Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What A Great America Looked Like


Every day that passes, we move farther from greatness as a nation.

We are still strong.  And we are proud.  We are plenty proud.

But greatness requires more than strength and pride.  A brute is strong and proud.  A bully is strong and proud.  An abusive husband is strong and proud.

Greatness of soul requires more.  And a great national spirit requires more.

Looking back into our short history as a constitutional republic, picking that moment when we were greatest is a challenge.  History is messy.  Things are never perfect, not ever.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.

But there are points where we shone, while still struggling with our human flaws.

Though it has clearly faded from the memory of our immediacy-addled culture, America during and immediately after the Second World War is arguably the height of our national greatness.

Seeing a world where human liberty was threatened by the demonic power of Nazism, America roused herself.  We heaved out of our depression, and turned our energy and our industriousness over to the defense of other democratic states.  We gave supplies and support to England during the Blitz.  We poured out our blood and treasure to stem the tide of totalitarian regimes.

And we won.

Most importantly, we won the peace.  Instead of making the same catastrophic mistake that was made at Versailles, our terms of peace were both absolute and generous.  We helped rebuild the nations we had destroyed.  Through the farsightedness of the Marshall Plan, America poured our time and treasure into healing the peoples and rebuilding the economies of the former Axis powers.  That generosity of spirit became coupled with a growing jet-age fascination with other cultures, and Americans celebrated travel and encounter with other peoples as a value.

We were not without flaw during those times.  But we were, at that point in history, a great nation.  The "Greatest Generation," it was called, and I think that's justified.  They did what was needed to be great.

The deepest, saddest irony of our current administration, which trumpets greatness in a dissonant brass?  It does completely the opposite things.  In morality, ethics, and political aims, it is diametrically opposed to the Greatest Generation.

"America First," which is the ethic of our president?  That was the slogan and the political orientation of the people who would have kept American troops at home rather than fighting the Axis.  If our current president had been in power when Nazi Germany rose, he would have kept us out of that war.  To the cries of Churchill, he would have scoffed.  That's your problem.  America for Americans!  Why would we lend you ships and supplies?  What's in it for us?  So unfair!

And those Nazis have such snappy uniforms and wonderful parades!  They're so strong and proud!  Why, I almost can't stop myself from saluting!

Had he been elected after the war, what would our current president have done?  To the broken, ruined people of Germany and Japan and Italy, he would have sneered.  "Fighting you cost us money!  You owe us!  You treated us very unfairly!"  The Marshall Plan would not have ever happened, if we were as we have now become.

I mean, he's consistent.  We know him.  It's just what he does.

So what does American greatness look like?  After the pouring out of the labors, blood, and treasure of the Greatest Generation, America was at the height of her greatness.

And the shortsighted, foolish selfishness of our leadership now is systematically tearing apart the world they built.

It is doing the exact opposite of all that they did.

We can expect our greatness to fade.

Because you can't be great if "being great" is nothing but an empty political slogan.

You have to know what it means, what it looks like, and how it is achieved.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

O Ugly for Ungracious Skies


There have been, these last ethically blighted few years in our national life, a smattering of efforts at moral revival.   Most have focused on justice.

To be honest, the essence of America's moral rot is not our lamentable and growing tendency towards injustice.

Justice, after all, is the balance of competing interest claims within a society, culture, or nation state.  It is enforced by legal structures and authority.  It's a matter of material implementation of coercive power on the part of the state or ruling authority, which provides stability and consistency.

Just societies endeavor to create an equitable balance.  Unjust societies favor one group over another, the powerful over the poor, the Us over the Other, the Wizard over the Mudblood.

The just is obviously preferable.  It's a worthy struggle that has faced every society.  It is the striving of Hammurabi and the inspiration of authors of Torah.  It was the hope of the Magna Carta and the purpose of our Constitution.  We're still working on it.  We will always be working on it.

But while injustice is a significant symptom, it is not where the problem lies, any more than the numbness in your arm when your heart seizes in your chest is where the problem lies.

The great moral sickness in America today is not our lack of justice. It's our lack of grace.

As a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, it is this lack that most concerns me, because the Gospel is first and foremost about grace.  And we are so very, very much not that right now.

Instead, we are strong and rough and profane.  We are crass and grasping and selfish.   We are shrill and bellowing and resentful.

We are false and cruel and proud.

