Tuesday

June 27th, 2017

Insight

Mad vs. crazy

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published April 11, 2016

Our leader now has issued a solemn warning against letting "madmen" have access to nuclear weapons. See the recent headline atop the front page of the Democrat-Gazette: "President: Don't let 'madmen' get nukes." As if this president hadn't done exactly that. Not only did he fail to prevent the mad mullahs of Teheran from efforts to develop their own bomb, but he aided and abetted them. All in the name of serving the noble cause of world peace. When this president uses words, they tend to lose all meaning, or even come to mean the opposite of what they do in plain English -- or plain Farsi for that matter.


It's a common enough misunderstanding -- that the world's evildoers must be "mad" when they are actually quite sane, even cunning. Or were Hitler and Tojo mad to pursue world conquest knowing the West would only appease them? On the contrary, they were perfectly rational. As rational as they were dangerous -- that is, very. And a lot smarter than the Neville Chamberlains on the other side of the conference table.


Just as today, Russia's latest tsar knows quite well that he can pick off little countries like low-hanging fruit, which explains why The Bear That Walks like a Man (to use Kipling's phrase) is on the prowl again. No wonder Vlad the Terrible didn't even bother to show up at the nuclear security summit where our president made his grand pronouncement about the danger of letting "madmen" get a bomb of their own.


Call it cognitive dissonance, which is what the psychiatrists do. That's the 25-cent word, or rather phrase, for knowing something but being unwilling to recognize it. (Why use one syllable when six or seven sound so much more impressive?) Which is how language is used not to convey meaning but hide it. If reality is too painful to recognize, don't.


Yes, there is a difference between being "mad" and being irrational. But the Hon. Barack Obama chooses not to recognize it. Therefore it doesn't exist, right? Wrong. But it must be a comfort to believe one's own malarkey. And it works, too. Until the truth appears like a mushroom-shaped cloud over Hiroshima or, who knows, New York.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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