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Letter to the Editor: Culture War Games

Polarization is the problem, we’re told, and there’s lots of evidence. Most folks recognize it’s at least part of the problem. Is it all the other guy? I’ll own my share. My growing incomprehension and intolerance.

I believe, have always believed, everyone matters and is entitled to their opinion. Nothing’s achieved refusing to value other people and their perspectives. I simply can’t do the current iteration of Republican ideology. I’ve tried and I’m aware I’m part of the problem. Disagreements always, always have more than one side. There comes a point, however, when you have to accept there’s no reasoning with unreasonable people.

We live in a period of extreme complacency and conceit. Hardly anyone believes anything they think or do is wrong. Some folks appear to believe democracy exists only for them. You can’t reason with that. Sure, we have the right to believe what we want, act how we want within the bounds of the law, regardless of how our behavior affects others and our community. Our laws don’t prohibit thoughtlessness, arrogance, unwillingness to cooperate and consider others.

Thing is, other people aren’t required to value or admire your offensive, selfish, hostile behavior or believe the same idiotic nonsense. I remember when people agreed on basic things like the difference between respect and disrespect. Being raised in a traditional church, as opposed to the evangelical church, I was taught to listen to people, care about people, and above all, be kind, not just to people who are exactly the same as I am. The main theme, Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus’ example is that this isn’t always easy, convenient, or comfortable in practice. It becomes necessary to challenge ourselves when trying to choose right action in our daily lives. My experience — it’s not cut and dried.

Used to be, folks chose their political party mostly in line with family background, but it did not become their entire identity. People were passionate about candidates who came and went, elections, ideas, causes, and so forth. They were not completely tangled up or obsessed with politics. Their only thought was not exclusively about what they wanted or what they did or didn’t feel like doing every minute. We could get along and agree about other things, if not politics, and have fun, interesting conversations. We could enjoy, trust and appreciate one another. It wasn’t the Hatfields and the McCoys every day.

Individuals didn’t watch, listen to, and parrot the media all day long. The news was not entertainment. It was the same for everybody. We didn’t write people off because we suspected they were secretly in league with a nefarious national plot or weren’t who they said they were. Or accuse them of some dark political affiliation. Everything was not a huge conspiracy against half the people in the country. The same people were not seen as wackos by the other half of the country. People, on the whole, did not view themselves and their every thought to be the center of the universe. Everyone was not looking all the time for “spin” and “alternative facts.”

In those days you either supported civil rights or you didn’t. People who opposed equal rights, who saw no need to amend the continuing legacy of slavery, the white subjugation of native peoples, Asians, and countless others, were called racists. Simple. People who continued to speak “coded” derogatory speech that we all recognize were understood to be using racist speech.

It wasn’t morally worse to be called “racist” than to act or be racist. We understood then that claiming to “have black friends” or having some complicated “philosophy” as to why we should continue racist policies did not absolve someone from their choice to align with racist groups and ideas. Saying that a political party supports racist laws and hate groups wasn’t somehow more indecent than the collective members of that party choosing again and again over decades to support a racist agenda.

If it was your decision, your priority, to defend and justify racist beliefs, laws, and crimes, year after year, you weren’t at the same time deeply wounded, insulted, and a big fat cry-baby about being called “racist.”

Nowadays, it sure looks like certain folks want to act racist but not feel or be called “racist.” This is some entitled bulls*** only white people could dream up. Republicans today would do well to remember they are not magically the definers of what is and isn’t racist behavior or language. There is a long, long history and record of racism in this country. It has already been defined and clarified.

When I was a kid, Archie Bunker was “the heel” in popular culture. He was a comic figure people laughed at and the perfect embodiment of white racist attitudes. I suppose this is precisely why people don’t want to be identified as racist. Archie Bunker made “being racist” very unpopular. Republicans, of course, are missing the point by a mile. You can’t a few decades later fake amnesia, and suddenly all those dumb-ass remarks, attitudes, and politics are ultra-enlightened and non-racist. Well, you can, but it is not a winning ticket.

Everyone in those days understood Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers were liberal-leaning programs. Still, everybody’s kids watched because it was wholesome, educational programming that started little kids off with their letters, numbers, and good values. We’ve gone backward culturally in America. “And proud of it,” modern Republicans say.

