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Do You Believe in Magic?

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird, a man…

The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Such as vanish.

But you shouldn’t clap yet. Making something disappear isn’t enough. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, which is the hardest part. It is the part called “The Prestige.” You must bring it back.

2022 was a down year. So much was lost.

The stock market fell to Wall street’s worst year since 2008. The S&P finished 20% down.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that life expectancy for Americans born in 2021 fell to its lowest level since 1996.

But the costliest loss was the confidence of ordinary Americans in our trusted institutions. Trust in one another. Hope of a better future. Contentment. What was lost was a vision for a shared American identity.

A theology of wokeness, woven into academia, government and corporate America took something precious from us, and it lacks the power or will to bring it back.

A democracy thrives on dissent. A theocracy can’t tolerate it. Woke theology thrives on judgment. By mixing morality with political ideology, America’s elites’ prey on our innermost insecurities about who we really are. They sell us cheap social causes and skin-deep identities to satisfy our hunger for a cause and our search for meaning, at a moment when we, as Americans, lack both.

When people stop believing that their own opinions matter, they stop believing in the system. When punishment is the first tool we turn to, rather than persuasion, we naturally start to see people who disagree with us as enemies, not fellow citizens.

The Founding Fathers thought our diversity would be our strength, while their opponents thought it would be our doom, because it would divide us. But diversity itself is not the problem

However, when diversity is all you have - when you have diversity without commonality - that diversity becomes a source of division because people sort themselves into tribes.

I love capitalism within a free market economy. But I love other things too. Like family. And religion. And democracy. In order to save those things, we need to protect them from being infected by capitalism.

Capitalism is supposed to be just an economic system, not a social system. The size of your bank account has nothing to do with your moral worth. The more kinds of things dollars can buy, the more wealth inequality extends to inequality in other arenas of life. Because you have a more powerful voice.

The American vision of separating church from state, and democracy from capitalism, has been supplanted by this new global vision of mixing them all with one another - and leaving us with none of them in the end.

Our federal laws continue to aid and abet the rise of Silicon Valley’s behemoths - a form of corporate privilege - that have successfully lobbied our lawmakers for competitive advantages

The same companies that have improved consumer access and lowered the prices of technology are also the ones limiting options in the marketplace of ideas. This is not an antitrust violation of price fixing, but of idea fixing.

Antitrust law was designed to protect consumers from companies who abuse their market power to gain more market power. Now giant corporations abuse the public trust to gain greater social, cultural, and political power. This is a more insidious evil than capturing a financial advantage.

The victim is not the consumer in the market, rather the citizen in our democracy. And diversity itself. The diversity lost is not the prescribed artificially created distinctions. Rather it is diversity of thought.

Let me offer an example.

“We have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that does not fit a certain ideology.”

It was this statement by Google software engineer James Damore that torched his career. The 28-year-old, autistic, Google software engineer, stumbled into the cultural wars by expressing a vaguely conservative view and became Silicon Valley’s favorite pariah, its whipping boy for the evils of the world.

After Damore had attended a required internal meeting on diversity and inclusion, the organizers asked for feedback. His mistake was believing they really wanted it. Given that society already views race, sex, religion, and national origin as “protected categories’ should we not add one’s political affiliation to that list?

But that is not how religious belief systems work.

True pluralism should not be about celebrating the differences between us as people. It’s about the diversity of identities within each of us - rich mosaics that go beyond the color of our skin or the number of our X chromosomes.

When we see each other as nothing more than the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, or our wealth, then it becomes impossibly difficult to find commonalities with those who don’t share those characteristics.

What does it matter the color of one’s skin if people of color are supposed to think and say the same things.? And our diversity is meaningless if there is nothing greater that binds us together across those differences.

The American dream is not a destination, but a vision to aspire to. When you wake up from a dream, you forget what it was all about. That is the real danger of wokeness, where skin deep identities and cheap social causes are sold to advance personal agendas. The American dream has been forgotten.

That’s the trick. Making our shared ideals disappear. But it is not enough to make something disappear. With true magic, you have to bring it back.

My hope for 2023 is that the American people rediscover an authentic identity based in truth, a foundation for hope, one that allows understanding of what true diversity looks like and celebrates what we still share.

That would be magic worth believing in.

Tim Powell MD


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