Monday, April 24, 2017

A SWEET, SAD MAN


I have a young male nurse who occasionally visits me. Why he comes is not important to this narrative. Only he is important. He's an immigrant from Russian Siberia who's been in the United States for a good long time. He speaks nearly unaccented English and is diligent about his care of me. He has a wife and a couple of children and, by all appearances, is a sweet and caring individual. He is also a religious fundamentalist, fierce anti-communist and Trump supporter.

For his part Benjamin does not believe that the King James translation of The Bible is the one, true and inerrant word of god. He does, however, believe that belief in miracles is a prerequisite for being a Christian. He believes that all dictatorships are left-wing which means that both Hitler and Stalin were socialists as were Mussolini, Mao, Peron, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Kim Il Sung, Franco, and Castro. Benjamin believes that there's no difference between any of those dictators. When I suggested to him that he might want to do some reading of major sources on that subject and offered to lend him my copy of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Benjamin demurred because he needed to do some research first. He said that it's very hard to trust "the media" and the fact that Shirer was present reporting on Hitler's rise still meant that he needed to vet Shirer's book with some source. I do not know what that source might be but the most frightening moment of our conversation was that moment when he insisted that he could not accept a source without making sure that it is approved in some way by an authority that he accepts.

Benjamin still claims that he listens to and reads different sides of an argument without the least understanding that, if he reads only approved sources, he will be getting a skewed version of the sides in the argument. He doesn't understand that he's saying that his mind is open to anything to which his authority allows him to be open.

Benjamin knows that I am an atheist. He asked and I would not lie to him. I am sure that my inability to believe in anything supernatural colors all I say and certainly my recommendations. Many years ago I lived in a building in which my landlord was a member of some fundamentalist sect. His friend and pastor was also a contractor. My landlord, Joseph Butler, hired his pastor to do some extensive work in my apartment which resulted in long delays and great inconvenience until I had to call in the local health department and get an order for, among other things, a working toilet. But in the midst of this construction project the man whom I've always referred to as Pastor Plaster phoned me one night during supper to beg me to put away from me my many books on "satanic subjects" like Richard Cavendish's The Black Arts, books on Norse and Greek Mythology and the like. Had Pastor Plaster opened Cavendish's book he would have found that it explains and largely debunks much of occultism but the title on the spine of the book was enough for Pastor Plaster to be assured that I was meddling with the forces of satan. Similarly, I expect that Benjamin feels certain that anything I might offer him is meant to lead him astray.

As political Liberals we think that we can persuade people on the right-wing with rational arguments and, to a limited extent that is true. A segment of the right-wing is open to persuasion, usually on the basic issues of services and money that government provides to them. Yet a much more significant section of the right-wing, the true neo-Fascists, the evangelical fundamentalists cannot be persuaded at all. Like Benjamin they will filter any argument through the authorities they have been taught to examine first. That may be some political preacher masquerading as a religious authority, Fox News, some ultra-right-wing web sites maintained by the scum of the "alt right". The fact is that such people are no more susceptible to reason than a doorknob. They are even insulated from having the lies of their authorities exposed because such exposure they see as just an attack by the satanic forces of the opposition to their revealed truth.

Benjamin is a sweet man. The care he provides is informed and freely given. Benjamin, however, is locked in a ultra-right-wing room from which he will refuse any opportunity to escape because he's been told that any escape only brings him to satan, communism and the uncertainties of having to decide for himself.

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