America Goes Viral!

A virus spreads through the United States, threatening to destroy it.

We’ve known about it for decades.  But it’s starting to infect more and more Americans.

Outbreaks pop up daily.  And it’s deadly.

Ebola?  Nah. I’m talking about the myth “virus.”  You know the one.  You catch it from reading chain e-mails and listening to Glenn Beck.  And like the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, and black Michael Jackson, America is more myth than fact.

From George Washington’s wooden teeth and cherry tree to President Barack Obama’s Muslim faith, we, as Americans, are the most gullible people on the planet.  Look at this 2013 Pew Policy Polling conspiracy theory poll.  It found 12 million Americans believe “reptilian humanoids” control our society by gaining political power.  Yep, you read that right.  12 MILLION.  Now, I can’t prove “lizard people” don’t exist.  But I think the odds are in my favor.  The good news is, according to posts on its website, most believers think the president and vice president are just plain, old human beings and not “lizards” or the “devil” or the “antichrist.”  Which, of course, is what 13% of the people polled believe.

While he may be of this Earth, “Birthers” believe President Obama is not from this country.  “Truthers” call 9/11 an “inside job,” somehow pulled off by President Bush’s administration and kept a secret for 13 years.  Government and big business broadcast subliminal messaging to control us.  An alien spaceship crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, leading to “Area 51” and a federal cover-up.  Lady Gaga is a man in meat clothing.

British philosopher Alan Watts said we use myths to try to “make sense of the world.”  It’s true.  It’s happened for centuries, long before people even knew North America existed.  The world was flat, and sailing too far would send you off the edge.  Mermaids lured sailors to their deaths.  Thunder is just God bowling.

Many stories end up becoming myths.  And because so many people believe them, they become “fact.”  I learned in grade school George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree.  And it’s hard to tell a lie when you have wooden teeth.  Of course, neither one of these are true.  Washington’s neighbor told the cherry tree story, and since no one refuted it, we believed it.  As for his teeth, he actually wore dentures made from other people’s teeth, including his slaves.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Many of the “facts” taught to us as kids start as fables or legends, handed down from generation to generation, becoming more and more engrained in our society.

But I believe there’s a third reason why the myth “virus” infects us, something pervasive in American culture.  Fear.  This article backs it up.  America is the most fearful, stressed out, anxiety-ridden country in the world.  We’re afraid of everything.  Socialism.  North Korea.  Shia LeBouf.  I worked at a local news station in Illinois on 9/11.  The whole day was a complete blur.  But the one thing I remember is fielding calls late at night from Cambridge, Illinois.  The callers all saw an airplane flying low over the town.  At first, I understood and tried to calm their fears.  But as the calls persisted, I started thinking, “Yes, sir or madam, the terrorists are striking at the heart of America–The Pentagon, the World Trade Center, the White House, and a rural, farming community in the middle of Illinois with a little over 2,000 residents.”

Myths spring from this fear.  Look at the “crises” we face today.  We bomb ISIS out of fear over a potential terrorist attack, even though most experts say they have no means of doing so.  New polling shows a majority of us want “boots on the ground” if the airstrikes don’t work, after years of wanting our troops out of the region.  Fearing an Ebola outbreak in the United States, some want to prevent our own citizens from coming back for treatment, despite the fact most epidemiologists say it’s very difficult to contract.  Others think we need to close our borders to travelers from West Africa.  But it’s very easy to get around those restrictions if someone really wants to fly here.  It’s okay for law enforcement to shoot unarmed citizens.  Hell, it’s okay for me to shoot someone in my home.  Not because of an imminent threat.  The only reason we need is fear.

And because of these fears, our politicians replace facts with myths to get our vote.  Many Democrats claim Republicans wage a “war on women.”  Yep, because the losers of five of the last six popular votes want to piss off the majority sex.  Despite an overwhelming majority of scientific data, Republicans still see climate change as a myth.  I mean, after all the polluting, drilling, fracking, and killing of animals, we can say with 100% certainty humans have little to no impact on the environment.  “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  Yet we continue to debate the “guns” but not the “people.”  Gun-control advocates continue to push for stricter gun laws while gun advocates counter with arguments about the Second Amendment and protecting themselves from criminals.  But these are all myths.  No one knows for sure whether stricter gun laws work.  The non-partisan National Constitution Center says the Second Amendment was never intended to protect individual rights.  As far as protecting yourself, more people die each year by turning their own guns on themselves or family members, than at the hand of an armed criminal.

These are the symptoms.  Author Robert Anton Wilson said, “Most people live in a myth and grow violently angry if anyone dares tell them the truth about themselves.”  This is what happens when the myth “virus” infects you.  You become immune to fact and reason.  You begin to dislike others who believe differently.  Division.  Gridlock.  Name-calling and fighting.  Riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Protests against illegal immigrants in Arizona and California.  The hatred of a president.  The death of real political conversations.

Is it incurable?  No.  You are the cure.  We are the cure.  Unlike a cold, rest doesn’t help.  We need action.  Push past the myths, and get to the root of our problems.  Talk fact instead of fiction.  Stop believing the unbelievable.  Help people get past their fear.  Otherwise, as a wise…eh….”man” once said, “Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate….leads to suffering.”

Yoda was a genius.

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