These afflictions are the diseases of the American soul, and they drive us as a nation away from grace and into the hands of liars and sycophants, thieves and brutalists.  We have left Bedford Falls, and become Potterton.

All because we have forgotten grace.

The gracious, generous soul does not cry out about how unfair everything is and how everything is someone else's fault.  The gracious, abundant nation does not complain about how we have been treated so very unfairly, or inhospitably close its doors to those in need.  A gracious leader does not tap resentments and outrage, does not attack the weak and the vulnerable, does not berate friends and coddle tyrants, does not bend the truth to their own benefit.

And a faith that claims these things represent the best spirit of a nation cannot claim to be illuminated and guided by grace.  God's shedded grace rolls off the pride-slickened back of such a nation.

If we are to strive for moral renewal in America, a revival of grace and basic decency is the place to start, and the goal towards which we should set ourselves.

And justice?  Justice is a great and important good.  But there is no justice without grace.

Graciousness, which encompasses kindness, forbearance, mercy, and love, is the rich soul soil in which justice grows.  Injustice is a horror to the gracious heart.

If we seek to recover our moral core as a nation, if we're hoping for moral revival?

Grace is what we have lost.  And it is the thing we most desperately need to find again, if America hopes to regain her integrity.

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Prayer to the Lord When Things Seem Dangerously Familiar


Dear Lord, Creator of the Universe, you fill me with wonder.
Your Creation spans the glory of the infinite heavens
Your work, small and precious as a newborn's breath
Yet as deep and staggering as the fastless sky
I am but a dust-hewn ape
Living only by your Breath
I scribble and I write
Weaving my little imagined worlds
From the chicken-scratches of my tongue
Knowing full well that You
Are the Author
Of all things

And so it is with some
trepidation
Fear and trembling, even
That I bring
This up.

You do realize
That Tim LaHaye
Already wrote
This story?

I mean, maybe
You didn't
Read it.

Or maybe
Like me
you just
Watched about ten agonizing minutes
of that You-awful
Movie with
Kirk Cameron.

But
from what I know
these characters
Are really transparently
Derivative.

Particularly the
loud horrible one
With Eastern European
Entanglements

And I had come to expect
A little more surprise
And a little less
Obviousness and Drab Venality
From the works of Your Manifold Glory

Unless
Unless
This is a
Timely
Contextually ironic
Reboot.

Oh.

Right.

Well.

In which case
Wow, as my fellow
Presbyterian
Anne LaMott might
Say.

And also:

Help.

AMEN

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Reign of the Lizard People

Alex Jones is right.

You see, there's been this idea among the psychotic tin-foil-hat conspiracy crowd for years.  There's a secret cabal of powerful people controlling the world, one that goes to incredible lengths to assert power over the helpless sheeple.  It's not the Rothschilds.  It's not the Bilderbergers.

It's the lizard people.

There's some debate among lizard-people-conspiracy-theorists as to where these reptile-beings come from.  Mars seems a likely candidate.  Or maybe the giant cave cities in our hollow earth.  Or perhaps they scrabble around on the flip-side of the Flat Earth's disk.  Or maybe they materialized from an alternate dimension right before the filming of the "V" miniseries.  Those shows, were, as we all know, just a carefully crafted propaganda narrative by the Lizard People running the media industrial complex, designed to cover up their arrival.

It's not clear.  I'm not up on the latest iterations of the theory, as my subscription to The Fortean Times expired last year.  But what is clear...to the Lizard People theorists...is that the lizards are in charge.

It occurred to me the other day that they may be right.  In fact, I'm almost certain they are.

Why do I think this?  Well, golly, let me elucidate.

Human beings and lizards are quite different, but we do share some common chordate traits.  We are bilaterally symmetric.  We are omnivorous.  And while homo sapiens sapiens may have a massively developed cortex, all our more sophisticated processing rests on a shared and ancient neural architecture.

We call those structures the "brain stem," or, because we share it with our Sleestak friends, the "lizard brain."

Our "lizard brains" manage our most primal responses.  They drive us to conflict or to alarmed retreat.  They govern our appetites, and they channel our reproductive energies.  To put that more alliteratively, our lizard brain rules the four "F"s:  fighting and fleeing, feeding and...um..fornicating.

