Every day we hear about another rightwing radio host, Republican politician or anti-mask crusader drowning in their own lungs after refusing the vaccine. Republican Governors aren’t merely refusing to help with their COVID-19 outbreaks, they are using their power to block measures that would save lives. Instead of getting vaccinated, which would work, Republicans are promoting a horse paste called Ivermectin, which doesn’t.
Resistance to pandemic containment measures has developed into a tenet of white identity politics. With a vaccine available, this resistance is now suicidal. COVID-19 deaths are soaring again and those exposed are overwhelmingly white and Republican. Republican Governors aren’t just killing off random citizens, they are murdering their own voters. Those voters, at least the ones who survive, are congratulating them for it. Republicans don’t seem to find any of this odd.
Beneath the inevitable outrage lies a curiosity. Why? Wearing a mask seems like a such a simple step. Vaccines are as ordinary as daylight. Measures that might have prevented this disease outbreak from becoming a global pandemic were so well-researched and prepared that they had been reduced to a playbook. On the surface, there was no reason for COVID-19 to come with any political bias. Why are Republicans killing themselves and placing entire communities at risk over masks and vaccines?
Nefarious political motives helped us get here, but don’t explain our position entirely. From hookworm to Medicaid, Southern elites have always feared the threat that public health campaigns pose to their power. Trump, who Republicans worship as God, made an early decision to prioritize his hotel and resort revenue over protecting the country. These two factors inspired a rightwing narrative that COVID-19 was a “hoax” and pandemic containment measures were a liberal plot. But why should that continue? Why aren’t Republicans lining up to get their “Trump Vaccine” and defeat the unseen microbial enemy?
It’s impossible to understand why white evangelicals are poisoning themselves with horse paste without backing up a long way to ask where our opinions come from. How do we decide who and what to trust? How do we behave toward our authority figures when we feel like our communities are threatened?
To better understand this bizarre scenario, we should probably consider some wider public failures we seem unable to remedy.
Why the sudden collapse of trust in experts?
How did we lose the capacity to hold wealthy, powerful people responsible for crimes?
Why are Donald Trump’s finances still secret and where are all the revelations we were expecting from Jeffrey Epstein’s records?
When was the last time you can remember seeing a Wall Street grifter perp-walked off to jail?
Why are we struggling to take the simplest measures, like building more housing, to solve simple crises like housing affordability?
Why are we the only stable nation in their world where health coverage isn’t universal?
Here’s why. We’ve lost our ability to share a reality and build on that reality, because we’ve lost the mythology, the shared narrative, that defined “us.” People will engage in remarkable acts of courage and sacrifice to protect “us.” Likewise, they will commit thoughtless atrocities against a perceived “them.” Building a successful civilization requires more than the negotiation of narrow personal interests. It demands a definition of “us” upon which all else rests. A shared narrative, or mythology if you will, that defines “us” is the foundation on which all successful collective action is built.
Our “us” has been lost. It’s been lost because we wrecked it. We wrecked it because it was cruel, stupid and no longer effective. We find ourselves in this dilemma because the power of white supremacy to act as the glue holding our society together has fallen below critical mass and a new unifying mythology has yet to emerge. Things will get worse before they get better.
Why are white evangelicals killing each other and themselves over COVID-19? They are the most-enthusiastic remaining adherents of our mythology of white supremacy. They cannot conceive of a future for themselves outside a white nationalism founded on white supremacy. Their pandemic suicides have a ritual character. Like Native American Ghost Dancers in the late 19th century, they are performing ad hoc rites that will “bring back the buffalo,” taking them back to the good old days of their supreme power. White Republicans are desperate to Make America Great Again, sacrificing themselves in a futile appeal to their dead gods. If you think their self-immolation is tragic, just imagine what they’ll be willing to do to you.
Why does an “us” matter? Much of our political logic inherited from centuries of Enlightenment thought carries a terrible flaw. Human beings are not rational actors. We can learn to calculate outcomes based on science and logic, but our capabilities are sadly limited. We can’t match the calculation power of a cheap 1970’s wristwatch. The notion that our daily lives are based on detailed calculations of our fine personal interests is laughably false. Rational thought is a product of training, like learning to ride a unicycle. We do little of it and carry limited capabilities.
