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Myths, dogma, and our Congress

by Stephen Kaye
Thu Feb 16th, 2017

As Bill Schlesinger points out in his weekly blog (posted here under Environment) the Church once held to the dogma that the earth was at the center of the universe.  When Galileo came up with observations that the earth circled the sun, he was charged with heresy and threatened with ex-communication.  It is hard for us today to imagine the extent that dogma was accepted as the truth. Schlesinger goes on goes on:

I marvel, then, that those who simply wish the world worked otherwise can prevail in the public-policy world. Contrarians of global warming do not muster science to support their views; rather, they trust their beliefs to be true even in the face of science. For scientists to sit quietly while the misinformed determine government policy on major environmental issues is an unacceptable return on the public investment in science. Unfortunately, speaking against the “alternative facts” of the contrarians has now reduced scientists to the status of a special-interest group.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate about climate change, where a small ideological minority persists in disrupting the creation of effective policy—not basing their criticism on what we know from science but using an active program of “alternative facts” to confuse the issue. Many of these ideologues have a deep stake in the status quo. Unfortunately, the longer we wait to limit the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the less likely it is that we will avoid the negative impacts of global warming.  Management of a planet does not turn on a dime.

The Republican leadership mouths the dogma because they are paid to do so. They are a members of a herd schooled to follow the leaders.  A few distinguished former cabinet members of the Bush administration are urging their colleagues in Congress to wake up before they are so committed to the dogma that they are seen as fools by even their own base.  They are already seen as fools by most of the world.  How this damages their creditability in other areas is hard to measure.  But the world must be saying: “If they can believe that, they will believe anything,” and that would be a true statement.

Another area where Congress believes myth is revealed in their attitudes towards Israel, a myth that completely blanks out the apartheid nature of that regime.  It was ex-President Jimmy Carter who called out to the world that Israel was no better than South Africa in isolating the inconvenient population behind barriers and maintaining a police state.

The cruelty and atrocities every day practiced on the Palestinian population are one of the great human rights abuses of our time, yet Congress puts it head and the sand in a cynical denial of truth.  Congressional behavior on this issue is understood well in the Arab world.  Israel claims that it is a democratic state and a lover of freedom and Congress readily repeats that myth when the truth is that Israel discriminates against minorities and has since its founding. Israel is determined to remove its Palestinian population by starvation, denial of human services, education, health services, access to the rest of the world, denial of the right to own property, to build a house, to travel, to their own land. The literature on this is vast and continues, despite the efforts of Israel and its supporters to silence public discussion and intimidate the media. 

The Israel lobby is particularly successful in convincing every Congressman or politician that if any mention is made of Palestinian rights, they will suffer severely.  A few Congressmen brought up the issue of Palestinian children who are arrested (sometimes in the middle of the night), tortured, and imprisoned by Israeli military.  Staffers from 30 Congressional offices attended a briefing session. Those congressional members involved are now targets of the Israel lobby who use the charge of anti-Semitism and association with terrorist organizations as media weapons to discredit those few brave Congress people.

The dogma relating to these two issues have caused devastating damage not only to the image of the United States abroad, but to our national treasury. A recent tally says we have spent $6 trillion in the Mid-East, largely because of an outsized concern for Israel and fossil fuels.  That number only stands as a symbol of the extent of damage to the millions of dead, injured and displaced populations for which we are responsible.  Why?  Why did we do this? The answer relates to deeply held myths as to who we are and our mission in the world “as the world’s only super power”  (another myth).

Failing to act on Global Warming will not only hurt us internationally, it may contribute to extinctions, more severe weather patterns, and impact future generations in ways we can not imagine.