Our lizard brains are not rational.  They do not think about the long term, or care about complexity.  They are not social, in that they do not permit awareness of the other as anything besides a threat, a snack, or something with which to copulate.  They are incapable of metacognition, that self-awareness that constitutes the essence of sentience.

In the Lizard Person, all other functions of the cerebral cortex are subordinated to the four "F" drives.  Where rationality is nominally present, it serves as a gloss over those primal urges, used exclusively to seek datapoints to justify the lizard person's rage or fear or appetite.  That gloss does not, rather obviously, help the lizard person with spelling and grammar.  They don't really care.

And right now?  They're running things.  They're in charge, right out in the open, of the United States of America.  Because we are governed by an administration that seems to primarily make decisions based on that part of the brain, and that knows how to incite an otherwise practical people to use that part of their brains for most of their political understanding.

Long and short of it, at this strange junction in history, it is not entirely inaccurate to say that the lizard people are in charge.

Alex Jones is right.

He would know, being one of them and all.

The Strange Life of the Livetweet


I've been following my denomination's biannual General Assembly over Twitter for the past few days, which is both convenient for me and stupid of me.

On the one hand, it gives me realtime microreflections on the dynamics of the event.  This is happening!  That is happening!  There are highlights.  Key quotes.  I am connected!  I am aware!

Then there are pictures of people sitting in drab featureless conference rooms, pretty much like every work meeting you've ever suffered through.  Only with spectators!

This must be like watching a multi-day cricket test match, I suppose, if both teams mostly just sat there and talked about the process by which they were going to establish the player/management committee responsible for developing new human resource policies.  Because, well, Presbyterians.

Here and there, glimmering like the sun peering through the clouds of polity, moments of charitable action and sublimity.  Those stirred near indecent twitter giddiness, the sort of thrill one gets when actually doing something.  For Presbyterians, it's an unfamiliar feeling.

On the other hand, Twitter filters the event through the most hideously reactive and manipulative communications medium in human history, the mad machine god of our dys-integrated collective subconscious.

So there's a little skew there.

It's a large skew, honestly.

Twitter tends towards snark, distraction, and the feral energy of conflict.  It magnifies polarities.  It may not be red in tooth and claw, but it would be if it were given meatspace form.

Now that I'm a conservative in my denomination, it would be easy to react to the reactiveness.   To read an overstated, unsubtle tweet cast off in a moment, and to snark back, or to rebut, or to kvetch.  To get into it.

I feel that trollish temptation, rising in my soul.

"Oh sweet Lord Baby Jesus, that's so utterly...gah.  I just...grrr."

Instead, I just listen.

And check myself.

And listen.

And check myself again.

Remember where you are, I tell my soul.

Monday, June 18, 2018

That Elusive Utopia


Christian activists are these past few weeks making familiar demands for justice, for our society to embrace an ethos of radical economic and social equity in which none are excluded.  Radical inclusion!  Income for all!  Health care for all!  Shelter and food for all!

It seems a tall order, this pie in the sky utopian vision.  Which it both is and it isn't.

It is a tall order because it's a huge thing, a Kingdom of God thing.

And yet it also isn't, because there's nothing stopping a group of people from doing just that.  If you want an absolutely just society, in which everything is shared and nonviolent, and gracious mutual care defines the ethos of that culture, then do it.

Create it.

Meaning, form a community that lives out the value set you ask of the rest of our culture.  Share everything.  Welcome all, particularly those who are socially or economically marginalized.  Live intentionally, humbly, and collectively. 

Show the world what that looks like.  It can happen.

Having studied both microcommunities, monastic orders, and Old Order Mennonite lifeways?  I've come into encounter with numerous faith-grounded communities that have committed themselves to living out...right here, right now...the ethic that they preach.  They don't talk about the Benedict Option.  They live the Benedict Option.  Sometimes as actual bona fide honest to goodness Benedictines.

This is not an easy thing.  Any form of community is a challenge.  Countless utopian communities have formed, leaping into existence on the imagination of earnest hopeful dreamers of dreams. 

They fail.

The communities lack resources, both material and human.  They have competing internal visions that tear them apart.  They get consumed by the driving ego of their founder.  Or they're made up of gadflies and daydreamers who lack the practical skills to make it work.  Experts in third wave feminist discourse, introverted writer/pastors, and performance artists aren't a good foundation for a utopian collective.  At least not one that lasts more than a weekend.

They fail, ninety nine point nine five percent of the time.

