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Speaking out: The great American delusion

Speaking out: The great American delusion

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A delusion is “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder” (Oxford Languages Dictionary). The important part of this definition is the denial of reality.

Certainty in a belief system that results in hearing voices instructing the believer to kill others is delusional. Mob behavior can be delusional, believing that the corporate action of the group is necessary for some greater good, even if it means killing the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Stoked by Trump declaring, on the day Congress was certifying election results, that the election was stolen, the mob stormed the Capitol building.

Some of you reading this opinion may still believe the election was stolen because it fits in your altered state of reality. You are willing to disregard the legal opinions and rational arguments as to why the election was fair. My sister worked as a psychiatric nurse and told me that often after hard work, a patient would be scheduled to go home, completely in touch with reality, when a well-meaning relative, feeling sorry for the patient, would rekindle the previous delusions, encouraging the patient to regress into a mental disorder. Politicians are still doing that.

The great American delusion consists of numerous components. I am listing some components here; there are many others.

The superiority of religious belief system. Europeans coming to America often came, initially, for religious freedom believing their belief system, often forbidden in the country of origin, was the correct one. The German Baptist Brethren (Dunkers) settled near Cando, after leaving Germany when their practice of baptizing by immersing the believer three times forward was forbidden. Religious freedom is not a delusion -- believing yours is the only correct one is. The Founding Fathers of this country wanted to ensure America never became a theocracy that murdered heretics. The sight of people carrying crosses in a mob action is indeed frightening.

Nationalism expressed as a superiority to all other nations is a delusion. President Washington and President Lincoln urged their fellow citizens, as a country, to take its “rightful place among all nations.” There is much to learn from all nations of the world, and they all deserve to be treated with respect, not because the United States agrees with the governing or economic systems, but because we understand their citizens are as fully human as any American.

Racism. President Lincoln believed slavery was America’s original sin. North Dakota still suffers the delusion that Native people never really owned this country and therefore it was OK to take it from them by force and evict them from their ancestral homelands. This delusion is powerful in North Dakota, and political leadership frequently aids and abets this hateful fraud.

Anti-intellectualism. This delusion is as old as the death of Socrates. People with new ideas who have put serious thought into a better way of living are often ostracized and killed. Scientists who discovered laws of nature were threatened with death. Thinkers have been killed for their thoughts. The man who first translated the Bible in English, William Tyndale, was executed. In North Dakota it is not popular to talk about better ways to generate electricity than by burning coal.

A person or a country suffering from delusions must want to get well. Delusion, as an illness, attacks the very antidote (truth and reality) that will heal it. Patience and kindness toward those suffering from delusions is required. Wishing us all God’s speed.

Bill Patrie has been recognized for his work as a cooperative developer by the National Farmers Union, the Association of Cooperative Educators and the National Cooperative Business Association.


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