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RANT FROM MARCH 2007
"Messing with the Myths"
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It came clear in the preparation for, the discussion after, my recent lecture to the Humanist Society of New Mexico - "The Uses of Myth." Much of the wasted adrenalin which is flying around these days is let loose because someone keeps messing with someone else's myths. It cuts both ways - our myths and their myths.

A. "We mess with their myths, and they're riled."
We insist on evidence, and regard evolution as a given when we look at life forms. "They" depend on myths and regard our understanding of things as an attack on them. Myths, remember, are stories, stories which we all use to explain who we are and what is important to us. Our belief attacks their myth, they think, and it makes them irrationally angry.

"I am not a monkey!"

"No one said you were. But you and I and the monkeys have a common ancestor."

"That's absurd, and wicked."

"Well, it seems extremely likely, nevertheless."

But all our calm rational retorts make the creationist more and more furious. "Reason is not good enough! We must have faith," he insists. Evidence does not interest him at all.

We are undermining what he thinks of as bedrock: God, the image of God, the will of God. We think the world can be understood without those elements, and he can't imagine such a thing. And he won't like my explanation of "messing with his myth," either, because he denies that there's any myth to it.

Another aspect of this same notion, of how we mess with their myth: we believe in peace, goodwill and human solidarity. Our periodic demonstrations to that effect make some people furious. So much so that they've come to disapprove of the traditional American right and duty to dissent. This is because our peace posture contradicts a myth which is very important to them - the myth of redemptive violence. The whole idea of punishment, the notion of redemption through violent sacrifice [including Jesus Christ dying for men's sins on the cross], the violent savior-gunslinger in all the classic westerns, Rambo in Vietnam - all that and the accompanying stories are brought into question when peaceniks, and peace-makers, and peaceful protestors get out into the street and demonstrate non-violent resistance.

Our disapproval of the colossal waste of money and ingenuity on additional firepower also undermines that myth of redemptive violence. Logic may be on our side - "What could possibly be the use of additional atomic weapons?" - but the fury and disgust are rampant, because we're messing with their myth, as well as their jobs, jobs, jobs...

B. "They mess with our myths, and we're riled."
More and more of us are saying publicly, in response to polls, even, that the country is going in the wrong direction. What do we mean by that? Part of it may be that one section of our myth about our country and its meaning and purpose has to do with truthfulness. We are brought up believing that George Washington, our first president, could not tell a lie. It took some doing, I remember in my own case, to come to realize that the president could and did lie. It was when Ike lied about Francis Gary Powers' U-2 spy-flight over the Soviet Union. Ike denied that such flights took place. So Kruschev shot Powers down and then offered to turn him over to Ike. Ike lied.

The dream dies hard. The Acting President lies all the time. We know it. The voters in general now know it. The world has been aware of it for a long time. Falsehood, deception, bald-faced lies - they think that's what our country stands for now. And we're getting cross about it. He's messing with our myth about our country.

And here's another one. We have long thought that our people are can-do people. We can get the job done, and done right. We have more know-how than most, we've been thinking, and more will-power to stick to it until it's done. Remember World War II ["We did it before and we can do it again"], The Air Lift, The man on the moon.

What happened? Just look at the mess - the reconstruction of Iraq, the clean-up after Hurricane Katrina, the filth at Walter Reed Hospital. These people who preach that the government can't do anything right and then take over the government in order to illustrate and prove their point are messing with our myth! We are a capable and competent people! It will take a great deal of effort to prove that now, to ourselves and to the world. It's enough to make a body cross.

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Copyright © 2007 Harry Willson

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