The Allegory of the Congress: 2020 Edition
In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a group of people are chained in a cave. All they can see are the walls of the cave and the others who are chained there with them. The cave has a large opening through which the sun shines, but they don’t know it exists because they can’t move their necks. Shadows from the world stretch onto the wall in front of the prisoners, and they never question what they see because what they see is real.
One day, the chains fall off a single prisoner. He turns and goes towards the light. It burns his eyes, and he covers them. When he lowers his hands, he sees the shadow of a tree, and realizes, as he cranes his head towards the branches, that the shadow is just an illusion of the reality that now stands before him. Beyond the tree, he sees the sun, and all at once the truth of the world as it is comes crashing down on him. He runs back to the cave to tell the others what he had discovered.
When he returns, the people think he is crazy. “Look at the world,” they say, gesturing at the wall. “The truth is right in front of you.”
However, the man’s eyes had become accustomed to the light, and he couldn’t see the shadows as clearly as before. The prisoners take this as proof of the man’s ineptitude.
“The wall is flat!” he insists. “Our bodies have shapes. Shapes are real! The world is full of shapes! I’ve seen them. The sun makes the shadows just look flat!”
He runs up to the wall and makes shadow puppets appear, and the people scream in fear and anger.
“He is evil!”
“He is not like us! Traitor!”
“Save us from this wickedness!”
They threaten him, and anyone else who might wish to follow him into the light, with death, and so they remain happily chained with their heads facing the wall of the cave.
Plato’s prescient lesson, that our perception shapes our reality, is still as true today as it was over two-thousand years ago. The people in the cave are painted as the real fools because someone came to them with the truth, but they chose ignorance over reality.
We think this because we have seen the world, and we know what shadows are. But what if we didn’t?
What if the man who had seen the world was lying, how would we know? He is the only one who has seen both the shadow world and the real world. What if he came back and told us that the shadows were real even though he knew they weren’t? What if the man told us this so we wouldn’t struggle against the chains or try to leave the cave?
Who is worse: the people who can not see the truth or the man who can but lies for his own gain?
There are 12 Senators and 144 Congressmen who know the truth but are shouting that the shadows are real.
They know that the shadows aren’t real, but worse, they know the effect that claiming they are will have.
They know that voting against the certification of the electoral process sends the message that the American people cannot trust that their vote counts, even though they were the very votes that put these Senators and Congressmen in power.
They know that after all of the lawsuits that have been filed alleging voter fraud, over 50 cases so far, not one has had enough evidence to change anything whether the case came before a judge appointed by a Democrat, a Republican, or even Trump himself.
They know the President tried to bully the Secretary of State of Georgia into “finding” him 11,780 votes, and they know what Trump meant when he said, “There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
They know the message the President is sending when he tells the Proud Boys, “Stand back and stand by,” and then follows that message up this week with, “They’re not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell.”
They know that the President is encouraging people to come to DC January 6, and they know that the National Guard has already been deployed to the capital because some may resort to violence to “Stop the Steal.”
They know that all 10 of the living former Secretaries of Defense, Republicans and Democrats, have urged Congress to certify the election without protest and continue the peaceful transfer of power saying, “[Presidential transitions] often occur at times of international uncertainty about U.S. national security policy and posture. They can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation.”
They know that the world, and especially our enemies, are watching as Congressmen and Senators stoke the flames of civil unrest making America look weak and vulnerable.
They know that the EU just signed a sweeping new trade deal with China because European countries believe they are watching the world’s largest economy slip into self-created chaos, and they’re hedging their bets by aligning themselves with the second largest economy.
They know that Iran has started enriching uranium again and illegally seized a South Korean ship near the Strait of Hormuz, because that country see America ripping itself in two and therefore won’t be able to respond to this challenge.
They know that Russia is waging a massive hacking campaign against the U.S. government and U.S. corporations, and they know that Russia is strongest in a world with a weakened America.
They know that a vote against certifying the election of our next President will not change the outcome.
They know that this is a vote taken to avoid an angry Trump tweet or a primary opponent; they know it’s a vote taken to ensure their own election prospects not to stop Joe Biden’s.
They know that the shadows aren’t real, but they need to keep people staring at the wall while they threaten anyone who tells them the truth is just over their shoulder.