But point five percent of the time, they work.  They are sufficiently oriented towards practical skills and away from the fantasies of ideologues.  They have strong boundaries, the ethical and normative frameworks that must exist if a community is to cohere.  And they survive the "founder transition," finding stability of collective identity after the passing...or ejection...of a charismatic founder.

And I wonder, as I look to movements demanding a just society, where that equitable society...inclusive racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically...exists now.  Meaning, not made up entirely of educated bourgeois, but including folks who come from the struggling "lower" echelons of our culture.

Is there such a place, among the soft bubbling of neomonastic and intentional communities?  Would it be replicable?  Spreadable?

Evangelically viral, the kind of place that would concretize the vision and show how it might be done?

I'm not sure such a community exists.

If you know of it, tell me.




Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Colluders

You, my friends, are the ones who colluded.

Why?

Because the really-quite-successful-so-far efforts on the part of the Russian government to subvert the liberal democracies of the West required your help, and you gave it.  I mean, you did.  

I'm not talking about America's fever-swamp right flank.  "Conservatives" in America bought the troll-farm propaganda campaign hook, line, and sinker.

But honestly?  If you're on the far left of the American political spectrum?  You helped too.

Most of my friends are left-leaning or liberal, and for them, I'll say this again:  you helped make the insane reality we inhabit now happen.  How?  Let me lay it out, as what are going to be closely fought midterms approach.

First, you collude by being distractable.  You jump on every single thing, the more outrageous, the better.  What did that look like in 2016?   You want an example?

It looked like DAPL.

For three weeks leading up to the election, every single left-of-center friend I had was all Dakota Pipeline, all the time.  Their social media feeds were filled with long paeans to "water protectors."  They were "checking in" in the Dakotas.  They were feeling the requisite outrage.

On the left, there was vastly more crowd-energy around DAPL than there was to more prosaic things like, oh, golly, I don't know, getting out the vote. 

And I know, I know, I wasn't that into Ms. Clinton myself.  But if you honestly believe there's no difference between her and the current administration, if you suggest that there's absolutely no distinction between the two major parties in America today, you're delusional.  I mean, really.  Lasting damage is being done, because organizing around short-term-tactics gets you less than nowhere.

Pouring your energy into that effort meant, what, exactly, in the long run?

DAPL was stopped!  Victory!  It felt great.  For what, three months?

And then it all fell apart, because the energy was mis-spent.  A skirmish was "won," but the war was lost.  

It was shortsighted, shortgame-stupid, and it came up short.

Want to bet that there'll be something similar distracting you in the month prior to the midterms?  There may well be.  And you'll be angry about it.

Because second, if you're always outraged, you're easily manipulated.  You take the provocative input that you're given, and let it guide your formless rage and anxiety.  And much of that input was designed to help put our current administration in power.

DAPL is, again, a fine example.  We know now with certainty that many "First Nations" social media accounts that were gettin' you all riled up?  They weren't that at all.

They were Putin-funded troll-farm creations.  As were many of the "black" social media accounts.   Take, for instance, the strongly supported thread that Ms. Clinton was just manipulating the black community for her own power.  That was all over #blacktwitter in the weeks before the election, and it was part of the Russian effort to suppress the black vote and create division and distrust.

It worked.  Why?  Because you're angry.  

Your anger is your handle.  It is the leash around your neck, leading you to slaughter.  

If you're always angry, all the time, and you think that a constant state of frothing, profane outrage does anything other than make you more easily controllable by colder, more cynical minds?  Sigh.    

Third, your semiotic framework.  Meaning the ethos articulated by the particular linguistics of the deconstructive academic left.

Or, to put it more clearly, it's kinda hard to get any sense that you actually like the United States as a constitutional, liberal republic.

If you consider America fundamentally flawed, at its core and foundation a racist/capitalist/genocidal aberrance that grows cancrous on a stolen land?  A failure that needs to be replaced with something totally different?  If you're cynical about the intent of our Republic, convinced it's the irredeemable spawn of slaveholding oligarchs?  If you use the word "decolonization" regularly in casual conversation?

Then the semiotics of your critique of America are exactly the same as the rhetoric used by the Soviets during the cold war.  Seriously, people.  Same language.  Same thoughts.  Same thing.

