Even when faced with video evidence of George Floyd being slowly murdered by rogue cop Derek Chauvin – Even after listening to the testimony of fellow police officers and expert medical witnesses – Even after the last syllable of “guilty on all 3 counts”, many Trump supporters are still unable to get on the right side of the issue when it comes to racism in America – why is that?
I think the Chauvin verdict was difficult pill to swallow for ardent supporters of the “law-and-order” president.
With the recorded murder of George Floyd, Trump supporters, like the rest of us, saw with their own eyes, what Black Lives Matter protesters and activists like Colin Kaepernick have been saying for years – that there’s a serious problem in America.
And here’s how fractured our country is. When it comes to the George Floyd murder and verdict, many would rather remain silent, than take a position that might inch them closer to someone on the other side of the ideological divide.
The deafening sound of silence from Trump supporters at the end of the Chauvin trial shines a light on the deep chasm in America today, which exists because so many are willing to elevate ideology over truth and humanity.
How is it in a country full of Americans, half of us consider the other half un-American, and vice versa?
To me, this seems like a fairly recent development.
Some people who know me today might categorize me as a “Godless libtard, who cares more about immigrants than real Americans.”
These same people probably didn’t categorize me at all 10 years ago — even though I was pretty much the same person then — a progressive liberal atheist.
On the flip-side, 10 years ago, I probably didn’t categorize some of the people I knew as “fascist-leaning individuals who’d rather wrap themselves in the American flag than care about their fellow human beings” — but that’s how I’d categorize them today.
So, what’s changed?
In terms of our politics, I don’t think we’ve changed all that much. The biggest difference is the manner and degree to which we broadcast our politics. That’s totally different than what it was 10 to 20 years ago.
Today, we have access to a social media soapbox, and many of us get up on that soapbox, and with a keyboard as our megaphone, we share our opinions (and other people’s opinions). We speak our values; we argue politics, and whether we realize it or not, we present our views on what it means to be American.
I used to think this was a good thing. Now, I’m not so sure.
Too often, our use of social media results in a singularly-focused and myopic view of one another, to the exclusion of the many things we likely have in common – a love of music, parenthood, art, literature, sports, science – the things that we could (and used to) connect over, but now, choose not to, because of political tribalism and a strange social media sectarianism.
Social media magnifies and intensifies our political differences, making it difficult to recognize or even care about things we have common. This unintended consequence benefits foreign enemies, who flood social media with content designed specifically to deepen the divide between Americans — and its working splendidly. Facebook has turned out to be the perfect crowbar to our Pandora’s box- dividing our American house and weakening our country from within.
How do we combat this?
The genie is out of the bottle in terms of social media. Its unrealistic to think people are just going to stop using it – and let’s face it, it’s a bit of an addiction.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter rely on two very human traits; the desire to communicate with one another, and our desire to fight with one another. Combine those two things with an insatiable need for affirmation, and you’ve got the perfect weapon for division and discontent.
The “thumbs up” or “heart” emojis are like herrings to a seal, as soon as we receive them, we instantly bark out more opinions on Trump, Biden, Guns, Abortion, Religion, and Immigration — widening the gap between one another, burning bridges, fueling hate.
Weirdly, social media is weakening the fabric of our country by allowing us to show others who we are, and what we believe in. We were a stronger / less vulnerable country when I didn’t know your politics and you didn’t know mine. If we both liked the Beatles, that was a good enough foundation to at least be kind and respectful to one another.
I looked back at some of my early social media posts, a lot of them had to do with my kids; a shared newspaper article, pictures from family gatherings, photos from sporting events or school dances. You know the schtick, obnoxiously proud mom or dad posting stuff about their son or daughter — often embarrassing them in the process.
“Ah, the early and innocuous days of social media.”
I looked at some of the respondents to those early posts. Interestingly, I’m pretty sure if I shared similar kinds of posts today, many of the same respondents would make a point of not responding.
No emoji herrings for me!
Many who responded fondly to my innocuous posts in the past, probably think I’m an asshole today. In their eyes, I’m a meme machine – a opinionated jerk – an atheist – an intolerant liberal fuck — and I totally get that.
When 9 out of 10 FB memories are rants about politics, you might have a problem (talking about myself here), and who can blame others for seeing you solely through a political lens, if that is all you show them?
