“Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion. What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.”
I recently reconnected with an old colleague on Facebook. It was nice to connect, and we eventually hit upon the subject of politics. It turns out he’s a huge Trump fan, and me…not so much.
But a curious ritual began to take shape. I would write that Trump was a white supremacist, or that Trump believes global warming is some kind of hoax, or that Trump had lied to the American people over 12,000 times, or that Trump had been convicted for discriminating against people of color who wanted to live in his housing developments, etc., etc. Instead of writing back and debating the points, he sent me links.
So, I wrote back and told him I wasn’t interested in links; I was interested in his thoughts and I would then bring up more points: the suppression of the Mueller Report, his six bankruptcies, Russians guaranteeing his loans with Deutsche Bank, etc., etc. Instead of writing back and debating the points, he sent me more links, implying I didn’t have the guts to confront the truth. He likes to patronize me.
So I wrote back and told him I wasn’t interested in links; I was interested in his thoughts and I would then bring up more points: the seven people from his inner circle serving jail time, the numerous people from his Administration under indictment, emoluments, the separating of kids from their parents at the border, the multiple sexual harassment suits against him, etc., etc. Instead of writing back and debating the points, he sent me more links.
So, I wrote back forbidding him to send more links, telling him I wanted to hear his thoughts on these issues.
And he sent more links.
What is a poor boy to do?
I did get out of him his belief that Trump has never lied…ever. Well, that left me speechless for a couple of days, given the fact it has been documented that Trump has lied over 12,000 times since taking office. And this is an intelligent man; he has an engineering degree from a very good school. Now I did view a couple of his links. They were filled with conspiracy theories fueled by QAnon—he’s a big fan—but when you drill deep into these websites, they are based on white supremacist theories, with a dash of 19th century eugenics undergirding their flimsy scientific foundation. It all comes down to this idea of a master race. That is what they hang their hat on.
At the end of the day, they feel so insecure that they need to look down on people to boost their ego, prop up their insecurity, their fragile self-worth, all the while fully embracing the propaganda that they are part of some master race. Here’s the kicker: any dissatisfaction, shortcomings, or failures they feel in their life is really not their fault, not their responsibility. Their failures are the fault of others, in other words scapegoats, which politicians readily offer up. Trump has a treasure trove of them: Hispanics, Muslins, Afro-Americans, Dreamers, Immigrants—people who help make this country great. But Trump is certainly not the first. Offering up scapegoats by playing the race card can get you elected. The Republicans know this as they been executing the Southern Strategy since Richard Nixon.
Back to my buddy: I’ll keep sending him my political thoughts, hoping at some point we can engage in a civil discourse of ideas. But this is an interesting phenomenon, original thoughts are being phased out, replaced by links seeped in conspiracy theories meant to replace critical thinking and debate. The heartbeat, viability, and health of our democracy is predicated on citizens engaged in civil discourse. This radical experiment of “All men are created equal…” can only work with the full participation of our citizenry, a principle that flies in the teeth of the Republican voter suppression initiative. Republicans believe that the less people vote, the better they will do at the polls. When our citizens succumb to apathy, that politics doesn’t matter, that voting doesn’t matter, propaganda fills the void, usually in the form of video links, appealing to our baser natures, stirring up dormant prejudices.
So, my friend could be described as a card-carrying member of Trump’s base. Trump once said: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” I used to take that as a joke but it’s no longer funny. I think that is the essence of what we are dealing with when it comes to the Trump base—blind faith. It will excuse the deepest depth of moral depravity as long as their personal needs are catered to, as long as their personal prejudices are validated. Dictators have historically exploited this phenomenon, offering up scapegoats while slowly erasing the power of the press to hold politicians accountable. Hitler was the poster child for that stratagem.
It’s very hard to penetrate the blind faith fortress of the Trump supporter, because their blind faith validates their worldview that they are not responsible for their plight, for their condition—someone else is to blame. It guarantees no introspection; it takes the lazy route of providing scapegoats for all that ills.
There is a silver lining to the Trump presidency: it made us realize that our democratic institutions are fragile, easily dismantled by demigods through the apathy of our citizens. The easy thing would be to retire to our bunkers, sending out propaganda link salvos, rather than engaging in political discourse. We can’t stop trying to penetrate the blind faith of our political opponents—there is common ground if we put in the work to find it. Our country and our airways have been infected by millions of Russians memes and this cancer has metastasized, driving a wedge between us. Russia’s stated purpose was to divide us, and they are executing that playbook to a T. Today someone sent me a picture of Hillary Clinton with the words “50 years of killing babies”. Really??? Russian fingerprints were all over this meme.
We can’t surrender to this artificial divide. We have to roll up our sleeves and go into the bunkers and engage in civil, political discourse. People are innately good, and our country’s healing can begin when we tap into that goodness—all the while cleansing our airwaves of the Russian memes. By excavating the goodness in each of us, this nectar can fuel a political renaissance, ushering in a golden age of peace and prosperity, the United States once again a beacon of democracy for the rest of the world to admire and emulate.