When I was a kid, the very worst thing my mama could say to me was, I’m so disappointed in you. She never yelled it; she spoke sedately, quietly, but the feeling it gave me was downright awful. I felt transformed from regular size to Lilliputian.
I’m coming to the end of this essay cycle tomorrow as a matter of fact. I wrote 100 essays starting on March 12, 2020 about my spiritual take on the coronavirus; that ended on June 19, 2020. I’d written the equivalent of two novels — about 200,000 words. It took a while but I switched into book research finally — always a thrilling prospect for me.
The essay bug hit me again on October 28, 2020 — I’m sure it was the run-up to the election. This 100-essay cycle ends tomorrow. Another two books-worth of words — about 200,000. I’ll give myself a little time to make the transition. I’m going to try writing 5000 words per day on two completely different fiction books, one from each of my currently extant series.
So in coming to the end of this writing cycle, I’ve started to sum up, at least in my own mind, where I am about this intersection between culture and spirituality, and where I’d like to leave you who so faithfully read these essays.
I want to say, like Mama, to this 117th Congress, “I’m so disappointed in you.”
As you know, ten senators approached President Biden in alleged bipartisanship to slash and burn his perfectly reasonable $1.9 trillion disaster relief package. Essentially, they dismissed everything the Republican Party doesn’t like about it. That’s not bipartisanship — it’s gamesmanship. I’m so disappointed in you.
Fortunately, for all of us, majority leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) [oooh, that gives me a wicked grin to write that!] isn’t messing around, “We are not going to dilute, dither, or delay.”
The Republican caucus has accused Shumer and the Dems of foul play — they’re using the budget reconciliation process to push through Mr. Biden’s plan — just like the Republicans did when they forced through the massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Um, remember this? Turnabout? Fair play. More posturing. More games. I’m so disappointed in you.
Then, as if all that isn’t enough shenanigans, there’s a meeting scheduled in Congress today — a private, behind-the-scenes meeting of the Republican caucus to consider censuring both Marjorie Taylor Greene, a definite co-conspirator with 45 and supporter of The Capitol riot, and Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the House. The scuttlebutt is that they’ll both be stripped of their committee positions.
This is why oversight is so bloody necessary, Beloved. We cannot police our own because our agendas are a mishmash — conflicted, anguished, lost and found at the same time. I think we’re going to see some extremely tepid tsking and wrist-slapping. Girls, they’ll say, behave yourselves. I do wonder if the participants were male how that would go down. And where are the assessments and punishments for the behaviors of the likes of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley? I am so disappointed in you.
Even congressional aides, those who have no say and no vote in who smacks who around have come out with a statement apropos of January 6th. In “Congressional Aides Call for Trump’s Conviction,” more than 370 Democratic aides issued an unusual public appeal, notable because congressional staff members rarely publicly express their own views.
“As congressional employees, we don’t have a vote on whether to convict Donald J. Trump for his role in inciting the violent attack at the Capitol, but our senators do,” they wrote. “And for our sake, and the sake of the country, we ask that they vote to convict the former president and bar him from ever holding office again.”
Here are more people who were affected by the riot, people we don’t normally see or hear speaking up. No disappointment here, instead: Bravi!
I’ve given some thought to why I feel disappointed, and it comes down to my grandmother’s hearing aids, honestly. I know, I know, bear with me.
My grandmother wore hearing aids for the last twenty years of her life. As she got older, as so often happens, her hearing worsened. Or did it? I’ll never really know, but what I can tell you is that her convenient hearing got much worse. When Grandma didn’t like something she heard, she ‘couldn’t’ hear it.
I think that’s what’s going on in Washington, Beloved. Elected and appointed and hired officials are using selective everything: hearing, seeing, accountability, honor, history, language, posturing, politicking, pontificating. I want to screech at them.
STOP THE CHERRYPICKING! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! STOP IT FOREVER.
Here’s why they need to stop. Too many people are caught up in conspiracy theories and until the underlying need that’s causing this is met, We the People are in danger, never mind democracy.
Thomas B. Edsall’s Opinion piece this morning explains some things I didn’t understand before.
Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton, members of the psychology department at the University of Kent, and Michael J. Wood, a former Kent colleague, are the authors of a 2021 research paper on conspiracy theorists.
“Douglas, in an email, wrote that ‘people are attracted to conspiracy theories when important psychological needs are not being met.’” Yes, we know this. We need to investigate this.
“She identified three such needs: ‘the need for knowledge and certainty;’ the ‘existential need to ‘to feel safe and secure when ‘powerless and scared;’ and, among those high in narcissism, the ‘need to feel unique compared to others.’” These are human needs, Beloved. We all have them to one degree or another. All. How we are going to answer to these needs is what the Biden-Harris administration is facing daily.
The need for knowledge and certainty is a need for truth. Biden-Harris, check.
The need for safety and security is a need for supply. Biden-Harris, check.
The need to feel unique compared to others is a need to belong. Biden-Harris, check.
