Bigfoot is real.
The New World Order is imminent.
The U.S. government covered up the Roswell, N.M., UFO crash.
The CIA helped distribute crack cocaine into America’s inner cities in the 1980s.
Climate change is as authentic as faux fur.
Heaven help us; we Americans are a quirky lot.
Divided politically and ideologically, free to worship in all sorts of religions and denominations, often unaware of how fortunate we are to live in such an unrestrictive society of freewill. Capitalism reigns; opportunities, despite naysayers and recessions, are abundant.
But some of us will believe anything.
Hence, “Barack Obama is the antichrist.”
Believe (erroneously, of course) the president is a socialist. Or a Kenyan. Or an usurper. Or a terrible politician. Or a Muslim. Or that he really, truly wants to confiscate all of your guns. Or that he’s part of the aforementioned “New World Order” that will turn North America into one borderless, authoritarian state.
But the antichrist?
Yes. There are Americans who say they believe Barack Hussein Obama is the mortal enemy of God who will bring down mankind as told in the pages of Revelation. Public Policy Polling, a national research group heralded for its work with political and election-based polls, has tapped into America’s modern-day psyche and discovered that — let’s be frank here — weirdos and quacks dwell among us.
The good news is that, in most cases, they’re not as prevalent as pollen. Even when broken down by political labels (Republicans and Democrats), the “Barack Obama is the antichrist” believers are in the minority. (Though more GOPers, 20 percent of those polled, than Democrats, 6 percent, say that’s true; read into that what you will.)
Laugh or cry? I’m not sure which is appropriate. As I constantly tell my children, there are all sorts of people in the world, shapes and sizes and colors and beliefs. Getting along with those different than ourselves is a key to inner peace. It’s no surprise, really, that a few misguided souls believe peculiar things, like the CIA handed out crack cocaine in America’s black neighborhoods, or that the U.S. government will dissolve into the hemispheric New World Order.
But this Public Policy Polling data is disturbing. It doesn’t matter that there is no empirical proof of virtually any of these crackpot beliefs. It doesn’t matter that science has overwhelmingly proven climate change is real, or that no form of alien life has been found, or that, to return to the obvious, a former community organizer and U.S. senator from Illinois has ascended to become the leader of the free world — and he’ll soon spread biblical evil across mankind.
In 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, noted author Susan Jacoby published The Age of American Unreason, which, if anything, purports that America, intellectually, is in grave danger. Jacoby writes that there “are countervailing forces, as they always have been even when the voices of ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism have resounded in the public square.” That’s good to hear, considering what the Public Policy Polling data tell us.
Jacoby is herself a radical; her writings aren’t for everyone. If you patriotically believe America is great through-and-through, you won’t enjoy her work. She bloodies America’s nose by painting a picture of a wealthy, great nation that’s home to too many people who reject science and fact and instead believe Fox News drivel and idiotic urban myths or, on a more personal level, that too many parents thrust “infotainment” and television on their children instead of showing them the value of learning through reading and experiencing. She has a point.
She writes, “It is possible that nothing will help. The nation’s memory and attention span may already have sustained so much damage that they cannot be revived by the best efforts of America’s best minds.”
She continues, “We need to hear from distinguished educators, historians of education and sociologists who understand and can explain to the public the inadvisability of embarking on such a fusion of knowledge.”
In other words, we must stop believing silly, inane, empirically impossible things, stop seeing conspiracy behind every governmental door, and refuse to substitute hearsay and rumor for the intellect of our own minds.
Barack Obama isn’t the antichrist. I’m sure of it.
But if you have pragmatic, irrefutable proof, let’s see it.
Phillip Tutor is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.