Perhaps like most members of our species of incredibly sophisticated poo-flinging super-apes, I am fully capable of taking pleasure in imagining things that happen not, in fact, to be true.
Often enough, my imaginings are clearly fantastic: For instance, the extraordinarily pleasant fantasy that I have been elected Emperor of the Planet, and have managed to end war, involuntary poverty, disease, crime, and vicious paper cuts while at the same time justly employing my imperial powers to at last wreak final revenge on that hideous Brian T. Jurgens, who unfairly and outrageously gave me a black eye in third grade before I could unfairly and outrageously give him a black eye.
Not that the memory of losing a distant childhood battle to a person of no consequence such as Brian could possibly still rankle even in full adulthood a man of my dignity and advanced wisdom: In truth, I’m only dispassionately interested in doing justice, you see, and the uncontrollable cackling you might now hear if you were nearby has nothing at all to do with obsessed glee at the merest fleeting mental image of sauteing Brian in a man-size pan of boiling dragon’s pee.
In addition to all my other noble accomplishments as Emperor, I also once tried fantasizing that I got imperially laid without, however, inflicting insufferable boredom on the lady who laid me, but even in fantasies there are limits to what a person is able to consider imaginable.
Or are there limits? I was reminded just yesterday morning of how flimsy is the notion of limits to what we can think conceivable when an old priest approvingly quoted a statement once made by Pope John Paul II on the topic of homosexual marriage:
“It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [gay marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”
Now, I think the Pope’s statement is fantastic. That is, it seems to me right up there on the same level of fantasy as my imagining I am the Emperor of the Planet. For, so far as I can see, the two claims have in common that there is not one single bit of sound evidence in support of either one of them. But the fact the Pope’s statement is bunk isn’t what really struck me about it.
What really struck me was how the statement is just one small drop in a daily flood of nonsense. Some long time ago, I stumbled across a beautiful book of Native American poetry. One of the poems spoke powerfully of someone who was a pathological liar: “And your words when you speak are like a wind from four quarters that carries the dust to my eyes no matter which way I turn.” It can seem like that — seem like there’s no direction you can turn, nor place you can go in society today, that you are not being told nonsense.
Nonsense such as the Theory of Evolution is scientifically unsound, there is little or no climate change brought about by our burning fossil fuels, abstinence-only sex education works as advertised, cutting taxes on the rich will bring jobs and prosperity for all, and even that there is a War on Christmas — among many, many other such things.
And that, in a rather round about way, brings me now to Bernie Sanders.
Sanders seems to me usually honest, especially for a politician. And — apparently by telling the truth (!) about such things as the nature, causes, and consequences of income inequality — he has become quite popular.
When the old priest quoted John Paul II yesterday morning, I at first reacted like I usually do when told a lie: I internally sighed because I thought of how so many of us believe such lies. For perhaps what is most overwhelming about the daily flood is not so much the lies themselves but that so many of us swallow those lies. How can one view with optimism the long term fate of our noble species of advanced spear-chuckers if we are basically such fools, such simple-minded fools?
But then along has come Sanders who both tells the truth and, apparently, has struck a chord with folks by telling the truth. He not only draws people to his speeches in record numbers, but he is also surging in many polls.
In a way, whether Sanders wins the nomination or the presidency matters less than the extraordinary response he’s gotten to speaking truth: Speaking it — not to the powerful — but to common people. To people that so many of our powerful elites these days seem to contemptuously think of as easily manipulated and exploited dolts. Yet I think people’s response to Sanders permits us cautious hope for a better future, for it possibly bodes that sooner or later the truth will prevail among us despite the daily flood of lies. However, another part of me worries that I am once again only fantasizing, and that the people’s response to Sanders means no such thing. I suppose time will tell which part of me is correct.