Demonization

Mushrooms on the horizon
You seem to say
Nothing can be something
Ignorance now
Dominates the season

— Lyrics to Round by Public Image Ltd.

Last night at Walmart, I saw a bumper sticker that rattled me. I’m a Republican because we can’t all be on welfare. This morning, when I woke up, I felt disjointed and uneasy. It took while to pinpoint the source. The Russian slaughter of Ukrainians? Mounting evidence of the intentionality of January sixth? Book banning in schools across the nation? Oh right, that bumper sticker. This snarky message illustrates a rapidly growing trend that is ruining America and the world: the demonization of the other.  

History isn’t my bag. At my college, they required students to take a list of core classes: English, math, science, history, language and physical education. We could opt out of one of them. To my friends’ astonishment, I opted out of history. “What are you doing?” they said, “history is the easiest class of the bunch.” Not for me. My memory selectively sucks. I can retain movie dialogue for decades, the date of the French Revolution? Forget it. I’m just not interested. Browsing the book-stacks of my brain, when you come upon the history section, you’ll find bare shelves. So take my historical analysis with a grain of salt.

Our modern political dysfunction started with Newt Gingrich’s stupid “Contract with America.” It changed the face of political discourse in America. In 1994 as the world wide web got off the ground, my coworker Dennis called me into his office. “Wanna see something cool?” He showed me a chat room, something I’d never heard of before. Some anonymous guy, somewhere else in the world, began a conversation with Dennis about Bill Clinton. After about fifteen seconds of back-and-forth discussion, Dennis wrote: So you know Hillary’s a lesbian, right? I was there when internet trolling was invented. This is what Newt Gingrich wrought.

I’m a progressive, a lefty, a lib, so my bias makes me think this is a one-sided problem. The Republican party adopts talking points that ignore the truth. Democrats stole the election. Anthony Fauci wants to take away your rights. People speaking out against Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ bill are pedophiles. Only Democrats are on welfare. Yesterday, I read a blog that placed the blame for rising gas prices directly on Biden and Harris, another Republican talking point. This is all nonsense. But if you say it enough times and put it all over Facebook, it gains traction.

It works so well that Vladimir Putin has started doing it. The Ukraine is a growing Nazi threat. Or… they were preparing to attack Russia, we are simply protecting ourselves. Watching America, Putin realized he can say anything he wants to justify his invasion. Most of Russia, it seems, has bought it.

Yesterday, President Zelenskyy warned the world that Putin quite possibly will detonate a nuclear bomb soon. Personally, I think this is a foregone conclusion. Russia will continue to struggle with its invasion; Putin will become frustrated and embarrassed; he’ll nuke Kyiv. Or… Putin’s invasion will gain traction; the world, unable to sit on the sidelines any longer, will join the fight; Putin will nuke Kyiv. Or… Putin will simply nuke Kyiv.

The world I occupy works only through cooperation. In America, every four or eight years, the president passes the reigns of the nation to a new leader, and often to one with diametrically opposed ideas. Nations, by and large, respect boundary lines. Countries with nuclear weapons understand they only exist as a deterrent. Why do political parties and countries, cooperate? Because everyone understands that while the world is far from perfect, it works.*

As recently as four years ago, even Kim Jong Un understood this, and he let his tiff with Trump rest. Now Putin, the keeper of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, believes he can declare a sovereign nation evil and attack without consequence—so far, it looks like he’s right.

Back to America. We need to rediscover how to argue without pointing fingers and name calling. We all simply hate each other, and common ground will never be found from this starting point. Indira Gandhi famously said: You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. She’s right, of course. Our demonizing discourse will escalate, our society will continue to segregate until we take the time to understand one another. And maybe I can stop some of my own finger-pointing too.

* Jeff, you’re coming at this from a very western, Euro-centric, privileged point of view.” I fully agree. I started that paragraph with ‘the world I occupy.’ Plus, the stability of wealthy nations is part of the global glue that keeps things from disintegrating.

22 thoughts on “Demonization

  1. Excellent post Jeff. I know several people whose viewpoints have changed so rapidly left, right, up and down it’s both silly as well as alarming. We need to stop the finger pointing, respect and love each other, unite and admit we don’t know everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d go back further to Reagan and Thatcher and the sanctification of wealth acquisition and the the enshrinement of the if you are not acquiring wealth you are defective idea. The world gradually became a colder place until empathy, compassion and the social contract became meaningless.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I thought about going back to Reagan, especially when I read that much of the Contract with America was modeled after Reagan speeches, but I was working in an extremely conservative environment when Newt did his thing and the change was clearly visible in the people who surrounded me. I scrapped a paragraph where I suggested that public funds received by nonprofits (like tax-free status) may be under fire soon. I think it’s a natural extension of where things are today.

      Like

  3. I can leave an angry comment so you can practice ?? No… I can’t. I don’t have the energy to even try to spout nonsense. You know my politics align with yours.
    I’ve really tried to understand where some of the ideas from the Republicans are coming from… not the QAnon crap, but what is happening in their echo chamber that pushes them to attack everyone and everything that isn’t white, hetero, cis, and Christian.

