Humans are very adept at concocting rationalizations to avoid uncomfortable truths. These are the little lies you tell to get yourself through the day and the big lies you tell yourself to avoid dealing with your sham marriage or your substance abuse. But, at the end of the day, as you nod off toward sleep, you can admit to yourself that rationalizations are not the truth.
Then, there are delusions. These are the lies your psyche desperately needs to be true to camouflage your inadequacies or moral failings. Individuals hold delusions as truth even in the face of insurmountable evidence that they are false. They are fixed, false beliefs.
Delusions are as varied as the humans that hold them. There are delusions of grandeur, paranoia, god complexes, and all manner of lesser delusions. One delusion, rooted in the tribal premise, has been found since before the writing of Plato's Republic, eclipsing even religion as the fixed, false belief to end all delusions. Conveniently, E.J. Dionne Jr. trotted it out in today's Washington Post.
Our freedoms rest on a moral consensus, enshrined in law, that in a democratic republic we work out our differences through reasoned, and sometimes raucous, argument. Free elections and open debate are not rooted in violence or the threat of violence. They are precisely the alternative to violence, and guns have no place in them.
The depth of this delusion is so great, you cannot make any sense of it; you can just plainly state it and either believe it on faith, or reject it as nonsense.
Humanity rests on the majority opinion of who wins an argument? 5-28% of the people randomly pick one thing from the allowable choices and that outcome is enforced by...suggestion? Or, are the rest of the people sub-human, so force used on them doesn't actually constitute violence or threats of violence?
I wish those were rhetorical questions. Dionne goes on to ask, "are we not the country that urges other nations to see the merits of the ballot over the bullet?" I should almost think Dionne has been living on another planet with Barney Frank, except he began today's op-ed talking about the violent suppression of liberties by the Bush administration.
Look, there are plenty of gov polishers out there who have no shame at using the force of government to impose their will on others. Their ideas either cannot compete in the marketplace, or they are too lazy or unskilled to compete in the market. Many of them are just plain sadistic and derive sexual gratification from wielding power. But, at least they don't delude themselves into believing that government isn't force.
To be fair, Dionne writes about "reason" and "argument", but it's not clear that he knows what these things are. Humans use reason to find truth. Humans use argument to find truth. No opinion poll can divine the truth, nor may one invalidate a truth once found. The opinion poll of democracy, like any government, is not reason, it's force – violence and the threat of violence.
As Dionne himself wrote, "if we can't draw the line at the threat of violence, democracy begins to disintegrate. Power, not reason, becomes the stuff of political life."