Credit: Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, MN

The Democrats’ failed attempt to protect voting rights by a vote of 48-52, with Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema joining all the Republicans, was more than just a blow against democracy. It was a harbinger of the fact that America is, in plain sight, on the precipice of a “Dark Age.”

“Dark Age” is the term used to describe the Early Middle Ages between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, which occurred some 900 years later. Its characteristics included: economic, intellectual, and cultural decline, and the burning of people judged to be heretics. During the “darkness,” scientific inquiry was replaced by innuendo and rumor.

The Darkness which is descending upon us includes: banning books based on race, sexual, and even magical (Harry Potter) content, science ignored and replaced by internet and pundit opinions, politics based on lying and propaganda, and the symbolic burning, i.e., ostracizing, of Republican heretics who refute Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the presidency was stolen from him by massive fraud (which did not exist).

Despite the objections of educators, the American Library Association (ALA), and the First Amendment, books have been banned in Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, Utah and Florida under the leadership of Republicans. Indeed, newly elected Governor Glenn Youngkin of West Virginia used critical race theory (CRT) to ride to victory in Virginia. (CRT is a 40-year-old academic concept that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but something embedded in culture, legal systems, and social policies). Youngkin not only pledged to ban the teaching of CRT, and the books discussing it, he signed an Executive Order on his first day in office to ensure it.

In the recent film Don’t Look Up, the world ignores a scientific observation showing that the Earth will be destroyed by a “Planet Killing” comet. Like the scientists in the film, climate scientists are warning us that the Earth, and our way of life, will be irreparably damaged by the oncoming planetary “tipping point” of 1.5C; given the world’s inaction, this will occur mid-century, while we all fail “to look up.”

Our failure to heed the scientific warning regarding the results of an overheating climate will, unless we act, be disastrous. On the other hand, those who are in denial about the science showing us how to defeat the coronavirus plaguing the world is a more accessible example of the coming darkness. As of this writing, the U.S. suffered 2,669,054 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Science has established that the best protection against the virus is three shots of a COVID vaccine. Yet, more than 122 million Americans haven’t even received one, much less three, shots of a vaccine.

If you want to witness the darkness descending, watch Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. His show has claimed: the vaccines are killing people, are comparable to Jim Crow, apartheid, and forced sterilizations, even using one anecdote stating that a viewer got the shot and became impotent. All this while people are giving other people a potentially lethal virus by not getting vaccinated (and masking in public spaces).

That takes us to the most potent symbol of the current darkness coming toward us: the Senate vote and the political lying that instigated it. Systematic lying is hardly new in political history, e.g., public support for the Iraq war was based on lies about Iraq posing an imminent threat to the U.S. What is new is Donald Trump and his Republican Party’s use of lies to consciously bring the curtain of darkness down around us. Based on Trump’s “Big Lie,” 20 states have already passed laws restricting the voting rights of people of color and older and younger Americans.

Lying, of course, is a way of gaining power over other people through manipulation and propaganda. According to a poll from Monmouth University, Republican lying is working. Three quarters of Republicans believe, espouse, and use for political purposes Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election but remains in the cold because of fraud.

During the Dark Age of the Middle Ages, the Italian poet Petrarch wrote: “This sleep of forgetfulness will not last forever. When the darkness has dispersed, our descendants can come again in their former pure radiance.” The light he was referring to exists in each of us. If we choose to use it, we can prevent the coming darkness. That means “looking up” and doing something.

Politics is neither entertainment nor a team sport. It’s serious often deadly business. The seriousness for democracy will be tested in the coming 2022 election. If the Republicans take back the House and Senate, the curtain of darkness will fall. Senators Sinema and Manchin’s votes have to be neutralized. A 52-48 Democratic Senate would allow a much-needed ray of light into American politics.

Whether or not the darkness will be dispersed is up to us. The politicians can’t do it without our help.


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