All posts by meanderer007

Did you know Tump won 3 or 4 Noble Peace Prizes?

 

For quite some time, significant portions of modern society have demonstrated an impressive devotion to ignorance. They wear their ignorance on their sleeve, suggesting they are proud of it. As a result it is hardly surprising that ignorance seems so often to be on the march.

Just yesterday I posted about Baldwin’s profound  idea that “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” Then later the same day I listened to a stellar example. A television interviewer on one of the Comedy News shows interviewed a Trump supporter. The interviewer wondered why the supporter continued to support Trump after he was soundly defeated in the 2020 election and his claims of voter fraud had been repeatedly rejected  by the courts. The woman gave an amazing answer. She said, “I support Trump because he won 3 or 4 Noble Peace prizes.” Then when the interviewer mockingly said, “You are very knowledgeable,” to which the woman responded “Thank you.” She had no idea she was being mocked.

Such stunning ignorance dos not happen by accident. It is the product of decades of disdain for knowledge, education, and reasoning. That’s what we get for glorifying ignorance.

I know that there are plenty of ignorant supporters of the left and the right. Ignorance is not unique to Trump supporters. There is plenty of ignorance to go around. But we must always remember, such ignorance is dangerous.

 

Ignorance Allied with power is a ferocious enemy of justice

If a person gives up on evidence, he or she gives up on truth. If, for example, faith is the foundation of belief one can only convince another of the truth of that belief if that other person shares the same faith. A Muslim cannot convince a Christian of a statement of faith. Similarly a Christian cannot convince the Muslim of a statement of faith either. A Muslim could persuade a Christian that the book in her bag is red by opening the bag and showing it to the Christian. In other words by showing the evidence to the Christian, the Christian can be convinced that the book is in fact red. If we give up basing beliefs on evidence we will relegate a lot of claims to realm of faith where agreement will not be possible.

The same goes for hunches. For example, when Trump said he had a hunch that the coronavirus would soon disappear that would not convince anyone, other than a person who had faith in Trump. Many of them had that faith so he could persuade them. They would believe him no matter how likely it was that he was right. That is why evidence is better than faith, or hunches, or feelings, or gut reactions. Faith is all right in our personal lives. In social lives where we live and interact with each other we need evidence.

Without evidence then the world of shared facts shrinks dramatically. The only shared facts then are those between members of the same faith, or between people who have the same feeling, or the same hunch. As result of the world of shared facts having shrunk many more people are ignorant than otherwise should be the case. That is an unfortunate consequence of abandoning evidence. And there is another consequence of that.

When people in power are ignorant, the rest of us had better look out. As James Baldwin said, in his 1972 book No Name in the Street: “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

 In the summer of 2020 we saw a good example of this when Black Lives Matter and their supporters took to the streets to protest police brutality against black lives and the long history of black oppression.

 

As Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, recently pointed out: Not in generations has a sitting president so overtly declared himself the candidate of white America.”

Trump allied himself with right wing groups who wanted to maintain confederate flags and monuments so that racial bigotry and hatred could be legitimized. By doing so Trump tried to hide the roots of racism. In other words he allied himself with ignorance, as he has so often done. As a result the streets of America were made much more dangerous that summer than they ought to have been. He did that after all to emphasize to his base of white supremacists and their conscious and unconscious supporters that he was on their side. It is hardly surprising that he would do this in the midst of a tight election campaign. As Henry Giroux said, “After all, his white supremacist ideology is the cornerstone of his appeal to the reactionary and bigoted elements of his base.”

For exactly the same reason Trump got angry with NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag. It was what Giroux called “organized forgetting”. And when that is aligned with the most powerful office in the world, the American Presidency, that is, as Baldwin said, the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

Trump also proudly tweeted that critical race theory should be banned from all federal agencies because “this is a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue . Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish! ” People should be ignorant instead. That was more congenial with Trump’s ideology–white supremacy.

He also tweeted “How to be anti-white 101 permanently cancelled.” Really what he wanted to do is erase history. He wanted to show just the good parts. The parts that exalted whiteness. I am not saying whites are all bad. I am just saying they were not all good, and to suggest otherwise is a lie and an attempt to bury the truth. It is an attempt to entrench ignorance.

