For a wealth of reasons involving the U.S. Presidential Election and a severe falling-out within the reenactment group I worked in (very, very past-tense), the following is my only complete piece of writing in about a month. Good thing none of you come to this blog for frequency, eh? Think of it like binge-reading: not very frequent, but exceptionally filling. Today however, I get political. Also, this was written for Facebook and then transferred here (Cullen Cheats Quotas, remember?) It’s a cerebral form of nausea. Without further preamble, except the integrated preamble at the start of the essay:
The following is entirely political in nature. This is primarily directed at my conservative friends. To my liberal ones, just mind that I don’t radicalize you. I’m not joking, the state of debate in this country is enough of a mess as-is. I understand if you’re not in the mood for a full-on essay. If that’s the case I suggest you simply ignore this post and come back to it when you’re ready.
I’ve given up my day’s practice in order to properly think through and write the following. I submit that nothing I say is intended to cater to anyone. Whether it makes enemies of everyone I can’t predict, though I lean towards “no” since all my rhetoric thus far has provoked little change one way or another.
Before I wax dramatic, some remarks.
Firstly, I claim no special knowledge (aside from a study of history, which most are too openly bored by to claim they know it). I offer only a penchant for considerable thought, and whatever intellectual credibility or loss of it I engender in identifying myself as on the Autism Spectrum.
Secondly, you’re free to disagree with anything I post here. I request that in the spirit of genuine debate and moving our civil discourse forward, you don’t comment this disagreement unless you’re prepared to back it up with coherent arguments. I say “argument” not “evidence” because I’m not going to provide links or “hard facts” and I won’t hold you to a standard I’m not presently applying to myself. It’s well understood that all of us know a number of things without remembering precisely where we found them. I’m going to trust you not to put forward information you’ve made up or otherwise know to be untrue, and I hope you’ll do me the same courtesy. I’m not so full of myself as to expect I’ll need it, but I reserve the right to stop responding to comments if by some quirk this discussion require me to argue against ten people at once.
Thirdly, I don’t normally ask people to share my thoughts. Most of the time I don’t consider them important enough to be worthwhile. In this instance my statements are of deep importance to me and I ask that you share them if they resonate with you. I mean share, not copy and paste or quote without attribution. While my identity as a white male from a semi-affluent background should not, from a purely logical standpoint, make any difference, I suspect it may. At any rate, my statements are particular to me and will carry less force if not linked with who I am.
Lastly, some of the parallels I must address will make me seem alarmist to those of you who already disagree with me. I understand this, and I understand I helped nothing in my response to the conclusion of the election. I do not retract my statements, but I apologize for reacting to a worst-case scenario that’s far from inevitable. I speak now because even the remotest possibility of watching that scenario come to pass without statement on my part is intolerable to me. I’ll happily accept the label of reactionary Librat or any derivations thereof at any point in the future where my concerns are rendered foolhardy. I vastly prefer that outcome to one in which the nightmare I perceive takes form without so much as a peep from myself or any other.
Now, I’m not here to talk about the election. I am addressing the evolving state of Trump’s presidency. He hasn’t taken office, true, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to address some concerning patterns. All further discussion of what Hillary Clinton is, was, did or may have done is now equally as moot as discussing what Bernie Sanders might have achieved. She’s no longer in the running and no longer relevant, as clearly indicated by the fact that no further effort has been made to address her in the election’s aftermath.
I’m also not here to talk about liberals. I agree wholeheartedly that Liberalism in all its forms has ample flaws of its own, but liberals aren’t in power right now. More to the point, trying to address those flaws as well of those of the developing administration and its adherents would turn a sweeping debate into a truly labyrinthine one. Let’s not pretend we’re going to have an easy time being civil and rational as-is, hm?
I will say this. I don’t LIKE it, but Donald Trump IS my President. That’s how our democracy works. I, for my part, have not rioted in the street. I ranted on Facebook, though, and I apologize for the preemptive vitriol I displayed there. I lowered the quality of our discourse, and I apologize for that. I will try not to let it happen again.
Trump’s cabinet is not fully formed. I concede this. Many of the people he’s considering, however, are representative only of a tiny, hateful substrata of the overall American public. These men (all I’ve read of are men) are the alt-Right of the alt-Right. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, mostly. Their ideology belongs to a darker era of humanity, one many of our ancestors died to see buried forever.
