In the Matrix, Morpheus offered Neo two pills, giving him a difficult choice. The blue pill would keep him in the Matrix and in blissful ignorance, the Red pill, on the other hand, would “wake” him into a true but uncomfortable reality. America faces a similar dilemma today. Do Americans choose to remain in blissful ignorance of what is happening around them? Or do they confront the ugly demons that lie within? The Capitol riots exposed deep flaws in American society, and while the perpetrators deserve punishment, it behooves us to understand what motivated their actions.
The Trump administration has embodied an ironic and new all-American maxim: when something is broken, it must be someone else’s fault. Losing factories? Blame China. Losing jobs, blame immigrants. Sinking deeper into debt, blame NATO. Americans, who proudly claim their country to be the greatest in the world in every possible respect, have found easy scapegoats in blaming external forces for internal problems.
In psychology, this concept is known as learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is an affliction that feeds into clinical depression, by lulling the victim into a sense of real or perceived absence of control…that other factors, external tormentors, are to blame for their own problems. As long as the sufferer believes that they have no control over their own destiny, they will remain unable to confront the demons within. This is one reason why the clinically depressed have such a difficult time overcoming their illness.
The solutions to America’s problems lie in policy. The aforementioned loss of factories, while its easy to blame China, is more due to America’s failure to invest in world class infrastructure. Immigrants, while blamed for lob losses, actually are net job creators in America. America’s debt, blamed on inflated defense spending for NATO, conveniently forgets who sets our defense budgets….we do.
Like Neo in the Matrix, millions of American’s can intuitively feel that something is wrong with their world. The opportunities that this country affords feel distant and unattainable to most. The wealth once enjoyed by the middle class, is being eaten up by health insurance and other expenses that leave many Americans living paycheck to paycheck.
The greatest country in the world is falling behind in science and technology, Americans are increasingly obese and ill, living shorter and more unhealthy lives, and an ever greater number of Americans barely have enough money to scrap by, and/or rely on government assistance to do so.
Americans can feel that something isn’t right, even if many cannot quite put their fingers on what it is. But this feeling remains there, as Morpheus says “like a splinter” in their minds. And while the election fraud claims that motivated the Capitol riots was a scam, the emotions, the anger, the frustration of those who stormed the Capitol was very real and should NOT be ignored.
Overcome by this feeling that something isn’t right, Americans are increasingly turning to extremist ideologues in a misguided attempt to find someone who will “correct” the situation for them by attacking those devious external forces. It began with Donald Trump but continues with the election of people like Lauren Boebart, the so-called Qanon Representative from Colorado.
Boebart, is a high school dropout and has been arrested and summonsed at least four times over the past decade, not least for allegedly encouraging underage drinkers to flee from police, then herself trying to escape from police, and failing to appear in court twice. And while I don’t think we ought to expect our politicians to be Saints and geniuses, Boebert’s education and arrest record must raise some red flags about her judgement.
Boebart’s past would make it all but impossible for her to find a job in corporate America. And yet, she was elected to Congress to write laws on behalf of you and me.
In a country with as much talent as America has, Americans are turning to demagogues like Trump and Boebert, because they openly thumb their nose at the establishment, an establishment that has failed Americans for too long. So it is time to take the red pill. It is time for Americans to confront the demons within. This starts by looking inward at out flaws and devising policy that addresses them, not casting blame abroad, or seeking the aid of demagogues who will only make matters worse.