A lesson in self delusion
We've lost the art of compromise in a nation of Ayn Rand fantasy-believers
There are at least three places in the news today where it’s impossible for the figures in the stories to be lost in self delusion. First, in Qatar, which is hosting the World Cup, Iran’s national soccer team stood in silent solidarity, refusing to sing while their anthem played.
Iran’s team captain publicly supported the protesters. These acts were done knowing what lies ahead for the athletes who did them. The best they can probably hope for is asylum in the west, and little chance of going home while the Ayatollahs run their country. The worst is to go home and face retribution. Of course, they hope against hope that their acts spur some kind of national event that results in a new era for Iran. But they are, most assuredly, not self deluded about that outcome.
Second, Ukraine. Nobody ever said, from the first day of the nine-month old war, that things were going to be easy for Ukraine. Well, that’s not totally true. The Russians have been deluded, led by their self-fashioned Tsar Vlad the Terrible. At least, the Russians who are not dumped in the front lines after a few days of useless training, inheriting worn uniforms (or being forced to buy their own) and body armor with fresh holes from the last unlucky wearer.
Other than that, everything is great, like Irina Sokolova, whose husband was conscripted, confirmed.
“Of course he had no idea how terrible it would be there,” Sokolova told The Washington Post. “We watch our federal TV channels and they say that everything is perfect.”
But the Russians are striking deep and wide in Ukraine, counting on the severe winter to sap the people’s resolve. Missile strikes have crippled up to fifty percent of Ukraine’s energy system, according to the government, with Kyiv in danger of a “complete shutdown” in its power grid.
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Nobody in Ukraine is deluded. Victory, even with superior western weapons, will be costly. They also realize it may require compromise, though that word is not allowed to be spoken publicly in President Zelenskyy’s circle. Russia’s biggest problem is logistics, and it is hampered by decades of corruption at all levels of its military. In areas where Ukrainians want the Russians out, like Kherson, the Russians won’t easily be able to hold. But in Crimea, and areas of the Donbass where they’ve been in control since 2014, it’s much less likely Ukraine will kick them out.
If the goal is for Ukraine to reclaim 100% of its territory under Minsk II, that might require some delusion, or enough delusion on the Russian side to completely deplete Putin’s military while keeping Putin in power. If there’s anything the Russians seem to never run out of, it’s self delusion.
Third, the grieving families in Colorado Springs. The carnage was contained to five dead because two people at the club grabbed the killer’s gun and subdued him physically [Reuters reporting].
The suspected shooter, a 22-year-old man, remained under arrest at a hospital, presumably for injuries sustained when a decorated former Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran pummeled him in a successful effort to stop the assault at Club Q in Colorado's second-largest city.
There’s plenty of self delusion on every side of the LGBTQ++ alphabet-soup debates in our culture. But dead is not debatable, and the man who walked into Club Q did so with the intention of killing many, many more. We owe a debt of thanks to those brave men who stopped him, regardless of what you might think about a “drag brunch” on “Transgender Day of Remembrance.”
Perhaps the shooter is deluded. In fact, I think he probably is mentally defective, based on his history of threats against his own family. We don’t know the full reason why he wasn’t prosecuted, after he was picked up for a bomb threat at the home where his mother lived in 2021. But certainly, he should not have been able to own a firearm under Colorado’s “red flag” law.
There’s a lot of self delusion in America about guns. Much of the bi-coastal media are scared of them like they are “concentrated evil.” Many in the NRA worship guns and our right to possess them. They are simply tools, and in the wrong hands, are devastatingly deadly. The delusions are so strong that America has been unable to find much compromise on the subject, and therefore we continue to pass unenforceable bans, ineffective laws, and fail to enforce the ones we should be cracking down on.
But the dead, like Raymond Green Vance, are not subject to delusion. Vance is a 22-year-old straight man, whose girlfriend is the daughter of Richard Fierro, a straight man and Army veteran with combat experience, who helped stop the shooter. Not everyone who turns up for a transgender show is some kind of sexual deviant. Many are just friends who don’t judge others.
In politics, delusion seems to be the go-to tool. Republicans think they can have their MAGA without the Trump. That’s a delusion, and the voters do not want Trump, which has been proven in three consecutive general elections. But the minority who do want MAGA can determine who gets knocked out early, so we have no end of political ads—even for 2024. It’s delusional to think voters want to have 24 months of continual political ads, and those who make money from placing them are selling fantasy to people with money to spend.
Democrats are not immune to self delusion either, but I don’t want to go longer on this post, so I’ll leave the readers to make their cases in the comments.
What I do want to say is self delusion is the enemy of compromise. Compromise is necessary for us to get along in a pluralistic society. We can’t all be the same. We can’t all like prune juice, or oatmeal, or artichoke hearts. We can’t all like steaks cooked rare, or pineapple on pizza. We can’t all like the same movies, or worship at the same places, or listen to the same music. We can’t all accept the same political doctrines.
But when we delude ourselves that the people who don’t like pineapple on pizza (me, raising my hand) are somehow defective, or evil, then we lose the ability to compromise believing that there’s only one rational way to solve the problem (their way).
In Qatar, the Iranian national soccer team is not deluded. In Kyiv, the citizens of Ukraine are not deluded. And in Colorado Springs, the families of the five dead victims are not deluded.
Before we sit down for turkey dinner, it might be helpful to take a look at what delusions we might be harboring, and how those may inhibit our ability to compromise. We are supposed to get along. That’s kind of the whole purpose of our country, and the whole purpose of being thankful. Spend some time taking off the blinders, and ask what matters: life, love, liberty, peace, warmth, and security. Then ask how to compromise on the other stuff before you tuck in to the stuffing (and yes, in the south it’s dressing, but I don’t easily compromise on that one).