So former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, in maybe a move to cast off his party the yoke of Trump, said this week as the impeachment trial of Donald Trump kicked off, that all the Republican lawmakers under his sway should “vote their conscience” on whether or not to find Trump guilty.
As one acerbic MSNBC commentator quipped, “He sent those lawmakers scurrying to their Google search engines to find a definition for the word, ‘conscience’.” A good one.
For the record, the lead Webster’s Dictionary definition of the term is, “The sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good.”
That’s a bit more than I myself expected to find looking there, but it is, of course, on point. “The moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct” coupled with “a feeling or obligation to do right.”
The very concepts of such things as “moral goodness” or of the “obligation to do right” have been discarded for most of the last 40 years — since assassinations of four great domestic leaders, President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the decade of the 1960s — and rendered “old fashioned,” or even ruling class tools of the people’s oppression.
Dr. King’s famous phrase from his 1963 March on Washington speech, that in the Promised Land “a man will be judged not by the color of his skin, but the strength of his character,” was buried in a social paradigm shift introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
As with all such changes, their rise to prevalence took time. This time it blossomed during the Nixon era, and was accompanied by Nixon’s so-called “detente” with Moscow that resulted in the handing over of many American inner cities to an influx of Russian mafiosi, more thuggish and cruel than their Italian mob counterparts.
Among the targets of this shift was what remained of the American Left and the labor union movement. On another level in the same period, positive influences from the counterculture and anti-Vietnam War ferment of the 1960s was overwhelmed by a massive rise in the acceptance and proliferation of pornography aimed at degrading women, primarily, and thereby stranging the women’s movement to equality.
The best ideas of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement went largely underground in the face of this counterinsurgency that, among other things, brought Reagan into the White House and over the course of his eight years in the White House, brought a whole new ethos to Washington, a combination of libertarianism and hard right brutality.
Reagan’s quick action to break the air traffic controllers’ strike was decisive and epoch-changing.
Greed, both personal and corporate, and unbridled exploitation in its execution, became the norm, with the movie, “Wall Street,” in 1987 hailing the concept, “Greed is good,” having completely crushed the 1963 Dr. King notion of “I have a dream.”
Accompanying this shift was the well-orchestrated rise of nihilist and postmodern cultural equivalents, promoted through the proliferation of the works of Foucault and others. This introduced the postmodern concept of rejecting science, reason and truth that was spread through the culture by way of popular instruments of sitcom TV shows and movies with nihilist themes.
People were fed what they were supposed to like and the scions of culture always aimed for the lowest common denominator in feeding mindless “bread and circuses” (as in ancient Rome) to the hedonist masses.
I should not be putting this in the past tense, because it continues to be true, as anyone can see who studies the content of modern popular lyrics or motion picture themes.
The key thing about the fascist movement worldwide is that it is virulently anti-democratic. In service to ruling masters in various cultures, its minions are driven by false promises of glory to smash and destroy true democratic institutions of the people.
No wonder the architects of January 6 and their coup d’etat plans. There is no more powerful institution of democracy in the world than the United States of America, notwithstanding its shortcomings. None greater.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.