Giroux described it this way:

“Trump’s ignorance floods the Twitter landscape daily. He denies climate change along with the dangers that it poses to humanity, discredits scientific evidence in the face of a massive pandemic, claims that systemic racism doesn’t exist in the United States and mangles history with his ignorance of the past.”

Implicit in Baldwin’s warning is that the greatest threat to democratic societies is a collective ignorance that legitimizes forms of organized forgetting, social amnesia and the death of civic literacy.

Under the Trump regime, historical amnesia is used as a weapon of miseducation, politics and power. Trump wants to erase the struggles of those who fought for justice in the past because they offer dangerous memories and lessons to the protesters marching in the streets today.

Efforts to erase the progress of the past, including emancipation, is a centrepiece of authoritarian societies. These efforts cause public memory to wither and the threads of authoritarianism to take root and become normalized. They’re often accompanied by a broader attack on critical education, civic literacy, investigative journalists and the critical media.

When people stop looking at the evidence, they stop looking for the truth and they allow ignorance to rule. And that helps injustice to flourish. And that is an ugly thing.

Conspiracy Theories about Coronavirus

The habit of believing things without evidence is uniquely dangerous. I think it is one of our most dangerous habits. Because such habits are so dangerous such beliefs are unethical. Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than during a pandemic.

Incidents that generate a lot of anxiety are uniquely susceptible to the virus of Conspiracy theories. The international coronavirus pandemic that started in Wuhan China at the end of 2019 was a spectacular example of that. During the pandemic coronavirus conspiracy theories were generated as explosively as microbes in a Petri dish. The comedian John Oliver put it well: “Coronavirus has created the perfect storm for conspiracy theorists.”

To begin with, early on many conservative pundits, including TV personalities, actual doctors, Talk Show hosts, politicians, and others claimed that the seriousness of the pandemic was grossly exaggerated. The Internet film Plandemic was viewed 8 million times. According to John Oliver, this film was “a pseudo-documentary with a hodge-podge of conspiracy theories.” It seems likely that this show is what spurred R.M. of La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss to make his remarkably unfounded statements about Covid-19.

In that film Judy Mikovits claimed to be a whistle-blower. She was a former scientist at the National Cancer Institute who was now an investigative journalist looking at Covid-19. In the film there was a swat team surrounding her house, so her claims must be real. So people thought.  Actually the swat team surrounding the house had nothing at all to do with her claims. There was no connection at all to Judy Mikovits. This was a blatant attempt to make her look like a serious whistle-blower, but she was really just a serious blow-hard. She was one of the people who claimed that wearing a Covid-19 mask actuated your own Covid-19 virus. She also claimed that closing beaches as some American States were doing was “insane,” because that kept people away from the healing viruses on the beach. The only thing insane, according to Oliver was Judy Mikovits.

Examples of conspiracy theories spreading without an inkling of truth to them, include the claim that masks that people around the world were urged to wear were themselves dangerous and could amplify the virus rather than protect against it, because you could become sick from the virus already inside your own body. Another theory was that Bill Gates was responsible for starting the virus or at least was responsible for keeping it going because he wanted to gain control of the vaccines when they were developed so that he could capture the market and also implant a chip inside them so that he would gain control of the world. Another example, is the claim that the new 5G Internet network is to blame for the CV-19 pandemic. The only thing astonishing about these theories is the number of people that subscribe to them without evidence. Another theory, promulgated by conservative pundits of various stripes, was that the virus was being over-touted by Democrats in order to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election

According to the Kennedy School in Harvard “over half of Americans endorse at least one conspiracy theory.” The School also pointed out that given the transmissibility of the disease conspiracy theories are dangerous even if only a fraction of Americans succumb to them and as result ignore best practices such as social distancing. Some on-line conspiracy theories have already had some worrying real world consequences. Minimizing the harmfulness of Covid-19, for example, led to people not taking the virus seriously and hence failing to protect themselves, leading to the people getting harmed or passing on the virus to others.

Conspiracy theories are dangerous but those involving an international pandemic are particularly dangerous. As Julian Kestler-D’Amours reported,

“Researchers say conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are spreading at an alarming rate across the country — and they warn misinformation shared online may lead to devastating consequences and push Canadians to shun important safety measures.”

“I think that people should be enormously concerned,” said Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate in political science at McGill University and coauthor of a study published last month on COVID-19 misinformation and its impact on public health.

