Diagnosis: American Myopia

We Need to Spend More Time Thinking and Less Time Reacting

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

By Reed Galen

Welcome to the American Singularity.

We stare at our phones constantly. When we do happen to tear ourselves away from that mesmerizing soft, blue glow, the world around is blurry. There was a time not so long ago, when our vision was approaching 20/20 but now we’ve developed a national astigmatism. Everything we see, read, hear and watch must pass through thick, callused lenses. Worse, our shared near-sightedness is intentional. By refusing to blink away the sleep in our eyes or find corrective lenses, we insulate ourselves from thoughts, words and ideas that we don’t like, don’t agree with or don’t fit into our narrow, shaded worldview.

During this year’s election, too many people, myself included, were unwilling or unable to see that voters wanted something radically different. Looking back at many of the columns I wrote about Donald Trump’s rise, during the primaries and throughout the General Election, I often noted how angry the electorate seemed and how unhappy many Americans seemed to be with the current state of affairs. My unwillingness to take a step back and take a look at the puzzle pieces laid out before me made it impossible to accept that Donald Trump, despite his overwhelmingly negative campaign, had a realistic shot at winning the election.

Myopia: noun. Nearsightedness. Lack of imagination, foresight or intellectual insight.

Certainly that was not a unique position, as many in the media, in politics and around the country found Trump’s victory an unimaginable outcome. Since the election, though, too many Americans are still unable or unwilling to accept that a) he did win the election, for better or worse and b) that many of the reasons why he was able to win are legitimate in the eyes of those who cast their ballot for the president-elect. Just because we disagree with Trump, does not mean that a disaffected voter in Michigan or North Carolina doesn’t have valid anger with the state of the country, the economy or the world at large.

However, those who didn’t vote for Donald Trump have as many legitimate concerns over both how he campaigned, how he is conducting himself during the transition and how he will govern. Having achieved electoral success does not excuse nor validate many of the more offensive and worrisome things Trump said during the election. Seeing his willingness to shoot from the hip and govern by tweet is not suddenly okay because he’s about to enter the White House. That the president-elect’s supporters seem both unwilling and unable to display graciousness speaks no better of them than it does of those who’ve taken to the streets to chant, “Not my president.”

On a daily basis, our lack of vision grows worse. Living in a post-truth world, fake-news world, those things taken as “serious” or “truthful” depend too much on pre-conceived notions, long-held biases or knee-jerk reactions to the source of the information. Just this week we saw fiction jump the air gap to reality when a man, convinced by widespread false reports that a Washington, DC restaurant was harboring children in a sex-trafficking ring, drove six hours from his home and entered the establishment with an AR-15 rifle.

Those that pushed the rumor around cyberspace were no merry pranksters. They went out of their way to target Comet Ping Pong, tie it to Hillary Clinton and, when its veracity was challenged by mainstream media outlets, a YouTube video appeared debunking the the debunking as the work of left-leaning reporters trying to protect the Democratic nominee. No second look at the information. No curiosity as to why something so horrible might be allowed to continue. No call to local law enforcement. This gentleman saw the news tied to Clinton and took it upon himself to act. Unfortunately, his will not likely be an isolated incident.

Given that we have 24/7/365 access to just about every piece of information the human race has ever created, we must immediately begin a reappraisal of what we do with the torrent of data that floods our eyes and brains every day. We must learn to take a news item, put the phone down and consider it, honestly, before we react. We no longer utilize our cerebral cortex to analyze information.

Now, we rely on our primal instincts — our individual and collective limbic system and respond to things we don’t like with expressions of pure emotion, bereft of rational thought. Such outpouring of anger and frustration may be momentarily gratifying, but they place us further and further from the reasonable mean of behavior. When we rely only on emotion, we stop utilizing words and ideas to express ourselves. The next step in that evolution, or devolution, in our mutual communication, is alarming to say the least.

2016 has been a collective visit to the ideological ophthalmologist. The doctor can tell us what’s wrong with our vision, but they can’t force us to take a first or second look at the chart on the wall if we’re unwilling to believe what we’re seeing. Across the board, many of us have been, and continue to be blind to the realities of what America has become. Instead of doffing our sunglasses and taking a look at the light, bright, and sometimes scary, world around us, we’ve decided to stay hidden within our own darkened corners. This is neither healthy nor sustainable. I suggest we get countrywide Lasik surgery, stat.

Copyright 2016. Jedburghs, LLC.

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