A Confederacy of Brats: The Great American Tantrum
In a nutshell, I traced the roots of the mass break with reality back to several successive generations of children raised without the traditional message that Life Is Not Fair and that no one is entitled to anything out of daily life in the USA. They have come to their majorities – many of then over 50, by now – with the idea that whatever they believe is true just because they say it is, whether it is based on any sort of facts or logic or simply made up to refute facts that find objectionable or inconvenient. They feel entitled to have America Their Way, and the rest of us be damned.
In the weeks since writing that post, the examples of this warped perspective have come thick and fast. The daily rhetoric of reaction to the election of Joe Biden is loaded with examples of this Me Only viewpoint: they continually take about “their country” and an election being “stolen”. “Stop The Steal” became an actual Movement and rallies under that banner sprung up in most Red State strongholds, all inflamed, Tweet after incendiary Tweet, by the phony “president” who is either genuinely mentally ill or using his stream-of-unconsciousness fantasies to pry one more big score out of the pockets of those who blindly follow his every lie as though it came down on stone tablets. Intimations of violence are becoming less and less subtle and just today, Trump’s former national security advisor openly called for Trump to declare martial law, suspend the certification of the election results, and hold a new election which, I suppose, they think will result in a Trump second term…even though he lost by six million votes the first time.
The subtext of all the angry rhetoric could not be more clear: these people believe that America belongs to them and that the rest of us are traitors and monsters and that our views shouldn’t matter; our votes somehow do not count. They speak of “OUR election“, as though votes not cast their way are invalid, just a mean-spirited attempt to spoil their grand vision of a throwback America in which racism is once again acceptable, open bigotry and discrimination against any person or group they deem “other” is the norm, and America goes back to some mythical bully-boy ideal, in which the rest of humanity fears us and toes our line for fear of military overthrow or economic ruin.
Trump encouraged these attitudes, of course, but he certainly didn’t start them and really didn’t even advance them all that much. White supremacist groups have existed practically since America was born and they’ve escalated in recent years, after decades of being shoved to the background, marginalized, and hounded out of existence, many of them, by zealous prosecutors and The Southern Poverty Law Center. The underlying beliefs, even when suppressed, never went away but were beaten dormant by successive generations of people who refused to tolerate open expressions of racist language and actions. Racists knew that airing their venom carried Consequences, so the poisonous stew simmered beneath the placid surface of a prosperous America but never died out. Stupidity and unthinking hate are very hard to kill.
Today, what we have is millions of emotional and intellectual toddlers; arrested development cases who grew into the idea that they should always get their way, whether anybody else liked it or not, whether they deserved it or not. Actually working toward that Conservative Utopia was never a part of their thinking. It was supposed to be handed gto them, no questions asked and no dissent tolerated because that’s what’s “fair”. They clustered into tightly drawn groups of like-minded malcontents, often planning and living their whole lives, cradle to grave, with no conflicting or disagreeable viewpoints ever entering into their daily realities. When they said things like, “Well, everybody knows that…“, from their perspective, that was true. Many never even met a single Democrat or Liberal, much less a Progressive, in their lives, so the only messages they got about that “other side of the aisle” were the loaded insinuations and outright lies gathered from Fox News and friends who claimed some knowledge. Because they have allowed themselves to be virtually indoctrinated by Fox and Breitbart and conservative media, they come loaded with slogans that they use to combat any inconvenient facts and regurgitate these in lieu of actual debate or discussion or dialog. And, if all else fails, they simply shrug and say, “Liberal blather” and turn away.
I was recently told that my support of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris “won’t age well“. When asked what that meant, the person responded, “Wait and see“, even though the phrase, used in that context, really has no meaning. It’s typical of this stratum of Americans, operating off of feelings and prejudices and general mistrust of those “others”, without subjecting any of those feelings to logic or reason. They cannot articulate the thinking behind their views and, if forced to do so, duck in behind a Fox/Breitbart slogan or the ultimate fall-back, “You just don’t get it!”
