Since March we have all been living under a drastically different ‘normal’. And we have all been asking “how long will it be until we can go back?” But what I have been asking is “can we go back?”
Between the biological virus rampaging the world, the bitter divide in my country, (and many others), and the political corruption, it is clear we are in strange times. But I want to explore how I think things got this bad, and what will happen next. Clearly, I cannot say with certainty, but I can tell you things as I see it, for what that’s worth. I’m just another person on the internet after all.
Let’s start with the ideological divide since that’s kind of where it all began. I first noticed it when George W. Bush was elected, but I was in middle school then. That’s the time when people start paying attention to these things, I guess. But it goes back further than that. Many people start it with Reagan or blame it on social media, but I think the roots go back much further than that.
White people who were bent on profit, fame, and power were the ones exploring the seven seas. It was easy for these people to convince other white people that they were better than the other peoples that were ‘discovered’ on these explorations. It’s only too easy to believe it when you are told you are better than someone else. This was the group that started settling this land.
They were followed by another group. This group is the one seeking freedom from oppression. But these people also believed they were better than other races. There is no escaping that.
This country was founded largely by the latter group. This is why freedom is so central to our constitution. But even in politics at that time, there was power hunger. When there are powerful people, there will be power hungry people. This group, so focused on their own freedom, had only a few people who had any thought for the freedom of other races. But there were some.
Eventually, the government was so full of power hungry men, they tore the country apart. This was hardly about abolishing slavery, but rather a fight for what states would have more power. Slave states had a disproportional amount of power to the number of voters. Non slave states didn’t like that, but slave states didn’t want to give it up. Eventually it became clear that while the south had the electoral power, the north had the military power. Abolishing the institution of slavery was kind of an afterthought.
Time marches on. The rich continue to get what they want from the government, while the poor are ignored. More people come to escape oppression, danger and hunger. The poor are told to blame the newcomers. People like the Irish are prevented from getting employed, adding to the existing racial struggles.
Native Americans have been massacred, Blacks are systematically murdered, Asians are left to be destroyed by plague, Hispanics are poisoned at the border.
The rhetoric of the power hungry gets better and better at convincing people who can vote (white men) they should blame minorities for their present misfortune.
When other people finally one by one gain the right to vote, the established technique won’t work as well, so blame starts to shift. Eventually the parties are blaming each other, and rather than each party holding a stance on a few issues while others vary within the party, every issue becomes aligned with a political faction. It becomes harder and harder to be in the middle.
The fact that one party shifted to political blame more and tried to court those minority voters, meant that the other party kept the people who still blame them. This is where we see the increasing division between the people who blame minorities, and the people who want to help minorities. All because one party didn’t actively blame them any more.
Meanwhile jerrymandering becomes so efficient that winning in these areas is less about competing with the other party, and finding middle ground, and more about catering to the extreme parts of the party.
Add into that firestorm the social media echo chambers, and you have a massively divided country. Each only listens to their own side, freedom and patriotism have been twisted to mean a very specific kind of opinion is considered American, and showing any sort of national loyalty is seen as having certain beliefs. This, in turn, means that some people avoid showing any patriotism at all even though they are, which fuels the opposing argument.
Because both sides listen only to their own sources and believe the other side cannot be trusted, it doesn’t matter to followers what atrocities their leaders commit. They probably won’t hear about them, or will only hear things blamed on the other side, maybe a defense here and there. Either side is primed to start a war. In traditional wars, each side controls its own media and spreads terrible stories about the other, during and often before actual fighting breaks out. Each side believes that they are on the side of right and will die to defend against tyranny, corruption, terrorism, and to protect their families, freedom, and beliefs.
This is the precipous upon which we stand. Both sides have been primed for war. Can we avert disaster? When will it start if we can’t? Will we even know in the moment when it began? Can we be sure it hasn’t already?
Today we have attacks by government employees on minorities nearly every day. These attacks are clearly racially motivated, but since these people also tend to be on the side that has been labeled as not patriotic, this also has a political component.
We have massive marches supporting or denouncing both sides in an endless parade. We have people on both sides literally taking up arms to defend themselves against the other side, who they have heard is stockpiling weapons. We have government officials stoking distrust in the very institutions and systems that make this country what it is. We have leaders deliberately spreading false information that costs lives.
This distrust will not go away after January 20th, just as it did not go away after the election. If we manage to avoid all out war, there will still be millions of people who will continue to believe that the election was stolen. Even if Trump does not set up a shadow government, these angry people will not trust the elections for many years to come. These election disputes may become a normal part of our elections. As we have seen, just because one side wins, it does not change the mind of the losers. The fallout from the civil war that has recently come to light shows these tensions can last generations.
Other people have explored what would happen if we devolve into open war. The short version? The people who have been training and stocking up tend to live in rural communities. Cities are very vulnerable because of all the systems it takes to keep so many people living in one place.
Is there any way to avoid this? I hope so. We need to find a way to make sure that people are hearing from both sides. But the government is not going to make that happen. That change needs to start with us. We need something to bring us together. The coronavirus had the potential to be that thing. But it was used to add to the division, to the point where walking out your door and what you wear when you do became a political statement. That unity will not come from the government. That change needs to come from us. In short, we need a drastic bottom-up transformation. We need to increase communication between people. By unfriending people you disagree with, you are increasing their isolation and your own echo chamber.
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
Today we can a few more verses to this dark poem. The Muslims, the Mexicans, the Blacks, LGBTQ+, the homeless, the addicted. All of these groups, and more, have been incarcerated in some fashion in response to supposed threats.
I will fully admit that although I vehemently oppose these attacks, I am one of the many who has not done enough to help. I have many reasons, but in a sense they are all just excuses. This should be much higher on my priority list. Not the least of those reasons if because my time is so occupied. As I have discussed before, in a real sense we do not need to work 40 hours a week. But by keeping people underpaid, the government keeps us too busy. More recently, by keeping the pandemic out of control, fewer people are willing to protest for fear of falling ill. Note that supporters are told not to fear, so they are able to gather in support.
The other big reason I have not joined marches, is because I have never seen them create change. Something happens, people march, politicians pander to their supporters, make a few overtures at change, people lose interest and nothing really happens. But this could be its own post.
We have to remember that both sides are being told that they are the victims. We need to stand up. But not against the other side, against the system that has led us to this point. Republican and Democratic voters and people are not the problem. The problem is the power hungry puppet masters at the top. In both parties. For all the good they claim to do, those who need help are never getting it. Politicians agree on more than they let on. They agree to keep the people down. The people are on more than we are told. We all want to make sure our families are cared for and that we maintain our rights and freedoms.