The Theory of American Everything Part 4: A Personal Lesson

Here is my theory of American everything: we are a nation birthed in rebellion and given the freedom to do, say, and believe anything we want. It’s what makes us the best country in the world, and it makes us the worst ever. 

Why does this matter? Because I share a trait with the common conspiracy theorist: I want my world to make sense. 

In times of unsettling changes, through momentous events or devastating tragedies, in the wake of upheaval, some individuals experience feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. The bigger world seems senseless leading people to feel disconnected and powerless. Then they hear about a grand conspiracy. For reasonable people, the tale is nothing more than a ridiculous or outlandish fantasy with no plausible basis in reality. Yet it is different for the theorist; they cling to it as it makes them feel special. They’re armed with the satisfaction of being one of the select few who have access to a secret truth. Any evidence to disprove their theory is interpreted as proof of the conspiracy. Anyone who doesn’t believe is either a part of the conspiracy or just needs to do their own research. They feel superior because they know something you don't know. The sensation is intoxicating.  

A never before felt sense of belonging leads some people believe the Freemasons are secretly controlling the course of historical events, or think celebrities are members of the Illuminati after rapidly rising from obscurity to superstar popularity. People feel powerful for the first time in their lives believing the moon landing was a hoax or alien aircraft has been hidden in a hangar inside Area 51. 

When events happens with an intensity, magnitude, or suddenness to alter the course of a culture, people look for answers. When a popular president was assassinated during a public parade, theorists rejected the official conclusion of a lone gunman and concocted complex conspiracies of a second or third shooter. When terrorists flew planes into buildings, theorists couldn’t believe a fire was hot enough to weaken the World Trade Center into catastrophic structural failure, so they invented ideas of planted explosive charges and called it an inside job. After every school shooting, theorists ignore the eye witness accounts and live video, declare it a false flag operation, and believe the victims were paid crisis actors. Their theories are absurd and easily debunked, yet it gives them what they want - to make sense of senseless tragedy. They want an explanation for the unexplainable. They want order for the disordered. 

I want the same thing. I want my world to make sense. However, this current era of history is completely illogical. I don’t understand how the nation who collaborated to build the first transcontinental railroad is the same nation who dreamed up pizzagate. I don’t understand how the American mindset which inspired great speeches like the Gettysburg Address also motivated tweets like covfefe. I don’t understand how the voters who claim celebrities shouldn’t share their political opinions elected a celebrity to be president. I don’t understand anyone who can’t see the racism behind statements like “I hit them with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let's see. KKK, we have KKK. I got them all." I don’t understand why police officers continue to act like executioners with impunity over and over again. I don’t understand why people are so offended by the phrase “black lives matter.” And I refuse to accept any of this as normal. 

I need clarity because I’m a moderate voter living in the middle of Trump country and need to learn how to show my neighbors grace when they view people like me with disdain. Because I have four inquisitive kids who ask a lot of questions and I need to answer them when they want to know why people act with so much greed and hatred. Because I have a two day old baby and I am filled with grief over the America she has been born into. Because the violence and division in this country is antithetical to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness our founders conceived. Because I want to answer those questions which have no easy answers. 

Someday, history books will have to explain the Trump era. 2020 will be discussed in classrooms across America and students of the future will debate the effectiveness of our actions. When they ask why we did what we did, I hope their teachers explain it was because we were birthed in rebellion and given the freedom to believe the most ridiculous ideas imaginable. We were, as Lady Gaga would say, born this way.

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