On-ramp to a dangerous road

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Three more plastic canvas needlepoint tissue box covers I finished.  The one in the middle is the same size as the other two – bad photography perhaps accounts for it looking so much smaller.

In light of the breakneck speed of the partisan and news media spin cycle, I’m slowing down on writing blog posts about each new hysterical headline.  My focus centers on timelines and trying to analyze, not just the little picture immediate headline, but instead trying to discern bigger picture patterns and trends.

Thinking back over the 2016 election, one of the most interesting aspects of the election was not Trump or Hillary or anything they said or did, but to watch people who identified as “principled conservatives” (people who claim to value good personal character as a prerequisite for good leadership) waffle back and forth on whether to support Trump, a man bereft of good character, or even basic manners and civility, for that matter.

I’m going to write this in two blog posts, first from a personal micro-perspective, which is going to be a personal story and then the second post will be a wider perspective.

Discussions about President Trump have fueled angry outbursts in my family, just like many others.  Regular readers already know, that I am a 56 year-old homemaker, at home taking care of my disabled husband, who is a retired Army sergeant major, veteran of Grenada and Desert Storm.  My husband suffers from normal pressure hydrocephalus, an adult onset type of hydrocephalus, which affected his ability to walk and especially impaired his short-term memory.  He also gets confused easily if several people are involved in a conversation and he struggles to keep reading, because if he puts his book down for a while, when he goes back to reading, he can’t remember what he had read previously.  He also gets lost following TV shows and movies on TV, with the commercial breaks interfering with his concentration.  He can remember things that happened years ago, with more clarity than I can, and he often mentions things I had forgotten about, but everyday living for him is filled with frustrations over physical limitations and short-term memory struggles.

My husband doesn’t like politics, but he greatly admired President Reagan, he admired President Bush, and he greatly disliked President Clinton.   Being a career soldier, my husband views presidents based on national security.  President Clinton’s finger-to-the-wind foreign policy upset my husband, but the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 turned my husband into loathing President Clinton, to the point he refused to even watch President Clinton on TV.  My husband admired GWB, believing he is honest and sincere.  With President Obama, the initial apology tour, where President Obama traveled around the world apologizing for America, infuriated my husband and he spent the rest of President Obama’s presidency fuming about everything President Obama said and did.  I also did plenty of fuming about President Obama’s policies, especially his foreign policy.  Likewise, Michelle Obama made a comment about for the first time in her life, she was proud to be an American, which infuriated my husband, so he never wanted to listen to anything she said.

People on the Left react like this too and in fact, most of us form, all or nothing opinions about politicians and political issues.  This tribalism in America, where Americans live in partisan camps, viewing those in another political tribe as “enemies” has escalated to the point, just about everything is hyper-politicized, even children.  I am a recovering Republican-partisan, where I try to catch myself from the endless rationalizing Trump’s bad behavior by pointing out what Hillary or Obama did.

Since my husband’s illness, he spends a lot of time watching TV,  especially FOX News and that is his only news source. There are rabid Leftists, who only watch MSNBC or CNN too, where during the 2016 general election, a full-court press went into aiding the “dump on Trump” scorched earth Clinton campaign effort.

During the GOP primary, my husband complained constantly that he couldn’t wait until the primary was over, so he wouldn’t have to listen to “this loudmouth, jackass”, referring to Donald Trump.  My husband told me he voted for John Kasich in the GOP primary, because Kasich is sensible and talks reasonable.

Along came the general election, with the relentless spin on both sides, but my husband only watches FOX News, so he gradually went from being a John Kasich supporter to now sounding like Sean Hannity some days.  He bought into the “ABC – Anyone But Clinton” line of reasoning, that Trump was the lesser of two evils.  Of course, my husband would insist he isn’t influenced by propaganda, but the truth is we are all influenced by propaganda, just like we all react to advertising.   FOX News is a potent agitation propaganda front for Trump, just like it promoted the Tea Party, which was designed to fracture the GOP.  Steve Bannon, btw, was a big player producing Tea Party propaganda too.

Often, I try to talk to my husband calmly and point out something a Trump propagandist, like Jeanine Pirro or Sean Hannity, is saying is morally bankrupt, but my husband sees the far-Left protests and that reinforces his willingness to listen to the Trump train morally bankrupt propaganda and excusing Trump’s erratic, corrupt behavior.

Trump followers have bought into “don’t take what Trump says literally, but take him seriously”, which serves as a flimsy deflection to manipulate people into not holding Trump accountable for his words.  A president’s word is his bond with the American people, so if his words aren’t literal or not to be taken literally, he can never be pinned down as to what he meant.  This tactic was used by President Bill Clinton in a less overt and way more sophisticated manner.   This is the same as the Trump train sales pitch during the campaign that “Trump doesn’t play by the rules” as a good thing.  Trump and his propagandists keep working to chip away at the moral character of Republicans and conservatives, with morally bankrupt propaganda.  They’ve even recruited leaders in the Christian-right community to assist in spreading this morally bankrupt propaganda.

Many liberal journalists and pundits have run Trump scare pieces on authoritarianism and 1984.  About a week ago, CNN and others in the media reported amazon.com was sold out of copies of 1984.  This announcement followed a week of media hype about 1984.  I checked amazon and they were sold out of the cheapest paperback version, but they had other editions and a kindle format version.   They didn’t report how many copies amazon actually sold, but implied this “concern” about Trump was widespread.  I’m concerned about Trump, but I’m concerned about the Left and Dem/Clinton machines too.

The hyper-partisan propaganda used to fuel anger, hate and to keep Americans raging against fellow Americans should worry every American. Even more alarming is the relentless manipulation of words and situations to create hysteria, anxiety, fear, rage and endless chaos. The 1984 scare tactics are bad enough, but the moves from Clinton spin, to Obama narratives, to Trump “alternative facts”, leaves us in uncharted territory. Confusing the meanings of words is part of the information war both sides waged in the 2016 scorched earth presidential campaigns, but even more alarming is the moral wasteland this campaign has left in its wake.

We’ve gotten on the on-ramp to a dangerous road.

The extreme partisans, driving the Trump train on the right and the street rage/media hysteria on the left, don’t care about ordinary Americans, but only about advancing their political agendas and power. However, when even children are engaged in this extreme partisan flame-throwing, it’s time for adults to restore some civility to the American political order and it all starts with each one of us committing to stopping this extreme, divisive partisan fighting.

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Filed under American Character, General Interest, Politics, The Media

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