Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid This Election

Recently I’ve read a number of Facebook exchanges concerning political differences. Mind you, these are highly educated “friends” who have good jobs, and seem to be very productive members of society. And…these people are “losing their minds” arguing about “their candidate”, statistics about COVID-19, and how our country will fall apart if the other party wins.

In July 2017 the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, in a research article titled, Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. states that the more time a person spends on social media sites, the higher their levels of real and perceived levels of isolation actually is.

In addition, when one looks at social media for an extended period of time their natural immune system (serotonin or dopamine) levels decrease. That’s right! The more time you spend with “friends” online, the more isolated and weak you become. And who hasn’t been spending more time online in the last eight months?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter titled “On Stupidity” to friends upon the 10th anniversary of Hitler becoming the German Chancellor. Here’s part of the letter. (If you’d like the entire letter send me an email.)

‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice…Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

In November 1978, Jim Jones, the charismatic cult leader of a group called The Peoples Temple, was by many accounts a captivating and effective leader. He pastored several Disciples of Christ churches that were very successful. He received numerous community awards for his exemplary contributions to the civil rights movement. And he eventually persuaded 909 men, women, and children to drink Kool-Aid that was laced with cyanide. This mass-murder suicide became known as the Jonestown Massacre.

I tell the story because I think there are some similarities between Jonestown and what’s going on in society today. I am not an alarmist, and yet I believe it’s important that we teach our sons (and my Facebook friends) to be highly attuned to certain aspects of society so they can tell the difference between what appears normal on the surface, yet upon closer inspection may actually be quite seductive, dangerous, and even deadly.

Bonhoeffer would say, and I agree, that once a person has bought into a powerful ideology of an individual, they then will overlook all kinds of other clues (bad behavior, lies, etc.) that contradict their own values…and they are blind to that fact.

This should be a reminder to us that it’s possible to be influenced by a situation, or political commercial, and yet be unable to see it for what it really is. Those who create the political strategies know that fear is a great motivator. But fear isn’t good strategy and it certainly isn’t a sustainable path to a better place. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid!

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Many of these blog entries are edited excerpts from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son

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