It’s not easy to un-see what you see on social media, and some posts leave an indelible mark on our opinion of others and vice versa.
My High School has its 40th reunion this Summer. Our last reunion was in 2016, before Trump won election — before the war, so to speak. But even at that stage, you could see battle lines being drawn on social media. I even remember a plea from one of the organizers to refrain from talking politics.
A lot of shit has transpired since 2016. I know I’ve annoyed the fuck out of Trump supporters on a near daily basis (and vice-versa ). I wonder if we’ll be able to put our megaphones down for 5-to-6 hours and just pretend that we’re not offended by one another? I hope we can, though I expect some top gun-like maneuvers, as we buzz around the clambake tent, trying to avoid in-coming liberals or conservatives who might be looking to engage.
Social media has wrecked us. Its a shame, I wish it were different, and I don’t know how or even if we can fix it.
I think the best approach is to talk more about what we have in common — lead with those things, rather than politics – broadening the perspective might help lower our emotional temperature.
Young, vibrant, confident, and just starting out in adulthood. I believe this picture was taken before I was born.
In the photo, I both see and don’t see my mother. It’s my mom, yet, it’s not my mom. The simultaneous feeling of the familiar and the unacquainted wrestle and dance inside my head. I recognize her instantly, yet that recognition doesn’t map to my experience.
The feeling’s a bit like the one you had as a kid the first time you saw one of your teachers outside the classroom, walking an aisle of the grocery store, you were like “wait, I know you . . . . but what are you doing here?? and why are you buying Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? You recognize that teacher, but they’re out context.
In this picture, my mom is out of context for me. I think its because at the time of the photo, she had not yet assumed the role of mother. The person in the picture is a purer, undefined by role version of my mom, and that’s what emanates from the photograph — its a version of my mother that I never knew.
Our relationship with our parents is so rigidly defined by role, we tend to see them as mom or dad only, as caretaker or protector only. Parents rarely reveal their true selves to their kids — I’m not sure why. There’s no written rule stating “Don’t let your children know who you were before you became mom or dad”, but that’s what we do — we keep that part of our self, to ourselves, almost instinctually it seems.
The photo made me realize how little I truly knew of my mom; that most of what I knew of her was based on the bits and pieces she revealed to me as caretaker, protector, mother. The rest of her — her core self — her fears, what she wanted for herself, and the things she thought about in the dark of night, remained hidden from me.
The photograph reminds me how parenthood ushers in a new phase and sense of self, distinct from who and what you were before taking on that role.
I think this transformation was more impactful for women of my mother’s generation, many of whom chose to put off careers or ventures that might have fulfilled them in different ways than motherhood.
It’s a risky proposition, becoming a parent. How will the sense of self we lose, measure up to the new self we become? The potential for reward, matched equally by the possibility of regret.
Some find their better-selves as a parents, others struggle, or feel a sense of loss and sadness at the self they left behind. In my mother’s waning years, I can’t help but think she felt some regret and sorrow.
My mom was a good mother. She relished the role – threw every once of herself into it. She instilled in her 3 children a sense of responsibility and a love of learning. And I think she was proud of her effort and the results.
We all get a certain amount of time on this earth. My mother, like many other moms, put her pre-parent ambitions and untapped capabilities on hold, dedicating her time and energy to motherhood. I suspect she felt the impact of that tradeoff.
When you put everything you’ve got into nurturing your kids, you sometimes lack the energy, or simply run out of time, to nurture your self. It wasn’t until later in life that I understood the enormity of that sacrifice, and the love that fueled it.
The impetus behind the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is systemic racism.
People join and support BLM to protest a system of justice in America that treats people of color differently than white people. From that perspective, the BLM movement comes from noble place – the desire to right a wrong in our society.
This past Summer, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer sparked outrage and widespread protests, deservedly so.
Rising up and taking to the streets to protest that murder was an entirely appropriate response by Americans. And, if I remember correctly, when some of those protests turned violent, that violence was condemned by democrats and republicans alike.
Most Americans agree that violent protests cannot, and should not be tolerated. That said, it’s important to understand the psychology of a riot.
Marin Luther King said:
“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.
And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”
The BLM riots were the result of America failing to acknowledge the mistreatment of black and brown citizens by our justice system, which has been going on for years. Prolonged injustice needs but a spark to lead to protests and riots, and the George Floyd murder was that spark.
