The three hardest words

Imagine stories around a campfire…

a mystical möbius – curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a digital space around a safe, cozy, yet rather eclectic virtual campfire. My hope is to render an adequate sketch of history (a rough first-draft). 



So, I really do try to care as best I’m able, therefore I voted last Monday. Woot! First day of early in-person voting here in Kansas. I feel very blessed that the election commission in my county made it safe and easy to vote. I offer the election workers my heart-felt gratitude. It took less than ten minutes to exercise my freedom and make my voice and choices known in the 2020 election. Please exercise your freedom. Vote.



Three hardest words

In my experience, most often these three hardest words are left unspoken. There is usually no mistaking their presence in the background when these three words form the animating basis for someone’s words and/or behavior. Our present circumstance in America in relation to these three words has been occasioned and fomented on a top-down basis. Please allow me to explain.

So, what are the three hardest words?

“I don’t care”

Hard? More hard? “Hardest?” Perhaps it’s just me? I mean, after all, my M.Div. credo paper was entitled: “Toward a Theology of Care.” Maybe I’m just over-sensitive. Given the theological frame, add to the mix the fact that I consider care to be intrinsic to Love. It makes sense in terms of correspondence in that “I don’t care” can quickly and easily devolve into violent hate. Sadly, it frequently does exactly that.

All I know is that whenever my argumentation in favor of empathy, compassion, humanity, or some specific kind of justice, is met with an “I don’t care” response, my heart sinks. In my experience that closes the discussion space, there is really no “come-back” for that, little to no way to influence that (at least not short of Providence). In my experience this is a frequent occurrence when engaged in challenging discussion with a MAGA-head (e.g., Trump supporter, analogous to a ‘deadhead,’ that is, a supporter of the Grateful Dead). It seems as though whenever I make my best point with regard to something that I’m passionate about (justice or compassion related), I frequently elicit the “I don’t care” response. It often works the same way with regard to stubborn, verifiable facts challenging the president. When the facts are presented to MAGA-heads, frequently the response is: “I don’t care.” It is discouraging and demoralizing. 

If there is one thing I feel the MAGA movement [MM] has accomplished, it has legitimated “I don’t care” and shunning entire groups of people, banishing them to the land-of-the-uncared-about. The president does it all the time, agency and authority for this is being distributed right from the top. The MM has empowered the president’s supporters to feel legit while reducing by half the ranks of America—the president often actually attacks Democratic leaders along with their cities and states as though those persons or regions are not part of the president’s, or the nation’s, responsibility.

In his RNC acceptance speech for the 2020 nomination, the president reduces his opposition to: “Joe Biden is not a savior of America’s soul. He is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of America’s greatness.” The president’s opponents are not depicted as good American neighbors with different ideas, they (“the Dems”) are the destroyers of America. The Dems are painted as the enemy of the president and the enemy of America itself. The president has violent hate-group militias on “stand by” to deal with “the Dems” should the time for that arise. And don’t forget “lone wolves” like, nineteen year old, Alexander Hillel Treisman. I wrote recently about the problem with social media as a pathway to radicalization (The two biggest problems). With encouragement from the president’s incendiary rhetoric, is that how it worked with Mr. Treisman?



The fruit of cynicism

Where does cynicism come from and how does this “I don’t care” attitude toward other human beings and human justice develop? Well, a few weeks ago I spun an illustration of an “eighteenth-level perspective [ELP]” using an image of a “Jenga” tower (see Ashes, ashes, we all fall down). The ELP is a paraphrase for describing one who feels their own perspective is standard. One who feels that everyone else must experience the world the very same way they do. Even more plainly, one who believes that they personally vector Reality, that their understanding of Reality is normative for everyone.

OK. So, how does an eighteenth-level perspective apply to life on the ground? 

Pandemic denial

People are complex so perhaps the best way to know why anyone does what they do is to ask them directly. Of, course, what one says must also reconcile with their behavior. In fact, many believe it prudent to give more attention to what a person does no matter what they say. That said, it’s difficult to ask everyone who is not wearing a mask in public why they choose to abstain. Still, it is fair to try and understand if there are any kind of general explanations because there are indeed many people who do not wear masks. 

How is one able to claim that the Covid-19 pandemic is not real, that it is a “hoax?” For many people, how it is even possible for anyone to make the hoax claim is a complete mystery. 

OK, first, experience is a significant authority in most people’s lives. Seeing with ELP eyes, if it doesn’t touch you or yours, then it doesn’t exist. Here’s a chart from Johns Hopkins that may offer us some assistance:



We are only just now getting to the point that community-spread is becoming a widespread, simultaneous phenomenon across much of the country including many rural areas. So, this chart may help explain how denial has been possible for some. For those who operate from an eighteenth-level perspective, it’s easy to see that earlier on this year the possibility of not knowing anyone who had contracted Covid-19 was much higher. To the extent that those operating from an ELP did not experience the reality of a dear friend or loved one getting very sick or even dying of the coronavirus they were allowed/enabled to discount and dismiss the pandemic. 

