Two Views of America
I spend far too much time on Facebook trying to have rational discussions with people of differing views. Sometimes these encounters shed some light on a topic or, as a minimum, are polite exchanges without commonality. More often, my counterpart is so entrenched in his dogma that nothing penetrates his fact-free zone.
The following was one such post that has stuck with me. Why? Because the post contains so much mis-information, so much nascent bigotry, so many unfounded yet popular conservative principles. It is a manifesto of right-wing beliefs.
‘I used to think I was just a regular guy, but I was born white, which now, whether I like it or not, makes me a racist. I am a fiscal and moral conservative, which by today's standards, makes me a fascist. I am heterosexual, which according to gay folks, now makes me a homophobe. I am non-union businessman, which makes me a traitor to the working class and an ally of big business. I am a Christian, which now labels me as an infidel. I believe in the 2nd Amendment, which now makes me a member of the vast gun lobby. I am older than 50, which makes me a useless old man. I think and I reason, therefore I doubt much that the main stream media tells me, which must make me a reactionary. I am proud of my heritage and our inclusive American culture, which makes me a xenophobe. I value my safety and that of my family and I appreciate the police and the legal system, which makes me a right-wing extremist. I believe in hard work, fair play, and fair compensation according to each individual's merits, which today makes me an anti-socialist. I believe in the defense and protection of the homeland for and by all citizens, which now makes me a militant. Please help me come to terms with the new me… because I'm just not sure who I am anymore! I would like to thank all my friends for sticking with me through these abrupt, new found changes in my life and my thinking! I just cant [sic] imagine or understand what's happened to me so quickly! Funny …its [sic] all just taken place over the last 7 or 8 years! As if all this nonsense wasn't enough to deal with… I'm now afraid to go into either restroom!’ - ‘Bruce’
Many middle-class and lower, white American now play the victim card. Their favourite news sources (FOX, Breitbart, Limbaugh, RedState, et al) have told them a trillion times that they are under attack - and so is Christmas. Let’s look at ‘Bruce’s’ first sentence to see how propaganda has shaped opinion.
‘I used to think I was just a regular guy, but I was born white, which now, whether I like it or not, makes me a racist.’
Being white does not make you racist unless you believe your skin colour makes you superior and you seek to degrade others because of their skin tone. This is a contagious affliction in the US, spreading from one Applebee’s to another. What the closet racists object to is people of colour actually wanting the same rights as they do. Many whites are quite content to dismiss the concept of institutional racism in the US.
‘I am a fiscal and moral conservative, which by today's standards, makes me a fascist. I am heterosexual, which according to gay folks, now makes me a homophobe.’
Being straight and conservative makes a person only that. Problems arise, and they arise often, when the rights of others who hold different views are attacked and denied their freedoms. Being straight is not a crime; neither is being gay - anymore. It was, of course, and homophobia continues to rear up its ugly head on a regular basis. As a heterosexual man, how is it my right to tell others who to love, how to love? How is that my business? And, most importantly, how does their sexual orientation make one iota of difference to my life? Some counter that the Bible says…. First, the Bible says lots of acts and thoughts are wrong and specifies cruel punishments for many of them; yet, most all of them are universally ignored by the faithful. Second, the Bible is the book for your beliefs; it is not my book; it is not the universal answer for all people, despite what many Christians think. Trying to force infidels into the flock is a repeated offence in mankind’s history, with failures at every attempt, but it flies in the face of the US’ founding (freedom of religion and freedom from religion) and attempts to bring people under unified control. Now that is fascism:
organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government
very harsh control or authority
‘I am non-union businessman, which makes me a traitor to the working class and an ally of big business.’
John Steinbeck is credited by some as saying, ‘socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.’ The conservative side has waged wars against workers since the inception of unionisation through today. Some of those fights were murderous, literally. The vast majority of people like ‘Bruce’ were taught to despise worker organisations, that they instil laziness and poor productivity. As a result of that propaganda, union membership stands at about 10% of the workforce in 2016. The whole US workforce, not just unionised workers, have lost their upward mobility from the stripping of employee benefits and job security. The vast majority of working people believe in work, fair compensation and a level playing field. Publicly traded corporations, however, believe first and foremost in maximising shareholder wealth. This financial focus can lead to treating employees are an expendable supply it
em to use up and toss away at the lowest cost, a long trend that has wide ramifications across society. Nevertheless, as Steinbeck noted, those workers constantly vote against their own self interest, eroding their standard of living, because one day with enough hard work they will join the 1%, so goes the drumbeat . Or not.
‘I value my safety and that of my family and I appreciate the police and the legal system, which makes me a right-wing extremist.’
The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) received hard and swift pushback from the entrenched white privilege crowd. Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter and the neo-Nazi White Lives Matter are three example. I’m going out on a limb here and speaking from the mind of a person of colour - something I have far too little experience with - but does anyone really believe that non-white neighbourhoods want violence? Want cops to disappear? I’m pretty sure they want the same as we all do: safety, honest and honourable cops, respect. At present, the number of glaring examples to the contrary is staggering. Yes, all lives do matter; yes cops lives matter; but, black lives are the ones under duress. This is not an insult to whites or a declaration of open season on cops as the bobbleheads on TV scream. The BLM movement is for equality. People generally do support police up until cops start persecuting a class of people due to their zip code or skin colour - hell, until they abuse their power on anyone. I would hope everyone’s tolerance for abusive policing and sentencing would be low, support for honourable community service high and respect for everyone’s life the first priority.
‘I believe in the defense and protection of the homeland for and by all citizens, which now makes me a militant.’
Defence of the country, the troops, the flag and now the anthem have become objects of idolatry. Sadly, romping across the globe to kill innocents of other lands is now conflated with idolatry and homeland protection. They aren’t the same, of course. Invading other countries is offence, imperialism. The majority of the US, however, view US invasions without cause as normal, just, because blind patriotism is now a virtue that cannot be challenged without violent backlash. We have seen this over the last few weeks with the protest by Colin Kaepernick and others. His protest was/is seen as a direct assault to the flag, the troops, the country. No, he and a growing number protest police brutality against blacks. The conservative privileged crowd quickly made the transference to attacking the homeland, because they are not under the same threats. In Kaepernick’s case, yes, he is a man of privilege and wealth. His skin colour, however, could result in any number of harassing situations, some of which he has communicated.
On the day I wrote this someone I know tangentially wrote that ‘racism was dead before Obama took office’. Much has been laid at the feet of Mr. Obama. I could list his faults as I see them, and that would take a while. His achievements would likewise be a long list. To say that the racial strife is Obama’s fault may be the most myopic statement of the year but also a major trigger point of white privilege and conservative propaganda. What has developed, surprisingly quickly in my view, is a national dialogue about race, whites joining hands with blacks to protest inequality, people taking abusive police to task, fighting back against a comprehensive system of inequality. That shakes the boat of those too comfortable in their places in the world and threatens their mastery, perhaps. What I find even more worrisome is that the privileged class wants to blame Obama for so many ills yet gives hardly a passing thought to his predecessor: you know, the guy who lied to us, invaded two countries on those lies, killed hundreds of thousands including some 5000 US citizens and then helped crash the world economy. But, he was a good old Texas boy, a Christian, white, who likes guns and paints cats.