Human beings augment our limited calculation power by reasoning in groups. For most of our lives we lean on what has come to be called “System 1” or autonomic decision-making. Those System 1 frameworks are shaped by our social groups. Resorting to “System 2,” or calculated, critical thought, is too uncomfortable, resource-intensive and slow for constant use. Human beings build networks of trust within which these calculation burdens can be shared or offloaded. Civilizations are built on networks of trust. Those networks of trust are defined by mythologies or narratives that identify an “us.” Slice those cords of trust and a civilization descends into dysfunction.
From the late 19th century until about our time, America was held together by a mythology of white supremacy. That mythology defined who was good and bad, who was us and them, who should be helped, promoted and developed and who could be freely exploited. It was cruel, stupid and flawed, producing a stunted version of “us,” but that’s the mythology that shaped us. Racism hasn’t died, but a system of white nationalism, built on a mythological framework of white supremacy has collapsed. Nothing has yet emerged to take its place.
White supremacy had to die, but killing it isn’t enough. There is no victory in the death of white supremacy until we’ve built a new, better mythology to take its place.
Though slavery and racism shaped America from its earliest origins, white supremacy did not always provide the mythos or narrative that bound Americans together as an “us.” As it did not always serve this function, there is no reason we cannot replace it with something better.
What happens to a bunch of people living in close proximity when the mythology that united them fails? They fragment, cobbling together smaller identities under which to organize some modicum of collaboration. Right now, the largest of these mythological identities is still white supremacy, though it’s losing ground fast.
As people descend into these fragmented mythological frames, the lack of an “us” inspires a blooming field of “thems.” Suspicion becomes more common than trust. A sense of threat draws people toward strong leaders, whose failures or outright crimes are excused or denied. Why has it become impossible to hold powerful people to account for crimes? We lack a secure, shared culture within which we can feel safe enough to replace strong leaders. We tolerate corruption and ineptitude because the loss of one of our leaders for any reason might grant dangerous power to an enemy.
These tightly closed and threatened circles of trust are a feeding ground for grifters and autocrats. If a leader demands suicide to protect “us,” many will comply and almost no one will openly resist.
A little man named Tate Reeves serves as Governor of the world’s worst COVID-19 hotspot, Mississippi. Not only has he refused to take necessary actions to contain the plague, he’s used his power to block others from stopping it. He explained why: “When you believe in eternal life—when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things…We can move on.” There’s a code in this message. Scientists, researchers and disease specialists don’t share your mythology, but I do. Ignore them, listen to me. Sure, you might die, but you’ll be helping to promote a higher goal and be rewarded by god. These are the new Ghost Dancers, sacrificing everything in a ritual to appease the gods and restore their power. From Nuremberg to Jonestown, a cult is a cult is a cult.
Why are our fellow Americans killing themselves over COVID-19? Because they aren’t “fellow” anymore. We are no longer tied together by a shared mythological definition of “us.” Republicans would rather die obeying the high priests of their mythology than abandon the faith and thrive. We are not immune from this same poison.
Want to see an end to this insanity? Assemble a new unifying mythology. A darker, tougher goal is tied to this imperative. Building a new unifying mythology will demand that we demonize the old one, making its dead-end adherents the essential “them” around which an “us” can emerge.
Americans have seen these cycles of rising and falling mythologies before. They were seldom clean or pretty, but the nation survived. There can be a post-white supremacist United States, but we’ll have to build it. We won’t build it without identifying and defeating its enemies.
Joe Rogan’s eating the paste:
Joe Rogan is also an idiot.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, unless there’s some last minute saving grace of which I’m unaware, SCOTUS has officially allowed Texas’ six-week abortion ban to go into effect – effectively gutting Roe v Wade (in the shadow docket, no less) and setting the stage for an already bitterly divided country to be cleaved right down the middle.
