Conspiracy Theories

I am reading a book by Brene’ Brown, Rising Strong, and this morning, she addresses why people believe conspiracy stories. Quoting Johnathan Gottschall, she observes that conspiratorial thinking “is not limited to the stupid, the ignorant, or the crazy. It is a reflex of the storytelling mind’s compulsive need for meaningful experience.” He says that conspiracy theories are used to explain why bad things happen. “To the conspiratorial mind, shit never just happens, and the complexities of human life are reduced to produce theories that “are always consoling in their simplicity.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. How difficult it is to realize that the causes of a particular problem, like violence in one’s neighborhood, is due to a whole list of coexisting problems, from racial attitudes, too many guns among the populace, violence in the media, too few police officers, joblessness, alcohol and drug abuse…the list goes on. The problem with realizing the complexity of problems is that it makes one feel helpless, vulnerable and even hopeless. If one can reduce causes to one explanation then the solution seems manageable – just get the bad guys and all will be well.

There seems to be no solution to the above reflection. Understanding why people are quick to latch on to conspiracy theories helps me not to judge and prods me to try to calm a person’s fears. “All will be well,” I want to say. Yet I am not sure I myself believe that all will be well. I do know that for me, realizing that problems are complex and have many contributing causes is actually empowering. I can look at the list and simply pick one to work on. Violence in the media, for example. As a parent I can control the media my children partake in. Raising kids not prone to violence is one step, one small piece to solving a much large problem.

As for the bigger problem, helping those who are deeply afraid because of conspiracy theories, I do not know. Nor do I know what to do about those who deliberately spread such theories in order to achieve sinister ends. I just try to trust that my small contributions effect the whole and eventually conspiracy theories will lose their power

 

 

 

Finding Hope at Three in the Morning

I had hoped that after the election, my mind and heart would rest, but alas, there is still a trembling in me. Awake about 2, I am up at 3, the first time in a while since my sleep was so disturbed.

I had hoped that after the election, the news would be less frightening, but alas, it is more so. I had hoped that the hateful, divisive rhetoric would fade. But it seems that the former president doesn’t have a corner on hate and divisiveness. We are hearing it from the top of the heap, from those who crave to lead rather than to serve.

I had hoped my fear that there could be a civil war would prove to be silly nonsense, overreaction, naïve, but alas, each day I see and hear things that support the possibility. Those who would choose to fight such a war are well armed. Those of us whom they would want to defeat tend not to be.

I had hoped that my government could return to the path of “forming a more perfect union”, but alas, it is disunity that becomes glaring. It seems almost like some get a high on hate and disunity. Having an enemy makes one feel stronger. I have not doubt that to some, I would be the enemy.

Where is hope? My heroes are those who treasure life, who speak of a language of non-violence, of listening and cooperation. Some of these are Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Peace Pilgrim, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King. There are heroes among us today. I have found some of them and I eat their words like honey on warm toast. Comfort food for my soul.

I thought to share a favorite passage from the sacred scriptures as I seek hope on this early winter morning. May it stir hope in you today:

I may be able to speak the languages of men and even of angels,
but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.
I may have the gift of inspired preaching:

I may have all knowledge and understanding all secrets:
I may have all the faith needed to move mountains-
but if I have no love, I am nothing.
I may give away everything I have,
and even give up my body to be burned-
but if I have no love, this does me no good.

Love is patient and kind;
it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;
love does not keep a record of wrongs;
love is not happy with evil, 
but is happy with the truth.
Love never gives up: and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

Love is eternal.
There are inspired messages, 

but they are temporary:
there are gifts of speaking in strange languages,
but these will cease;
there is knowledge, but it will pass.
For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial;
but when what is perfect comes, 
then what is partial will disappear.

When I was a child,
my speech, feelings and thinking were all those of a child;
now that I am a man, 
I have no more use for childish ways.
What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror;
then we shall see face-to-face.
What I know now is only partial:
then it will be complete-
as complete as God’s knowledge of me.

Meanwhile, these three remain:
faith, hope and love;
and the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13

 

What Will the News Commentators Talk About Post-Trump?

I am thinking about the news. One commentator said she wasn’t sure what news will be like post-Trump. She was joking, but I thought it worthy of some thought.

First of all, I anticipate hearing more world news or broader news. We have been so anal as a country the last four years. How are people doing in other places in the world? We hear a few things, like what is happening in the middle east right now. But what about the third world countries? I used to know where people were suffering from drought or flooding. I know I knew because I remember praying for them. I miss hearing about inspirational leaders in the world who are doing great things for their countries. What about global warming? Are we the only country having fires, floods and storms? I remember Americans stepping up to help people suffering from earth quakes and tsunamis.

I would like the news stations to do more teaching of history. This is happening on CNN and MSNBC right now. I hope they don’t stop. Yesterday I saw a discussion between three presidential historians about the current election process and how past presidents managed the shift between leadership. It was fascinating. I learned that history tends to repeat itself because, while times change, people tend to be fighting the same battles over and over again. It seemed dire, but also hopeful. I hope this continues.

