This piece ran as a newspaper op/ed in February, 2022.
Jesus said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” Accordingly we can “know” the Spirit driving today’s Republican World from the fruits of one of the central parts of that world: the Big Lie (i.e. the much disproven notion that the Election was stolen).
(The centrality of the Big Lie to the Republican Party is clear because
- the Party’s leader has declared it, and still insists on it;
- the Republican Party has made it virtual dogma;
- 70+ percent of Republicans tell pollsters that they believe it.)
Among the fruits of the Big Lie:
- The Big Lie served to incite that violent attack on the Congress, to overthrow the constitutional order. (Anarchy and it’s “war of all against all” rather than the Rule of Law)
- It has been used to “justify” the enactment of new election laws that will strip millions of legitimate American citizens of their right to be heard through the ballot box, illegitimately excluding their voice from “the will of the people.”(Unjust domination rather than Justice.)
- That Lie is a central weapon wielded in a multi-pronged attack on American democracy (an attack regarded now, by a consensus of astute observers, as a serious threat to the United States remaining the “the land of the free.” (Power controlling people rather than people controlling power.)
- It’s being used to divide Americans, a false accusation used to enrage millions of Americans against America’s other political side. (Conflict rather than Harmony.)
- It has further detached the Republican base from reality, with the majority of Republicans saying they believe what has been abundantly proven to be false. (Deception rather than Truth);
- It has reinforced an already-problematic sense — on the right — of victimhood, evoking resentments used to justify unacceptable political behavior; and that Lie has reinforced the right’s inability – or refusal — to respect the legitimate rights and powers of people on “the other side” (of various lines). (Hostility rather than Goodwill);
Note how, in every case, the “fruits” of the Big Lie make our world more broken. (The Selfishness, the theft of people’s rights, the increase in antagonism, the violent breakdown of good order, etc.) Always, the wrong side of what – as American culture has long agreed — divides “Good” and “Evil.”
The consistency of that brokenness reveals something important.
For a half century, I’ve been exploring how a destructive force can be traced through how it operates in the human world. Eventually I arrived at this wording for describing what can be discerned: “A coherent force that consistently spreads a pattern of brokenness in the human world.”
It is reasonable to call such a force “Evil.”
Whatever word we use –Brokenness? Destructiveness? – the phenomenon is discernible because by its fruits can we see it.
The “pattern of brokenness” spread by such a force – whatever one calls it – can be seen changing forms: through the operation of cause and effect, such forms — Injustice, Hatred, Conflict, Cruelty — can be seen giving rise to each other.
And – as that brokenness moves in shape-shifting ways through cultural systems through time — we can “see” that force the way one “sees” the wind from the swaying of the trees and the flapping of clothes on the line.
Usually, the way that brokenness begets brokenness (as wholeness also begets wholeness) is somewhat obscured by the way the “actors” in the world – individuals, political parties, nations etc. –are mixtures of “Good” and “Evil,” i.e. mixtures of elements that work to make things better and others that make things worse.
But once in a while there arises a “pure case,” i.e. an “actor” in the world whose effect is consistently to make things more broken. It is these rare “pure cases” that make that “coherent force” more readily visible.
That’s what makes it so telling that the effects of the Big Lie are so consistently destructive.
One can see the dark “Spirit” behind the real-world alliance — of hatred, greed, lying, cheating, bullying, cruelty, insistence on conflict, and the lust for power – that has come together to rule the once-respectable Republican world.
Not the usual mixture that has characterized American political parties through most of our history. But consistently “spreading a pattern of brokenness.” (I can’t think of a single issue in which the nation is in better, rather than worse, shape for the role the Republicans have played in recent times.)
It is important that Liberals see that Force for what it is, and fight it accordingly. As they say in baseball, “You can’t hit what you can’t see.” And as this dark Spirit has increasingly taken possession of the Republican Party, Liberal America has been disastrously slow to recognize WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST (the title of my 2015 book).
But it is especially important that good conservatives see this Force of Brokenness for what it is, and withdraw their support.
This Party of the Big Lie is not the conservative party America needs. What it needs is the Party that Liz Cheney seems to represents: one that combines political conservatism with a moral commitment to integrity and principle, and with a willingness to put the good of the nation (and fidelity to the oath to protect our constitutional order) above personal and partisan ambition.