The study found the more a person relies on social media to learn about COVID-19, the more likely they are to be exposed to misinformation and to believe it, and to disregard physical distancing and other public health guidelines.

About 16 per cent of Canadians use social media as their primary source of information on the virus, Bridgman said in a recent interview.

There were other studies as well. Another study published in May at Carleton University indicated 46 per cent of Canadians believed at least one of four unfounded COVID-19 theories: the virus was engineered in a Chinese lab; the virus is being spread to cover up the effects of 5G wireless technology; drugs such as hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19 patients; or rinsing your nose with a saline solution can protect you from infection. In other words nearly half of Canadians believe such nonsense.

The fact that the scientific process and issues about Covid-19 are poorly understood, the financial pressures many people face, and given the frustration that has been growing amid restrictions people’s freedoms has amplified the problem with the disinformation circulating. All conspiracies are dangerous, those conspiracy theories circulating during a pandemic are peculiarly destructive.

During such times people really need the best available evidence to make reasonable judgments that affect the safety of themselves or their loved ones. It is not a good time for beliefs based on insufficient evidence.

When reason sleeps madness rules

 

If you want to know more about what happens when people get in the habit of believing whatever they want to believe entirely without evidence, look no farther than the United States. Look right now.

The United States is in the midst of a pandemic. Recently the United States daily death rate has gone over 3,000 people. Every day more people die from Covid-19 than died in the 9/11 crash into the Twin Towers of New York. Yet what are Americans doing about it? They are going crazy!

The United States is now filled with Covid-deniers joining their climate change deniers. People are attacking each other over the issue of masks. Many people ignore the evidence that masks help keep people safe. One of the consequences of this is ugliness and violence.

As the Associated Press reported,

“Arguments over mask requirements and other restrictions have turned ugly in recent days as the deadly coronavirus surge across the U.S. engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed safely removed from the outbreak.

In Boise, Idaho, public health officials about to vote on a four-county mask mandate abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday evening because of fears for their safety amid anti-mask protests outside the building and at some of their homes. One health board member tearfully announced she had to rush home to be with her child because of the protesters, who were seen on video banging on buckets, blaring air horns and sirens, and blasting a sound clip of gunfire from the violence drenched movie Scarface outside her front door.

“I am sad. I am tired. I fear that, in my choosing to hold public office, my family has too often paid the price,” said the board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo. “I increasingly don’t recognize this place. There is an ugliness and cruelty in our national rhetoric that is reaching a fevered pitch here at home, and that should worry us all.”

 

South Dakota has recently rocketed to the top of the United States in Covid-19 caused deaths, but that has not brought the health officials any respite from the local crazies. Instead, things have got worse. In Rapid City the mayor and City Council Members were harassed and threatened over a proposed citywide mask requirements even though the proposal failed to gain support. It seems that as the city and really the country see a surge in American deaths and new Covid-19 cases the people are turning away from evidence and reason in favour of noise and mayhem. Meanwhile the Governor, Kristy Noem has been loud in her opposition to mask requirements. Amazingly, people who showed up at a City Hall meeting  vigorously endorsed the do-nothing approach even as doctors warned them that the only hospital in the western part of the state is in a crisis state for lack of space. Patients were being flown out of the South Dakota, but the public does not want to wear masks. Ignoring science, the people said the dangers of the virus are overblown and mask requirements violate their liberties.

In Boise people also threatened politicians leading to 3 arrests outside the homes where they were protesting. In Gallatin County in Montana protesters gathered for 2 consecutive weeks outside the Bozeman home of county health officer Matt Kelly to voice their vociferous objections to his regulations requiring state-wide mask wearing.

Reason doesn’t rule in much of the United States; madness rules.

The Sleep of reason produces monsters

 

As I said previously, we are not entitled to believe whatever we want. We have the legal right to do so, but it is a right we ought not to exercise. When we believe a statement without evidence that justifies the belief, just because we want to believe it, we are training the mind to do that again. Then the mind is ready to believe another untrue claim. We learn the habit of credulity and perhaps encourage others to do the same.

This can lead to dangerous situations. In modern society this has become a pandemic that is perhaps even more dangerous than the Covid-19 pandemic.

