Why not? Us vs Them is Destroying the American Idea
Never have I ever during the past five home purchases asked a real estate agent the political affiliation of the neighbors until now. In my mind, conservative extremists are a potential danger to me and my family, and I'd rather not live next door to pro-gun-toting racists who ignore truth and follow their political reps with cult-like allegiance in matters of race, economics, the environment, and personal health.
It’s not that we haven’t had opposing views or bigotry in this country in the past. I know that I have shared offices, supermarkets, and even neighborhoods with white supremacists without incident. But the world has changed. While we may not hear about as many cross burnings on the lawns of Black families, we’ve learned that white supremacists have widened their targets of attack to discrediting elections, suppressing votes in democratic districts, among Black, Brown and other non-white people, and that they are not beyond violence. Who can forget the sight of armed, insurrectionists hunting to kill while defiling the Capitol on a mission to disqualify legitimate votes? And we later learned that some federal employees and elected officials---all living off our tax dollars---helped them.
We don’t live in the same world philosophically.
Robert Reich, the Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley has worked in the administrations of Presidents Ford and Carter and served as Secretary of Labor in the cabinet of President Clinton. He recently asked, “So what if we come apart?” In his newsletter, Reich gave chapter and verse to the rationale for un-Uniting these States of America and I think I agree. “Progressive states are becoming more progressive, regressive states, more regressive. As states move to the left or right, state legislatures are becoming more active and important, while what happens in Washington is growing less so.”
Here are the highlights from his list of reasons to build a wall between progressives and extreme conservatives:
• As red states suppress votes, blue states are making it easier to vote
• As red states ban the teaching of America’s history of racism, blue states are approving curricula that inform young people in ever greater detail about the horrors of slavery, the genocide of indigenous peoples, the exclusion of Chinese, and the roundup and imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II
• As red states make it more difficult to qualify for unemployment benefits and other forms of public assistance, blue states are making it easier
• As red states make it almost impossible to form labor unions, blue states are making it easier.
I haven’t done a lot of ‘them-ing,” in my life because let’s face it, I’m considered a them by white supremacists. But I no longer want to live and work near----them. I no longer want to worry about my high accomplished children and their spouses being harassed or worse by the “them” who wear badges, or by the so-called Karens among them who are so racist they seem deranged. Their efforts to have innocent Black people arrested while walking, jogging, or bird watching should be criminalized and land them in jail.
It’s time to face it, we don’t want the same world. Red states want less democracy, more government control over people's lives, and white supremacy as a forced culture. Blue states want to preserve democracy and personal freedoms. And we’re too far down the road to pretend we don’t know what’s happening here. The extreme wing of the Republican party is hell-bent on flipping this nation from a democracy to an autocracy----a dictatorship in which their party is in control in perpetuity. Dictators can rise to power in a democracy if we refuse to see the signs and strategic pathways that enable them.
Political science experts point to the inability of competing political sides to work together as a sign. This allows extremists to take over politics. Another warning sign is when the elite among us feel that democracy no longer works for them, i.e., when they risk a change in their power and influence over the country, they could support a dictatorship to protect their interests. We should also take note when certain individuals from the elite class use democracy to become elected and then begin to strip away rights and freedoms once they are in the elected position.
It's like Deja vu
During the Business Plot of 1933, businessmen and financiers devised a plan to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt with the help of the military. Despite voters’ overwhelming support of FDR's New Deal to help Americans get back on their feet and pull the country out of the Great Depression, these business leaders were against it. They claimed Roosevelt was supporting socialism and mutilating the Constitution. His New Deal didn’t support their interests. They reached out to Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to help stage a military coup, but he refused to participate. When exposed, the business leaders claimed the highly decorated general had made up the story, but a House Committee later confirmed what he said. That event was a close call in which this country could’ve become a dictatorship.
Voter apathy is another enabler for the birth of dictators in a democracy. The refusal to participate in the system weakens it and plays into the hands of those who want to undermine voting. This makes it easy for politicians who want authoritarian rule to restrict voting rights. They initially target minority groups, media, and free speech.
Hitler denounced the newspapers which exposed him for what he really was, as "Lügenpresse," German for "fake news."
German American author and cartoonist, Oliver Markus Malloy said, “If the German Nazi party still existed today, they would look exactly like the Republican party under Trump. Hitler's rallies looked no different than Trump's rallies. And Hitler would absolutely love a well-oiled propaganda outlet like Fox News.”
So, why should I live in the same country as those who want to destroy its precepts? Why should I risk my health and safety in an environment that refuses to hold white supremacists accountable for their crimes and continues to hire and elect them in positions of power? And why in the name of anything holy, would I want to live in a society that forces women to go full term with an unwanted pregnancy---as if a fetus is a fully developed being that could breathe, eat, or grow outside of the woman’s body.
Willful ignorance to hide intentional greed, racism, bigotry, and the desire to control other lives is the signature of right-wing extremism. There is nothing patriotic in it. There is nothing decent in it.
Maybe it IS time for two Americas
I imagine those who are deeply racist would suggest I go back to where I came from. Well, I was born in Oakland, California and beyond that, the strategic move by slave owners to separate Africans from different countries makes it nearly impossible to narrow in on where my African ancestry likely began. In addition to that puzzle, the journey to my origins would also need a detour through several European countries and parts of Asia. Might be easier for them to go back to where they came from.
The idea of two Americas may be highly unlikely, but it is tempting. I would love to live in a country in which I never again need to ask a real estate agent if there are dangerous bigots in a neighborhood before investing in it.