In thinking about our coming New Year, one tends to want to first recapitulate the events of the present one to find things that we want to continue and things that we can do without. By far, those things are led this year by words that have been used extensively to try to create an alternate reality for the country to believe in.
2018 will test whether this attempt to use words to convert the President’s world view into a national and global reality will succeed. President Trump, a master of projections using language will be very busy this coming year transmitting his personal vision as the new American truth.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, 100 Years of Solitude (1967) depicts the life of the Buendia family led by its patriarch Jose Acadio Buendia who founded the town of Macondo in a mythical Columbia. The scenes, like the story are created by words that describe the life cycle in magical terms.
For me, the most important moment in the novel is when the butterflies come to erase people’s memories of the reality that had been the town and its people. Then, using words to “actually” name again the physical fixtures of homes, streets and people Macondo begins again another magical life cycle.
Garcia Marquez reminds us in his work that the reality we live in is really created by words. This is because our perception is dominated by language and can be changed by the words we choose to believe.
I am reminded of a CNN commercial that I believe is designed to counter the President’s attempt to convert his version of perception into a national reality with words that include the notion of “fake news.” In the commercial there is a view of an apple (truth) that is interrupted by a set of yapping teeth that attempt to distract the viewer from the central image.
There are studies that have determined that the President lies or distorts the truth at least 70 percent of the time. One of the latest big fibs is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that was sold as a tax cut for the middle class when the principle beneficiaries are the President’s private businesses and corporations that are seeing their taxes cut almost in half.
One of the principle planks of President Trump’s campaign for office was the notion of “draining the swamp” in Washington. The opposite is becoming true as it appears that the history of personal corruption by a sitting president is unprecedented.
Most serious is the attempt to change the national narrative from the current reality to an alternate also created by words. To do this, the administration has taken to eliminating and changing words such what is being done to doctor scientific reports from the Center for Disease Control.
The most dangerous of these efforts is the open and direct attacks on the press. Although guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, there is an authoritarian character to the selective attacks that should alarm everyone because our very freedoms of thought and speech are at stake.
2018 is a challenging year because of its political nature. Open in Colorado we will be the governorship and other state offices as well as our congressional seats.
Let us toast to the New Year and then take it as a challenge to think and act to better our country and its institutions as it is the institutions that help secure our values. Happy New Year.