A good example of this was the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Remember that one? By now everyone has heard of Qanon. I have called it the mother of all conspiracy theories.  It led to Pizzagate. This is what decades–no centuries of American unreason have led to. It is the product of credulity.

This conspiracy theory arose out of the 2016 American presidential election. It referred to a harmless family pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. called Comet Ping Pong that was also frequented by a number of Democrat political leaders. Many parents showed up with their children to eat pizza. Nothing strange about that.

However there was some strange fake news about it. There was a wildly irrational conspiracy theory about what was happening at that restaurant. According to the conspiracy theorists things were not that innocent. “Pizza” was actually a code word, they said, for young girls and boys who were trafficked for sex. Some were killed for their organs. It was said the liberals abused the children in the basement of the restaurant. Supposedly there was a cabal of Hollywood celebrities including Tom Hanks and political leaders like Hillary Clinton and other members of the liberal elite that molested young children at this restaurant. But there were no missing children. And no basement. and no evidence. None of this was needed to spread on the internet.

Some rabid right wing pundits like Alex Jones, whose status was enhanced by Donald Trump’s lavish praise after his election, amplified the wild theory. It all arose out of the hacked emails at the Democratic Party headquarters. People looked at emails from Hillary’s advisor John Podesta that kept referring to “cheese pizza” which obviously meant child pornography. After all they could not have been talking about pizza.

After frequent urgings, one of Jones’ Internet followers, a young married man with young children took him up on the challenge and showed up at Comet Ping Pong Pizza armed with a knife and an AR-15 style assault rifle prepared to die in the cause of rescuing those poor children he believed, entirely without any evidence, were in the grip of pedophiles in the basement of the restaurant. Imagine his surprise when he showed up and found there was no basement, just a ping pong room filled with kids and their parents playing ping pong and eating pizza! But it really was not that funny because on the way there he phoned his home and told his wife that he might be dying in the cause for he was fully prepared to sacrifice his life to defend these children he did not even know. He actually fired his gun in the restaurant but thankfully he was a woeful shot and no one was hurt. But someone might have died. Firing an assault rifle in a restaurant filled with happy patrons is a dangerous thing to do.

That is the point. It is one thing to believe whacky theories without evidence, but such beliefs can lead to serious consequences. People could get hurt. Believing crazy stuff without evidence is a dangerous thing. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor believed the pizza-gate theory. He re-tweeted stories about the pedophile ring. Remember he was, for a short time, the man who was advising the president of the United States on matters of national security! And he believed stuff like this entirely without evidence, just because he heard about it on the Internet. That is what the world has come to as a result of credulity. Credulity is not innocent; it is dangerous.

Often fake news originates from people who benefit from such stories. Like Trump, or more likely his faithful supporters. Amy Davidson, a New Yorker writer described the situation this way:

“Which is more alarming: the idea that Pizzagate is being promoted by politically motivated cynics who don’t actually believe it, or that people with influence and proximity to power, including people with access to the president , are really susceptible to this sort of nonsense? Both can be the case; fabricators and wide-eyed believers can be side by side, in Twitter feeds or Trump Tower, or, soon, in the White House. Many things are likely to go wrong for Trump and to disappoint his supporters. The fear is that he and they will try to explain his failings by pushing conspiracy theories of all kinds. The spirit of Pizzagate could become as commonplace, in this country, as the smell of pizza. And how does one even measure power and influence in the context of social media, or, for that matter, in a country with few effective gun-control laws and a President-elect who got crowds cheering with talk of armed citizens taking down terrorists in crowded cafés? How much power belongs to a man in his twenties walking into a pizza place with an assault rifle, looking for secret chambers and hidden messages?”

Fake news and conspiracy theories without evidence are never benign. They can easily bring dangerous consequences with them. They are not amusing. They are toxic. Pizzagate led to a man walking into a restaurant prepared to die to protect non-existent victims of sexual abuse and all of this was the direct consequence of fake news. In other words news believed without evidence.

The Spanish painter Francesco Goya was right: “the sleep of reason produces monsters.”

Coronaviruses of the Mind

 

I have been trying to explain why we are not entitled to just believe anything at all because we want to. If we do that we encourage ourselves and others to be credulous. People should only believe what the evidence supports.

