116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I recently received a fan letter. Here was the question: “Are you a pedophile like your hero Joe Biden?” His next letter will inevitably be vulgar and paranoid, but at least he’s reading The Gazette.
I share the letter here as a public service. Everyone should know who is living among us, maybe attending the same church. And voting.
“Norman, I read your pieces in the CR Gazette.
“You really love the Democrats. To you they can do no wrong. The truth is that the Democratic Party hates children. If Democrats can’t convince a woman to kill the baby in womb, the next step is convincing women to spay or neuter children or block their puberty. If that doesn’t work, the Democrats encourage children to be sex freaks. If that doesn’t work, Democrats are hell bent on shaming anyone trying to get married and have children in what used to be called a normal family.
“Are you a pedophile like your idol, Joe Biden? Do you like to groom and (expletive) children? I bet you do you (expletive) pervert.”
If my correspondent were a single voice of political paranoia, it wouldn’t make much difference to the rest of us. I’d file the letter in the wastebasket. But he is not alone nor even rare. He is one off millions of Americans who can deny reality with ease and see things that aren’t there. They are a clear and present danger.
I don’t know what else my buddy believes, but delusion comes in packages. On a fishing trip to Minnesota recently, I met a guy who believed there was widespread voting fraud, citing Donald Trump. He believes that Sen. Paul Wellstone’s plane crash death in 2002 was not an accident, but caused by the federal government, that the Holocaust didn’t happen, and that no planes were found after 9/11.
My letter writer and my new friend might be ignored if they only represented a small number of Americans. A recent poll found that 56 percent of Americans of voting age had “little or no confidence that elections represent the will of the people.”
Our democracy has survived the delusional and paranoid before. Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s found Communists hiding under every desk in the State Department. Robert Welch who made gumdrops for a living, founded the John Birch Society. He claimed that Dwight Eisenhower was under the influence of his closet communist brother Milton.
In the 19th century, Roman Catholics were the target. Pregnant nuns were murdering their newborns so they would go quickly to heaven. Later, the Masonic Lodge replaced the Pope. Masons were secretly manipulating government.
Later, Gen. George Marshall, a hero of World War II, serving as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman was accused of being a Communist.
We have survived all of that, but today, delusions more threatening than nuns having babies, Masonic secret activities, or communists in the shadows. Delusion is not good for democracy.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”