Welcome to the Handbasket

“Going to hell in a handbasket”, “going to hell in a handcart”, “going to hell in a handbag” are variations on an American allegorical locution of unclear origin, which describes a situation headed for disaster inescapably or precipitately.

handbasket1

In September, I had lunch with my brother in Denver when I was in town for a conference. After some small talk, he launched into the political situation by asking me “So do you plan to vote for a crook or a liar?” And honestly, I didn’t know which candidate was which – they both qualified for either description.

I will be clear – I voted for Hillary because she represented the status quo and I was OK with that. She was the more tolerant choice, the more progressive choice – the safer choice. When the election results were in, I felt stunned. How could this have happened? How did we elect someone who heretofore seemed to be a joke candidate? This has been a common refrain, given the pre-election polls and predictions. But it did happen. And now we are all in this basket together. I wish I felt like we were headed somewhere good, but my gut (and I have learned to trust it implicitly after 57 years) tells me otherwise.

We are on the road to perdition, people. The highway to hell. The mainline to mayhem. And…we did this to ourselves. Anyone who can observe the actions of the past two weeks and use their critical thinking will see that the path ahead is going to be led by people with an agenda that is radically different than at any other time in America. A man with tight ties to white nationalism is leading the White House strategy, the future Secretary of Defense is a warmonger, the Attorney General selection has been quoted making racist remarks, and the proposed National Security Advisor is an Islamophobe.

This paints a pretty clear picture of the future and it is grim. The morning after the election, the hallway in my building was being painted and all the overhead light fixtures had paper cones around them. It darkened the path and felt gloomy and dim. It matched my mood and the view I have of the future a little too well. The paper cones have since been removed, but walking down the hallway, I am reminded that we are headed for some dark times ahead.

I’ve heard the reminders to be patient, he’s “not that bad”. I’ve been told to “wait and see.” But my gut (there it goes again, being all judgy) says “hell, no.” By waiting, I am part of the problem. I am accepting this future as a given. I can’t do that, people. I can’t. I have to say “look at the past to predict the future” and any leader with an untamed ego and a hair trigger temper will lead us to danger. Already, he’s showing his temperament over minor slights. He’s continuing to question the news sources and cast aspersions on their ability to report on his administration. This erosion of trust is step one in controlling the news. And by controlling the news to match the perceptions of his truth is step two in compromising the First Amendment. Who out there remembers Pravda? In Russian, Pravda means truth. It was the state owned news outlet following the Russian revolution and was in place for 80 years, until Glasnost came along, changing the Russian landscape. When I see this pattern, I worry. It can happen so gradually that people may not notice the change over time. Take a snapshot now and compare in 6 months – 12 months – and be mindful. When a government seeks to control the dialogue and conversation, truth suffers.

Speaking of hell, one of the things I am most perplexed by is the number of religious groups who supported a man who has:

  1. Been married 3 times and has kids from each marriage
  2. Is a known philanderer who has cheated during his marriages
  3. Has multiple claims of inappropriate conduct from a wide range of women he’s been in contact with
  4. Had a cameo in a porn film only 16 years ago
  5. Openly stated that as a star, he can “do what he wants” to women with no repercussions
  6. Has no consistent pattern of church membership
  7. Treats truth as optional
  8. Was chastised by Pope Francis: “A person who thinks only about building walls—wherever they may be—and not building bridges, is not Christian …”

Considering the scrutiny over our current president’s religious affiliations and the ongoing questioning about his faith, I have to say I am honestly perplexed. All of these things listed above are facts. They are known to be true and voters heard them. Still, the religious right said “He’s our guy”. And the Catholics came through, too. His stand on abortion alone was enough to sway them. And…if you recall, he used very graphic references regarding abortion in the last debate. Graphic and wrong. It was a scare tactic that somehow seemed to work. All the progress over the many years of educating people and now we are facing a complete reversal of thought, with abortions being considered a criminal act.

As a refresher, for those who are religious, here are the 10 Commandments. I’ve commented on those that are in question based on the president-elect’s past:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Ego and narcissism here)
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (6 foot painting of himself, his name on everything he owns)
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (No firsthand experience, so I won’t comment)
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Nope)
5. Honor thy father and thy mother (He’s probably good here)
6. Thou shalt not kill (Nothing has been reported here)
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery (Yep, Yep, and Yep.)
8. Thou shalt not steal (Yep – basic premise of his business model)
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (Lies as soon as he breathes)
10. Thou shalt not covet (wives, homes, animals, etc.) (Yep, Yep, and probably)

We are at the top of the bobsled hill, people. We are about to start the one way trip down the slope with a guy at the helm who hasn’t even been on a sled before. I don’t feel safe and I don’t feel hopeful that we will all make it down the hill OK. We have a lot at stake here. And while the right approach for some may be to close your eyes and hope, and for others, it’s to sit up front and revel in the rush, I plan to be one of those who actively tries to slow the damn thing down and wrestle some sort of control back. I didn’t sign up for this ride. I don’t intend to be collateral damage along the way.

Critical Thinking – 5 Easy Steps

think

crit·i·cal think·ing

noun
noun: critical thinking
  1. the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Five easy steps to critical thinking and reading critically

Now more than ever, it matters that we all think critically and apply that to what information we ingest. In light of recent exposure of false news being shared that has had an impact on national elections, believing everything we read comes with extreme consequences. To that end, I am more convinced than ever that one thing I can do is to apply what I learned in my schooling about reading critically.

The internet is a source of a lot of information and misinformation. A data point from meetings I attended this week – over 90% of the content that is on the Internet has been created in the past 2 years. It will continue to proliferate and grow, making it harder and harder to filter and fact check. We all want to believe that what we read is true, but that can’t be the case. To quote my mom (and many others), fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.

Here are my suggestions – I’m sure there are many others, but I wanted to keep this brief. Feel free to add your own to the list.

  1. Read broadly. If you only get your news from a single source, you run the risk of getting tunnel vision.
  2. If a topic or story seems ludicrous, fact check it. Look at other sites to see if they are reporting it as well. Select sites that have conflicting views and see how it’s being reported from their perspective.
  3. Know who is behind your news. Look at who the publishers and editors are – you can very quickly get a sense of bias or point of view by doing this. Many media sources use names in ways that make them seem like other sources – this can be intentional or not, but it is important to understand what you are reading and who is sharing it.
  4. If you find yourself only ever saying “Yeah – that’s my kind of news” you are probably in an echo chamber. News that is based on the basic journalistic principle of “Who, What, Where, Why, and How” will often give you news that makes you uncomfortable because it runs counter to your personal beliefs or bias.
  5. Synthesize what you read – get the various sources, look for themes, and then THINK. I can’t stress this enough. News should not tell you how to think or feel. It should inform and you need to draw your own conclusions. It’s why I stopped watching any local or network news. I can’t abide being told how I should feel or think. I use my brain every day to do this. The minute I stop, I become part of the problem. And that’s not OK with me.