Part of the problem is that people pass on their superstitions and their prejudices and irrational beliefs to their children. Added to that, ordinary people in ordinary situations can infect others with their irrational beliefs. Irrational beliefs are never innocent. Such beliefs often have seriously harmful consequences.

Philosopher Arthur Schafer “sees irrationality as a kind of infection.” If we didn’t before, we now know how dangerous infections can be. The same holds for infectious beliefs. For example, Lewis Weiss the Reeve of the R.M. of La Broquerie said if he did not feel sick he could not pass on Covid-19 to anyone else. The science says he is wrong. He should listen to the science or he might infect others who in turn can infect even more people. That is how a virus works. Weiss’ belief, just like the coronavirus, was not innocent. In fact it was dangerous.

When the evidence is not clear, people should suspend belief. But people love to take a leap of faith. This is exactly why irrational beliefs are so dangerous. They can spread like a virus leading to others believing what you believe, even though there is no evidence to support that belief, but even worse, can lead others to believe other irrational beliefs because they have been conditioned to do that by the culture of belief. I think that is what happened recently in the United States. Trump believed (or at least claimed he believed) that the recent election was laced with voter fraud and had been stolen from him. He had no evidence for that, as was shown repeatedly in various courts. Yet many people came to believe that. As a result these people won’t believe in the legitimacy of Biden’s election. That could have very dangerous consequences in a country as polarized as the U.S.

Because of our long-standing habit as people in both Canada and the U.S. and many other countries, “Credulity is a rampant disease in modern societies,” according to Arthur Schafer. Not only that, but it is one of the most dangerous diseases our world has ever faced.

Particularly where an issue is complex, such as Covid-19, or a complex election, it is very easy to confuse people. We are not a skeptical rational society, even though our very capacity to survive, not just flourish, is dependent upon our diligently, conscientiously, and thoughtfully looking at evidence to support our beliefs.

As a result Schafer concluded said those who feel a liberal tolerance to those who espouse superstitious or irrational beliefs (beliefs that are not supported by evidence) have got it wrong. “It is not permissible to believe whatever makes you feel good,” says Schafer. It is ethically wrong. And we ought to be willing to say so. According to Schafer those who take the attitude that it is permissible to believe whatever makes one feel good is sort of like stealing. “Such beliefs are equivalent to stealing from your fellow citizens by making yourself credulous.” says Schafer. That weakens society and we all suffer as a result.

We have to remember that giving up reason and evidence, as the only valid basis for beliefs, is not just unwise it is dangerous. If we base beliefs on sacred texts, authority, or wishful thinking we can come to believe absurdities. Voltaire got it right when he said, “Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Perhaps a better current example, might be, those who can make you believe an absurdity can make you believe that the coronavirus is not dangerous.

We have to remember that irrational beliefs can have very serious consequences. We should not do anything to encourage them. We ought to do everything we can to stamp them out. We should be cultivating a spirit of questioning, of careful scrutiny of evidence, of diligent searching for the best and most reliable evidence, and of conscientious analysis of arguments based on evidence. We should listen to experts, but do so critically, not with blind acceptance. We should do everything we can to foster critical thinking for it is in such horribly short supply and our lives depend on it. If we could not see that before we can certainly see that in the midst of an international pandemic. That’s why it is unethical to believe without evidence. The rational life is the ethical life. The superstitious life is based on moral flaws. We should choose the ethical life.

The Ethics of Belief

 

In the United States Covid-19 has become the leading cause of death in adults. In other words, it causes more deaths than heart disease. What is really disappointing about that is that we could have done much better, had we paid more attention to science instead of theories without a sound evidentiary basis. Why do we do that?

We should know by now that when times get tough our best instrument at our disposal is usually critical thinking. At such times we need to weigh the evidence and data carefully, apply our best reasoning powers, set aside our prejudices and biases, and reach the best conclusion we can in the circumstances. We must ignore faith, feelings, instincts, guesses, hunches, and most important wishes. We live in a society where this is not commonly done. People usually prefer the opposite approach. This is particularly true in the United States, but it is true everywhere.

A while ago I learned from a University of Manitoba philosophy professor, Arthur Schafer, about the dangers of this approach. He said there is such a thing as the ethics of belief. Schafer in turn based his theory on what he had learned from a 19th century English philosopher by the name of William Kingdon Clifford. I had never heard of  him before.

