Perhaps it’s the rainy weather, or the inevitable march towards Winter (my least favorite season), but I have been feeling of late quite discouraged about the future.
I firmly believe the Trump Presidency – and the pandemic – has created a nation divided as irrevocably as it was prior to the Civil War. The issues that separate us are not as neatly confined to “states’ rights versus federal governmental control,” or ”slavery versus abolition,” although these refrains underpin many of the issues that continue to be the source of conflict.
One factor, of course, is social media. It’s allowed all of us to become far more strident, and far less civil, in virtually every aspect of our life, than most of us would ever be if we were actually forced to speak those words in public, to the faces of the people to whom they were intended. Many of us, myself included, have said things that have ended relationships (not always a bad thing, but probably not something that should be done digitally). It has made it easier for us to become “us” and to cast those who don’t agree with us as “them.”
And a lot of “them” have given “us” plenty of reason to demonize “them.” They take absurd, stringent, cruel positions, in some cases, seemingly for the sole purpose of “owning the libs.” Every position is an absolute – there is no grey area, ever.
There appears, as well, to be an utter dearth of compassion from a group that counts among its members an overwhelming number who self-identify as “Christian,” whatever that means anymore; based upon the words and actions of so many, however, it would seem that this moniker includes supporting a man who has repeatedly cheated on his wife, his creditors, his own charitable foundation, and countless others.
It means a 10 year old girl should be forced to carry and give birth to the child conceived as the result of a horrible rape. It means referring to all Muslims as terrorists, all in the LGBTQ community as pedophiles, all those who seek to emigrate to the US through the Southern Border as criminals, all feminists as shrill, and vehemently deny that people of color (particularly Black people) continue to be subject to systemic racism, going so far as to erase any mention of the word “slavery” from school textbooks, and trying to whitewash to wholesale subjugation and enslavement of a race of people for 300 years by reframing it as “forced relocation.”
In the last 6 years, it’s become okay to be a bigot. There’s no shame in it anymore. It’s also okay not to care about those who are struggling – those who are economically disadvantaged, those who have no access to health care, or good schools, or social services, or reasonably-priced day care, or viable public transportation, or food security, or affordable housing…it’s okay to just not give a crap about anyone other than Number 1 anymore. It’s now perfectly acceptable to say, as Craig T. Nelson – irony free – once did, “ when I was on food stamps, no one helped me!”
It’s okay to reject science in favor of “Something I Read” on the Internet. Sure, we trust science when it comes to getting in a big shiny tube that hurtles through the air at 500 mph, sometimes over the ocean, even though most people (myself included) do not understand the concept of lift or Bernoulli’s equation.
The same people who are the first to demand antibiotics for a virus, undergo experimental cancer treatment, or allow a doctor to stick a needle into their spine during childbirth just so it doesn’t hurt (an epidural can, in rare instances, cause permanent paralysis) will refuse the COVID vaccine because someone told them their daughter was at a slumber party where the mom had gotten “the jab,” and ALL THE GIRLS’ PERIODS GOT MESSED UP!
This is the kind of thinking that now seems to represent the GOP. That is not to say that all people who identify as Republican think this way – because I don’t think they actually do. Most Republicans I know are fiscal conservatives who would like to see less governmental involvement in most matters, and are appalled by much of what has been going on in their party of late. The problem is, the last president their party elected seems to wield enormous power over certain key demographics which many GOP leaders believe they need to win over in order to be elected and re-elected, so they WILL NOT call him out on anything. He could, as he has said, shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight, and still, they would support him. Turns out if Trump was right about anything, it was that.
And he told them – he told them how stupid and gullible and easily led they were. He told them he could manipulate them into doing his bidding, no matter how heinous. They proved him right.
I believe there are many people who voted for That Man because they identify as Republican, or they hated Hillary (and doubled down in 2020), or are single-issue (anti-abortion) voters, or they are “MAGA-Lite,” meaning they think Trump may be sort of repulsive and goes too far, but perhaps they wouldn’t mind if things were a little bit more like they were in the 1950’s (they don’t mean any harm, of course, and they know lots of nice Black people…you know…the ones who don’t wear dreds and don’t get all angry and riled up and speak like White people do, not all Ghetto and everything…) because they don’t stop to think about what the 1950’s were like for people who weren’t straight, White, and Christian.
Someone I love very much gets VERY uncomfortable if anyone even says the name of our last president (or our current president, for that matter), because they worry it will lead to a discussion on politics. Everyone who knows this person is aware that they “don’t like to talk about politics,” and and we love this person enough that no one ever does talk about politics in their company. I can’t help but think, however, (1) how nice it must be for you to lead such a privileged and sheltered life that you don’t ever have to worry about the ramifications of your vote; and (2) people like you are exactly the reason Adolph Hitler was able to rise to power in the first place.
I firmly believe the United States, in 2022, is the equivalent of pre-World War II Nazi Germany, not because I think there is going to be a genocide (although it certainly seems a distinct possibility). I think we are on the brink of electing, in 2024 or 2028, a Ron DeSantis, or someone of his ilk who, with a 6-3 super majority on the Supreme Court and an eventual Red Congress, is going to turn our country into a cross between Gilead, the antebellum South, and, okay, Germany in the 1930’s.
It’s not because half the country hates Muslims and foreigners and are evangelical Christians (or orthodox Catholics like Sam Alito who isn’t going to stop until the entire nation is attending Sunday mass and knows the Stations of the Cross by heart).
It’s not because half the country is made up of the morons you see on the Daily Show attending Trump rallies being interviewed by Jordan Klepper, entirely unaware of how truly warthog-level stupid they are.
It’s not because half the country believes Donald Trump is a humble, god-fearing, church-going Christian who believes in the sanctity of life, respects women, and cares deeply about doing what is best for the country, regardless of how it impacts him personally.
It’s because too many people in this country – GOP and Dem – are naive, smug, and have become complacent.
They assume that nothing like Nazi Germany could ever happen in this country because nothing like that ever has.
Our country is better than that! they might say. But we aren’t anymore. Not by a long shot.
Our country has too many checks and balances – we don’t elect dictators! they might say. But when a president holds the legislature in a grip of fear, and has seated a Supreme Court that perfectly reflects his agenda, what checks and balances are left?
The grownups in the room would never let that happen! they might say.
Folks, there aren’t any grownups left. This is it. This is what we are now.
Is it too late?
Yeah, it probably is. Every time there’s a health issue like COVID, from now on, it’s going to be political, and rather than working together – people versus disease – it’s going to be morons versus science.
Every time there’s an issue where the “Christian” camp thinks there’s a moral component, they’ll weaponize their mindless flock to vote for wolves in sheep’s clothing so they can try make everyone follow the rules they’ve set for themselves, because they know better.
And if you don’t think they’re coming for you, your freedoms, your rights, your faith, your strongly held beliefs, think again. There are a lot of people who are willing to overlook many things as long as their pocketbooks are full.
It can happen again. It will happen again. Because no one is speaking up.
“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me”
Pastor Martin Niemoller