Dark clouds have been gathering for a long time.
What kind of world do we want to leave our children and grandchildren? And how do we communicate our values to them? What are we teaching our children when there are people in our (and their) sphere that do not reflect our values?
Values. They’re the crux of today’s politics. I wonder how so many can’t see how incompatible their stated values are with their political views. Then again, I had an entire career in spin and propaganda. I know it when I see it, but many do not. It’s powerful.
Gregory Ciurczak, who is guest blogging here today, also knows propaganda when he sees it. Today, he shares his personal experience with repression and what he’s decided to do about it now. Read on for a no-holds-barred guest post:
This year, as election campaigns have heated up and the rhetoric on the right becomes much more extreme, I am purposefully distancing myself from friends & family whose politics do not align with mine. In the past I was able to be more accepting and understanding when the politics of friends/family were not in sync with mine but during the current administration and particularly this year, that has evolved drastically.
I have always embraced and respected everyone’s opinions and views,. Today’s politics make it different. So much more different that is requires me to take action and make decisions I have never made before. Why? Because I truly believe there are severe threats to our civil liberties and freedoms.
Threat to democracy
The conservative platform threatens democracy and we witness it constantly in the media. The right denigrates minorities, it deploys military force against protestors, it attempts to silence the media, it’s unsupportive of the LGBTQ community, it’s clearly making efforts to undermine the election and so much more.
We are witnessing the corruption of our democratic ideals and like no other time before, anyone in my life supporting conservative ideology is tantamount to posing a real and direct threat to me as well as to my community – – – and to American democracy. Therefore, I can no longer make excuses to accept and tolerate conservatives in my life. It’s extreme but extreme times call for extreme measures for my survival.
The friends/family problem
For years I’ve read articles about the challenges of friends & family members attempting to maintain relationships when their politics are at polar opposites. But have misaligned friends-family political dynamics changed since the last presidential election? Has the divide deepened or has it maintained the status quo?
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
And, as Republicans ratchet up their heated fervor, stoking racist flames and obsessing over security, has their greater overarching political agenda spoken any louder truths to you?
Republicans keep hammering on the idea that Joe Biden’s America will not be safe. That’s ridiculous, since havoc has prevailed on the streets under our current administration.
People can be compelled to believe right-wing rhetoric about safety over time and with repetition. In the early 1930s, Roosevelt’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” resonated with Americans. Politicians are keenly aware of the power of fear and by promoting it, they effectively stop the masses from asking questions. But as a democracy, we should not stand in fear of our government, its leaders, the police or military.
Conservatives interpret forms of protest as wanting to challenge the establishment and this is equated with fear. Fear the left; fear socialism. But it’s overblown and inaccurate.
What the right to protest really means
Over the past 60 years, protests for black rights, women’s rights and gay rights were identified as violent and fear-based. Conservative rhetoric manipulated the real intent of protest; people expressing themselves to make changes. The right flips the protest concept to make it appear that those representing are a threat and to be feared.
The message sent is to be afraid of those who question the establishment. Current day peaceful protests are quickly labeled Antifa, supporting Black Life Matters becomes anti-establishment and anything which challenges this administration is quickly branded as threatening and to be feared.
What about Covid?
And concerning Covid-19, conservatives use fear-based reverse psychology. Do not fear the disease and wear as mask. Rather, fear those who are telling you to wear a mask to protect yourself. Fear the science, MDs and politicians who are telling you to do something you don’t want to do. It’s fear-based and with more than 220k dead, it’s been effective.
They count on the fact that people who are afraid will decide to give up more of their personal freedoms to ensure safety. We see this in how many are ok with military and national guard patrolling our streets, who do not push back when feds deploy unidentified troops into our cities, or use unparalleled military forces against peaceful protestors. Or the attempts to muffle and control the media. Among other tactics.
History repeats itself. It was the path of fascists prior to World War 2 in Europe. It’s a page out of the modern dictator’s playbook: promise security in return for less and less freedom.
This was very apparent to me in the early 70s when I lived in Spain while in grad school in Madrid during Franco’s atrocious reign. Anyone could walk the streets safely at any hour of the day without fear of being mugged or robbed because on every block, lurking in the shadows, was a dark figure providing protecting. He was technically there to open all building doors with his huge ring of keys but quietly we all knew his real purpose. Although purporting the job of these men was to keep everyone safe yet it was abundantly clear, they were there on each block to keep tabs on us. Big brother was always watching.
People were indeed safe in the Franco era but yet so fearful of stepping out of line for any reason. The Spanish Civil Guard walked all public venues daily. Decades of fascist rule even went so far as to restrict anyone from walking on the grass in parks. The grandest park in Madrid, El Retiro Park, had signs posted on their beautiful lawns, No Walking on the Grass. A very cryptic parallel message on how far the masses will be brainwashed to accept fascism extremes in exchange for the need to feel safe.
History repeats itself … but doesn’t have to
It’s crystal clear to me, this history is repeating itself with the current rightwing politics attempting to re-elect this sitting corrupt leader. His party’s ideology is attacking me, the gay community and everyone who relishes their freedom in our country. Therefore, how can I, with clear mind and conscience, tolerate any personal friendship whose politics supports rhetoric & policies which are directly aimed at personally attacking me, my community and my freedom?
How can I sit at a table & break bread with anyone in my life when I know after leaving my house, their rightwing politics become a direct threat to me, the gay community and to everyone in this country whose freedoms are held sacred?
I can no longer sweep aside a friend’s politics, turn a blind eye to their fascist politics and maintain a friendship in my life. I will no longer tolerate their support of nefarious politics. Furthermore, I have come to the same conclusion in applying this to members of my own family.
Of the handful of conservatives in my life, friends and family, I am communicating to them my decision to distance myself and as necessary, phase out the relationship.
As a gay male Caucasian, I have experienced homophobia my entire life. With people of color in my life, I have experienced and witnessed bigotry and insults they have endured in public. I have lived in a European country under fascist rule and understand the fear & intimidation of the human spirit this ideology instills in the masses.
I see fascist history in the process of repeating itself in our country. If losing some friends and family along the way in order for me to stand up for my principles while ensuring and protecting democracy in our country… then so be it.
Extreme, you say? Well, destructive ideology begins at home. It threatens me, my health & wellbeing. No matter who you are, there can be absolutely no room in my life for friends or family who support these conservative, reactionary principles. Yes, a sad state of affairs but this transcends blood and quite frankly, like no other election in the history of these United States, this one is for survival.
My actions have evolved slowly this year and it has been a tremendously difficult decision to make. America will never be defeated from outside but can definitely be defeated from within by the corruption of embracing rightwing ideology. No matter who you are, when someone’s political ideology directly attacks my personal freedoms, as well as, our democratic institutions, then it’s time to draw the line.
I have drawn mine.
What will it take to draw yours or will be it too late when you make that decision?
Gregory Ciurczak is president of GJC Consulting, Inc.