The Politics of Cynicism
Cynicism defines the modern character of the United States of America. It defines much of the world.
Of course we could go on and on looking into these smug, vacuous faces, full of themselves and the absolutism that whatever they say, whether they believe it or not, is the only thing that matters.
We can rally around
and see the empty state of humanity, believing in nothing.
There are plenty of political suggestions where we find this indifferent outlook devouring ideas like hope, or promise, or the future. Cynicism is the religion of “everything is shit so why try anyway?” And it is a religion. It has followers and flocks, fundamentalists and radicals, and leaders of the faith of caring about nothing.
Let us consider Donald Trump again, the former President of the United States, and one of the most admired and most hated people in the world today.
Have you ever seen an image of the man taking anything seriously other than when he is not the center of attention?
Believe me, I’ve tried, scrolling through every picture I can find in the public domain–even among radically pro-Trump websites–and the best you can find is nonsense like
In the last one at the wailing wall, one gets the impression that the heartfelt note he is sticking into the ancient cracks is an offer to God of how much he’s willing to pay to transfer the thing to the Mexican border. Wouldn’t that be “the biggest deal ever”?
Even the cartoons of worshippers
come across as sneering fuck yous to anyone who does not agree.
There is, of course, full circle laughter at opposing sides, even convincing oneself that whatever snidely arrogant comment intentionally made is “triggering” their rivals. Sadly, pathetically, that is often the case in an age of cynicism.
Look at the poor guy being used as a prop by Lauren Boebert. Of course the cynical stomping, that smirk on Marjorie Taylor Greene’s face, tells us everything about the sincerity of these self-declared patriots. The other thing, above, that girl looks like an imbecile. I’m sure many of you have seen the same picture used in a variety of contexts, all saying the same exact thing. It is easy, far too easy, to mock other people for their thin-skinned arrogance.
Take the same pictures above:
We can go on any social media feed, and read whatever crude remark politicians make. Is anything sincere? Even what should be heartfelt and valuable commentary about what someone is trying to do, or how things should be, all we get is smug gibberish intended to inflame people.
Matt Gaetz: “The teacher’s union is not your friend.” This in reference to the California teachers union having a handful of stupid members accidentally publicly submitting a single principal’s “opposition research” on parents. You know, the important information on students’ families? The sort of details a school district should be aware of in order to handle different students?
I was a high school teacher for a number of years. I never met another teacher who shrieked that white students were racists, or that gender is fluid, or even that black lives matter–and I worked for the School District of Philadelphia, a creakily corporate-liberal organization far more interested in turning a profit than inculcating tolerance. Yes, there are plenty of terrible teachers, but that is simply because they cannot do their job. Teachers simply do not have time to pulpit-thunder on anything. What they do is try to open the floor to discussion on relevant issues of the day. There is no imposing moral agendas in public school–particularly on the left! On the left they tend to try to get students to clarify their beliefs without judgment. They may suggest that perhaps some opinions are wrong but, as you can ask anyone on any side of a social divide, some opinions are wrong! It is about thinking deeply on something, not about enforced agreement. I once told my students when writing an essay on something we read in class that they could think “it’s the biggest, stupidest piece of shit you’ve ever read, but you need to tell me why.” And that is the most important question to answer: understanding the reason why, which is the only truth people need to learn in order to move forward in their lives.
To add to the cynical Matt Gaetz’s
comment, I might add that parents are often the biggest impediment to their children actually learning. I’m not talking about whether My Two Daddies, or other children’s stories, perhaps about transgender youth, are valid to teach (and none of them are pornographic as some hysterical parents seem to believe), but about the aggressive insistence of fools at school board meetings
Know what those people want? They want their own agendas implanted in students’ heads. They want only what they believe to be the truth. For every student. Everywhere. All over the world.
Parents like this teach, more than anything, how to be selfish. They treat a public school, as one of the signs cries out, as if it were theirs alone, filled with whatever limited knowledge they have, to set the educational standards. Yet these people do not know how to teach their own children, blasting excuses about their own time, and their own responsibilities, and how everything teachers say (and no doubt they had no respect for teachers when they were students themselves; they didn’t feel they had to listen, already knowing everything) is an attempt to brainwash their children into some sort of monster that will destroy the nation.
