Every now and then something happens, something you catch on TV or read in a magazine, or hear in a conversation which signals just how disjunctive—how unbridgeable—the division is today between the different groups of people we call “Americans.” That division is growing greater, more irreparable and sharper by the day…and there is not much that can be done to heal it, barring some form of Divine intervention.
Talk of unity around commonly-held principles, indeed a common comprehension of what is actually real and what is not, no longer holds. Talk of “unity” in the America of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is not only useless, it is, in essence, counter-productive and destructive to our understanding of what really has occurred and is occurring in society.
Thirty-five years ago a Ronald Reagan and a Tip O’Neill could differ considerably in their views, but then they could sit down over a beer and communicate using the same language and, significantly, invest it with the same meaning that they both agreed on. Forty years ago most Americans were, arguably, able not only to communicate with but, more importantly, to be understood by other members within society.
That no longer holds.
And it became radically and very personally apparent to me the other day.
I have a very dear friend, an old girlfriend whom I have known since we were small children. For years I considered her home like my home-away-from-home. I would spend a lot of time on weekends there. Her mother was a piano teacher, an old-school Southern Democrat, educated and even elegant in the sense of those “grande dames” that you sometimes read about in romantic Southern novels. Growing up my friend—let us call her Susan—shared most all the same views as I. We grew up when to be a conservative Democrat in North Carolina was not uncommon. True, times were changing, but that didn’t seem to affect us.
We graduated high school together and then went separate ways for college.
While I went away to the University of Virginia, finishing my MA in history there (as a Thomas Jefferson Fellow), and then on to Spain for a PhD, Susan went to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (as did her future husband). Back then it was still possible to get a good education at this state’s premiere university without the contagion of political correctness or Critical Race Theory warping your education.
When I was overseas in Spain, and then in Switzerland and Argentina, I didn’t see as much of Susan as before. But when I finally returned permanently to North Carolina in 1981, we rekindled our friendship as if nothing had ever happened. Every major holiday and for birthdays we would gather to celebrate and remember times past.
This past year I did not talk with Susan much at all. This COVID madness seemed to have curtailed normal social interaction even between the closest of friends. But recently I telephoned her concerning a mutual friend who had entered Hospice. And the conversation turned to politics, the 2020 election, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden.
In a way our conversation stunned me…It probably shouldn’t have…I probably should have anticipated it. But given our past history and our close friendship, it still left me wondering—seriously—if this creaky old American republic could survive, if the extreme and radical differences that now are so ingrown and deep-seated could ever be overcome.
My realization now—my belief—is that they cannot, that there is no practical way to, as it were, “put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.”
Susan asked me what I thought of the January 6 “riot” in Washington. I responded in so many words that for the most part it may have been pre-planned in advance, that it had begun before President Trump had even finished his speech at the other end of the Mall some distance from the Capitol, and that he had specifically cautioned his supporters to be peaceful. I mentioned also that from what I had read some Antifa-types had intermingled with the relatively few folks who actually invaded the Capitol. While I condemned any destructive behavior on the part of those few dozen who were guilty, for the most part the news reports about the “riot” were overblown and were being used politically by the political Left.
Susan exploded as I had never heard her do before:
“Boyd, how can you spout such lies and false news? Haven’t you seen the news reports of how Trump encouraged the mob to invade the Capitol? It was an insurrection, an attempt to overthrow the government by force!”
Her anger and outrage took me by surprise. And after her initial outburst, I tried to respond:
“President Trump specifically cautioned his supporters at the rally to be peaceful and let their voices be heard, but to do it in an orderly and lawful fashion….” But before I could continue, Susan interrupted me:
“How can you say that? Trump didn’t say anything about being ‘peaceful’. He didn’t say that. He urged the mob to go in and take over the Capitol and overthrow the government by force! Where are you getting your news from—Fox or Newsmax? They are rightwing extremist media that make up all sorts of things…like the claim that Trump told his supporters to be peaceful. They probably just edited that in their reporting. It never happened.”
Literally, my mouth dropped open.
“Susan,” I responded, “I watched the speech live…and he did say that! He told his supporters to peacefully walk down to the other end of the Mall…and even before he finished saying that, there were some people in the Capitol… a long walk from where he was speaking. Didn’t you see that or know that?!”
And once again, she replied denying that my account of events was even close to the truth.
“None of what you say is true, Boyd…it’s all made up by those extremist media sources you use.”
A little later our conversation turned to the real riots that did happen last summer in Raleigh. I asked Susan if she had been downtown recently and seen the shuttered and boarded-up storefronts of what had previously been a prosperous and active commercial part of North Carolina’s capital city. Further, I tried to pinpoint the difference between that rampant violence and destruction and what had happened on January 6 in Washington.
Again, how Susan answered me was beyond reality.
“It was those Proud Boys and rightwing extremists who did all that violence…the Black Lives Matter demonstrators were peaceful, just wanting justice.”
When I retorted that members of Proud Boys were nowhere to be seen in the riots in Raleigh, that even our state’s Democratic leftist governor got out and marched with the BLM rioters, once again I was met with a swift denial.
In other words: “who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”
At that, Susan applied what was apparently meant to be the coup de grace in our discussion.
