Closed Minds, Closed Societies

Good friends of mine – and if you’re reading this, you know who you are – are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump’s presidency is and always will be illegitimate.

Personally I don’t know that to be true. But what I do know, and what I’ve repeated time and again over the years, is that the next best thing to winning is to lose with a good excuse.

Good friends of mine – and if you’re reading this, you too know who you are – are convinced beyond a shadow of the doubt that President Trump is a victim of a concentrated and baseless smear campaign by those who just can’t take the fact that he won the election fairly and squarely.

To that, I do find it delicious that so many of the same Republicans who have railed against victimhood for all these many years are so quick to describe the standard bearer of their party as a victim. But as for their deeper point, I’m willing to wait to see where the investigations into collusion and the role of the Russian meddling in our nation’s elections lead before drawing any firm and fast conclusions.

I have my suspicions, but to date, that’s all they are.

For I have, truth be told, been fooled before.

Case in point, there’s Frank Zappa. When I first saw a photograph of Zappa and listened to his music with Mothers of Invention, it became so obvious to everyone that here was a drug-crazed hippie. Well he may have been a hippie, depending, of course, on your definition, but he certainly wasn’t drug-crazed.

Quite the opposite, according to those who actually knew Zappa. Rock N’ Roll folklore has it that Zappa fired the legendary Lowell George of Little Feat fame because of the drug references in the song Willin’, an account that keyboardist Bill Payne of Little Feat found entirely credible.

Zappa, as it turns out, was a sharp guy, sharp enough to come up with a quote I stumbled across while ruminating about the topic of the day.

“A mind is like a parachute,’’ Zappa pontificated. “It doesn’t work if it’s not open.’’

And therein lies one of the pressing problems I see as we, as a nation, hurtle ever deeper into the dark recesses of history’s dustbin. There are too many among us whose minds are locked shut, never to again tolerate the light of day. The true believers can be found on both sides of the political debate, but it’s my take that the heaviest concentration is among those who are willing to forgive and defend President Trump at every turn, no matter how egregious, puerile and, ultimately destructive to the body politic his words and actions might be.

When we read quotes describing Trump as reckless, outrageous and undignified, and how he has undermined our democratic norms and ideas, how he has turned the office of the presidency into an adult day-care center, how he has debased the office and divided the country for political gain, it’s important to remember those charges are being leveled not only by the Hillary Clinton campaign or Democratic operatives, but from lifelong, card-carrying members of Trump’s own party.

A couple of bombshells landed in Washington today. Paul Manafort, hired by Trump to run his presidential campaign, was indicted along with an associate on 12 counts that included money laundering, lying to federal investigators and conspiracy against the United States.

I’d have to ask by brother Joe or nephew Ward, the lawyers in the family, what the legal ramifications might be for conspiracy against the United States. But it sure as hell sounds bad.

But what may prove to ultimately be more damaging was the news that George Papadopoulis, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign, has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of conversations he had with Russian operatives who purported to have “dirt’’ on Hillary Clinton.

The most foreboding revelation to the White House might be that Papadopoulis’ plea agreement required he cooperate with government investigators. As I mentioned earlier, I’m willing for all the investigations to run their course before I come to any hard and fast conclusions, other than this was not a good day for Donald Trump, the White House or, for that matter, the nation as a whole.

Trump, true to his nature, continues to call the whole investigation a hoax, a witch hunt and there is probably around 35 percent of the electorate who have already demonstrated they are willing to believe anything and everything the man says. So they’ll believe this is all fake news, made up to make their man look bad.

And even if Trump did wrong, whatever Hillary Clinton did or was purported to have done was worse.

There are many reasons I love history, but the first and foremost may be how it provides context to all that’s happening today. We’ve seen before what can happen to a society, nation or civilization ruled by the closed mind. We saw it in France in the 1780s, in Russia in 1917, in Germany in the 1930s and in China a decade later. Any nation that marches in lock-step is headed right over the nearest cliff.

It takes hard work to remain up on all the issues of the day, the kind of due diligence and thoughtful consideration that some are simply unwilling to put in. Too many folks among us – again from all political persuasions – want to arrive at a conclusion and be done with it. They want their minds to be made.

But a made mind is a closed mind, and a closed mind is an existential threat to who we are and have always been.

So keep an open mind. The future of our democracy depends on it.

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