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Rampant misinformation about election fraud culminated in a violent and hate filled insurrection on January 6, 2021. Thanks to increased security, the Biden-Harris inauguration took place without incident. However, in order to curtail future eruptions of violence and unrest, we as a nation must address the roots of this misinformation.

The misinformation arresting the hearts and minds of so many Americans, rooted in political demagoguery and superstition, harkens back to worldviews that have not been en vogue since the Middle Ages. Due to misinformation communities are rejecting the embrace of rational and scientific thought our founding fathers inherited and invested into our country from the European Enlightenment. In the Middle Ages, the toxic marriage of Church and State controlled truth and information. Kings and Queens partnered with the monolithic Church to use the power of the sword and of the Word to suppress dissident ideas challenging their earthly and spiritual authority. Widespread illiteracy and the fear of eternal damnation effectively worked in conjunction to limit open discourse about politics and religion.

In contrast, the Enlightenment exalted science and reason, advocated for a divorce between Church and State and promoted ideals like liberty, tolerance and progress. The authority of logic and reason gained supremacy over the authority of King and Church. It was these ideals that underpinned the philosophical foundation of American democracy.

Unfortunately, our current political climate has revived and adopted mentalities that almost went extinct during the Enlightenment. Instead of finding truth in science, logic and reason, segments of our society prefer to rely on the words of autocratic demagogues clothed in wealth and privilege. Instead of actively examining both sides of policy positions and issues, parts of our electorate choose instead to blindly follow cues from politically biased shamans who attempt to conflate their own voice with the divine. Anything that contradicts these sources are automatically deemed fake news or the fruit of biased liberal media. Under the guise of being independent thinkers, many Americans uncritically adopt reports from unvetted and uninterrogated political and religious leaders.

In order to fully address the misinformation that has captured the hearts of so many Americans, we must ask ourselves: Why are people so distrustful of the media, institutions and empirical thought? Why do they trust modern day monarchs and self-appointed spiritual leaders more than their own thoughts and ideas?

In the Middle Ages, the power of the King and the power of the Church were buttressed by widespread illiteracy, social stratification and belief in a punitive deity characterized by fiery judgment. What are the modern-day analogues in our current society? Do Americans rely on misinformation because our formal education system failed them? Do Americans have such little hope in an inclusive system free of marginalization that they abdicate their will and the fruits of their suffrage to religious leaders claiming exclusive access to a celestial equalizer?

If we want to prevent misinformation from causing violent eruptions over the next four years of the Biden-Harris administration, we as a nation need to foster dialogue. The Kings and Priests of misinformation feast on perceived suppression and persecution. If we hope to quell the divides that misinformation causes in our nation, we must do a deep work of healing that tackles misinformation as a fruit and not a root. We must interrogate what makes our fellow citizens susceptible to partnering with unsubstantiated rumors and lies.

Trump may be out of office, but misinformation will raise up another in his image if we are not vigilant in exposing lies and upholding a veracity that transcends religion and politics.