just sitting back and letting it happen. They know that Trump is an unhinged, delusional narcissist who is also a pathological liar. But he’s their unhinged, delusional, narcissistic, liar who will sign whatever bills they put in front of him.
Trump is engaging in a war against the legitimate media. He is spreading outright lies, misinformation, and conspiracy theories in an effort to divert and distract attention from the many self-inflicted wounds he’s created as a result of his more outrageous tweets and his asinine behaviors.
Treason or Stupidity?
He has yet to admit that Russia interfered with the election and seems to be giving Putin and the Russians cover. And while he’s saying “America First,” his actions appear to be putting Russia first. He even shared highly classified information with Russian operatives in the Oval Office. Is he intentionally committing treason or is he just incredibly stupid? Or Both?
Respected scholars of history have expressed concerns about how Trump seems to be leading our country down a path followed by despotic 20th century and contemporary leaders.
He has sung the praises of Vladimir Putin (“a strong leader”) and Kim Jong-un (“a smart cookie”). He congratulated Turkish leader Erdogan on winning a referendum that expanded and consolidated his authoritarian powers. He praised the autocratic Egyptian leader el-Sisi as well as Filipino strongman Duterte, a man who likens himself to Hitler.
At the same time, Trump has denigrated and challenged the judicial branch of our own government and seems to have co-opted congressional Republicans, who hold the majority in both houses.
So back to my original question. Can American democracy survive Donald Trump? The short answer is yes, but it will take four types of people to make sure it does.
First, courageous employees within the executive and legislative branches of government who recognize the damage to our national security and our way of life that Trump is causing must be willing to risk their careers and leak documents to the legitimate press so that the unhinged actions of Donald Trump will see the light of day.
Second, brave journalists and reporters must do their jobs and continue to research, publish, and report on what is going on at the White House and in Congress.
Third, concerned citizens need to continue to reach out to their senators and representatives and hold them accountable for their actions. And if these elected officials in Congress don’t have the backbone to put country over party and to do what’s right and best for their constituents by standing up to Trump, they need to know that they will be voted out of office.
Finally, GOP members of Congress and Trump loyalists must stop turning deaf ears and blind eyes to Trump’s faults and follies. They need to honestly and objectively see him and the danger he posed to our country. They also need to stop getting all their news from Fox News.
If these groups of people do the right thing, democracy in America has a chance. If not, well, it was good while it lasted.