David Nightingale: Something Rotten | WAMC

David Nightingale: Something Rotten

Jan 19, 2020

“Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark” says Marcellus in Act 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and many people feel similarly about life now, here.

I won’t attempt parallels, but for a while I’ve felt that our current Republican administration is contributing heavily to a bitter unease. ‘Dissemble’ is not a frequently-used word, but when people dissemble it means they tend to sidestep issues, act hypocritically, or cloak things. Dissembling is a natural human tendency, as is being dishonest. Yet honesty is such an important ingredient for a healthy society.

In my life in physics I’ve had to face facts squarely, there being no other way. Nature supplies the facts, and scientists enjoy studying them. If the facts are unpleasant we try to deal with them, and understand them. But in personal matters things may not be so easy to handle, as in “I didn’t mean to do or say that.” It’s often painful to admit wrongfulness, but always necessary.

Today’s administration shows too much dishonesty and has too many dissemblers. I’m not saying that’s just a Republican trait, but certain strong offenders come to mind. Mitch McConnell, Mike Pompeo, Lindsey Graham are all examples. Behind what they do and say, their blatant aim is to stay in power, rather than think about the health of the entire world. Hegemony, or total power, seems to be their goal. Hand-in-hand with such attitudes is sometimes a disregard for facts.

Under our Constitution, Congress is charged with decision-making on behalf of all Americans, but now, instead of carefully thought-out solutions, government has become an angry wrestling match. Some examples: the ACA is still benefiting citizens, while our president, unable to suggest anything better, continues to try to destroy it. Why? Because it came from ‘the other side.” The same thing can be said of Planned Parenthood, or the Paris Accord. If one looks at the current situation with Iran, a few years ago the working plan was to unfreeze Iran’s own money in return for verifiable cessation of nuclear enrichment. The dissemblers are now saying things like “we gave taxpayer money so they could build missiles and bombs.” (We didn’t of course, and they are dissembling – it was Iran’s money, and the greater thing was that the agreement was slowly engendering a small degree of mutual respect.)         

Another example: Mitch McConnell held up any vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland for almost a year (342 days) but managed to rush through 2 nominees more to his liking in a short time. One could say that’s just because it’s a Republican majority in the Senate. But surely he must realize how deeply hypocritical that is? We cannot objectively consider a well-qualified judge because he’s “from the other side?” We just refuse? Can there not be any discussion?

Another example (and there are many): Mike Pompeo has turned from a respected West Point cadet who was top of his class (1986), later earning a JD degree from Harvard, to someone backing a con-man (Romney’s words), an adulterer who lies frequently, and who is against an objective national press. According to Wikipedia, Pompeo told a church group that “Jesus is the only solution for the world, until the Rapture.” Well, each to his own, but with his stated religious bias how can Pompeo honestly support this president, who insults international leaders, and who calls any fact he doesn’t like “fake?”

Well, no time left. But yes, these days, I am feeling like Marcellus – that there is something rotten in the New World now.

Post-script: I am not a registered Democrat.

David Nightinglale is an emeritus professor of physics at SUNY New Paltz where he taught for 31 years. His first novel, The Centauri Settlement, is produced by TheBookPatch.com .

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