This is the behavior of a frustrated toddler, stomping his/her feet, screeching, “I HATE you!“, and vowing to hold their breath until they turn blue unless Mommy and Daddy relent and give them their way. That is normally the last stage of life in which unreasoning anger and frustration is understandable and considered a problem to be addressed with patience and tolerance and the teaching of mature thinking. It is annoying in a child but it is disgusting in an adult; behavior which often motivates concerned family to stage an intervention or demand that the person seek counseling…and the behavior is often related to substance abuse or some other misconduct that alters thinking. Like Fox News.
I firmly believe that dialog and empathy and accommodation and “respect for their views” are neither wise nor really possible with those who have either suffered or engineered a break from reality. There is a whole mountain chain of both anecdotal and scientific evidence that reasoning with such people – or, worse, telling them to “Just snap out of it!”- or even threatening has no real effect. In the case of today’s right-wing extremists, they have an arsenal of ready comebacks for any argument and they refuse to even consider giving up and admitting they’re wrong. BUT…the things to remember is: THEY KNOW THEY’RE WRONG. They absolutely DO know it but refuse to admit it because that would be a capitulation, a “win“, they will not give the rest of us. It is categorically impossible to be raised in this society, no matter what your home upbringing is, and not receive the deluge of messages daily about what constitutes an orderly society and civil behavior and where the lines are drawn, separating rationality and lunacy. They know, for example, that there is no vast conspiracy to deprive them of Christmas. None of them have ever once been confronted and told, flat out, that they cannot wish people a Merry Christmas. They have no empirical proof whatsoever. But they heard it on Fox News and didn’t need very much of an excuse, anyway, to blast Starbucks for using a red Christmas cup because red, doncha know, is “anti-Christmas” (so explain Santa’s suit) and they caught wind of a nutjob, self-anointed evangelist and “internet personality” (his term) named Joshua Feuerstein and a viral video in which he claims Starbucks can’t celebrate Christmas. It was entitled “Starbucks’ War On Christmas” and it fed neatly into the Right’s deep-rooted suspicion of any thing or any business that’s enjoyed by those to the center or left of the political spectrum and suddenly, there’s a “War on Christmas”.
To employ a phrase that gets the Right stirred up: “Oy vey.”
Today’s mega-schism does have some roots – more like tendrils, really – in politics. Many people simply do not want an America that doesn’t swagger and posture and hold the rest of humanity at gunpoint. They don’t have even phony, appearances-only concern for wellbeing of their fellow citizens, tacitly admitting, if pushed, that they have theirs and everybody else can go straight to hell. And some just enjoy standing on the necks of those they perceive as “lesser”. But, I’m convinced, MOST of what ails the (dis)United States, here in the heinous 2020, is really nothing but the teeth-gnashing and foot-stomping and breath-holding and enraged whining of people who have never learned the benefits of an truly egalitarian society and/or don’t possess the skills or the intellect to see both sides. They don’t want a fair and free and equal America. They want to sit in the societal cat-bird’s seat – as they erroneously believe they did in the 1950s and before – and dictate what the future will be. And, lacking the smarts and empathy to even allow for compromise, they will continue to pout and throw things for as long as they’re allowed to.
I believe these people, who have set themselves apart from society, don’t deserve to be admitted back in until they accept that reality is not a plaything which they can bend and shape to their own whims. It is like arguing property rights with someone living in a mud hut on the steppes of Russia: without a common frame of reference and common bedrock principles, dialog is not possible. This election went a long way toward demonstrating that the American MAJORITY will not tolerate a hostile take-over of our systems and institutions and the backbone showed in 80 MILLION people turning out to rid us of Donald Trump should be our backbone from here on out. If those touchy-feel-y types among us MUST clamor for “love conquers all“, I believe Tough Love is the means to display that. “Tough love time, folks” we must say, “You’re out of line‘”…and we have to mean it and be prepared to act upon it.
As the only real surrogate for a Mommy and Daddy, it is up to the rest of us, the sane majority, to send these cranky brats to bed and right now.