“You do know, don’t you, that it is beyond debate that all those riots and Trump’s call for a rebellion—all of that came from Russia, with support from Putin. He wants to destroy our democracy [sic!]. Trump has been his agent all along!”
No matter the Mueller Report, even though it was confected by leftist Democrats who could find no substantial proof for that accusation. It still was true, and for me to question pervasive Russian influence was simply “en dehors de tout debat”—outside any legitimate debate. Logically, since I and seventy-four million Americans dared to cast a vote for Trump, we, too, had become useful idiots (at best) or knowing agents (at worst) for that evil puppeteer in the Kremlin!
By this time it was abruptly clear that Susan and I existed in different universes, in different realities, that no actual communication was possible, at least on the essential understanding and nature of what was occurring in present-day America. But, also for me, more profoundly, what had happened in this brief very personal and minor exchange (in the far greater scheme of things), was eerily illustrative of something which had happened all across the old republic created with such hope in 1787.
Back on December 2, 2020 in my blog, I authored a piece which was then printed by LewRockwell.com on December 4: “Triumph of the Pod People: What the 2020 Election Really Means.” In that piece, which was accessed by thousands of readers on my Web site, I made reference to the classic, campy 1956 horror movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” about extraterrestrial beings who were transported to earth as vegetable pods and who took over the bodies of sleeping, unaware human beings, and possessed them, turning them essentially into robotic creatures who continued to look like real humans but weren’t.
And I declared since the events of November and December 2020 that imagery had come back to me:
With all the increasing discussion of “two Americas,” of a country—our geographical entity—irreconcilably divided in which not only interests, values and beliefs radically and sharply differ, but inhabitants can no longer communicate, even though they supposedly speak the same language, that imagery of six decades ago becomes more a fulfilled prophecy than science fiction….
I was not suggesting that our progressivist fellow citizens had actually been possessed by aliens. No, rather,
…the virus of a highly contagious (post-)Marxist venom in our culture has infected millions of our fellow citizens and exacted a tremendous toll—that it has been percolating for many decades in our institutions, oftentimes just below the surface—that its initial target was our educational system (and media)—and that its major accomplishment has been to persuade us to accept as undeniable, dogmatic truth, the idea of irreversible and steadily-advancing Progress which its self-appointed heralds and standard-bearers continuously proclaim and update as they see fit.
A few years earlier I wrote in the traditionalist Catholic fortnightly, The Remnant (June 30, 2017), about what I termed the “triumph of lunacy” in Western society, that millions of our fellow inhabitants in the United States,
…live in a parallel universe, with its own set of foundational beliefs, its own standards of truth and narrative of facts. This universe in almost every respect represents the aggressive contrary, the negation, of the inherited, rooted principles on which our historic Western and Christian civilization is based. This “other” reality, this paradigm, did not all of a sudden just spring up or just appear, it has been cultivated and nurtured for centuries. Its creating philosophers understood that their operational premises and desired objectives ran up full force against the ingrained traditions and historic legacy of a culture and civilization that traced its origins not only to the beliefs of the ancient Hebrews, but also to the highest art and philosophy and statecraft of the Greeks and of Rome.
Folks like Susan—yes, my dear friend of sixty years—offer us a new inverted reality. They tell us that we are the ones who are outside the bounds of sanity, that we accept “fake” and false ideas and accounts of what is happening. They proclaim that they are striving to “defend our democracy” and further justice and liberty. But their template—their revolution—is a form of projection which turns rationality on its head and enslaves them in unrequited passions, unbound and unreasoned, cocooned in a pseudo-reality, at the service of what is essentially a satanic Revolution. It is, to paraphrase the great English Catholic essayist and poet G. K. Chesterton, the definition of real lunacy.
In his volume, The Poet and the Lunatics (1929), Chesterton’s character Gale asks the question: “What exactly is liberty?” He responds, in part : “First and foremost, surely, it is the power of a thing to be itself [as God intended].… We are limited by our brains and bodies; and if we break out, we cease to be ourselves, and, perhaps, to be anything. The lunatic is he who loses his way and cannot return.”
The American revolutionaries who now dominate our government, our broadcasting media, and who indoctrinate gullible, nearly soul-less students in supposed “centers of higher education,” are, to use Chesterton’s parable, lunatics: men “already outside the world of reason.” They dwell in a virtual counter-reality, with a scarcely disguised rage to destroy our traditional civilization and our very way of thinking. And no dissent from that agenda will be tolerated in their new definition of what is real and what is not.
In short, they are modern “pod people.” In 2021 they have almost all the trump cards. They have recaptured much of the momentum they lost in November 2016 when an upstart billionaire from New York partially blocked their seemingly irreversible march toward a new reality and a progressivist utopia.
Sadly for me, my friend Susan has been swept up into that counter-reality, and nothing I can say, no proof I can put forward challenging her “facts” will change her.
For her—and for millions of modern “pod people” like her—I and those like me are the lunatics, psychologically part of the “Trump cult,” and not the reverse.
In a speech given in 1858 Abraham Lincoln, an individual I rarely quote and generally dislike, famously declared (plagiarizing St. Matthew 12:25): “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
We are there now.