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The Madness Continues

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It continues gray and overcast and rainy in Southern California. This is October! What gives? I read in this morning's New York Times that climate change denial is an axiom of the Tea Party folk. Their madness, too, continues. Don't they ever step outdoors? But then, I suppose, their argument is that the change is not man-made; as they see it, the preponderance of evidence based on rigorous scientific research is "theory," not fact -- as in the "theory" of evolution.

I trust that the purpose of Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity will resound. The madness is unending, and apparently contagious. The ignorance of the First Amendment demonstrated by senatorial candidate (!) Christine O'Donnell would have been excusable, perhaps, in one not running for high public office as a strict constitutionalist--though on the subject of the separation of church and state, you'd think that anyone with a rudimentary education would be better informed than she. O'Donnell's bland denial of science in such matters as climate change and evolution goes beyond ignorance, it is a willful rejection of rational thought. It's astounding that large numbers of people seem to support the candidacy of such an unmistakably juvenile mind.

And what are we to make to Justice Clarence Thomas's wife, whose disingenuous call for an apology from Anita Hill caused such a stir yesterday in the media? Her appearance in that foam rubber Lady Liberty tiara as a champion of the Tea Party made this wife of a Supreme Court Justice of the United States look... well, ridiculous is almost too kind a construction. What could be in her head? Did she really expect a distinguished law professor to recant sworn testimony and admit to perjury after all these years? Has she no sense of timing, to bring this ancient history back to the public consciousness just days before a national election? No understanding of the poison that her words could spread, at a time when the undercurrent of racism is so close to the surface of our national dialogue?

I can only hope that these and other manifestations of sheer idiocy in conservative ranks will alert voters to the dangers inherent in irrational thought. Sadly, though, this kind of thinking is not restricted to one side of the political spectrum. It seems that large numbers of our citizens (the majority?) trust their gut feelings and biases more than they trust reason. Obama and the Democrats have failed to fully restore a broken economy in two years? Enough! Throw them out! Let's get right back to the policies that brought us to these straits in the first place. Oh, and while we're at it, there's "Obamacare." Let's restore our health care system to the hands of the insurance industry, who are sure to put our best interests ahead of their bottom line.

Is this a flat rejection of reason, or a simple inability to practice rational thought? A lack of education? I don't know, and it really doesn't matter much anyway. The net effect is the same: our political decisions have come to be governed by raw emotions. "I'm mad as hell" can justify any argument, no matter how absurd or counter to our own interests, let alone those of our fellow citizens.

I refuse to repeat that cliched old definition of madness. You know the one I mean. But I trust that every reader of my blog, The Buddha Diaries, will want to join me in supporting the call to restore a measure of sanity to our political discourse -- or to demonstrate that there is still some shred of sanity left. My wife and I consider ourselves fortunate to be able to make the trip to the Mall in Washington DC on October 30th. Not everyone is so fortunate. But I trust that it's widely known that there are a large number of satellite rallies and meetups at readily accessible locations throughout the country, and encourage us all to participate, and to do what we can to spread the word. It is past time to recognize and refute the madness that surrounds us.

Two years ago, thankfully, we elected a sane, intelligent, thoughtful and methodical man to the White House. Should we now be surprised that he acts in a sane, intelligent, thoughtful and methodical way? I say, it's our job now to support that sanity, that intelligence and thoughtfulness, and that methodical approach. We might wish in our hearts for more dramatic progress, for speedier and more emotionally satisfying results. But I believe we must take the broader, more historical view, and work for the kind of change that takes a longer time. It took a good deal more than two years to create the multiple crises and dilemmas in which we now find ourselves; it took decades -- in the case of racism and homophobia, centuries, to reach this historical moment. Anger, resentment, bitterness do nothing but rub salt into these wounds. We have no hope of healing them without the salve of mutual compassion and the therapy of reason.

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