Congratulations, Republicans. You wanted a fight, you’re sure as shit gonna get it now.
What fight? The loser party are just that, rolling over when things get tough. The sane states will continue to operate as civilized society, while states controlled by the american taliban will continue to operate unfettered. But abortions will continue in places like NY and the other civilized states in the NE. That is, for awhile.
That same place of freedom, which just effectively banned abortions, is the same place that now allows anyone to openly carry a gun, without a permit or training.
The walls are closing in on democracy for most states in the union, or have already collapsed. This article in Politico is still talking IF, as opposed to WHEN.
If Republicans were giddy in the thralls of victory, then why are they silent as the dead? Fox News aired, maybe, a single segment on it in the early morning and hasn’t come back to it since. Carlson’s mum about it. Even the Dear Leader himself, who literally makes shit up out of whole cloth to take a victory lap, hasn’t said a word. What’s going on here?
The answer, as Chris has explained before, is that Texas Republicans just royally f’ed up the GOP’s 40+ year abortion strategy of always saying the right things, but never actually being stupid enough to follow through. Public approval for abortion has been static at around 60% for decades. It doesn’t budge, much to the consternation of the self-proclaimed “pro-life” movement. Same with disapproval.
The numbers don’t get any better when you go by individual states either. Outside of ruby-red ‘Merica, only N. Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona are roughly divided on the issues. Every other conceivable swing state (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, freakin’ Florida) all have solid majorities in favor.
There is no constituency for the kind of dead-bang political loser that Texas just shoved down Republicans’ throats. They want this to go away five minutes ago, and I don’t blame them. Democrats (as some already are, mind you) need to press this issue every day.
Ryan, media may be quiet about it, but legislators in the other taliban states are not:
From the article below:
“Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said Thursday that “there is no question” Republicans will push for a bill like Texas’ in its upcoming session, and Gov. Ron DeSantis promised to “look more significantly at it” in the weeks ahead. Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert said he’s updating a six-week abortion ban he previously introduced to mirror the language of the Texas statute. And South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Thursday that she’s looking at adapting the Texas law for her state.”
This will go through in well over two dozen states, the most fascist first. You seriously think the gov’ts in those states care about some poll? Polls only matter if those people can vote. In any civilized nation, yeah, abortion is a 3rd rail to a party platform. But the United States is neither united, nor civilized in much of it. No nation with its gun disaster and lack of public health can call itself “civilized”.
I have said it before. The rational answer, though still legally impossible, would be for the North-East Bloc to secede from the U.S., as well as the 3 Pacific states forming Oceania, maybe 4 if you include Hawaii. Illinois, well, it is kind of screwed. Now, China would be thrilled with such a thing, as that would hand world domination to that hideous regime. But for the people living in the NE Bloc and Oceania, it would cut them free from so much madness and evil.
Dins, do you ever go back and read what you write before you post it? Your perpetual doom attitude that posits “non-constitutional means” (i.e. violence), letting millions of people suffer while others wall themselves off from it all, and your idea that we should just let COVID-19 “run its course” as solutions are all preposterous, cruel, and overall seem to come from a place of irrational anger. It actively lowers the quality of discussion here.
You need to take a step back from the computer for a while and quit calling for hyper-radical change and violence like it would feasibly lead to outcomes that you’d prefer.
Crowley, maybe you have been keeping up with current events. “Non-constitutional means” are used by the enemy, on a very regular basis. From stealing a SCOTUS seat, to Jan 6th, to what just happened when Texas and SCOTUS conspired, the evidence is far and wide the enemy uses that tactic, because it works.
As for Covid, I stand by my statement. We are well into a 2nd year, with no end in sight, of massive economic and social disruptions. What I got wrong was the ability to deliver an excellent vaccine to so many people so quickly. That has had a huge mitigating factor in sane locations, but for the red states, well…..Society WOULD have been better off if this had been allowed to rip through, killing 2%. Yes, the collateral damage would also have been massive, but this would be over by now.
