The RDF of modern times
Reality Distortion Field. It’s a term that was first used in Star Trek, resurrected to describe Steve Jobs’ approach to almost anything related to Apple, and it should be used – daily – to describe what goes on in U.S. politics.
At any given moment, people can be expected to reject what they were told yesterday, accept what was uttered an hour ago, and admit that settled fact is now fake. Some observers groan, others nod in agreement like a bobble-head dog, and a brave few dare to make public denouncements. It’s enough to make you wonder whether Voldemort is real. Jo Rowling would probably say yes.
We used to, we Americans, believe in proven expertise. Now, we’re told that any skill is suddenly transferable. It’s as if cardiologists are suddenly qualified as Maserati engine mechanics. “Hey, if you can take apart and rebuild the heart of one thing, you should be able to do it to another.” Right.
In any profession, there are specialists. Residential realty is different than commercial. Grain shipping takes different knowhow than transporting transformers. Retailers do things differently than wholesalers. Luciano Pavarotti sounded nothing like Pharrell Williams. And, no: it wasn’t because one was from… Virginia.
It may be true that, as e. e. cummings wrote, “a politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.” But that doesn’t mean that any arse can be a good politician (or a good man, given the accusations and resignations of the last several months). And whether or not you have respect for politicians, the qualified ones know how to make things happen, starting with the essence of politics – compromise.
Ever since, starting with the Gipper, Congress decided that bi-partisanship was as taboo as bi-sexuality was, it’s been harder and harder to make anything work. If you’re willing to reach across the aisle to find common ground, you’re considered weak or unprincipled or not a team player. Yet that’s what politicians are supposed to do.
If you don’t want to find common ground, there are lots of other jobs you can fill. Terrorist, for instance. Or executioner, perhaps. Of course, those people do change reality. They just don’t try to distort it the way our current batch of politicians does.
By refusing to accommodate a second point of view, Congress might as well be stocked with terrorists and executioners (and a kidnapper or two). They are holding democracy hostage, in spite of their constituents’ desires, and threatening to blow up the system if they don’t get their way. Nyah, nyah. That’s not democracy. It’s anarchy. And nothing distorts the reality of American progress more destructively than that.
While several elected officials believe that you can, indeed, fool some of the people all of the time, more Americans seem to be catching on to Congress’s legerdemain. With luck, they will have the skill to distinguish reality from the distortion field of SuperPACs and Russian trolls this fall.
Let us pray.