The other half of my brain said "Of course he doesn't believe it. If he thought that, he would move to another country." Yes, of course. All those people who were sure that Bush was going to declare martial law in 2009, or that Obama had FEMA camps ready for us in 2017 didn't actually do anything about that. (Okay, I know one nutcase who had been in my adult Sunday School class who moved to Colombia, of all places. He claimed that he didn't get elected sheriff because none of us understood the Constitution. Fine, then.) I think every president has been on the verge of declaring martial law for 50 years, except I don't recall anyone saying that about Ford. Yay, Gerald!
I have often focused on the virtue-signaling aspect of this, but that is not the only thing happening. We none of us like to believe we have been taken in. “The Dwarves are for The Dwarves.” We saw this coming all along. We weren’t fooled. We always knew this was possible. It’s not only a hierarchy of rage and hierarchy of virtue, but of skepticism and cynicism, even if we have to reach well into paranoia to get there.
CS Lewis reacted with surprise upon encountering such cynicism among the soldiery during the war. They believed that most of what they had heard about the Germans was propaganda. They said they likely weren’t much worse than us and that England was doing terrible things they just weren’t hearing about. I am surprised that Lewis was surprised, having been a soldier. He took their comments at face value, wondering how they could continue to function as soldiers with such beliefs. Perhaps it’s not best to take their statements at face value.
Civil War correspondence from the front shows both sentiments, sometimes in the same letter. “We hate them and want to kill the lot of them. They aren’t much different from us really, poor bastards.” It’s not good to take such things entirely at face value. People aren’t lying – what motive would they have to dissemble? – but what is happening is complicated.
We self-protect at some far fence, willing to imagine the potentially terrible in order that it does not take us at complete surprise. I gave them my blood and my sweat, but not my soul. If they turned out not to be the Christians/Americans/foxhole friends I thought they were, I could find others who were closer to the truth and offer them my allegiance instead.