The Port Arthur News
As we bid goodbye to 2011, newspapers and magazines are full of year-end tributes to the people and events that shaped the world.
Looking them over, I can’t help but wonder if we’re entering a new Dark Age where fear and ignorance coupled with a propensity for violence shuts out or at least outweighs improvement to the human condition.
The year began when a crazed gunman unloaded an astonishing number of rounds at an Arizona political rally that seriously wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others, including a federal judge.
The shootings and deaths continued unabated all year. There was hardly time to mourn the dead as politicians in state after state fell over themselves in violation of common sense and passed laws making it easier to get guns and conceal them.
An armed populace makes it easier to commit crimes, but a Dark Age doesn’t think, it reacts.
While science brought us to the precipice of the God particle and thought it had proved Einstein wrong, hicks and hayseeds everywhere denigrated science in school curricula by insisting creationism — based solely on untestable belief — be given equal time with science.
Education itself continued as political ping pong, batted about and defunded by conservatives who want to privatize and dilute what students learn. A letter writer in USA Today said scholarships should not be given to liberal arts students because it’s difficult to get a job with that background.
Those who agree apparently want colleges to exist as trade schools where you learn just enough to do a job. Liberal arts, with its emphasis on art, literature, philosophy and understanding of humanity are no longer necessary in a world of niches. It also means that basic human progress and decency is deemed unworthy of study, leaving students susceptible to conservative Machiavellianism.
The forces of fear and ignorance were in full flower when it came to immigrants and Muslims. States passed draconian laws against immigrants (which courts have sensibly chopped away at), and the National Defense Authorization Act (which hasn’t passed) would, as one columnist said, make us all terrorists now and subject even citizens to indefinite incarceration. We would all exist at the pleasure of the president.
If anything heralds a new Dark Age, it’s the shocking base pandering of Republican presidential candidates — with emphasis on God’s law over government, the rights of the rich over the poor, the degradation of government and environment, the anti-constitutional stance against equality, beliefs over facts, us versus them mentality -- and the sorry list goes on.
The racists have already started piping up against President Obama in their effort to make sure a white Republican gets into the White House. The Patriot Freedom Alliance, a Kansas-based tea party group, compared Obama to a skunk — black and white and everything he does stinks.
In the Dark Age, there is no room for intelligent discussion of issues. Sound bites are preferred to substance and opinions trump facts.
On Christmas Day, a grandfather dressed as Santa slaughtered a family of seven in Fort Worth, Tex., as they were opening presents. A few weeks earlier, an Illinois woman told her neighbor that "no, everything is not all right," just before she shot her baby and herself.
Welcome to 2012, where uneducated rubes and ranters with easy access to firearms and provocations from right-wing ideologues work hard to ensure that nothing will ever be all right.
Stephen Dick is the associate editor of The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.