A Most Disturbing Place

It’s a really disturbing place to be.

Back in the 1990s, I did talk radio conversations with a conservative Shenandoah Valley audience. Each of my shows I began with an invitation to talk about “the questions of meaning and value that we face in our lives” in “a spirit of mutual respect” and “genuine inquiry.” “As if we might actually learn from each other.”

I loved that community of discourse done in a spirit of “mutual respect,” and I felt a deep appreciation for many of the conservative people with whom I had those conversations. Good people.

In the past more-than-twenty years, I’ve had a ring-side seat to witness a transformation in the political culture of this conservative region. It’s that transformation that so profoundly disturbs me, and puts me in a strange and difficult position.

On the one hand, I find that I still really care about the people with whom I once had that valuable relationship.

On the other hand, along with the rest of Conservative America, in the political realm those people have entered into a space that would have seemed utterly unthinkable to them a quarter century ago. Unthinkable, and also unspeakable.

In terms of beliefs they hold, their picture of the political world is so utterly divorced from reality that it really should be called “crazy.”

How do you talk – in a spirit of “mutual respect” – to people who are fervently supporting a political party that deals almost entirely in lies, and who believe countless things that are refuted by mountains of evidence.

• Gf
• Gd
• gd

In the 1990s, they showed real intelligence. But now they adopt beliefs that even a casual application of average intelligence would compel them to reject.

It is very disturbing to feel in an important relationship with one’s neighbors and one’s fellow Americans, and to see them having been swept up into a false world fashioned by ugly lies.

In terms of the values to which they give their political support, they are completely opposite the values they used to say they held sacred.

• The Republican base that used to revere the Constitution has thrown its support to a leader and a Party that pose the greatest threat to the American constitutional order in the history of the Republic.
• Conservatives who spoke reverently about “Christian values” throwing their support behind a political force that continually acts contrary to the Spirit that Christ taught.
• The Republican base that used to rally to the cause of “Law & Order” now supports a leader who is shown by mountains of publicly available evidence to have been a one man crime wave, and who has launched a counter-offensive against the American system of justice that’s trying to hold him accountable.
• People who used to support the Party of Limited Government now support a political party that intrudes on people’s lives and is taking previously-granted rights away.
• The Republican base that used to be passionate about national security is supporting a leader and a Party that has greatly aided — America’s most hostile enemy, the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. [Former Senator John Danforth says, majority voting against aid to Ukraine, formerly not a single Republican would have voted against such aid.]
• The Conservative Culture long emphasized the vital importance of good character. But now Conservative America blindly and enthusiastically supports a leader with a more complete set of character defects than one has ever seen before.

If what conservatives used to value was GOOD, what word describes the opposite of GOOD? It is disturbing to see Good People in the grip of Evil. More given to Conflict than to Cooperation. To Hatred than to Love. The opposite of “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill Toward Men.”

(Democracy vs. Fascism is the essential issue of 2024, and much of Conservative America will vote for Fascism. Democracy vs. Fascism can be shown to substantially parallel Good vs. Evil.)

Nothing like this transformation of the Republican Party and its base has happened in American history. Indeed, I know of no major political Party, of any of our fellow advanced democracies, that’s been as utterly dishonest and destructive as this once-respectable major American Party.

And this stark description of the Republican Party – so enmeshed in lies, so consistently acting destructively – is not something I hold as a “maybe.” It’s as certain and blatantly true as anything gets.

(But on this subject, I believe myself to be as reliable an expert as doctors treating the maladies of their patients, or perhaps scientists conceptualizing the forces at work in their systems. I’ve spend my whole life making myself qualified to speak with some certainty about certain important aspects of the human world. I believe in the value of uncertainty: a false certainty is the enemy of the progress of our knowledge. But sometimes, the truth is there to be seen.)

I can see how my certainty about what today’s Republican Party has become wouldn’t go over well with any of those who feel sure the lies they’ve bought are the truth. But still, what I know to be true is central to what I feel called to say and do.


Even if I didn’t have an enduring feeling of personal connection with these good people, I would still feel involved with them, and thus also still feel disturbed.

Even if the American electorate – as a whole – rejects Donald Trump and the Trump Party in this November’s election (and, though I’m quite uncertain, this is the outcome I think likely), our nation will still have tens of millions of citizens who had been led away from reality into a crazy place, and who had been fervent supporters of a political force that consistently spoke and acted in ways that made things worse.

So it’s a disturbing issue for all Americans who care about this nation’s political health: What can be said or done that would help those tens of millions become more politically sane, and more governed in their politics by the better angels of their nature?

For me, the question is what can I say to people who will think me insane, and think me on the side of Evil, if I say what seems to me important and true, beyond doubt?

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