I don’t want to call it a trend, but in the last 10 days we’ve seen Senator John Ensign (Republican, Nevada) and Governor Mark Sanford (Republican) of South Carolina admit to having affairs. In each case the wronged spouse has publicly declared that she loves
her husband and is standing by him. From a skeptic’s perspective it is heartwarming to see what feet of clay these two politicians have. I don’t know the particulars of Gov. Sanford’s last campaign, but I am well aware of Sen. Ensign’s moralizing and bible-thumping because he wore these values where everyone could see it. He was one of the first to demand President Clinton resign in the wake of the Lewinsky affair, and disdained Sen. Larry Craig for his tap-dance routine in an airport men’s room. It’s nice, then, to be able to hang a big H around his neck for hypocrisy.
Since we’ve heard about Republican values ad nauseum for the last two decades, it’s instructive to see how hard it is for members of the party to live up to them. One common trait that does seem to show up time and again, though, is pietism (affectation of devotion), pharisaism (hypocritical observance of the letter of religious or moral law without regard for the spirit), sanctimoniousness (a show or expression of feelings or beliefs one does not actually hold or possess), and tartuffery (hypocrisy)!
This morning on our public radio station I listened as a number of Republican officials talked about how their party can come back. The issue under discussion was immigration, and a number of them were arguing that the Democrats had painted them as bigots who wanted to build a wall and throw them (read: Mexicans) over it. In truth, that was not what they were about, one pined. Republicans do not hate immigrants; they just want the law obeyed. And any respectable Hispanic who got here the legal way would support them, they said. It’s a sad thing that they cannot recognize their own prejudices. Laws are made by men, and often very quickly. Many laws that are on the books could be described as biased, unjust, and just plain wrong. A philosophy that every law must be obeyed because it is the law leads to that bias, injustice and wrong being imposed on societal groups. A healthy respect and a healthy skepticism of the law is much to be preferred, because many laws need to be revised or junked. Republicans don’t see this.
So it’s been a banner week for liars and scoundrels, with great material for skeptics!
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This morning the local public radio channel, KNPR, interviewed the director of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Pat Mulroy. For those unaware, Nevada has been on water restrictions for years because of drought and the lowered flow of the Colorado River, whose waters supply most of Las Vegas’s needs. Anyway, there’s talk on the show of accessing water in places that have too much (think the Mississippi/Missouri confluence) and the Yukon River way up in Alaska. Mulroy is taking these ideas seriously when a libertarian lunatic calls in to say she’s a lia
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r and a creator of the problem. The caller could barely sputter out his argument, he was so angry, but he managed to state baldly that there is no drought here. So much for reality!
This caller wanted to blame Mulroy for collusion with the developers (“It all started with the strawberries!!”) to attract too many people to southern Nevada. She didn’t take the bait, nor should she. As she said, she’s trying to make sure those of us who are here have water. But there is this element in the west who, once they’re safely up and over the wall, want to pull up the ladders so no one else can join them.
There have always been people like this. On a broad scale, they are the nativists who want to keep “America for Americans.” Forgetting that all families were immigrants to this land at one time, they want to lock the door to people who want to come in now. It’s a childish notion, belying a puerile world view. I would bet that most of those nay-sayers haven’t travelled much, and don’t know many people of other cultures. The only hope we have is the younger generation, who will one day supplant the deadwood we’ve got ranting on the airways now.
Greetings from Las Vegas! It’s true that most things here that tourists see are fake. The canals of the Venetian, the lake in front of Bellagio, the ‘ancient’ statutes adorning Caesar’s Palace–all faux. Of course, there are those tourists who can say with gusto, “I don’t need to
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see Venice! I’ve been to the Venetian,” but the locals are all in on the game. The healthy part of Las Vegas is that it knows it’s not for real.
That’s not as true in the real world. Religion, politics, our justice system, and the media–they all could do with a skeptical analysis on a regular basis. That’s why I’m writing this blog. A healthy skepticism is a useful component of a well-lived life. I doubt that I’ll have much trouble unearthing topics in the months ahead.