You've heard it before. Paid thugs start showing up at political events and shouting down speakers. Some are seen carrying weapons. They soon expand into direct intimidation, stalking politicians and their staff members and bullying them into doing their will. When they win, they are emboldened, and begin running and electing candidates of their own. A national audience hears from their leader, on a well-respected news program, that what is happening is a triumph for democracy. Then the newly empowered movement turns around and tries to shut down the network that broadcast that program, allowing its own paid outlets to dominate the airwaves.
Things like that happen in third world countries all the time, right? We hardly pay attention. Maybe we've read enough history to know that such things also happened, less than a hundred years ago, in advanced European countries with long traditions of enlightened thinking and intellectual progress. We still tend to assume that they won't happen here.
Except that they did. Everything I describe took place in Waco, Texas, within the last two years. The politician they bullied and then defeated was Congressman Chet Edwards. The network on which their leader was interviewed was NPR, which now faces the threat of losing all of its federal funding. And the wealthy billionaires who paid for this exercise in subverting democracy and free speech are licking their lips.
At least that's the way I see it. I think I'm a good person with decent values, and I'm terrified right now for the future of my country.
I know people, though, who I also think are good people with decent values, and their perception of what's happening is the exact opposite of mine. The good guys are finally winning. Government is being reclaimed for the people. Right is triumphing over wrong. Far from being terrified, many people are exultant.
Who is right? Naturally, I think I am. What I'm becoming convinced of, though, is that the differences between these two ways of seeing reality may be irreconcilable. Two sets of people look at the same facts and draw completely opposite conclusions from them. It seems impossible that there can be compromise, and that scares me more than anything. If we can no longer talk to each other because we speak completely different languages, then how can shared, representative government possibly survive?
I write this in sheer frustration. If you think there's any common ground left, I want to hear about it, because right now I'm not seeing it.