And yet a teacher is simply a cog. They might follow a curriculum assigned by the same school boards and districts, but none of it is about a sinister plot to indoctrinate the next generation. Teaching is an incredibly difficult job, full of responsibilities that make their careers far more dangerous than nearly anything else. Smug cynics dismiss this profession with lines like “I wish I could get the summer off,” or simply smirking how it’s “babysitting” (which, if it actually were, would be a far better reason to protest). No, that time off is a decompression from the endless stress of a job where everyone is against you. Yes, plenty of people have stressful jobs, with supervisors breathing down their necks and a workload that always keeps them behind, but they tend to avoid the political pressure of local activists, and school principals and superintendents looking for endless promotions, and parents like those creatures above who think they know better than a person trained to instruct children which different ideas in the world are worthy of academic consideration. They claim to know better than anyone the responsibility of how to make their children adults with a clear understanding of the world. They yell “my child!” while in fact insisting that they believe everything they say is true. And when a teacher squeaks out a lesson on tolerance, that is the apparent controversy, calling all of education a liberal indoctrination chamber out of some fictitious dystopia.
People who look at teaching and shudder at the prospect of the job and say “I could never do that” tend to think of working with kids, their own experiences of parenting one or two or three or maybe one or two or three more, utterly frustrating and exhausting. But our job is to work with their children. Our job is to teach them. The students are not the problem, no matter how much of an asshole some of those parents have raised. No, it is the administrative blur that promotes mediocrity, and those same parents, those demanding dipshits who think that their opinions are the only thing that matters in life.
I once had a parent storm into my classroom literally in the middle of class (yes, schools are underfunded, security and counseling the first to go, and teachers are underpaid, which is why so many of them teach summer school, or work at summer camps, or get a seasonal job to pay their bills), and started shouting at me about a book we were reading being offensive. That book was Shakepeare’s Othello. They smacked open the door as the students were performing the play and screamed that I was “teaching that interracial sex is necessary!” Somehow this is what she took from a story that it is doubtful she ever read (her name actually was Karen, by the way). She stomped up and down, and snatched the book out of my hand and hurled it across the classroom. What she did was a crime. She was eventually carried out by the police who were called when she first came into the school to yell at the principal. As she was leaving she yelled “racist!” Imagine how much authority I, the teacher, had with those students for the rest of the school year, no matter how much they may have sympathized with me. The woman took her child out of school to homeschool. The following year they returned. The principal told me not to teach Othello anymore. I switched to MacBeth, with its intricate justifications for murder. There were no problems going forward.
- “Americans just want affordable groceries. But Joe Biden is too busy calling them “extremists” to care.
Notice how Jim includes all Americans in his statement, implying that Biden is calling every single one of us extremists? Now there is a certain truth to what Representative Jordan is saying, my own frustration with increasing prices being certainly in line with plenty of other people, but one wonders how the President is directly responsible for this, and not the corporations that grow and provide the food? It is important to note, in this context, that the Ohio Congressman under consideration has been funded for re-election campaigns recently more than six millions dollars from “undisclosed sources,” or from unknowable political money laundering PACs like WinRed and Campaign Solutions. Recent disclosures have suggested that Purdue Foods has contributed a large portion of that money. Jordan, along with a few other Republicans (including Matt Gaetz) once attempted to negotiate with Purdue over buying cheaper agricultural supplies in order to lower prices. The bill was scrapped. Prices increased. Jordan grew silent. Jim Jordan moved on to be a cheerleader for anything that he hopes might offend the left. He is a frail man, accused of covering up child rape in the wrestling program he once ran at a high school. He is another sneering cynic who believes in nothing.
Joe Biden, called a radical left-wing demagogue by many on the right, more like a mocking slogan than a valid attack, is not one of the true believers so many cynics have convinced their flock that he is.
Joe Biden isn’t even particularly liberal, often at odds with the so-called “woke,” those shrill college students, hiding in “safe spaces” where they can hypocritically attack anything without having to listen to responses. They have yet to be disillusioned enough, nor had to work hard enough and face real world responsibilities to shift, if ever so slightly, to the responsible left-center. Most of them will.
But the cynical right are not interested in unity, instead applying misunderstanding onto some of the awkward words and phrases Joe Biden says (and we all know there are a lot of them). They sneer and provide meaning for people they hope are too stupid to figure out the hypocrisy in of claims.
