By Mark Azzara
In his brilliant novel 1984 British author George Orwell coined the word “doublethink,” which is the act of combining conflicting facts or outright lies into what is proclaimed as a coherent ideology.
Doublethink is, in effect, what The New York Times’ columnist David Brooks addressed last Friday on the PBS News Hour. When asked about the mistruths spoken by President Donald Trump before and after his election, Brooks said, “I wonder, what’s going to happen to our debate? After Trump leaves, whenever that is, do we snap back to what we consider the normal standards of honesty, or is this the new norm?”
But Brooks wasn’t through yet. It’s not just politicians who are to blame. It’s all of us. “[T]he thing we have to fear most is essentially a plague of intellectual laziness, a plague of incuriosity, a plague of apathy about honesty. And once the whole political system gets affected by that, then we’re really sunk.”
Many will say Brooks is just blowing smoke. They deny that we are threatened in any way, either by the behavior of Americans or current politicians. But Brooks reminds me of the biblical prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, who warned their fellow Jews to mend their ways or be taken into exile. The prophets were ignored and their prophecies were fulfilled.
Next week we will celebrate the birth of our nation – a nation created by people who knew how to think. Perhaps we also should use the brains that God gave us and recognize that we have a moral duty, regardless of our religious beliefs, to reject intellectual laziness and expend the energy to ask questions and demand honesty – not just from politicians but from one another, because politicians frequently are only doing what their constituents want.
I happen to believe that only God can inspire us to embrace the moral duty to demand that our politicians heed truth. I also believe that only God can get the rest of to do so. We claim to live in a “free” nation but Jesus warned us that “the truth will set you free.” We need truth right now. And we need more truth-tellers like Brooks, which is what we are supposed to be for one another.
If you and I don’t embrace the truth told by Brooks, if we refuse to ask God for the grace to confess our intellectual laziness and to do something about our “apathy about honesty,” then we may learn the hard lesson Brooks is warning about.
If we ignore Brooks we cannot complain if America becomes a more dictatorial and dysfunctional nation that is increasingly focused on the few rather than the many – in other words, nothing like the country whose glorious origins and history we will celebrate next week.
All God’s blessings – Mark
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