I remember my great-uncle and my grandfather. They didn’t mind being called racist. They weren’t snowflakes pretending not to be themselves. In those days, when the entire world witnessed racial injustice or murder perpetrated by authorities, the racist majority wasn’t so invested in gaslighting everybody with “it’s not racism.” They lied openly about “big, scary, drug-addled, black men” and “violent, unruly black neighborhoods.” About the “terrible black threat” to “our Lilly-white communities.” Why are Republicans ashamed now? Is it that you know you’re wrong, but you wanna be racist anyway? Why all the thinly veiled messaging about Kamala Harris comin’ to get ya? Oh right, she’s “a socialist.” Except she’s not. Obama’s fake birth certificate? Oh darn, except Obama was born in Hawaii, and he’s a centrist who totally pissed off the liberal left. Why not tell the truth, if you’re so “not woke?”

We already know you support the police no matter what they do to people of color. Funny all those months you spent trying to “cancel” those of us who support Black Lives Matter. As if speaking up about police crimes is unpatriotic. I think free people aren’t required to support criminal cops. We’re allowed to speak up when police abuse their power and break the law. It is possible to do so and at the same time support effective, honest law enforcement.

I mean, we saw your friends at the Capitol. We know you support antisemites and racist groups. We know you don’t care about police lives either — when they stand in your way. Why don’t you quit blubbering and own it?

Back then, and I’m not talking all that long ago, everybody understood politicians are politicians, and not a single one of them is a superhero. We agreed the President of The United States should strive to at least have some class. We expected elected officials, especially the President, to treat The Office of The Presidency and all Americans with respect.

Some folks considered themselves “hawks,” others “doves,” but nobody wanted the United States to be represented in the world by some yahoo, snake oil “businessman.” Certainly not a liar making us the butt of every joke worldwide. We considered how a president behaved in office and his results when deciding whether or not he was “great.”

Christianity was about what Jesus taught. You know, love. Caring for the poor, the suffering. Not just about ourselves, or power, judging others, white identity politics, and shoving our values and agenda onto everyone else. Bygone days, I suppose.

I’m as polarized as everyone. Democrats are part of the problem. We have extremists too. The difference is, the majority of Republicans are radicalized in lockstep. It’d be nice if we had a degree of cooperation. Or rather, a return to a healthier democracy where we disagree and work in tandem, able to appreciate that’s how democracy is meant to work.

Our commonality is that life is about more important things. We used to know that. Politics serve a purpose; the purpose is not the politics. Politics the system for working with our differences. Always has been. The point was never for one party to ultimately “win” getting everything they want because it thinks it has all the answers. Ya win some, ya lose some. That’s why it works.

Polarization is serious. It’s as if we are segregating ourselves along red and blue lines in everything we do, not just politics. Our democracy is not healthy. Right now, polarization is not the only problem. One political party has lost itself completely and runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. A hundred-and-fifty years later, after our bloody Civil War, we continue to struggle seriously with racism which this Republican Party embraces wholeheartedly.

Republicans who a few years ago were parading around wearing triangle hats, waving the Gadsden flag, and calling for a return to a bygone interpretation of the Constitution, are now turned out in white supremacy slogans, wrapped up in Trump flags and confederate flags. They aren’t all donning the full vestments and regalia, but the plainclothes majority have pledged undying allegiance.

Will this Republican Party ever tire of playing dress-up, asserting their “white identity,” pissing and moaning about their victimhood? Before the Grand Old Party inevitably goes “the way of the Whigs.”

“Not today!” they rally — and Tucker Carlson recommends a fascism cure of last resort trying to get his ratings back.

I’m still polarized.

1) This Republican Party isn’t conservative anymore. You’re lying to yourselves. Real conservatives are scratching their heads. Those with any conscience have abandoned you. You call them RINOS because you’re big on name-calling. The New Republican Party is a Nationalist Populist party. If you’d crack a history book, you’d know this never works out, and it’s a bad thing. (Tucker already knows this, he majored in history at his private college in Connecticut.)

2) This New Republican Party panders to racists.

“Had the tables been turned and President Donald Trump won the election and those were thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protestors I would have been concerned.”

— Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

a) Admitting Donald Trump lost the election.

b) Admitting it wasn’t Antifa and Black Lives Matter pretending to be Trump supporters at the Capitol on January 6th — Trump supporters all the way.

c) Totally pandering to racists.

Helene Day


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