I would also like to see more civic teaching. I don’t even know if civics is even being taught in the schools today. I took civics, but I was quite young and am not sure I really got hold of the ideas. I wish I’d had a teacher who not only taught me how government works, but how it was being played out in current affairs. I have learned more about civics in the last four years than I have ever known before. George Washington suggested that a democracy will only work with an educated citizenry.

We watch public television where we have seen some great specials like the lives of past presidents and the stories of American wars. Unfortunately, most people don’t choose to watch this kind of programming. I think presenting info in bits and pieces tucked into other programs that the greater number of people watch might be one way of getting information out.

Having said this, my husband pointed out to me that people choose the news media that corresponds with what they believe. History and civics could be part of any news media but it is possible that not all will tell the same story. We live in a new age when facts are not always accepted as the truth and there are even voices that suggest that information being presented is part of some deep state, some master deceiver.

I don’t feel very hopeful. But I can choose to be an educated person. At 76, there are still more history books to read, more documentaries to watch. I don’t know what to do with the information. I will always only have one vote. But maybe, just maybe, some truth will come out in a conversation that will enlighten another just a little.

 

Trump’s Most Heinous Action Comes to an End

I am watching President Elect Biden select his leadership team and my heart is starting to heal. He chose Alejendro Mayarkas to be head of Homeland Security. The Cuban American lawyer will have his hands full from day one with the first order of business to begin reuniting the last 500 children separated from their parents at the border. I don’t know if there has been another action by President Trump that has been worse for America than this one. It was during this time of separation that I recalled hearing people comparing Trump to Hitler and the actions he took akin to the Holocaust. Thank God, this is over.

Calm Sure Feels Good

This is one crazy time, isn’t it? The American people have chosen a new president but the present one is trying to find a way to stay in office. Every time I turn on the TV, I hear the potential problems caused by Trump not allowing the President Elect and his team to come into the White House to get info on what is current in the nation and international affairs. I feel I am watching a two-year-old hanging onto his mother’s leg when she tries to drop him off at day-care. I have seen that drama a lot in my work and it is pretty pathetic. Interestingly, when  mom finally breaks away and gets out the door, the two-year-old usually stops screaming and settles down to play with the toys. Teachers watching are pretty attune to what the kid is doing. As long as he can get Mom to feel sorry for him, he has a chance to not be left behind. I have only seen it work once. All it accomplished was to postpone the separation to another day.

I hope we get through this smoothly. The president-elect seems to think all will be well in the end. His calm demeanor sure feels good after the last four years.

Saints Among Us

I turned on the TV this morning only to catch the last five minutes of Justice Ginsburg’s memorial service. I decided I would catch it later on U-tube, which I finally did just a short time ago. I have watched many funerals and memorial services over the past few years. Only those of leaders or significant people are televised. George Floyd’s service was televised and I watched it as my way of supporting Black Lives Matter and listening to the inspirational speeches.

I want to focus in this blog on three because I am struck by something similar between them that people who loved and respected them made a point to highlight. The three are Senator John McCain, Representative John Lewis, and Justice Ginsburg. One thing that is striking is the numbers of people who showed up to expressed the loss of these great leaders. There are hundreds of people serving our country in Washington, some not even known to their own constituents. But these three were known for more than their jobs.

I could list the individual accomplishments of McCain, Lewis and Ginsburg but I don’t think that is what made people want to come forth in droves to honor them. I think what brought people out was love. At each of their memorial services, I heard about their ability to respect the humanity of each person they represented and those they worked with. Not only was McCain honored by President Bush of his own party, but by Obama and Clinton. He knew how to respect an individual who had opinions different than his own. The brief encounter he had with a supporter who spoke nasty words about his opponent Barrak Obama is classic. He corrected the woman. “Obama is a fine American who loves his country. He just has a different way of solving problems than I do.”*

At Lewis’ funeral I heard people talk about how he showed love and respect for each person he met. He was known as the Conscience of the Congress. It was said that when he would speak to you, you could feel the love.

Today, the same kind of thoughts were expressed about Ruth Bade Ginsburg. I heard over and over about the friendship she had with conservative Judge Scalia. She was known for her respect for all, no matter their differences in political opinion.

I would call these Heroes. They were of a higher kind of mind and soul than those who seek to tear down others who disagree with them. There are so few among us, especially those who are in leadership positions. I believe that power tends to corrupt. I don’t say that it always does, but it takes saints like these three  to gain  power and to use it only for good.

 

Peace Pilgrim Speaks

The title of my blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”and Peace Pilgrim is one of my peace-making heroes. I want to share these words with you today which if found tucked in my journal in 2002:

On predictions about the futures, she wrote: “Dwell only on the good things you want to see happen…through thought you create your inner conditions and help to create the conditions around you. We are all helping to make a great decision…the darkest hour is just before the dawn…everything out of harmony is on the way out. The darkness we see is disintegration of out-of-harmony things…eventually God will prevail…it is only how soon that is up to us.”

“Leftists are those who want to push social change faster than can it can naturally go. Rightists are those who want to keep things as they are or turn back the hands of the clock. Both believe in the false philosophy that the end justifies the means…the war philosophy. I believe that the means you use will determine the end you receive. This is the peace philosophy.”

“There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts. It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict – not the gaining of advantage.”

“Be concerned that you do not offend – not that you are not offended.”

“If you fear nothing and expect good, good will come.”