Am I angry? You bet. Because I have eyes, ears, and a working brain. I can see that democracy has failed in the u.s. It is a dead man walking. The deluded ones can’t see that, and keep talking about voting. I note that the Senate is a defacto fascist one, and stymies Biden on most of his agenda.
Hyper-radical change is upon us now, whether you accept it or not. Global Warming is simply going to exacerbate all the radical changes the american taliban have in store for blue america.
Yeah, I’ve been keeping up with current events. Giving up on large swaths of the country as unsalvageable, and acting like the millions of people who are suffering under Republican governance but never asked for it are expendable chaff, is still straight-up sociopathic no matter what current events have occurred. If you think that your stances are the correct ones because you “have eyes ears, and a working brain”, then you need to get help.
Well, Chris said that once the GOP overturned Roe v Wade, the Republican Party would have about ten seconds to live. I wonder if this is close enough to that to get that ball rolling?
To be perfectly honest, I think this law will last about as long as it takes for some of those state representatives’ mistresses to turn them in to that bounty hunter hotline they set up, and then some reconsideration of state-sponsored vigilantism will come due.
Hmmmm, a new “them”?
Well, we have had much more serious discussions about UFOs lately, so…
For decades, the government has covered up UFOs, but now, suddenly, there is a message of impending danger from aliens (non-Mexican variety), with very serious government scientists, NASA and military officials grimly telling a story of technologically advanced lifeforms threatening the planet. Sure, non-government scientists and a bevy of ex-NASA scientists become the new crackpots disputing this alien story, but a slew of crop circles, exploding cows, and bright lights over big cities convinces the nation to come together to defeat this new enemy.
Since, you know, space is huge, the story is that the aliens are likely to be here in 25 years, with the first alien scouting parties arriving in 10 to 15 years.
So, we need to greatly beef up our education system to train new scientists to improve our technology. Then, we discover that the aliens are attracted to carbon emissions, so the best way to delay their arrival is to greatly curb our carbon output. Since we may have a neighborhood-by-neighborhood land battle on our hands with the alien horde, we need every American strong and healthy, so universal healthcare is mandated as well as fabulous school breakfast and lunch programs for kids. With the potential land war, we’ll need to improve our roads and infrastructure to move supplies. It is also discovered that the aliens have technology that renders guns, missiles, and even nuclear weapons ineffective, but the aliens are unable to resist playing chess and bridge, and they evidently die if you beat them in a game, so every American must learn to play bridge and chess.
The only flaw in my plan is how to convince the rest of the planet to go along with the crackpot idea, but when have Americans really cared what the rest of the world thought?
This is brilliant
And it continues in Georgia. Chris are you sure GA wont be royal blue instead of purple after a few more years of this?
Respectfully, that’s just not how new political coalitions are made. Incidents like these are infuriating and unjust, tbs, but they’re not going to move those economically moderate/socially liberal suburban voters to the Democrats anymore than they already were.
It seems to me like China might be the new threat that a mythology gets built around. Not sure what kind of mythology you could build though.
By the way, you weren’t kidding about the ritual nature of the suicides. The Herman Cain Award subreddit is full of examples. It’s like they’re all following a script.
I grew up around leftwing moonbats who’d rather boil and chew on treebark than go to the hospital for some antibiotics, to the point where I knew a woman who almost lost her foot to gangrene because she kept pouring turmeric on a burn wound for its ‘anti-inflammatory’ capabilities. This sort of behavior doesn’t actually strike me as so specialized in the rightwing nutjob community.
In fact I remember over a decade ago, when I found a ton of old John Birch Society pamphlets with stuff like this: https://imgur.com/7JqOp on them, I was blown away to consider that a lot of my own community’s grown-ass adult liberals were essentially swapping ‘mental hygiene’ for ‘blocked chakras’ and otherwise were aligned with rabid anti-communist paranoiacs on medicine point for point.
So this recent horse paste craze (and how big is it, really? A couple hundred people? A couple thousand? I’m unclear how widespread it really is other than a couple-three Congressmen touting it) pretty much unfazes me. Americans of both political stripes will literally risk cutting off their limbs than let Big Pharma inject something inside their body. It’s a ‘purity’ morality thing.