But we have to let them do the work, Beloved, not get caught up in political gamesmanship as usual. Congress didn’t let Obama do the work, and we know how that worked out, don’t we?
Mr. Edsall takes a deeper look at conspiracy theory. “There are five common ingredients to conspiracy theories, according to Jan-Willem van Prooijen and Mark van Vugt, professors of psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in their paper ‘Conspiracy Theories: Evolved Functions and Psychological Mechanisms.’”
First, “[c]onspiracy theories make an assumption of how people, objects, or events are causally interconnected.” So do the laws of cause and effect, Beloved. What the authors mean is: they assume connections that are incorrect. Theorists make causal what is not causal. “Put differently, a conspiracy theory always involves a hypothesized pattern.” Pattern has a bad rep these days, but it’s really just an amplification of habit. Habits support us in the long run.
“Second, conspiracy theories stipulate that the plans of alleged conspirators are deliberate. Conspiracy theories thus ascribe intentionality to the actions of conspirators, implying agency.” This is correct. Implicit in agency is the right both to choose belief and the right to repudiate belief.
“Third, a conspiracy theory always involves a coalition, or group, of actors working in conjunction. An act of one individual, a lone wolf, does not fit the definition of a conspiracy theory.” Strange, isn’t it, how our civilization is addicted to the hero’s journey, but how real large-scale change is small, incremental, and enacted by groups of people taking personal actions to change the larger narrative. Consider Black Lives Matter.
“Fourth, conspiracy theories always contain an element of threat such that the alleged goals of the conspirators are harmful or deceptive.” That element of threat means that conspiracy theorists act always in resistance to something external. Reactivity is never a long-term solution, Beloved. Responsibility is.
“Fifth, and finally, a conspiracy theory always carries an element of secrecy and is therefore often difficult to invalidate.” Yep, conspiracy theory is an us/them world, and we on the inside are special. We all need to feel special to someone, Beloved. “Most likely conspiracy theories make them perceive themselves as a sort of ‘freedom fighter.’” Um, no, that’s the narrative of the hero’s journey — a.k.a. the narrative of the lone wolf — applied personally and, as a group, writ large.
We have to get over the hero’s journey, Beloved. Big time. It has to stay in book sagas and Hollywood blockbusters, and we need to recognize that it is not a real path toward change. In fact, the hero’s journey is often a rejection of change.
I’m so disappointed in the people who are supposed to be our heroes. Aren’t you? And why? Because they cannot, or will not, put their own personal concerns over the good of the many. You cannot tell me that every senator, every representative — Republican or Democrat or Independent — doesn’t have constituents who can’t feed their children. You can’t. I refuse to believe it, and if that’s a conspiracy theory, count me in.
Do they really think those parents aren’t doing everything in their power to feed their kids? Do they really think they won’t look for work if we help them feed their children? That it will make them, somehow, lazy? Or irresponsible? I am so disappointed that our federally-elected officials aren’t champing at the bit to pass $1.9 trillion of legislation to help us all.
But there is light on the horizon, and I refuse to leave you burdened with my disappointment. The light goes from Amanda Gorman’s Fiery Red Prada hairband at The Inauguration to the simple notion that if you’ll take a walk, you’ll be more creative.
Ateh Jewel is a British beauty journalist and diversity advocate. She said, “We saw that — the whole world saw that — the way Amanda Gorman held herself like a goddamn queen.” She did. Not only that but she knew there were Black, and White, and Brown angels watching over her that day. We cannot lose sight that we, too, have angels watching over us.
There is a Black artist known on Instagram as @thisissketch; his name is Laurence Cheatham. His work is featured in The New York Times here. The story is entitled “These Images Tell the Story of American Blackness.” The images I’m about to describe can be found there.
Two portraits in particular filled my heart. The first is of a hugging Joe Biden and Kamala Harris whilst Elijah Cummings, John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and John McCain beam down on them. The second is of Amanda Gorman — her guardian poetry angels are Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes.
We are not here alone, Beloved. Doing America, if you will, like one does windows. There are unseen powers, heartfelt wishes, big dreams, and small steps held by help all around us. That’s why I like to end these essays with a recommendation for the individual. You. And me.
This was in this morning’s New York Times, “If you often exercise, there’s a good chance you also tend to be more creative, according to an interesting new study of the links between physical activity and imagination. It finds that active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary, and suggests that if we wish to be more innovative, we might also want to be movers and shakers.”
Not everyone can be Sketch or Amanda Gorman or even an anonymous Congressional aide, but every one of us is someone, and the someone that you are makes a difference to the very fabric of this world we share. Never doubt that for a minute, Beloved.
So if you, like me, are called to write essays for a while, do it. Or if you, like me, are called anew to write novels for a while, then do that. Or pick up trash. Or sing a song. Or go for a walk, and let the saving grace of your imagination inspire you to do the next thing you’re called to do. The rest of us are waiting with baited breath.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com