I know, I know, Russia now is not the Soviet Union.  Far from it.  The autocratic system controlling that state couldn't care less about leftist ideals, or about workers, or about justice, or about racial equity.  Neither did the Soviet Union, honestly.

But our Russian pals are more than happy to use those old techniques, cynically, of course, to stir leftist dissent.  They'll take any opportunity to subvert the nation that had...until our current administration...been the bulwark of liberal democracy.

Again: if there's no material and actual difference between what you say and the old Soviet anti-American propaganda?  Then you have become that caricature.  You are, like Jill Stein sitting with Putin and Flynn...the colluder.

In sum: If you are continually distracted, filled with inchoate outrage, and deeply cynical about the republic, you're less likely to participate.  Your energies will go elsewhere, into the sorts of efforts that scattered, enraged, cynical people make.  Which is precisely what those who want to sabotage America want.

As our foundering republic moves towards a vital election, the question becomes: to what extent are you prepared to bring the focus, messaging discipline, and appreciation for democratic norms that it will require to begin the arc away from decline?

Because if you're not?  Well.

You know how that's working now.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Satan v. Satan

  
This week is always an odd one, as church school wraps up for the summer.  The kids will handle the worship tomorrow, and I'll watch them get 'er done with pleasure.

But that means I don't have to write a sermon.  I don't have to pursue my usual weekly pattern of scripture reading, study, and meditation.

I do anyway.  It's just part of my weekly discipline, and it'd feel off if I didn't.

And so, from the reading, out popped the text that struck me, one that seemed to be just a little brighter and more attention catching than the others.

It contained a question that was posed by Jesus, when the authorities were cheesed at him for teaching and healing and generally carrying on in a way that subverted their authority.

He must be evil, they said, as the people flocked to him.  He must be using the power of the Dark One to heal people and comfort the downtrodden and lift up the oppressed.

And in response, Jesus rolled his eyes.

"How can Satan cast out Satan?"

How can evil overcome evil?

It can't.   Because if you take evil, and you pit evil against evil, what you get is more evil.  That's how evil works.  We know this, or we can conceptually grasp this.

This is something we seem to have trouble putting into practice, particularly when we encounter folks who are just plain wrong.  We know they're wrong because they disagree with us, which means they're clearly not just incorrect but also somehow in cahoots with the forces of darkness.

Our response to those people is to attack them.  To assail them.  To find everything about them that is wrong, and to be sure to highlight it.  Or perhaps to exaggerate it, just a tiny little bit, because they're monstrous, and why shouldn't we attack monsters?

And so we hurl epithets like stones, casting out curses and imprecations, and we become diabolos..."the ones who throw things"...ourselves.

And so we make accusations, trumping up charges against those we hate, because we hate them, and we become ha Satan,  which just means "the Accuser," ourselves.

Now, we might resist this idea.  If we're hating the haters, then our hatred is justified!  We should be filled with giant burning rage!  But Satan's methodology of relationship caricatures and objectifies and depersonalizes.  It subverts the mystic awareness of the Other's soul that love stirs in us.  Hate blinds us to places of possible reconciliation, turning our awareness away from possible new life and restored connection.

Humans have always fallen for that path, but thankfully, in this new enlightened era of democratized mass communication, when we can see and stand in encounter with everyone, everywhere, things are getting better.  We...oh...wait.  Never mind.

Sigh.

After all of these years, Jesus still rolls his eyes at our hubris.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Last Lesson from JEB Stuart

Yesterday was the last day of my younger son's high school career.

It's done.  Six years, we've been part of J.E.B. Stuart High School.  And with our departure comes the end of something else: the end of Stuart as a high school.  After a very public debate that pressed out into the national conversation about the Confederacy and it's strange place in our history, the name is gone.

The class of 2018 will be the last class to graduate from JEB Stuart high school.

I'm fine with that.  Utterly at peace with it.  It was kind of weird having a school named after a guy who burned and terrorized his way through Northern Virginia, the 19th century equivalent of one of those masked street gangs on dirtbikes and ATVs, only with swords, rifles, and explosives.  All for a good cause, though, right?  Cough.

In an odd serendipitous moment, I encountered Stuart in my reading this last week.  The book was KILLER ANGELS, a wonderful work of tightly researched historical fiction from the early 1970s.  It's the Pulitzer Prize winning story of the battle of Gettysburg, told from a variety of different perspectives.  That battle is the point at which the Confederacy lost the Civil War.  Lee's great ambitious gambit to isolate Washington and rout the armies of the United States of America?  It died on those bloody fields.