    There are extremist on both sides, and here’s another thing about pointing a finger… when you point your finger, you’ve got three pointing back at yourself.

    I really hope that nukes don’t come into play. Biden doesn’t seem inclined to escalate things. I think he was hoping for the Russians to get rid of Putin, but they’re too beat down and too afraid. Lots of Russians left after the invasion. They want to live free too.

    I live in a Blue state, but there is a lot of military in San Diego area, and they tend to lean right. That gal who was shot 1/6 was from my favorite beach town… a “Hippy” beach town.

    I don’t think we’re as divided as the media and the extremists would have us believe. Most people just want to live their lives, would be happy to help a neighbor, believe in live and let live… maybe I’ve got rose colored glasses🤷🏼‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

    • My feeling on our divided nation is that in the red states with republican representatives and a republican governor, things are changing pretty rapidly. Pennsylvania is going to be the next state to enact all of these restrictive abortion laws and pushback against multiculturalism. We’re sure to lose our Democratic governor next term and then all hell will break loose. It really makes me want to just give up and crawl into bed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I have friends in red states, one in Texas and I just couldn’t imagine🤦🏼‍♀️ Even when we had the “Governator” Arnold Swarzenegger in office, California was still California. It probably has more to do with the diversity of the population than politics.
        If I was where you are, I believe I’d want to stay in bed too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the pressure is definitely still building. It’s not over yet… I do NOT believe that the majority of Americans want these kinds of restrictions… even in the red states.

        You’re planning on moving anyway, right? I can’t see Philly going red, but that’s just one city. Any idea where you wanna go? Wherever the kids settle??😉

        I’m the eternal optimist who believes in the basic goodness of most people. I may be completely out of touch, but I believe that we’ll get back to middle ground… eventually. Whenever “eventually” is🤷🏼‍♀️

        Liked by 1 person

      • We’ve always said we’re moving to Moab UT, but it’s become really crowded and overpriced. Hopefully someplace warmer than PA. We both like the heat. It will be three more years at the very minimum, probably more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Plenty on time to think. High desert New Mexico is pretty.
        If you want to be somewhere warm, make sure there is water!! The entire west is running out of water.

        SoCal has always been home, and I love it here, but I can barely afford to live here. Housing is beyond ridiculous.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. In this country, when the government screw up, they blame Jan Van Riebeeck or Apartheid.
    While I agree Apartheid was terrible, they conveniently forget the country went to hell during their “democracy”

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, I’ve wondered who was visiting from South Africa. Neat. On Columbus day every year half the country dumps on Christopher Columbus (our Jan Van Riebeeck). When I was a kid, he was a hero. Now he’s a genocidal rapist. It’s nice having a scapegoat. It leaves us free from having to think about our own action in the present day.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A compelling post, Jeff. I can’t pretend I know enough about American politics to offer an intelligent comment other than to say I was definitely guilty of finger-pointing in the Trump era even though I’m in the UK. The man terrified me because he influenced so many Americans at that time (in my opinion, negatively), and I feared he had the ability to drop a nuclear bomb. Now, with the war between Putin and Ukraine, I fear that Putin is of the same (note – not sane) ilk and has the power not only to destroy Ukraine, which he is already trying very hard to do but is also very capable of nuking, not only his ‘enemy’ but a large part of the world if the fancy takes him (for want of a better expression). As you said, so many Russians have already fled the country, and I feel very much for them and the Ukraine people. It’s all just awful. In this day and age, wars like the present one shouldn’t be happening; if it wasn’t for power-crazed leaders (or others with power), would we then know peace – I highly doubt it somehow. (I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my comment – I confess I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to politics, so these are just my feelings).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I doubt you offended anyone. During Trump’s term every other post I wrote was complaining about him. Any Trumpers fled this blog long ago. I don’t want a larger conflict with Russia, but I’m aghast that Europe and the US is letting this slaughter go on. I never would have believed it if you told me that Russia would be permitted to attack Ukraine for 2 months and counting. This is just insane. As is the crap going on in this country. I just read an article about how the K-12 book banning trend is now spreading to public libraries. I honestly can’t stand these people.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Well said. I agree with just about every point you’ve made, Jeff. There was a time when both parties respected the role of the press in our democracy, and journalists were not derided/shamed publicly for seeking the truth and exposing lies on behalf of the American people. The previous administration did a lot of damage on this score. Too many Americans are too ignorant to realize it or simply don’t care.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That bumper sticker really is cringey. Whenever I read something as ignorant as that I have to fight the urge to destroy it. Or to create new bumper stickers that read “I am ignorant” so I could stick it to their car too or in place of the other one. I agree with you about PA too. Wolfe has upset so many people that I am sure we are going Republican next – and all that entails with it. Makes me want to crawl into bed too.

    Liked by 1 person

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