When my partner Rob and I first arrived on the south coast of the island of Crete, in 1991, it was a Swiss tourist who first realized that we were a gay couple. Barbara was the kind of person who would innocently blurt out what was on her mind. After we confirmed her suspicions, it was less than 24 hours before the entire village knew we were a gay couple. Of course we assumed that the reaction might be similar to the same revelation in a small town in rural America. We were pleasantly surprised, however. The lack of knowledge about homosexuality in Loutro was simply because they had never been exposed to homosexuals. No one had taught them that we were bad. No one had instructed them on how they should feel. No one had read Bible verses that condemned us to eternal damnation. Their ignorance was very simply an absence of knowledge. So in the absence of fundamentalist American Christians, the people of Loutro, Crete watched us with curiosity. They treated us with the same respect they gave everyone who was different. In the following four years they came to love us as we came to love them. We became such a part of the family of Loutro, that my partner Rob’s ashes are spread in the castle ruins above Loutro, where he rests for eternity, at his request on his death bed.
I open with this story, because that is where my picture of present day America was developed. It is through that lens that I observe the insanity that threatens the very existence of the most respected democracy on earth. The fire that feeds the insanity is stoked by what Robert N. Proctor calls "agnotology." It is the cultural production of ignorance for a specific purpose.
The far right, and now the Republican Party they have hijacked, are involved in a conspiracy of words. They use ignorance as a weapon to advance their evil agenda. They very carefully frame their arguments to appeal to the most basic human instincts that fear can arouse in the midst of ignorance. They teach the unknowing that stubbornness is synonymous with virtue. They convince those weak in spirit, that ignorance carries the same weight as knowledge. And their most clever framing of all is the idea that anyone who criticizes them is un-American or unholy!
My only hope for the future of the United States comes from the possibility that they have finally overstepped the bounds of decency and sanity to an extent where it is impossible for any intelligent person to remain silent! The fact that I must rely on this as my glimmer of hope is an indictment of our collective lack of morality. They have framed their revolution so well, that good people have remained silent too long, in fear, as the entire culture has imploded. We had multitudes of opportunities over the past 30 years, to stop this madness! But we bought the lies, embraced the distractions and nurtured our personal ambitions at the expense of the greater good. On some level we are all guilty of turning our backs on others because it wasn't about us personally!
In a sane world, the entire slate of Republican candidates would have been laughed off the stage. In a sane world, no respectable news agency would have given them the time of day. In a sane world Democrats would have stood up and called out their lies every time the Republicans opened their mouths. In a sane world the people of the United States would already be in the streets by the tens of millions demanding that we return to the kind of government that used to be the envy of the rest of the world.
But the truth is, we have all been brainwashed to a certain extent, by a conspiracy of words. Too many now believe that truth has the same standing as lies. Too many now believe that hatred and prejudice are the price we pay for free speech! Too many now believe as a nation, that we have no choice, but to lie down, motionless, as we are trampled by greed, corruption, violence and inequality. We have been taught that we must turn the other cheek, then turn the other cheek, then turn the other cheek until we are bloodied beyond the recognition of what we were when we were a great nation that was the envy of the rest of the world.