The Sucking of American Politics
Dec. 9, 2019
This is the kind of post nobody really wants to write. Certainly its the kind of post that nobody wants to read.
It's about politics and divisiveness. But I'm going to write it anyway because I'm sad today. Sad for America, and looking to vent a little. Spoiler alert: there are no solutions proposed here that will fix America.
I was born into a Republican party family many years ago. I spent my youth cheering on the politics of my parents because they were my parents. And even though I was taught "the Democrats hate God and babies, love taxes, and are trying to ruin America," I was also told to respect others. They said that some Democrats could be good people, and I should vote for the best person when he/she is a Democrat. I was told that Uncle John was a Democrat, and that he's a good guy. I was taught that even though we may disagree, we are all Americans and that alone binds us together.
It wasn't until after I left home and invited different personal experiences that my politics began their leftward drift. I'm now solidly a lefty, because I just believe that we all do better when we all do better.
Since leaving home for college, I've lived in cities big and small. I've lived in the north, and the deep south of the USA. I'm a buiness owner. A gun owner. I'm still barely a Christian, one of the rare ones who still attends church. Except for my college education, on paper you might easily mistake me for a Republican.
I don't know about you, but lately things have gotten bad bad for me. Not bad economically, but bad emotionally. I have a large extended American family, many of whom are rural, uneducated and financiall less well off than I am. I don't want to rub their faces in it, and I don't think I do. But the differences in our life experiences now seem mirrored in our politics.
And I guess its ok that we're different, except that I can't stand to be around them anymore, or they with me. It used to be that my cousins and I could joke about politics a bit and exchange views while pheasant hunting. But now, even after years of avoiding political talk at family gatherings like the plague, its hard to be in the same room together. Its like walking on egg shells, trying not to trigger each other. There's nothing in the wide world to we can discuss because they've adopted a reality that is nearly 180 degrees opposed to my own reality, which is not based on conspiracy theories and the fakest of fake news.
Part of this probablem I think, is the result of being exposed immediately to the random political likes or musing of one another through social media. I believe that humans just weren't built to be connected in this way.
Where once I could look forward to catching up and enjoying each others company over a turkey dinner during the holidays, now I dread family gatherings because I know my cousin who loves Sean Hannity will be there talking about the next Donald Trump Jr. tweet and trying to get me on video being triggered.
And sadly this now includes my own father, who has decided on his own that he won't spend holidays with, or hunt with his grand kids. This, after I asked him not to refer to the Sikh immigrants working at Walmart as 'rag heads' in front of my kids. Since then, I've been out the skids with him.
And yes, I hear the one or two moderates on TV saying: "hey, we need to focus on what unites us!" And I hear the father of my youth reminding me that, "even though we may disagree, we are all Americans and that alone binds us together." But that father is dead to me, replaced by a regurgitator of Fox news.
Sadly, the nature of new Amerian tribalism demands that we are united by what divides us from others. That is... We are united in our hatred of Others not like us. We are united by some shared interpretation of a concocted reality. We are united by the dog whistle language of our tribe. We are united not by a shared sense of American values, but by our shared anger against Others and a lust to punish those unlike us.
I am absolutely part of the problem because I stopped listening to other side. Why did I do this? Because they sound so fucking crazy to me, I no longer even know where to begin to have a discussion. Their language is too often racist and offensive, and they don't like being called out on that. They really, really don't like to be called out on that.
But I'm sorry, I won't stand by while someone (even my father) spouts that shit off in front of my kids. Its hard enough biting my tongue when my kids aren't around, as I attempt to temporarily shake off being a 'white ally' for the unholy purpose of family unity and continuing some kind of family dialogue.
For me, my education has been a liability when talking to my rural cousins who chose not to go to college. The experiences I've had traveling the world seem to be resented. They seem to wear their ignorance as a badge of honor, and distrust anything I might say because I went to college. They look to Fox news to tell them what to think, to shape their distorted reality and to explain away the obvious corruption and graft of (for example) this sitting president. They are proud of being a graduate of Rush Limbaugh university, proud of their ignorance and their politically incorrect correctness.
I "get" that they are angry. I "get" that from a white rural perspective, the problems of the cities look like something that doesn't affect them. I "get" that in a largely homongenous rural America, those who speak, act and dress differently are viewed with suspicion and derision. I "get" that in rural America, they don't like to be told to do anything or to pay taxes. I "get" that the only experience some of them have with people of color are seing highly paid football players and Black Lives Matters activists on TV. They like their farm program money and medicare, but thats another post. They feel that nobody gave them or their parents a hand out, and by God, you will not take their guns. Though I 'get' them, how the hell can I excuse them? I don't.
From my perpective, they seem ill equiped to deal with the nature of the modern threats to their country. Many of their local churches have closed, once the center of community and a voice for compassion. Instead, Fox news has become the proxy for going to church. When tethered to the anger of Fox news, they feel attached to something important and larger than themselves. Its easy to blame the urban centers for the nations problems. So they worship at the church of Fox news, celebrating the messiah Trump, where this is no voice for compassion; there is only a constant drum beat of other-loathing and self-victimization.
So I'm sad for America today, for myself and my kids. I don't feel this can be fixed, and I certainly don't believe I can compromise on the values I treasure (at least America's internal values, if not how we conduct ourseves around the world.) The values I hold, I believe, are those that my father gave me when I was kid. It hurts when your father changes in such a radical way that he no longer seems to believe in or respect those values.
The America I knew was a welcoming place.
In my America, we were proud of our own immigrant history and to this day try to keep a few food traditions alive
My America respected the rule of law
My America did not allow its leaders to run roughshod over the constitution they swore to protect
My America didn't tolerate White Nationalist hatred
My America didn't have space for debunked conspiracy theories
My America didn't tolerate foreign interference in its elections, or demonize the agencies sworn to protect it.
Why I don't "get" is why my angry cousins feel as if they don't have enough of a stake in their country such that they would cheer and enable its destruction from within, and advance the causes of its foreign and domestic enemies. They don't seem to care, so long as their "side" wins the fight of the moment on Fox news.
Its taken decades to get here. I feel this ever deepening divide and untethered sense of reality will be with us for decades hence.
There is precident for such a level of animosity in America, of course. At this point, I can only assume that this most recent manifestation of the civil war we never stopped fighting is going to run its course. Eventually, its going to result in the destruction of one side or another, either politically or violently. Probably both.
I think those of you who have already found new homes outside of the U.S. or who are searching for ways to acquire foreign passports are not only precient, but wise. On one hand, I slap you on the back of the head for giving up on your country. With the other hand, I'm knocking on your door asking if I can crash on your couch.
This all sucks. It's embarassing. Its enraging. It's maddening. Its frustrating. Its sad. It sucks to talk outloud about it. Its destroying families and friendships. And its made me less tolerant to the views of people who embrace and flaunt their fake flat earth, anti-science, anti-schooling, anti-social reality. There's just no room for compromise.
I mean... how do you compromise? The earth is just a little flat? Trump is just a little corrupt? Global warming is only a little bit true?
And yet it seems there is no middle ground where Americans can meet that is not a battlefield.
There is only 'them' on their island, 'us' on our island, and shark infested waters between us.
You want to compromise? Then you start swimming first.
For my part, I've essentially given up social media. You can probably sense that by virtue of my participation in Gopherspace.
I don't know how long I will leave this post up. I'm just trying to express something important to me, not pick a fight. Maybe this will help you undestand where I'm coming from, or maybe it will just reinforce your tribalism and hatred of me. I really don't know, and like you, I increasingly don't care.
[The Brainwashing of my Dad. https://www.thebrainwashingofmydad.com/]