My maternal step-Grandfather flew as tail gunner on a B-25 in the Pacific, fighting the Imperial Japanese idea of their own racial supremacy. I grew from baby to pre-teen on a succession of air bases and saw my mother deployed to Iraq. Instead of cartoons, my Saturdays were spent reading and watching the exploits of my forebears. I have only the deepest respect for the sacrifices of American servicemen. It’s in no small part out of respect for those sacrifices that I belabor this point as I do.
Hatred is not the American way. Do not open your mouth to tell me there’s no hatred behind Donald Trump. The bulk of his supporters say they voted for him because they’re fed up. I disagree with that methodology, but the fact remains that the election is past. That said, I repeat: hatred is not the American way. In particular, it’s not the American way to hate others for your hardships. That doesn’t mean you have only yourself to blame (imagine, the irony of a self-proclaimed Liberal asserting that!), but lashing out at people who struggle as much or moreso than you is not the answer.
In truth, most of you DON’T lash out. I’m not going to make the unsupportable argument that ignoring or tolerating bigotry is as bad as actually practicing bigotry. That’s an objectively preposterous statement. That said, since when are we as Americans supposed to do only what we can get away with? Since when is the American approach to do just “good enough?” You say that you’re not racists. For what it’s worth, I believe that. This makes it baffling to me that, now that your party is in power, I see no greater effort to address its flaws. You don’t need to lock ranks anymore. This is the time to start policing yourselves.
As a brief aside, it may seem at first glance that I’ve no skin in this game (awful pun intended). As I said, I’m a white male born into reasonable privilege. That said, I’m also on the Autism Spectrum, and the Nazis were just as happy to send my kind to death camps as Jews, gypsies, and LGBTQ individuals.
I know what you’re saying. “Death camps? Death camps will never happen in the U.S.!” We’ve already had people arguing for Muslim internment. I hate the Slippery Slope argument: it’s so easily abused. But if it’s alright to imprison every Muslim in the country because we’ve had about a dozen of them do us harm in the past, then it’s not much of a slip to say that all mentally atypical individuals should be locked up. After all, psychologically disturbed people are the ones who carry out all the mass shootings in the country. Better safe than sorry, right?
At this point I hope you’re about to tell me that you’ve never argued for any of that stuff. Well and good. I wasn’t accusing you of doing so. But you know that your fellow conservatives have. Instead of taking them to task for blatantly anti-American sentiments, you’ve either had your fingers in your ears or been busy telling us liberals to stop being over-sensitive. This is an ad hominem. It’s the most basic and common form of logical fallacy in human history. Rather than address our points, you say they’re invalid because of some vaguely-relatable character trait. Maybe we ARE over-sensitive. That doesn’t mean our arguments are automatically invalid, though.
I’m not using that as an attack (again, that’d be much too ironic). I understand how hard it is to stay measured and offer rational arguments when you’re fuming about something. You need only skim my feed to see that I have trouble with it.
All I’m asking for is this: that the vast majority of conservatives pay attention. Don’t ignore the small steps we already see sinking into the mire. Trump is not Hitler, by the way. I’ve said this before, although if you look at the context of that remark you may decide it’s no compliment. Trump is not Hitler, nor are the bulk of his supporters (that’s a compliment). But if you go out of your way to shut down every liberal criticism without ever calling out the more extreme members of your own party, radicalization is inevitable. They won’t listen to us (after all, do you?) so we can’t very well hold them check.
I do not assert that we’re going to wind up with death camps or even with widespread oppression. I am saying that the mere idea of such disgusting practices coming from your own party should infuriate you on such a deep level that I shouldn’t have to incite you to fight back against them.
Think of all the times you’ve become incandescent with fury because you saw another story about safe spaces on a college campuses (which, I admit, are getting out of hand). Is that even the tiniest bit as horrifying as the fact that people who claim political allegiance with you want to trample the ideas that millions of our ancestors have bled for?
If your answer to that question is yes, I hope you’ll reconsider. We all remember what the Nazis did at the height of their power. It’d be wise to remember what the rest of the world did to Germany when that power was broken.
And if your answer to this is that you’re too pissed off to care, then I’ve no more arguments to make. History tells us what came next last time. Running that risk just for a childish bout of cathartic rage is not in the American spirit, no matter whether the risk comes to fruition or not.