Gary Horton: Reality is real no matter our beliefs


I’d been conscious two hours after my spine surgery when pain overtook me and I began trembling from head to toe with the most acute pain I’ve ever experienced. Electric shocks lit me up from fingers to toes and I felt like a living toaster thrown into a bathtub! Carrie alerted the nurse who quickly unloaded three vials of something wonderfully effective into my I.V. and calm was quickly restored.

Dear readers – spine surgery is something you only want to do never – or just once – in your life if you can help it. I had a great surgeon and a truly wonderful result – but that initial pain, and subsequent pain, too – is very real and there’s really no avoiding it, transitioning from operating table to normal life.

“Life is pain,” the Dread Pirate Roberts wisely warns and that rings so very true in recovery from a major surgery. “If anyone tells you otherwise,” Roberts continues, “they’re selling something,” Progress often takes pain. Pain happens. Pain is real. You can work mitigate it, numb it, drug it –but sooner or later to fully move forward you’re going to have to work through it.

“Elective surgeons” performing facelifts and mommy makeovers always minimize the pain. They are indeed selling something. But progress through surgery recovery, as progress through a career, progress in building a family, progress in building financial stability – all this is hard work and often means sacrifice and even pain. The real world requires work, sacrifice, and unfortunately, sometimes pain.

Seismologist Lucy Jones was quoted talking about the San Andreas Fault the other day.

Ms. Jones warns, “Reality is real – and it doesn’t care what you believe.”

Lucy Jones is talking about our state and local leaders and building code gurus accepting the real science regarding real earthquake risks through California. When that 7.5 or 8.0 or 8.5 hits in an urban area, California will experience very real pain, communally and very personally, far, far worse than what I described earlier.

Ms. Jones wants more emergency planning. She advocates more response resources. Tighter standards for infrastructure.

In my 60 years, I’ve seen the freeway overpasses right near my house come down twice! Inconceivable! Yet, reality is real and it doesn’t care what we believe.

When we chose to ignore reality in favor of contrived belief systems, or political dogma, or social pressure – we may find some sort of short term comfort like those I.V. shots I got masking my post-surgery pain. But those belief systems, those political dogmas, those well-rehearsed talking points soothing our souls on TV are like opioids smothering reality for the short term. When reality comes, as it must, it will blow through beliefs and dogmas like the 14 and 5 overpasses blew to rubble – leaving engineers in disbelief that their design calculations could be so far off. “How could this ever have happened?”

We’re going to make America great again. We’re going to get Mexico to build the wall. We’re going to cover everyone with the best health care ever. We’re going to bring jobs back and we’re going to win so much we’ll get tired of winning.

“Pain free face lifts. Return to work the next day.”

I pity that remaining 39% who, despite all facts and outrages and even crimes now committed by this 117-day old President – still unquestionably pledge their allegiance. Words, actions, behaviors, expenses, leaks, lies, even treason – none of this matter.

Because we believe we’re going to bring back all these beautiful jobs. We believe we’re going to win so much we’ll tire of it. We’re going to make America great again. And there’s absolutely no pain in any of this at all…

I pity these true believers. “Reality is real and it doesn’t care what you believe.” At some point these believers will face the pain of reality as their lives continue to degrade.

Mexicans did not ravage the auto industry or the retail industry. Automation and robots and computers and advanced systems have reduced traditional jobs. Ford isn’t going to fire robots to hire labor. Sears and other retailers are still going under just from competition from Amazon, alone. Taxi drivers and truck drivers are scheduled for replacement by autonomous cars and trucks.

And all the “walls” and tax breaks for the rich and punishing health care “reform” isn’t going to get the poorly educated rust belt, ignorance belt, opiate addiction belt, rural decay belt folks back on track to the American dream.

At some point for America to advance, either President Trump or our Congress or some sort of Savior is going to have to step up to the plate in Washington and actually face reality instead of pitching placating dogmatic lies to a compliant politically gerrymandered base.

Without incredibly thoughtful intervention, automation and A.I. will take your jobs. Education costs, foreign competition, pressure by robots – all will conspire to reduce opportunity to the point where we resemble Mexico ourselves. A power elite and a struggling everyone else.

Freeway overpasses will fall if not engineered to standards sufficient for the potential seismic power upon which they’re built. Poverty will increase without direct intervention redefining human work and compensation. Budgets, blown by tax giveaways, will create deficits hollowing out the wealth of a once great nation. Nepotism and cronyism will destroy our national institutions turning America into a Banana Republic.

“Reality is real and it doesn’t care what you believe.” Oh god, believe me, there’s no pain free surgeries. Facing reality is painful and anyone telling you otherwise is selling something.

39% of American Trump supporters are poised to have effectual freeway overpasses crash all over their lives. Unfortunately, the rest of us will be called upon to suffer along with them and clean up the rubble.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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