The ship of fools is sailing

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The first draft of this column was written centuries ago by someone else. How he or she knew Mike Johnson and the Freedom Caucus would take over the House of Representatives is amazing.

Here is what those ghost writers anticipated and has been more recently described: “The Paradise of Fools” is a literary and historical topic and theme found in many Christian works. A traditional train of thought held that it is the place where fools or idiots were sent after death.

I generally talk about living idiots and there is no better example than Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia. He said the Jan. 6 Capitol takeover was just another “normal day of tourist visits” to the Capitol.

That quote is real. Clyde said it despite having been on site amid the chaos and violence. You and I know Capitol Police don’t die in a normal day of service and that the $1.5 million damage to the Capitol is not a normal tourist visit to those hallowed halls. About the worst one can say about those who come peacefully to feel the spirit of democracy in a historic place is that tourists sometimes litter — a gum wrapper, or a Kleenex dropped; they may have mud on their shoes. That is a normal day. They don’t say “It’s been a great vacation, honey. Let’s go kill the vice president.”

Unfortunately, Congressman Clyde is not alone wandering in the halls of Congress without his keeper. I regret to say that bizarre view of reality has spread beyond Capitol Hill. Here’s what a Washington Post poll concluded: “Among Republicans, 34% say the FBI organized and encouraged the insurrection, compared with 30% of independents and 13% of Democrats.” Millions of so-called people embrace this nonsense as reality. “Law enforcement did it to suppress dissent” is the explanation of the dangerously duped or deranged. I’ve said it before: They agree that the earth is flat, the tooth fairy is real, and the moon is made of green cheese. Trump probably told them so between court appearances. Wait — my sources at NASA are now telling me they have determined with 80 to 85% certainty the moon really is made of green cheese. Never mind.

My normally uncontrollable optimism makes me hope many of them aren’t registered and never vote. But in a lucid moment, I know that is not true. They will be voting this year for president, for senators, and for congressmen and women. I shiver in fear, and with good reason, that there will be another “normal tourist day” if Trump loses.

Pollsters have concluded that possibly 25% of all Americans believe it.

Here is more: “The people that went there to express their views, to support Trump, were peaceful,” said Richard Baum, 61, an independent voter from Odessa, Tex. “The government implants were the violent ones: the FBI, the police, people that were put in there, the antifa and BLM hired by George Soros — everybody knows that.”

Democracy depends on trust. We may all be skeptical about someone, or some action, by government, but what Donald Trump has inspired is different. It is fertile ground for autocracy.

Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary.

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