Eighteenth-level perspective is natural narcissism, it is a developmental dimension of human life and may be outgrown. ELP is the sin Saint Paul tells us is universal. I have written about narcissism previously (Narcissism: material/spiritual) (The hard way) (Stairway to heaven?) and the difficulties our culture creates for outgrowing our eighteenth-level perspective (e.g., our natural narcissism, or sin).

—I note: When I wrote “The hard way,” we discussed it, and my therapist basically affirmed my description of natural narcissism, however, made it clear that clinical “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) is a rather different and far more serious matter. “Perfectionism” (the thorn in my side) overlaps here as well, but, again, is categorically different than NPD.

Atop the MAGA org-chart is one who is overtly narcissistic [ELP, perhaps even NPD according to DJT’s psychologist niece] and obviously believes that his reality is universal. Sadly, this has all come together to form the perfect-storm of bad messaging regarding the coronavirus pandemic response. The president has essentially defined reality for America based on his own desires, and his rather fortunate and uniquely privileged perspective and experience of Covid-19

In short form, reality be damned, the president has declared that he has personally defeated Covid-19 and so the pandemic is over—what the heck, the vice president had declared that the pandemic would be in the rear view mirror by last Memorial Day (May)!

The president’s fragmented rationality on it betrays a [self-conscious or not] social Darwinism [sD]. In other words, the president has determined, and is messaging, that anyone who dies, or has a difficult experience, with Covid-19 is weak (e.g., old, sick, a “loser,” so says sD). This is a ‘damn-the-mitigation,’ “let-‘er-rip” strategy animated by a commitment to an only-the-strong-survive ideology. (I do consider the idea of sD to be evil, btw) When the president said we are learning to live with coronavirus, as Joe Biden correctly pointed out, what Trump really means is ‘Just let them die of it.’ The president seems to believe that since he got Covid-19 and is fine, anyone who gets it who is MAGA worthy will be fine, too. 

The president betrays all this in not-so-little ways like this Tweet that [self-conscious or not] reveals the president’s contempt for the old [weak losers, so sD]:



If we step into the balcony and look down on all this what we see is quite alarming. The MM is excited and animated by a leader who is encouraging the faithful to come participate in what are likely super-spreader rallies; to not let fear of Covid-19 effect their behavior; to fully resume pre-Covid economic and lifestyle activities just as Covid-19 community spread is now really nationwide simultaneously. Virologists and epidemiologists are in wide agreement, any strategy that encourages the abandoning of public health mitigation is doomed to deadly catastrophe. The trouble for President Trump on this pandemic is that reality cannot be gaslighted away. 

I understand the problem for the president and tension between the major interests, e.g., public health and a functioning economy. The president’s proclivity to pit interests against each other has, in the case of the pandemic, produced EPIC FAILURE. Economic interests are important to everyone, no one mistakes that. The president cynically defaults to “only money matters” as he clearly values a healthy economy over a healthy population. Outside the MM, many people would prefer these two interests be treated equitably as a both/and problem instead of the president’s either/or pit one against the other approach.

I made this meme last week as I struggle with how the dynamics of ELP within society and life on the ground right now are being expressed:



Kansas farmers

Most Kansans have a little farmer in them. Now, it’s not that farmers are a monolith in any way. However, in general, I feel it’s a very good thing that Kansans have this feature in their DNA. Now, as part of this, most famers simply understand and accept that given life’s vicissitudes and occasional harshness there will be some sad losses when it comes to barn cats, etc. True enough. However, with regard to Covid-19, this president wants us all to simply apply the same moral reasoning to the humans of our society, “It is what it is” [said the president when asked about the impending 200,000th Covid-19 death that was looming at the time]. Live and let die. 

So, I ask my fellow Kansans [and any others], does your moral reasoning work the same way when you consider your brothers and sisters [i.e., other humans] as it does for your barnyard animals? You know, I would ordinarily feel it was very rude to even ask that question of morality except for the stubborn fact of those committed to social Darwinism whose number includes our president, or so his behavior would indicate at any rate.

Healing needed

We learned this week that the Covid-19 positive-test rate is over 20% here in Kansas. This was my response:



When I made the above meme I used my understanding of Spiral Dynamics and an inside knowledge of my audience. It is meant to be a healing meme that includes and integrates pieces of what is important to both the red (Republican) and blue (Democratic) teams.

Next week: “First we vote (and count).” Come and see. 

[this post approx. 1,925 words (8  min. read)]

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say? Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).

Bonus Video ~ ICYMI

Church leader Brian McLaren offers a helpful kitchen table breakdown of American values in play for election 2020… .


7 thoughts on “The three hardest words

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