We badly need more science communicators. Also the medical profession has some past sins to atone for. Such as condescension towards women:
While this is no where near as egregious as things like the Tuskeegee experiment, if you don’t address people’s health problems, they’ll seek help elsewhere.
Hey thanks for sharing that, a friend of mine said, back in March or so when vaccines were available for old folks and the immunocompromised exclusively, that she wouldn’t take it because she really wants a child and doesn’t want any problems with pregnancy due to the vaccine. I didn’t even respond that that remark because I had no idea what she was talking about, and hadn’t been able to find information on where that con -cern or -spiracy came from.
Not that I’ll be sending this article to her. I feel like I should be more vocal with friends about, like, facts and stuff, but I get exhausted just thinking about it.
Speaking of fertility, catching Covid could hinder the male side of the process:
Will you sacrifice your manhood to stiggit to the libs and the experts?
Charlie Sykes and his list of Covid-karma:
First I want to state that anyone who makes an effort to seek out and taunt the families of these people is as low as the “F*** your feelings” Trump cultists. It’s pointless cruelty, and no one should choose to sink to that level. But I am totally compassion fatigued with these recently departed. They didn’t just make a poor choice for themselves, they used their platforms and influence to encourage bad choices by people who looked up to them. The deathbed regrets are too little and too late in my book.
Also zero sympathy for the restrictions and inconveniences and extra costs that are coming for the un-vaxxed. Choices have consequences, and those are far from the worst ones you face.
One who didn’t repent:
Chris, so assuming the unifying narrative is dissolving, and I am certainly not going to question that, a few questions:
1. How long would it take for a new unifying force to take hold, if it is even possible?
2. Given the patience yet equal rapaciousness of the rising dragon named China, exactly what is the impact of that nation on the future global politics and economics while the U.S. contemplates its navel trying to find its new self, whether that contemplation is violent or no? As the U.S. falls deeper into its collective madness, does China simply wait to make its move to sit astride the world? Does the U.S. fall into the same status as Germany and the UK, when it comes to global power?
Q: How to you make the Dalai Lama weep?
A: Ask him for the fastest way to become enlightened.
There hasn’t been an hour of political unity in our history. Not Pearl Harbor, not p9/11, not anything else that people tout today as some celebration of our e pluribus unum. And we’ve never needed it because America was the cradle of Enlightenment empiricism and measurement. Fairness is all the unity we ever required–the level playing field whereon proof was measurable, tests were equitable, and both sides learned from the exercise. The virus is an historic test of that, and it proves without exception that reality isn’t a concept of politics; it doesn’t tilt left or right for the people who demand that it does; it doesn’t respect voter identity or political bullshit. One side knows and embraces this reality. The other side insists still that there is some alternative to the “reality-based community”, that belief is more important than fact, and that it’s their right to pretend rather than admit that there’s any such thing as a self-evident truth. The virus reveals the suicidal depravity of their positions. They deny and pretend and evade while it decimates their numbers. Their spite and pride are turned against their own. They take the heaviest casualties and pay the worst costs for lit. They lead their own families to harm.
“If you think their self-immolation is tragic, just imagine what they’ll be willing to do to you.”
I have a hard time seeing our Democracy surviving the 2022 elections. The Census gerrymandering and the history of mid-term elections are enough for the thin temporary veneer to be stripped away. Plutocrats do just fine in fascist states, and while political alarm bells are ringing, there are so many ringing with climate change and Covid as examples it has just become background static. I don’t see or hear a groundswell of unified opposition, and this cult will likely soon control all the levers of power and be able to at long last reach their goal of destroying our democracy (what’s left of it). A depressing view to be sure and I’d love to be convinced otherwise.
I’ve been getting that sinking feeling myself. Too many Americans seem to think they can go back to ignoring current events now that Trump’s out of office, and are too scared to address any of the underlying causes.
More than anything else, this is something I hope both you and I are wrong about.