“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” — George Orwell
I had one of those conversations with a coworker yesterday that kind of crystallized everything that has been going on over the past few weeks. It also happened to tie what I have been talking about into a neat bow. The last week at least has been dominated by the desire to hold at least the president accountable, make people understand how penance works, and the desire from some to unplug from online life because they don’t like how political things have gotten.
Mind you, I didn’t ask for this conversation. We started talking baseball innocently enough. Then it came out. The Democrats were causing all of this unrest by ignoring the feelings of the 74 million people that voted for Donald Trump. It was their hateful rhetoric that started this. It was the fact that they were now impeaching him twice for essentially no reason. It was only going to cause more strife.
Before I rip into that nonsense specifically, let me tie together the other items I have been talking about in recent weeks. Of course, that line of thinking aligns perfectly with the notion that we just need to move on and unite as a country. It falls right into the notions that “you said some things and I said some things, so let’s just agree to move forward holding hands and singing kumbaya.”
I can’t help but notice that all of the people that I have seen say they are dropping Facebook lately are all conservative. All of them. So, I thought to myself: what do these people all have in common? The answers are all pretty stark. They say that things have become too political. They don’t want to be bombarded with hate and vitriol. They want to stay connected to their friends and family, but they don’t want to stay connected with what is going on in society.
I think we all get that on some level. Yet, what these folks all have in common is that they all come from positions of privilege. That by itself isn’t a judgment. I do too. The trouble is that when we choose connect on a platform we choose to connect with people that may or may not share that privilege. We choose to connect to their joy. We choose to connect to their pain. We choose to connect to their triumphs and we choose to connect to their anguish.
The standby response for those a little more understanding of the capital siege is to whatabout the demonstrations from this past summer. Sure, they will admit this past Wednesday was wrong in some abstract kind of way, but they honestly don’t see the difference. It’s all very connected. The desire to disconnect from social media, get to a place of unity, and whatabout an attempted insurrection all comes from the same place. It is a place of denial.
It is a place of entitlement. We are entitled to be in charge. It is our birthright. The idea that we are being taken over by socialists is not real in that sense. What they see are not really socialists. What they see are people that want to wrestle the reigns of society away from the privileged and give it to more people. Government assistance has always existed. It’s just about who the government chooses to assist.
Millions saw Donald Trump as the last line of that defense. They saw him hate the same people they hated. He unlocked something in them that had been smoldering for over a generation. Others saw him and didn’t like what he said. They didn’t really hate anyone, but they wanted to keep their position in society. So, they defended him even though they saw what he was doing. So, when he got in trouble they blamed the Democrats.
Just consider a few things. People have very short memories. The current president is always treated unfairly and no other president has ever been treated this way. I have vivid memories of people calling Bill Clinton a communist. I have vivid memories of people calling George W. Bush a war criminal. I have vivid memories of people calling Barack Obama every racist name in the book and flat out refusing to cooperate with him from day one. So, the fact that people have opposed Trump is not new.
Two things are new. First, more people in his administration have been indicted and convicted than any administration in the history of this country. Secondly, his supporters attempted insurrection. Did the Clinton supporters do this when Republicans were being mean to him? Did Bush supporters do this when Democrats were being mean to him? Did Obama supporters demonstrate and kill the racists among us in the name of Obama? Let’s see if we can figure out how these situations are different.
Our collective response says a lot about us as people. There is a mountain of shame we have to collectively overcome. It is a shame that comes from installing a man into power that is openly hostile to women, people of color, and anyone else that is disenfranchised for any reason. The shame comes from a man that neglected his duties and is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The shame comes from a man that treated the rule of law like a disposable menu at the Seafood Shack. The shame comes from knowing that event a small part of us was on board for any of it.
We must choose how we need to deal with that shame. Some of us have chosen to run away from it by unplugging from social media. In the past, that might have meant retreating to the wilderness. Now, we just have to click a few buttons. Others have chosen to blame the victims. It’s their fault we are in this mess. If they would have been silent and compliant while they were being abused then none of this would have ever happened. Some are bargaining by calling for unity and trying to distance themselves as carefully as possible. A few are meeting it head on. They are being vilified now, but history will remember them well.