Look, there’s hypocrisy! Right there! And there! And there and there and …
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Oh my God!
Earlier today, an enormous ball of flame crested the horizon in the east, casting heat and shadow as it rose, slowly, blindingly, majestically, marching toward some unimaginable zenith …
The sun … came up … this morning.
Somehow, Chicagoans, going about their business managed to ignore this astronomical marvel, displaying itself in full rampant glory right above their heads. A blazing wonder whose tremendous scale can hardly be.
What? What’s that you say? Nothing to get excited about? Happens every day since the dawn of time, without fail, except when it’s cloudy, and even then is still happening, only undetected, obscured by these giant masses of water vapor dangling ominously above.
Sorry, but I was scrolling through Facebook, which I really must stop doing, seeing friends express continual shock and perpetual indignation at the hypocrisy they detect in public life.
You’ve read the same memes.
“Republicans refused to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland because he was nominated 237 days before the election. Now they’re rushing to confirm a nominee 50 days before an election who’s accused of sexual assault, lied under oath …”
“I trust the GOP senators who insisted Al Franken step down will demand the same treatment for Judge Kavanaugh.”
(“You do?” I couldn’t restrain myself from remarking. “Kinda naive, ain’t it?”)
I could go on, but you get the point — or don’t. Not getting the point has become an American folk illness. We react to each specific instance of hypocrisy like a person who has never seen the rising sun, with misplaced awe, as if it were something rare and unusual, when what we are really seeing is an ordinary phenomenon. Hypocrisy isn’t an exception, it’s the rule, the grease with which the whole political world goes clanking along.
Almost … as if … people are not really assessing the world before them, not really gathering facts and then drawing conclusions, nor measuring situations against their long-held standards and principles, but cherry-picking information that suits their permanent inclinations, adopting and discarding values at will, to shore up their twisted, contradictory and mistaken beliefs.
How can they? Well, they feel compelled to try to put the bright spin on their actions. For instance, saying, “I’m a religious fanatic trying to impose my beliefs upon others through law” sounds so harsh, even to those who do it.
Far easier to pretend to care about babies. To fantasize that the grain-of-rice fetuses being carried by the women you are bullying and harassing —fetuses that women sometimes have aborted, provided the fanatics don’t find a way to stop them — are actually the Gerber baby, cooing in a basinet, waiting to be saved.
So they prattle on, not about diminishing the role of women in society nor returning to fundamentalist Christian patriarchy, but about preventing the murder of babies. Yet grab that person and say, “Hey, great, if you care about murder so much, how about promoting sane gun laws? If you can about babies, then why don’t you adopt this actual living baby who needs help right now?” they just twist out of your grasp and stare back, uncomprehendingly.
Not to put the blame entirely on hypocrites. You are also being credulous, buying their false premise enough to challenge them, as if it were the real motive. When it’s not.
“Why look at the speck in your brother’s eye,” St. Matthew asks, “but do not consider the plank that is in you own eye?”
I’ll answer that one, your saintship: because the issue isn’t eye care just as it isn’t babies. It’s ragging on people you dislike for their supposed flaws, and the fact that those flaws are the same ones you possess, or worse, never enters into it. That’s why Donald Trump can lie all day and then denounce others as liars. It isn’t as if the truth suddenly becomes important to him; what is important is venting his bottomless scorn.
What’s the point of pushing back against hypocrisy? It’s a waste of time. Should through some miracle you find a chink in the armor, wear the hypocrite down, with persistence and argument, and they finally admit the obvious, what have you done? Forced someone babbling insincere phrases to utter one you happen to agree with? What good is that?
Or as William Hazlitt observed: “The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.”
Not that they ever repent.