Ron DeSantis: Dogmatist Extraordinaire

Certainty closes the minds of those possessing the Truth from on High. These darlings of the gods may even feel sorry for those benighted Unfortunates with the temerity of disagreeing with them and try to persuade them to see reason to save them from themselves. 

As the blood-stained pages of history amply attest, dogmatists may try to convert, persecute, torture, or even burn their victims at the stake for their own good.  Dogmatic certainty can be a very dangerous thing and turn the powerful of this world into monsters about a difference of opinion.

It is an odd quirk of fate that some dogmatists will try to convert unbelievers not to convince them but rather themselves, since converts strengthen the dogmatists’ faith in themselves.

Some who adopt such sinister measures of persuasion like burning at the stake may even be prompted not by certainty, but an inner doubt so alarming that they must silence it by projecting it onto their victims to find inner peace to rid the world of these “heretics” and their own doubts.

Such persecution, torture, and murder have always been the stock-in-trade of dogmatists in dealing with dissent, and especially when they are also demagogues who ascend to power to impose their will on their people, so that dissent becomes treason.

Democracies, on the other hand, know that dissent isn’t treason, but the lifeblood of democracies.  A government which oppresses a democratic people is no longer morally legitimate because it has lost the consent of the governed and rules only by force, at times with a fig leaf of legitimacy called the “Divine Right of Kings.”

Let us consider such a dogmatist-as-tyrant as the very embodiment of this closed-minded certainty:

He is not someone of humility who realizes his own past errors, with the confident expectation that he will doubtless err again; nor someone who modestly affirms his perception of truth and refuses to call it “Divine Revelation.”

Nor someone who is aware that when several answers are possible, his alone need not be true and allows himself to be counseled by seasoned advisors about which answer is best.

Nor is he someone who realizes that various factors may predispose him to think as he does?—?his upbringing, temperament, age, race, social class, religion, nationality, profession, or an uncontrollable lust for power.

Nor someone who realizes that these conditioning factors may be not merely influencing him, but doing his thinking for him, and so he adopts a healthy live-and-let-live attitude toward those who disagree with him.

No, he is none of these, but the Omniscient One, who through some mysterious dispensation has been vouchsafed from above the divine prerogative “to know” what is right and wrong, true and false, wise and foolish for all men and all women in all times and places. Nay, he is the Enlightened One Himself who, sitting enthroned in Olympian splendor, demands that all submit to his sovereign will,

Not only has this Dogmatist stopped thinking, but is entombed in his closed-minded rectitude.  He is the eternal Narcissus, so enamored of himself as he so admiringly gazes in his mirror on the wall that he cannot see his view of the world as self-serving delusion but as an unshakeable conviction of his own Omniscience.

However, we mustn’t think that this Dogmatist appears only as an individual over the centuries. His spirit animates entire groups and movements, institutions and ideologies like Social Darwinism that condescendingly looks down on his subjects who exist only to be ignored and who cannot perish soon enough since this world belongs only to the Survival of the Richest.

This tyrant who disdainfully dismisses the wretched of this earth is not the only offender of such delirious hubris. One has but to survey the sundry creeds of modernity which offer their own toxic certainties?—Behaviorism, Marxism, Positivism, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, and MAGA-Republicanism that call themselves the Inexorable Laws of the Universe, when they are simply old-fashioned exploitation and plunder. They all come to liberate humanity only to enslave it with a neoliberal metaphysics all their own.

But no matter in what form he appears, the Dogmatist and his reincarnations have a curious power over the credulous with a compulsive need to believe in someone like him whose threats awaken terror unless they submit to his Svengalian will while driving them, lemming-like, over the edge.

Doubt and uncertainty, on the other hand, keep the mind open and is even be part of the answer. One doesn’t suppress but invites, encourages, and welcomes these doubts, listens to and converses with them to keep oneself free of the delusion that one alone has the Truth.

But how does all this relate to our Dogmatist-in-Residence, Governor Ron DeSantis, and his claim that he alone has the truth?

Critics: How do you know that your truth isn’t delusion? If you were deluded, would it feel any different from your possessing the truth? And if there were no difference between these two states of mind, then how would you know that you weren’t deluded? Inner conviction, since that too could be delusion?”

Dogmatist: “If what you say is true, then your truth, too, could be delusion!”

Critics: “Indeed, it could and so we don’t dogmatize!  Doesn’t the possibility of your being wrong concern you? Or are you more concerned about losing face by admitting your error and bowing to the people’s will? And what of all the needless suffering you inflict upon millions?”

Dogmatist: “Ah, but I see the Big Picture and have the good of our nation’s future at heart. You see but the moment and live only in the short-term, whereas I consider the long-term as well. If there is pain today, we are working toward a better tomorrow!”

Critics: “But people live in the short-term!  Why is this cold abstraction of ‘the long-term’ of more value than the flesh-and-blood human beings you are oppressing today? Don’t you realize that a leader exists for his people, not the people for him?”

Dogmatist: “You don’t understand. For the sake of the future, you sometimes must sacrifice a generation or two!”

Critics: “But why is the present any less important than the future, since the present is all anyone has? Humanity isn’t a plaything to serve your Will to Power!

Dogmatist: “I steer the ship of state by a different compass, and that is the burden of leadership!”

Critics: “Leadership? Devastating the lives of millions; trashing education at every level; outlawing freedom of thought and speech; preaching racism and hatred of Black citizens and other people of color, and the LGBTQ community while turning the State of Florida into a barbed-wire Gestapo Concentration Camp, and all for your 2024 Presidential run?

You are an anachronism from the Middle Ages, a national embarrassment, a reincarnation of Hitler, despite your degrees from Harvard and Yale, now cringing at your very name. You and your kind have no place in an America that fought a Revolutionary War and two World Wars at the loss of over 500,000 lives to rid this world of tyrants like you.

This is America, not a totalitarian gulag that grovels before some jacked-up wannabe dictator who would drag us back to your nightmare world.

Frank Breslin is a retired high-school teacher in the New Jersey public school system. Read other articles by Frank.