And JEB Stuart played a surprisingly large role in that battle.

Stuart's cavalry was sent ahead of Lee's armies.  His specific orders were to reconnoiter through enemy territory, and to let Lee know where the armies of the North were and where they were moving.  With that information, Lee could isolate smaller units and destroy them.  With that information, Lee could pick his ground, choosing where and when to fight.  Given those insights, Lee, who was...our contemporary #twitter revisionism aside...one of the most brilliant generals of his age?  He'd have had a very real chance of inflicting enough damage to force an early peace.

But Stuart didn't do his job.

He raided.  He harassed.  He and his cavalry stormed about attacking Union facilities in Pennsylvania, doing pretty much what he'd always done as he trounced his way through NoVa.  It was exciting and daring!  Men on horseback!  Outlaw cavaliers!  Go raiders!

What JEB Stuart did not do was send intelligence back to Lee.  Not anything.

 Absent the information he needed, Lee was forced to move blindly, and got hung up at Gettysburg, where outnumbered Union forces took advantage of superior and highly defensible ground.  It was not the fight Lee wanted, but his hand was forced.

JEB Stuart didn't show up until day two of the battle, after the first ferocious effort to dislodge the Union forces had barely failed.   With the Union Army now being reinforced and the situation growing desperate for the Confederates, Lee was petitioned by several of his generals to court martial Stuart for dereliction of duty.  Needing every last man, including Stuart's fiercely loyal cavalry, Lee demurred.

But the damage was done.  The CSA forces were routed in an appalling bloodbath, their first significant defeat of the war.

And the momentum shifted in a nontrivial way.

All thanks to JEB Stuart.

So, in a very real way, it could be argued that Stuart lost the Civil War.   By not doing the right thing at the right time, by choosing to focus his energies on doing what he was used to doing and/or that which felt good rather than the thing that needed to happen at that point in history?

The entire secession effort failed.

It's a good reminder, and a nice little lesson.

So thanks, James Ewell Brown Stuart.  Thanks for six years of high school, and the reminder of how important it is to do the right thing at the right time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Crazy, Dumb, and Cruel

It was the kind of thing that could happen to anyone.

A moment of clumsiness, the error that happens every ten-thousand strides.  A momentary tumble down concrete steps.  And the result?  A broken hand, meaning a badly fractured metacarpal.

That happened a couple of months ago to our twenty year old son, and it meant a trip to the ER, followed by imaging, followed by the recommendation for a minor surgery to repair a hand that wasn't going to heal well on its own.

It got done, because it needed to get done.

Now, of course, the bills come in.  They're not small.  Doctors.  ERs.  Hospitals.  One after another.  We're insured, and so the bite is manageable.  He's insured, because, well, the Affordable Care Act mandated the extension of care to 26.

And he's got insured parents, and we do well enough, and it's more an annoyance to us than a punitive burden.

But I'm reminded that it is insane that it works this way.  Twenty year olds don't always have insured parents.  They often have parents who are struggling.  They're adults, and if they were working on their own, this kind of thing would be catastrophic.  I'm not talking the five figure bill for the surgery.  Just the "patient's share," the five hundred here, the thousand there, times three or four?  That's more than many young adults could manage.  How many young adults living on their own can drop five thousand without it taking a bite?

For most, it'd mean taking on debt, piling borrowed money on top of student loans, and taking a young life and laying a deeper burden onto it.

Again, this is insane.  There are ways to do this better, ways that every developed society figured out fifty years ago.  But we forge on, doing it the same way over and over again, the way that just doesn't work.  Madness is expecting different results, after all.  Or maybe we're not insane.  Maybe it's something else.

Maybe we're dumb, in the stubborn way that genuine dumbness inflicts itself on a life.  We spend more, and get less, and shatter lives in the process, and then come up with reasons why that's the way it needs to be.  It's unacceptably stupid.

But we're so good at rationalizing our failure.  So very good.  Dumb isn't anywhere near as good at rationalization.

At a certain point, it becomes simply cruel, the bitter cold malice of the blind ideologue, who resents and despises the reality that won't bend itself to their control.

Given the bankruptcies and stress and suffering that we inflict unnecessarily on millions of our fellow  citizens?  Perhaps it's all three.