Clifford argued, that to believe anything because it comforts you, or makes you feel good, or sustains you in life, or makes life a little less intolerable, is not just epistemically wrong, not just intellectually wrong, but actually one of the worst crimes that you can commit. It is a travesty and has some horrible consequences. We will get to those. According to Clifford this is a morally wrong. As Schafer agreed saying,

“ when we believe things because they make us feel good, rather than because we have good evidence for them, Clifford argues that we make ourselves credulous people.”

 

That is wicked according to Clifford and Schafer. If we are credulous people we can easily believe stories—like the story that Covid-19 was deliberately produced by Bill Gates in order to gain control of our minds and make profit by selling a vaccine entirely without evidence. Or we can believe that the end of the pandemic is “around the corner,” even though there is no evidence to support that belief. Or we can believe that the recent American election was stolen by evil Democrats despite the fact that there is no credible evidence to support the claim. If we are credulous we can believe anything because it makes us feel good. And that is a very dangerous thing.

 

According to Schafer “our society which many of us think of as secular, is actually “impregnated with a lot of irrational superstitions.” Now Schafer puts all kinds of things into the category of irrational superstitions such as religious beliefs. All of them. Now I know many of my readers will not accept that. I don’t want to tackle those beliefs now. Save that for another day. But I do want to tackle the beliefs people have had about Covid-19 entirely without evidence to back them up.

We have tolerated those beliefs. Often we have smiled at them or even mocked them. We have had such an easy target in the White House. We have had another easy target here in Steinbach with the crazy beliefs held by the nearby Reeve of the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie. Or the nearby Church of God Restoration. These are not beliefs we should tolerate. I have criticized them, but my criticism have been much too timid.

This is the attitude of tolerance. This is a liberal good—a very high good at that. Usually. But it is not acceptable in times of a serious health pandemic. Usually, we tolerate the fact that others have irrational beliefs. We tolerate that they believe any kind of superstition no matter how nonsensical as long as they don’t try to impose it on us. This is not the time for tolerance. According to Schafer “there are no innocent beliefs.” That is because all beliefs have consequences.

Many liberals hold that I have the right to believe whatever I want, so long as I don’t harm anyone else. Schafer says that by believing irrational things we are exposing ourselves to serious potential harms. As long as we would harm only ourselves that might be acceptable. But by our actions we are also  exposing many others to serious harms  through our credulity. That we are not entitled to do. That is morally wrong.

According to Schafer,

“we should not believe anything except those propositions for which we have good evidence and that the confidence we place in our beliefs should be proportional to the amount of evidence that supports them.”

He says we have a moral duty to engage in the hard work of looking at science, or our own good work, in order to consult the best available evidence conscientiously and honestly before we commit to believing. We have to be open-minded. That means that we have to be willing to accept evidence that contradicts our cherished beliefs or those propositions we would really like to be true and we must be willing to discard or modify them if the evidence entails such actions. Only on that basis are we entitled to believe something. Only on that basis can a belief be ethical.

Schafer says that if we believe a statement without evidence because we want to believe that, we are conditioning the mind to do that again. It will then tend to believe another statement without evidence just because we want to believe it is true. This is really a kind of slippery slope argument. Credulity leads to ever more credulity. It is not possible to sequester such beliefs in order to avoid contamination. Contamination will follow inevitably from our acceptance of beliefs without evidence in one case. Our mind is so trained to think that this is acceptable.

Professor Schafer gave an interesting example from his experience as an ethics consultant with hospitals. If you accept beliefs, such as religious beliefs, without evidence, you are more likely to believe that you should let their children die rather than giving them a needed blood transfusion. I don’t know if it’s true, but I was told the members of the Church of God Restoration don’t believe in modern medicine, trusting instead, without evidence, that God will take care of them. One irrational belief leads to another and that other may be seriously harmful.

This is what has happened with regard to Covid-19. The minds of too many people had been trained to accept irrational beliefs and hence misinformation has spread through our countries and disarmed people from looking instead at the actual evidence and taking reasonable precautions based on the best evidence.

Is it time to give up on America?

 

I love the United States of America. I have gone there many times. I have met many Americans that I like and respect. So it is very hard for me to say this. Is it time to give up on America?

