Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The kakistocracy

Today I'd like to look at the state of Arizona, where this week a 4-2 decision by the state's Supreme Court made abortions illegal in any circumstance except to save a woman's life -- practically speaking, making them illegal period, because few doctors will want to risk their livelihood (or their freedom) based on whether a court will decide a particular abortion was a medical necessity.

This decision caused the state law to revert to a code passed in 1864 -- decades before women even had the right to vote.  It's an interesting historical filigree that the man who pushed the 1864 law through in the first place, then Speaker of the House for the Arizona Territory W. Claude Jones, was a notorious adulterer, philanderer, liar, and pedophile (he openly called himself a "pursuer of nubile females"), whose victims included a twelve-year old Mexican girl and a fifteen-year-old who had recently arrived with her parents from Texas.  The decision by the court is also irrespective of the fact that such restrictions are wildly unpopular; in a 2023 poll, only thirteen percent of Americans responded that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, and just over sixty percent stated that the United States Supreme Court's Dobbs decision (which overturned Roe v. Wade) was "a bad thing."

What's striking about this is that despite the fact that the majority of American citizens are at least pro-choice in some circumstances, they keep electing people who are somewhere to the right of Tom├ís de Torquemada.  Take, for example, Arizona State Senator Anthony Kern, who crowed, "Looks like our prayer team stirred up some God-haters," and led a prayer circle on the floor of the Senate in which -- I shit you not -- he "spoke in tongues."

Is it just me, or do these people sound like this?

A point I've made (many times) here in Skeptophilia is that I have no issue with what you believe, as long as you don't use those beliefs as a hammer to force others to comply.  On the other hand, I am under no obligation to refrain from saying those beliefs are ridiculous, especially when you make a point of exhibiting them in public.

Put another way: I always try to respect people, but ideas only deserve respect if they make sense and honor other people's rights.

A few days ago I saw a post on social media where a guy took exception to those of us who were making fun of Rapture-believers who thought the total eclipse on Monday was a sign of the End Times.  "Most Rapture-believers don't think that," he said (despite the fact that people like Marjorie Taylor Greene stated that the eclipse was a "sign from God to repent"), then sniffed, "People who are making fun of Rapture-believers are actually making fun of themselves."

Um, no.  We're actually making fun of the Rapture-believers.  If you hold silly beliefs, you can't blame other people for laughing.

The whole problem escalates when these people are elected to public office, and start using their bizarre worldviews to drive policy.  For example, a law in Louisiana just passed the House which would require all public school classrooms to post the Ten Commandments.  (And before you @ me about how the Ten Commandments are just guides to good behavior, and apply regardless of whether you're religious or not, allow me to remind you that the First Commandment is "I am the Lord thy God; you shall have no other gods before me.")  Another proposed bill in my former home state, HB777, would make it a criminal offense for a librarian to belong to the American Library Association -- because libraries have long stood for free access to information, which is absolutely anathema to the Far Right.  (Also because the ALA has championed the availability of books representing racial diversity and LGBTQ+ representation; apparently we can't have the world knowing there are people who aren't straight white Christians.)

I can only hope that Americans are becoming aware of the extent to which people who proudly espouse loony beliefs have taken control of the government, and that this will galvanize voters to turn out for the election this November.  I'm not talking about true conservatives (people like former congressman Joe Walsh) -- although I may not agree with him about all that much, I could have a reasonable discussion with him.  But I have zero common ground with irrational religious ideologues like current Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, and snarling hypocrites like Lauren Boebert, who publicly stated that she's all about "family values" and is "tired of this separation of church and state junk" but who apparently thinks it's A-OK to give her boyfriend a handjob in a public theater.

We have allowed ourselves to be controlled by a group of men and women whose outsized impact on our laws far exceeds their numbers.  We can turn this around -- but only if people get themselves to the polls.  We don't need elected officials like Anthony Kern babbling, "Ickety ackety ooh aah aah," then claiming those are God's words saying what a Very Good Boy He Is.  We need people capable of reasoned discourse, who -- even if they disagree -- can present their arguments based on facts and logic, not on some bizarre set of beliefs that make about as much sense as claiming that the universe is being controlled by a Giant Green Bunny From The Andromeda Galaxy.

Which means that we need to voteAll of us.  Our system is far from perfect, but this year the choice is stark.  (Maybe it always is.)  The Greeks had a word for the direction we're heading: a kakistocracy, government by the worst, the most unfit, or the most unscrupulous.  Remember the quote from Plato: "The price of apathy toward public affairs is to be ruled by those who are actively evil."

Or, in the case of Anthony Kern, flat-out insane.  


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