Thursday, August 15, 2019

Behind Enemy Lines

I have spent a good chunk of time in Breitbart News comment sections lately.

For those not politically aware, Breitbart is known as "The Huffington Post of the Right".  I'd say that's a reasonably accurate characterization. HuffPo is about as far left as the Toronto Star: ideally, every story they cover will be from the perspective of a queer, trans lesbian of colour who is disabled.  Not, of course, that there's anything whatsoever wrong about any of those things, but the single-minded social justice lens doesn't fit every picture. Moreover, anything neutral or positive that Conservatives do will not be acknowledged; anything negative (or that can be spun as negative) will get pages and pages of coverage.

Breitbart is the backwards of that. It's not just Republicans, it's rabid Republicans. The only people on that site who don't support Donald Trump wholeheartedly don't think he's going far enough. That kind of place.

Good grief, Ken! Are you some kind of glutton for punishment, or what?

Apparently. Some irresistible impulse gets in my head that I should go out there and try to build bridges. Failing that, to plant seeds. I wrote and gave a sermon on this very topic a little over a year ago. I try to walk my talk.

It's draining. Exhausting is what it is. There is so much mindless hatred, particularly online, that it's hard to believe these are human beings I'm talking to. What keeps me going (with periodic pullbacks to recharge)...two things, really.

The first is that they think the same of me. Democrats/liberals, as far as these people are concerned, are brainless, spineless, deluded and blind. And those are the mild ways of putting it. They can't possibly think any less of other words, my standing can only go up.

The second is these people, in their own eyes, are the marginalized ones. Now, you and I know this is patently untrue, but that doesn't matter. Nobody actually LISTENS to anyone on the right, is the perception.  Nobody cares what they think or feel. Instead, they're all told they're hateful bigots. Racist bigots. That one really pisses them off to no end because they're racist bigots and the truth hurts because they insist, with a whole lot of vehemence, that they are NOT racist at all.

So that was the first thing I waded hip deep into. Because I believe with all my heart that Donald Trump is a racist piece of shit.

I noticed, though, that everyone, to a man (the site is overwhelmingly male...gee, I wonder why)...everyone tried to correct me, with varying degrees of harshness, but all of them said the same thing. The problem, I was told, is ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION; the fact the vast majority of "illegals" are Latinx is irrelevant. I countered that it only seems to be Latinx in the concentration camps (yeah, deliberately provocative; I softened it later to "detained")...that of the 660,000 white illegals in the U.S., exactly none of them were being deported.

That was an assumption on my part, and it bit me.


Actually, I was I would find many such examples, and I have, and I'll concede...'ProgsAreMentalDefectives' is right and I am wrong.

Now, we can argue about Emma Lazarus' poem on the Statue of Liberty if we want. You know the one: "...give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"... You know what side of the argument I come down on.


This is not solely an American phenomenon. This is happening in Hungary under Orban, in Brazil under Bolsonaro, and in Canada under Trudeau. It seems to have stated in Australia, but it has spread throughout the Western world. Populations in various countries are afraid of "the other". What we're afraid of, we demonize and we hate. That's a trait that humanity has yet to evolve out of. It was useful back in the days when it was you and your tribe against the world. It's not so useful now when it's the world against itself.

I do understand fear of change. We all have it to a degree. Conservatives may deny they are afraid, but they are. They're terrified that they don't recognize the world anymore. They want the world they recognize back, the world where they had the power. They won't tell you they ever had the power, of course ("to the privileged, equality looks like oppression")...but they did, and they want it back. They're also ready to fight for it. Every single thing the left calls the right is echoed back in kind. I lost count of the number of times I was called a Nazi this past week.

The other thing I will say about this is that the hatred for illegal immigrants is seriously off the charts. I was told over and over again how none of them had actually walked two thousand miles; they were dropped off from "Soros/Dimkrat" planes a few minutes south of the border. "That's why they're all fat, and all of them have cell phones". The Mexican drug cartels are mixing in; 42% of migrant children don't know the adults they're travelling with.
This was all stated calmly, cooly, and with absolutely nothing to verify any of it.  But it gets worse.

I asked why it was, if so many of the non-cartel "illegals" were "freeloaders", that ICE was raiding places of employment. I'll at least give the Breitbarters some credit....many of them were just as angry at the white people who forged documents so these people could work for them. But it didn't matter, see, because "all them illegals" have been "coached by Soros and Devilcrats" on how to exploit all the loopholes in the system. Despite working full time, they were collecting food stamps and welfare and all manner of other entitlements. None of this was substantiated either, and when I gently asked for proof, I was treated as if I was asking for proof that two and two are four. It's just known, beyond question. And I'm unsure how to break through such thick, hateful prejudice.

There were some real crazies. Here was my favourite: "Trump has a 156 IQ, that's genius level. He has  a degree from the Wharton School of Finance. He businesses [sic] all over Europe. What does Obummer have?"

