Every once in a while I hear something, generally on the radio, and it is so damn timely that I’m stopped dead. It can happen in two ways – I hear a phrase or word and suddenly I seem to encounter it everywhere. The most recent example of this is the word “deep state” used when referring to long term, career public employees.
The right has begun wielding this phrase in a negative fashion, despite the popularizer of the term Mike Lofgren, never having presented it in that type of context. His book, titled The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government, used the phrase to describe the entanglement of large institutions and government and the subsequent lack of ability for politicians to affect meaningful change. “Deep State” was a bipartisan condition, observed Lofgren, a long term Republican who has vowed to not vote republican again until “they demonstrate to me that they’ve purged Trumpism.
Trump and his supporters have elected to use the phrase deep state as “shorthand for Democratic-leaning bureaucrats who want to undermine Trump.” This “out to get us” stance is consistent with other methods of dividing our population which are you used with great success by our present federal administration, as well as those from fascist groups throughout history. When experienced people, be they bureaucrats, journalists or educators, are perceived as the enemy, we’ve got problems, people.
The instance of a term overheard can also serve to succinctly define a phenomena or situation which had been puzzling me, as in what occurred today. Listening to WAMC, I caught a Ted Talk, featuring Khasfia Rahman. The theme of the broadcast was Risk and Rahman described research she had initially begun as a high school student. Fascinated by the tendency of young people, particularly those between the ages of 13-18, to exercise poor judgment when making decisions, Rahman devised a study to explore the phenomena after observing her peers binge drinking, experimenting with drugs and generally proceeding through life in a reckless fashion.
Her question grew into one about brain development. If the brains of teens between the ages of 13-18 were immature and the cause of their risky behaviors, she posited, why weren’t the choices made by even younger people even more potentially hazardous?
Rahman determined that habitualization was the most likely cause of this phenomena. As she explained, young people who are repeatedly exposed to an unsafe or unappealing situation can frequently be observed moving from initial feelings of disinterest and rejection to an openness to explore, and eventually embrace, dangerous and risky activities.
She provided an example of this behavior relating to tequila shots. As Rahman witnessed, young people with repeated exposure and access to shots of tequila become less fearful of the negative consequences of indulging in illicit drinking and grow increasingly accepting of the experience. The brains of these young actually people change.
I see a similar thing occurring to the brains of people who support the current president. As we are assaulted, seemingly from every angle, by information which clearly demonstrates the complete lack of integrity or qualification of Donald Trump, his followers continue to adapt their beliefs to allow for his outrageous and irrational behavior.
It begins as a denial and then evolves into an acceptance. Faced with evidence of Trump’s corruption, his believers deny the truth with which they have been presented. After an onslaught of continued evidence, they transition from rejecting the facts, to minimizing the risks involved with ingesting them.
Anyone else need a shot of tequila?