What has shaken me is the realization that after 4 years of seeing Trump in the media every single day, no one in America can say they did not know him. No one can say Trump fooled them. Not after 4 years of hearing and seeing him on the television every single  day. He is probably the most famous person in the history of the world!

 

In 2020, no one can say that they voted for Trump because they could not abide voting for that corrupt Hillary Clinton. This time a majority of Americans chose Biden over Trump, but just by a relative sliver. In fact, I strongly suspect that had it not been for the coronavirus more people would have voted for Trump than Biden. In fact more white people  voted for Trump than Biden. That is also something very difficult for me to comprehend. More on that later.

Today I just want to talk about corruption. I do this listening to the news and hearing that multiple people have been asking Trump for pardons. Most of these are his cronies! I have never heard of that before. I have always thought the American system of granting pardons was itself open to corruption, but Trump seems to be taking it to an entirely new level. We will have to see before we judge.

But consider what he has already done. He has pardoned his former Cabinet Minister Michael Flynn even though he pled guilty. And remember Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI to protect Donald Trump!

But, even worse, was the case of Trump’s old crony Roger Stone who kept his mouth shut and did not rat out Donald Trump. In July of 2020 Trump  commuted the sentence of Mr. Roger Stone who had  been convicted of obstructing a federal investigation into Donald Trump! At the time Stone was convicted Trump praised him for not talking, comparing him favourably to his former lawyer Michael Cohen,  hinting that Stone would eventually get some help.  At the time Trump sounded just like a Mafia Don.

And Trump eventually helped his close friend. Stone was not pardoned, but his sentence was commuted. That meant Stone was released from jail or prison, for no reason other than the fact that Donald Trump was grateful. This caused Republican Senator Mitt Romney to say, the commutation was an act of “unprecedented, historic corruption.”

Now there appears to be a caravan of people looking for pardons. I have never heard of a president pardoning friends, relatives, or associates. Is this not absolutely corrupt?

The real point of course is not that Trump is corrupt. That surprises no. The real point is that more than 73 million people voted for Trump over Biden after he did that. Millions of Americans don’t care how corrupt their President is. I find that shocking. I guess I am just a Pollyanna.

God Save America

 

Some people think I have been ranting about Trump. I have been ranting about America. I know many Americans and like most of them. But I just cannot understand how Trump can have such widespread support.

In 2016 many people said he won because Hillary Clinton was even worse. First of all that claim mystifies me. I think comparing Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump is like comparing a trickle to a tsunami. I see nothing resembling equivalence there. The far right has hated her since the first time her husband Bill Clinton ran for governor of Arkansas. I know many people hate her, but I really don’t know why. If any of my readers do please let me know.

But more importantly, in 2020 the Americans had a pretty decent alternative. Biden may not have been very exciting, but it’s hard to argue that he was not a decent man. Who can say that about Trump? Yet in 2020 more than 73 million Americans picked Trump over Biden. Thankfully 4 or 5 million more voted for Biden, but that is still a lot of support for Trump.

According to the editorial board of the New York Times,

“Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure already has gravely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He has abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the norms that have bound the nation together for generations. He has subsumed the public interest to the profitability of his business and political interests. He has shown a breathtaking disregard for the lives and liberties of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he holds.”

 

 

The Times makes mistakes. Every media does. It is far from perfect, but it is not,  as Trump alleges Fake News. It is a serious newspaper with serious journalists and is internationally respected as among the best of the United States media. And yet they came out so strongly in favour of Biden over Trump it is as if the two candidates were in different universes.

The Times did not stop there in their critique. Here is how they continued:

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.”

 

How could so many Americans pick this man as their leader, rather than Joe Biden?

In my opinion, most egregious of all was Trump lying to the American people about the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic leading many Americans, and even others around the globe in doubt about whether or not they should bother taking measures to protect themselves and their loved ones. As the New York Times editorial board said,

“Mr. Trump’s inadequacies as a leader have been on particularly painful display during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of working to save lives, Mr. Trump has treated the pandemic as a public relations problem. He lied about the danger, challenged the expertise of public health officials and resisted the implementation of necessary precautions; he is still trying to force the resumption of economic activity without bringing the virus under control.

As the economy pancaked, he signed an initial round of aid for Americans who lost their jobs. Then the stock market rebounded and, even though millions remained out of work, Mr. Trump lost interest in their plight.