Contrast that with the January 6th “stop the steal” protest, which turned into a violent riot.
The January 6th protest had nothing to do with prolonged injustice. It was not borne out of years of systemic racism. Instead, the January 6th protest was a planned and calculated attempt by our president to disrupt the certification the 2020 presidential election.
The impetus for the January 6th protest was the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged. There is not a shred of truth to that claim. But, as we all know; Donald Trump does not care about the truth. So, he pushed the false claim of a rigged and stolen election to millions of Americans in the weeks leading up to the January 6th rally. And on that day, he again lied to the thousands in attendance.
None of this is in dispute. We know that President Trump spread lies and false claims about the election, and we know that he assembled the rally on January 6th to disrupt the certification of the election by congress.
The primary difference between the BLM protests and the Stop the Steal protest is the legitimacy of the issue being protested.
Systemic racism is a real and legitimate problem in America. We have data showing black and brown citizens are treated more harshly than white citizens by both the police and by the courts. In short, for BLM protesters there’s a genuine issue at hand and a real reason to be angry, and George Floyd’s life being extinguished under the knee of a white racist cop, brought an ugly and graphic clarity about racial injustice, to millions of Americans.
In contrast, what Trump supporters were protesting on January 6th was not justified. The very foundation of the Stop the Steal protest was built on lies. There was no widespread voter fraud. The election was not stolen.President Trump did not win in a landslide.
How do we know that the issues being protested on January 6th were not legitimate?
We know this because:
The votes were tabulated and Joe Biden had 7 million more of them.
The votes were recounted several times, and Joe Biden still had 7 million more of them.
Every challenge that the president’s legal team brought to the courts was defeated in resounding fashion.
The Trump Administration’s Attorney General reviewed the claims of widespread fraud and said there was none.
The indisputable truth is that President Trump lost the 2020 election.
Now, if the candidate that I supported and trusted lost an election, and then went on to tell me every single day for weeks at a time, that the election was stolen, and that the consequence of that stolen election was that my country was going to be destroyed, I might have stormed the US Capitol as well.
Take what Doctor King said about riots and apply it to what happened on January 6th:
I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear?
They failed to hear that my vote was stolen – that the election was rigged, that I won’t have a country anymore if the election is certified
I honestly believe that millions of Americans believed what Trump told them every day for weeks before and after the election – that it was rigged and stolen. And for the thousands that showed up on January 6th, the only way to stop the steal was to stop the certification, and that meant storming the Capitol building. So that’s what they did, at the behest of our lying president.
The issue many of us are grappling with today is how did we get to the point where millions of Americans are resistant to facts and immune to the truth?
How did this happen on such a mass scale?
I believe it was the perfect storm of the browning of America, globalization, religiosity, and an opportunistic and depraved leader.
More than any other President in our history, Trump understood the value of other people’s fear. He understood that he could use that fear to his own advantage.
Trump understood that connecting with people over fears about our changing demographics, what it means to “be American”, growing secularism, and loss of manufacturing jobs, would override everything else – including truth and facts — because fear, national identity, and religion resonate at an emotional level.
Trump knew the quickest and easiest way to get people to vote for, and support him (no matter what), was to connect with them over fear.
Trump’s connecting with voters over fear didn’t involve engaging in meaningful dialog or the difficult task addressing our changing world – instead he commiserated – not because he was genuinely empathetic, but because he knew both the power and expediency of commiseration.
Trump saw early on that if he could get the disenfranchised to believe he was with them in terms of their fears around abortion, immigration, and globalization – he would have them in his pocket. Once he achieved that, he could “shoot someone in the middle of 5th avenue” and it wouldn’t make a difference to supporters.
Trump’s fake commiseration around religious issues, immigration, and globalization led to a fact-resistant base of supporters, and emboldened the President to embark on his Hitleresque desire to rule a nation.
Trump knew that once he connected with people over fear, he could lie to them with impunity, and that they would follow him off a cliff, or to the doors of the US Capitol.
Josh Hawley saw an opportunity in the angry, throbbing-with-hate, wild-eyed, vein-popping crowd of Trump supporters.
He felt the energy of that crowd’s rage and understood if he could harness it, he could jettison himself to the front of the 2024 Republican presidential pack. The only thing that stood in the way of that happening was the truth. For months leading up to the 2020 Presidential election, and every day after it, Americans were fed a constant diet of lies that the election was rigged. Those lies breathed life into the January 6th insurrection that resulted in 5 dead, including a capital police officer.