Of course this was never a threat, and Joe is certainly not a Socialist (a term which has lost meaning and has taken on the meaning it once had in pre-Nazi Germany, a lingual stand-in for “Jew” which today, Socialist, has become a race all its own). No, Biden was offering an obviously valid warning that certain sects of paranoid, conspiratorial, militia-minded radicals will continue to attack meetings and public protests, and force their own armed way of thinking onto the people in a much harsher, far more dangerous, overthrow-the-government manner than the ordinary foolish, angry people hyper-emotionally burning things to the ground. Compare:
Both are awful. Both are wrong. One is an obscene overreaction to clear-cut wrongs repeatedly committed against even-if-not-always innocent people. The other is a declaration of war. Look at the difference in flags if you believe otherwise. How dare the second group call themselves patriots.
The smattering of American flags being held seem secondary, of less consequence than the holy banner of their leader.
Flags as weapons. These are no longer symbols of a national ideal, of announcing your beliefs, no matter how misguided or extreme. Now it is a club, my belief superior to your own; my God is better than your god.
Even the justifications are far from equal. One:
while the other is more questionable,
I honestly wonder who, other than the former president,
convinced a part of the public that the election was stolen?
Of course people tend to latch onto whatever hope there may be when things do not go their way. People protest game outcomes when they believe they have been cheated.
It doesn’t change the outcome.
We cannot change reality because it does not align with our desires. This of course goes in every direction, with censors attempting to revise history.
It makes us feel better to cut out all the uncomfortable truth so that we can believe ourselves right after all. It is simply being a sore loser.
And this is what we have become.
It is all so painfully, dreadfully, dangerously cynical.
But this poison, this rotten to the core attitude goes beyond simply winning and losing. Let’s take these guys,
in perhaps the most cynical move of all:
Now I understand the frustration of Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis. They live and run the closest states dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants. This is a legitimate problem, and for all the people on the left who believe in wholly open borders, I have no trouble calling them morons. Joe Biden, by the way, is not one of these true believers, regardless of cynical claims.
But this latest ordeal is an act of the most brutal, harmful, grotesque cynicism we can imagine. Yes, their claim about a northern lack of understanding on the problems of illegal immigration is valid, but to gather up a group of people and, I don’t know, load them into boxcars and send them to unknown destinations is horrifying. It is a stunt using desperate human lives as props to set up a punchline. It is an utter act of cruelty.
And it isn’t legal either. State by state constitutions require that if such a dirty deed is being committed, at the very least the state where the immigrants are being sent be informed. This did not happen. The only response is laughter. Fans are riled up and opposition is outraged. Just look at Twitter:
- Let’s see how the Libs deal with MS-13 coming into their backyard!
says some person from Iowa.
- Now there are too many Pablos in Boston!
another celebrates from North Dakota, subsequently declaring to a reaction of
- You and Trump and DeSantis are war criminals!
(an idiotic remark in this context)
- Now you know what it feels like being white in America!
This is how we respond to such things. Liberals in turn struggle to gather the too many, frightened people together and, on camera, make like they are willing and prepared to accept everyone. They exploit the transparently awful acts of the smug southern politicians, finger-pointing their laughter at so-called “sanctuary cities,” (another stupid term) and prop up the best-looking and most eloquent refugees and force them into victimhood.
We can go on endlessly in this vein, pick and choose whatever awfulness we commit without caring about, or even being interested in the consequences, and we can laugh all of it off in our cynically self-righteous selfishness, but it does not change the reality that such pettiness, such joyful vindictiveness, is a clear sign of a civilization collapsing. There is no wonder so many people are talking about, or actively fearing, or even praying for a civil war. It would be less about something worthwhile, and more about the delusional joy that “we are finally doing something.” It is the worst of all the things we have done to this fragile nation. We have changed the meaning of everything, altered the purpose of the US Constitution like new church rulers retranslating the bible. It has lost all meaning. When some fool declares that they wish to “follow what our founders wanted,” they clearly have no knowledge or understanding of American history. They know nothing about George Washington other than he was the first President and is one the one dollar bill. They do not read the founders–they do not even read the Constitution. They just apply meanings to the fragmented, watered down lessons they learned in school that taught them the blandest, least controversial version of the past, so they can move forward knowing nothing about how things actually came to be.
Is it proper to call stupidity treason?
Perhaps it is important to remember the words of one of our greatest Americans, a person certainly much smarter, much more relevant, and far more patriotic than the rest of us: