A question that must be asked
"What evidence do you have?"
That may be the most important question of the day, of the year, of the decade.
It certainly is the most important question of all those not being asked by American journalists today. Its absence shames all of the talking heads and almost all of the writers of articles about the war on Iraq and most other actions by the Bush administration and its toadies in Congress.
During the evening of Dec. 4, I tuned into "NOW with Bill Moyers" at the very end of the program. I caught no more than three minutes of the show, but was riveted. Moyers was interviewing a man whose name I did not get – nor could I find it on the unnavigable PBS and related Moyers Web sites.
Just as I tuned in, Moyers asked his subject to repeat something, apparently later published in a book, that he had written to his then 11-year-old daughter several years before. The brief passage spoke of those who are certain that their religions give them absolute knowledge of the will of God and believe that the knowledge they think they hold trumps all else. It mentioned or implied awareness of other blind faiths, including political faiths. Then the man instructed his daughter that "the most important question you can ask is, ‘What evidence do you have?’"
Briefly, the author of that letter (and a number of books) expressed horror at the fact that George W. Bush and his crowd, and the religious phonies with whom they do business, have a huge following of fawning faithful who never ask that most important question, and that those people live in a fantasy world that has no relationship to what is demonstrably real and true.
Many of us have been fumbling in our minds over the bewildering fantasy land that seems to house all but the rich and powerful Bush backers, who have their own agendas, but never had I heard the dilemma stated so succinctly, nor the answer defined so clearly.
The answer to dealing with the ignorant faithful -- if there is one -- must lie in the question: What evidence do you have?
That the thinking members of the public have been beaten, even drubbed, in recent elections by people who neither see nor care about facts is clear beyond argument. A majority of Americans are disconnected from reality. They follow a group of men who are demonstrably as mad as those who led Germany in the 1930s and into the ‘40s.
(Yes, men. Condoleezza Rice is an adoring acolyte who has referred publicly to G.W. Bush as "my husband" before correcting herself. It is obvious that she plays no part in forming policy.)
Here are some facts, most of which readers of this blog will know, that demonstrate the point:
* More than half of Bush voters still believe that Iraq was involved in the attack on the World Trade Center and that Saddam Hussein was intimately involved with Al Qaeda.
*Close to 60 percent of Bush voters, according to at least one poll, believe that "weapons of mass destruction" were found by our troops (or somebody) in Iraq after the invasion. Not that they once existed, or that they were magically transported somewhere else, but that they were found.
* A majority of Bush supporters believe there was no fraud in the 2000 election in Florida and that all irregularities were mistakes made by (black) voters too stupid to understand how to punch ballot cards.
* A very large majority of Bush voters believe Social Security is in imminent danger of collapse.
* Most reject the fact that American troops have been regularly and deeply involved in torture and murder of prisoners. Of those who do accept the facts, most believe it is "necessary."
* A large majority believe average Iraqis are better off now than they were before the American invasion. The belief is that the Iraqis now are "free." There is no recognition of the terrible economic plight of most Iraqis, nor the physical dangers they face daily, nor the lack of voice they have in governing their country.
* There is widespread acceptance of the claims by Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the administration that our troops in Iraq lack necessary equipment because manufacturers couldn’t provide the gear. That despite the fact that several manufacturers said they could have increased production substantially at any time. Of course, many Bush supporters simply cling to the belief that there is no lack of armor, or food, or other necessities.
* A goodly number, though probably not a majority, believe that Bush and all his crowd are directly guided by a Christian god -- a god who seems to whisper directly into Bush’s ear. Ask around: many do literally believe that.
* In a related belief: A great many are certain that all followers of Islam and other mostly Eastern religions are inherently evil.
* Can’t find a solid figure, but judging by those Bush backers who profess an absolute, literal faith in the Bible (as interpreted by fundamentalist preachers), about 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. population believes that the Earth and all the universe were created roughly 6,000 years ago. That would put creation sometime around the point the Bronze Age evolved into the Iron Age.
* Bush supporters universally trumpet their belief that the United States is the greatest nation that ever existed and that it’s system of government is the best ever devised. Yet a great many, probably most, reject basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are particularly galling to them. They believe it is evil to criticize the government or the administration (so long as right-wingers are in charge). They believe their particular brand(s) of Christianity should control the government, the schools, the courts – a belief which is shared by key members of the administration, who have said so in their writings. They believe that they, that is their leaders, should be allowed to censor books, television, movies, art. They believe that the Bush regime’s moves to spy on citizens, and to imprison people without charge for as long as they choose are legitimate. And that this will remain a free country.
One can go on to make a very long list, of course. And some items will be even more demonstrative of irrational thinking. But it is enough.
We are stuck with such thinking, or lack of thinking, for now. We are puzzled and afraid and don’t know how to bring rationality into the discussion, or how to make facts and rational thought relevant to people who long ago gave up thinking – or, more truthfully, never learned to think – in favor of the peace and assurance of following blindly.
I think a start may lie in asking, relentlessly, over and over and over: What evidence do you have?
And, no, the fact that George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld, Bob Jones III or Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or the pope, for that matter, said it does not constitute evidence.
And, of course, we must be ready to provide great quantities of evidence of the truth over and over and over.
It certainly will be a slow process, but perhaps there is some hope that the truth, relentlessly thrown back into the daily barrage of lies, will get through to enough people to save this country.