In September, he declared that the virus “affects virtually nobody” the day before the death toll from the disease in the United States topped 200,000.

Nine days later, Mr. Trump fell ill.”

 

How could so many Americans pick this man to represent them rather than Joe Biden? Here is what the New York Times editorial board said,

“The foundations of American civil society were crumbling before Mr. Trump rode down the escalator of Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his presidential campaign. But he has intensified the worst tendencies in American politics: Under his leadership, the nation has grown more polarized, more paranoid and meaner.

He has pitted Americans against each other, mastering new broadcast media like Twitter and Facebook to rally his supporters around a virtual bonfire of grievances and to flood the public square with lies, disinformation and propaganda. He is relentless in his denigration of opponents and reluctant to condemn violence by those he regards as allies. At the first presidential debate in September, Mr. Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists. He responded by instructing one violent gang, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.”

 

And this is the man millions chose to lead them rather than a much simpler, ordinary, and decent man—Joe Biden. Does this not tell us a lot about America?

Of course , Trump did much more than that. He polluted the American democracy. He spread vicious conspiracy theories. He mocked handicapped people. He treated soldiers like suckers and losers. He bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Yes this is the man who millions of American voted for. He did not get a majority of the votes, thank goodness. But a lot of Americans preferred him to the much more plain and modest Joe Biden.

God save America. I don’t know who else can.

 

Religious Freedom on trial again

Another church hit the news in Manitoba. This time it was the Springs Church. Though from Winnipeg, Steinbach has a lot of connections with the Springs Church. Many Steinbachers attend it and are members in it.

The church  felt it was unfairly treated by Manitoba Health orders requiring all church gatherings to be virtual. In my opinion, they actually had a stronger argument than the Church of God Restoration in Steinbach. All they wanted was permission to conduct church services in the church parking lot through a broadcast  and loudspeaker with promises that they would not allow participants to use the washroom facilities and would not permit socializing. So if anyone had to go they would have to go.

They even had some scientific evidence that the chance of the virus spreading if people remained in vehicles with windows up there was very low. The province though feared members would socialize and then the damage would be done and it could not be undone.

It was unusual, but the court agreed to hear arguments from lawyers for both sides on a Saturday so that a decision could be made before Sunday services.

The church argued the most recent Manitoba public health order, which required religious services to be only available online or via broadcasts, violates their members’ freedoms of religion and association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The order also bans public gatherings of more than five people, whether religious or not.

Springs Church asked on behalf of its members for a temporary stay of enforcement of the order so that drive-in services could continue until a full hearing on the charter issue could be held. Their lawyer argued the drive-in services do not pose a threat to public health, since attendees are told to remain in the vehicles while a pastor speaks from the stage. I must admit this argument makes some sense.

The province’s lawyers argued the restrictions on in-person gatherings whether religious or not are required to slow the spread of COVID-19. Until recently, Manitoba had for a while the highest per-capita rates of new infections among provinces. And Steinbach was at the top of the list in Manitoba.

It should be remembered that this was a preliminary motion. That means it was a temporary order allowing parties to present more time and arguments later if they wished Sometimes courts like to act quickly. More often they like to meander towards the truth. Being a recovering lawyer, maybe that is where I get my meandering tendencies.

The Springs Church requested a stay of legislation. As a result the church had a high onus of proof. It is not enough to prove that they are right in their argument. They also have to prove they would suffer irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction against the government was not granted. That is hard to prove. And according to the Court of Queen’s Bench Judge they failed to prove it. I agree with that decision.

Justice Joyal decided that the Springs church failed to show sufficient evidence that being able to sit in a car while listening to a church is required to practice their religion while they could sit at home and participate remotely form there. Isn’t one as really good as the other? Are their religious freedoms really being significantly violated?

It must be remembered that because this is a preliminary motion, once the trial is held, if it is held, the church could still win the case.

It was also interesting that on Saturday Manitoba had the highest number of deaths in one day—19 in the history of this pandemic. I really think Manitoba health officials should not be wasting their time arguing with churches in court. Their energies could be better spent fighting the pandemic. I really think Christian churches should think more about others and demonstrate that they take seriously the words of their God to love others as they love themselves. I think so far members of this church have only demonstrated that they love themselves.