(I hadn't brought up Obama, nor had anyone else in the thread.)

Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law. And I'll tell you some things he doesn't have: eleven bankruptcies. Twenty three credible sexual assault allegations against him. Three wives and many documented adulteries. Scores of lawsuits. As for Trump being a genius...he can't put a coherent sentence together, so I'll have to ask for something from MENSA proving what you just said.

Silence. I think I won that round.

Religion came up, which I was very glad of. For one thing, I can hold my own against anyone short of a Biblical scholar on this topic. For another, it gave me an opportunity to probe what I consider to be one of Trump's biggest mysteries...why do Christian evangelicals strongly support a man whose name, as far as I'm concerned, may as well be named  TsirhC SuseJ?

And so I did a lot of listening and not much talking at all, and what I came away with had several prongs. Romans 8:28 says "For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." In other words, God can use evil to serve His ineffable design.

I can protest (and have, in church) that this verse can be used to excuse anything at all. But I can't deny it's there. One of many things that drove me away from Christianity was the endless shirking of personal responsibility. "The devil made me do it!" "Let go and let God!"

The second thing I heard a lot was that Trump was empowering Christians to go after the godless. Especially the "baby-killers". This was where I found it all but impossible to keep my mouth shut. I'm staunchly pro-choice, as I have detailed here before, and "going after the godless" terrifies me because I'm godless to these people. So, I think, is literally everyone I know, and I know and love some very devout Christians.

There is no moving people's minds on abortion. None. Can't be done, sorry. I tell people that they'll never outlaw abortions, they'll only outlaw safe abortions...that women will die because of it...and the response is usually some variant of "good. That's what SHOULD happen to women who murder their babies".

How do you even deconstruct that?

And the third thing I heard, between the lines because nobody likes to say it out loud....was fear. A lot of fear. The American Christian nationalism was Trump-eted at me so loud and so often it began to sound shrill and forced. I think they're afraid they're losing. They long ago lost the culture wars, and they're petrified that they're going to lose the political war. Or maybe that's my wishful thinking. I have no least wish to live in a theocracy.

The other place I made some inroads is on health care. Not with many, mind you, but a few, including one doctor who was labo(u)ring under some awful misconceptions about the Canadian health care system. He confidently informed me that the Canadian government decides who lives and who dies.

This is utterly bizarre until you remember a couple of things about America (thank you, Nikki, for helping to clarify this for me):

1) Down there, they have HMOs that actually do, in effect, decide who lives and who dies (by allocating $x for a patient);
2) Americans have a deep, deep distrust of government.

Ergo, they think the Canadian government is an HMO. I was told that Canadians had a lifetime cap on medical services they can use (this was news to me...fake news). I was told that people are dying in hospital waiting rooms every day up here for lack of care (wow, you'd think the media would be reporting on that).

The uniquely American resistance to a single-payer system has long perplexed and frustrated me, because they keep a system that instigates 33% of American bankruptcies. To my way of thinking, profiting off sickness and injury is barbarous in the extreme.
But they don't see it that way at all.

Over and over again, I was told that the costs of the American health care system were what made it so good. America, I was informed, does "most of the medical innovation" in the world and deserves to be recompensed for it. And if you were sick or hurt and didn't have money?

This was the hardest thing of all to hear, but it so permeates the culture down there that it's almost unthinkable to question it. To these Americans, BEING POOR IS A CHARACTER FLAW.

This is even true if you're poor, because you can always find some sad sack poorer than you and look down on his lazy ass. You may not be a millionaire yet, but by Reagan, you're putting in honest work and you will be one eventually.

Never was this made more clear than when I finally got an answer to my biggest question.

"Trump's slogan is "Make America Great Again". Can you tell me when, in your opinion, America was great, and what made it great then?"

I must have asked this question fifty times this past week. I didn't get a substantive answer until today. Up to this evening, what I was getting was "GO F*CK YOURSELF YOU DEMOKKKRAT! and stuff like that.

Today, I got this from "bordo":

I'll tell you when America was great...when you could work and save money and not be taxed to death to pay for illegals and welfare for those unwilling to work. The entitlements of the "War on Poverty" is [sic] destroying America. America was great when it was kept so by the hard working ethical behavior of those who woke up, went to work and came home after an honest day of effort. America was great not because of racism or hate or when it was segregated. It was great because everyone had the same opportunity to succeed. No affirmative action. No racist policies. Just a landscape where hard work enabled the ability to prosper.

Plus ten points for courtesy--by Breitbart standards, "bordo" just declared undying love for me. Minus about a hundred for historical ignorance...America always had racist policies keeping the n*ggers down, misogynist policies keeping the women down, and so on. And I'm pretty sure when I bring that up I'll get blocked.


Any good I did -- if I did any good at all -- amounts to a drop in an ocean. But I will keep trying, at intervals. Because the alternative is to let hatred win. And that's unthinkable.

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