Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III
“You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France.” Sarah Palin October 24, 2008
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Donald Trump November 6, 2012.
During the period between 1685 – 1815 Western thought, culture, science, philosophy, society and politics were forever changed. This period was known as The Enlightenment. From this period came the ideas of individual freedom, inalienable rights (those given to humans by God) and equality for all. It is reflected in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” During this period, the ideas of the divinity of monarchies and the traditional hierarchical political and social orders protected by the Church, were overthrown and replaced with the idea of governments being “…instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” Human reason carried the day. Books were published and a great scientific revolution took hold, leading the world into the Industrial Revolution.
That was then. Today, America’s political landscape makes one wonder how far has America strayed from the values it gleaned from the Enlightenment Period? With the selection of Donald Trump as President, one must seriously ask if America is at the Dawn of Darkness. Will historians note this as an era where ultra-conservatives deny the accepted science of global warming or climate change, purely for political benefit? How will this period of coordinated attacks on honest journalism be viewed through the lens of history? Will the creation of “alternative truths”, designed to weaponize false narratives that create smokescreens for ultra-conservatives to pass legislation undermining the fundamental elements of American Democracy, be viewed as the beginning of the end of Enlightenment in this country?
There are many examples that can be identified as important indicators of America’s drift away from its stated precepts. In 2008 Republicans and Fox News characterized President Obama as a Harvard elitist that couldn’t identify with regular people. This opened the door for the rise of Sarah Palin as a candidate and clear example of a race to the bottom or the tip of the spear of anti-intellectualism. In a 2008 interview, then CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked Republican VP nominee Palin what newspapers and magazines Palin read regularly. Palin’s response — “a vast variety of sources”. Then governor Palin’s inability to even name her hometown paper, the Wasilla Frontiersman was passed off by conservatives as acceptable for a potential Vice President of the United States. Conservatives accused Couric of “gotcha’ journalism”. Even worse, having been effected by Republicans labeling them “liberal media”, many in mainstream new outlets accepted this foolish premise; even questioning Couric’s credibility as a journalist.
Palin later tried to represent herself as a fiscal conservative by attacking, “Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France.” The problem here is her lack of knowledge about the 1933 Nobel Prize winning work of Thomas Hunt Morgan and how genes are passed on by way of chromosomes. His research has been essential to the study of autism. As a mother of a child with autism, Palin should have been better informed but was given a pass as intellectualism suddenly became devalued as a prerequisite for to hold the highest offices in the land.
Donald Trump (endorsed by Palin) continues to receive the same preferential treatment. During the campaign, conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump questions about foreign policy and Middle-East politics and “Quds Forces” (Trump confused Quds Forces with the Kurds). Trump blamed Hewitt for “gotcha’ journalism”. House Speaker Ryan has chosen to give President Trump a pass for his ignorance and inability to govern by saying, Trump is “new at this, new to government”.
Republicans have lied for seven years about the ACA. They now have a Republican president, House and Senate and cannot even pass acceptable legislation out of their party. According to the CBO, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s revised Senate bill would remove an estimated 49 million people off the insurance rolls by 2026. The CBO’s estimates a 280% increase in insurance premiums for elderly, low-income people over the next decade under the Senate Republicans’ version. Finally, according to CNBC, “About 45 percent of the benefits from the Republican health-care bill’s tax cuts will go to households making $875,000 or more…” The Republican’s plan is a tax cut disguised as health care reform.
Despite these realities, Republicans continue to lie. They are trying to sell this legislation to the American electorate because they are more concerned about “keeping a promise” to overturn “ObamaCare” (their pejorative) than providing substantive health insurance reform to the American people.
The First Amendment protects the media and free speech because the framers of the Constitution understood that a free press is the cornerstone of democracy. Trump attacks the media by calling reporters who expose his ignorance and lies “dishonest”. His spokesperson Kelly Ann Conway introduced the idea of “alternative facts” into our lexicon while her boss, Trump, introduced “fake news”. These baseless attacks on the media are dangerous. Attacking the media with baseless charges and continuing to articulate a narrative that allows people to dismiss realities that they find inconvenient, turns real journalism into public relations ala Edward Bernays and/or propaganda ala Joseph Goebbels. It’s a free and open media that makes democracy possible.
Trump’s ideological guru or “chief strategist” is Steve Bannon. According to Bannon’s comments at the Human Dignity Institutes 2014 Vatican conference as reported by Buzz Feed, “I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis… it is a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West in our beliefs.” He believes that hundreds of years from now, people will look back at this time as “almost a new Dark Age”.
Bannon’s new “Dark Age” is not due to a crisis in the Judeo-Christian West. Bannon’s new “Dark Age” is a result of his stated objective to “deconstruct” the “administrative state”. He is determined to allow capitalism to flourish by undermining democracy and eliminating the government’s ability to influence, control or protect the interests of the American people through its power to regulate business.
Trump and his henchmen are taking us backwards. They are substituting lies for truth by labeling those who challenge them as “the lying media”, “fake”, while calling his machinations “alternatively factual”. They are denigrating democracy by lying about “voter fraud” and implementing a fraudulent panel to investigate it. His panel has asked states to provide sensitive and detailed voter information as a pretext to validate his unsubstantiated claims. He is replacing national interests with corporate interests by proposing to cut much needed social programs by hundreds of billions of dollars while feeding the military industrial complex with a 10 percent increase in military spending.
Trump is cloaking White Nationalism with the Back the Blue Act of 2017 by calling it substantive crime policy. Trump and the Republicans are enhancing the racist and repressive forces of the police state. Per the Washington Post, they are creating new federal crimes, imposing federal police over the will of local officials and voters and shielding police officers from virtually any civil liability, even in cases of egregious misconduct.
Unlike the period from which The Enlightenment arose, the Dawn of Darkness won’t be known as a time where monarchs regained power. If Trump and the ultra-conservatives get their way, the “divine” of this age will be the rich, filling their coffers at the publics expense through neo-liberal policies with scant opportunity for movement between the socioeconomic classes.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: email@example.com. www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com