What we are facing

Several American states threatened to secede from the Union if Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860. Lincoln was elected and, beginning with South Carolina, the secessions duly began, right on schedule.

While that may all sound familiar, there’s something stunning hidden in that dry recitation of historical fact. A people so racist that they would have preferred to tear the United States in two and risk war rather than hazard the non-extension of an institution that enslaved human beings, nevertheless believed that the outcome of the election of 1860 was legitimate. They never questioned it.

In other words, there are people by the millions, alive in America today, who are crazier than nineteenth century pro-slavery Southerners, because they don’t believe the 2020 election was legitimate. In November of 1860, the proposition never even came up. Today the idea, or its possibility, is ubiquitous.

Let’s face it, there is no evolutionary guarantee that human beings become more intelligent or rational or reasonable with time. (Consider how dreadful 18th and 19th century English theatre was in comparison with 16th and 17th century English theatre, just for starters.) Even so, the idea that there are so many willing consumers of so palpable a lie as the notion without evidence that the 2020 election was rigged simply because they didn’t like the outcome, ought to tell you how small has been the advance of the common human intellect in the last 150 years. All the great advances in human thought and science have been made by the tiniest of minorities.

Another whopping head-slapper is the emerging resistance to the new coronavirus vaccines. Up till now I have resisted using the word “covidiots,” but as sophomoric as that disparagement may sound it isn’t entirely without merit. This new trend will probably become part of a new denialism — COVID-19 vaccine denialism.

Wikipedia defines denialism as “a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality.” In other words, if you ever hold a personal belief for which the word “denialism” is commonly paired, you would be wise to take a long, jaundiced look at that belief. It’s almost certainly wrong.

What Wikipedia doesn’t tell you is how destructive denialism is. Certainly all denialisms are not created equal. The destructive megatonage of Holocaust denialism is far greater than that of moon landing denialism. But both are destructive to that most precious of human intellectual foundations, the ultimate fate of knowing. Once we cease to accept science, history and evidence, once we trade those essential commodities in for undisciplined thinking recruited for the sake of our own delusional comfort, we have taken one giant leap into darkness. And it’s a long way back from there.

Coronavirus vaccine denialism and 2020 election results denialism are twin toxins polluting our New Year. They could destroy belief in the legitimacy of the new government and vastly inhibit the Biden administration’s efforts in bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control. I plan to do my part in educating a deluded public, because the greatest enemy of knowledge isn’t ignorance, it’s the delusion of wisdom. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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