Josh Hawley knows that President Trump did not win the 2020 election. He understands that every election comes with some irregularities and that in the 2020 election, those irregularities were minor and had no impact on the outcome. President Trump got drubbed by more than 7 million votes in an election deemed by Trump’s own election security expert as the most secure election in the history of our country.
Hawley’s motives leading up to the events of January 6th were seditious. His explanation of why he voted to overturn a free and fair election is both laughable and disingenuous.
Hawley said the people of Missouri had concerns about the integrity of the election, and as their senator, he was obligated to make sure their voices were heard.
If we listened to Hawley’s words in a vacuum, they sound reasonable and almost noble. But Hawley’s obligation as a US Senator is not to blindly support the concerns of his constituency, especially when those concerns are based on false information and lies. No, his job as a Senator is to tell those people the truth, even if that truth is complicated for some of them to hear – even if that truth becomes somewhat of a hindrance to Mr. Hawley’s political aspirations.
But Hawley did not do that. Instead, he used the divisive and volatile climate to elevate his own political profile and boost his presidential aspirations. This was a test of Josh Hawley’s character, and he failed miserably – and it’s an example of why character matters in our representatives.
I’m reminded of when John McCain was confronted with a lie about President Obama and how he responded to that lie.
McCain was holding a town hall, answering questions from his supporters, when a woman took hold of the microphone and said she did not trust Senator Obama because he was an Arab. Now, this woman was not alone in her fears – she and the nation had been fed a constant diet of lies about the President’s birth origin and religious affiliation.
That moment was a test of John McCain’s character, and he passed it with flying colors. McCain was not stupid. He understood the potential benefits off manipulating the lie about President Obama. But to John McCain’s credit, he understood that correcting that lie was far more important than any political momentum to be gained from it — because lies like that, the lies that divide Americans, are dangerous to democracy.
Regarding the lie about a rigged election, Josh Hawley and President Trump did the exact opposite of what a true leader should do: confront the lie head-on and stop it in its track. Instead, Trump and Hawley consistently propagated rumors that they knew were false for opportunity’s sake.
Truth is the sticking agent in the masonry mix of democracy. Without it, the foundation of our country crumbles.
Under the Trump administration, the truth became a malleable political commodity. It was hammered, reshaped, forged in lies, and repurposed for political gain.
Every administration plays with the truth on occasion, spinning it to suit this or that political reality. But spinning the truth is not the same as creating your own version of it to deceive and manipulate the public and to galvanize your own political power. That’s not spin – that’s propaganda. That’s a weapon.
The desecration of truth that happened during the 4-years of the Trump administration is the strongest argument for why character matters.
A presidential candidate with a high moral character knows that manufacturing a false truth for self-gain is inherently wrong. On the other hand, a presidential candidate with low moral character sees manufactured truth as a tool, a means to an end. And when such a person gains access to power and the levers of government to wield that power, our democracy enters a dangerous and precarious situation. The culminating consequence of 4-years of manufactured truth is what we witnessed and experienced collectively on January 6th, 2021.
The Trump administration had a strategy for truth, and truthfulness was not part of it.
The Trump strategy for truth was this:
As long as we hold the reins of power, we’ll use alternate facts, cherry-pick data, and create a version of the truth that serves our political agenda and strengthens our hold on power.
We’ll weaponize our strategy by publishing our version of truth on communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
We’ll use these channels to magnify and reinforce the lies about voter fraud and a rigged election. And our supporters will spread these lies (knowingly or unwittingly) either way; the lies will take root.
The strategy, like Donald Trump himself, was utterly devoid of ethics.
But it worked.
For 4-years, the Trump administration designed their own version of the truth to meet a pre-defined set of facts. Then, they leveraged conspiracy theories and right-winged websites to discredit actual truth and to stand up for their own version of it. Finally, they injected their version of truth into the public square with mindful malevolence, feeding the masses lies and misinformation through every available communication channel.
Artificial Intelligence, the internet, and behavioral algorithms helped spread the lies incredibly and quickly.
Trump’s 4-year disinformation campaign and an all-out assault on truth was a mass poisoning of America’s mind by a well-oiled propaganda machine. The result? A cult-like following impervious to any information that goes counter to the narrative pushed by the President and his administration.
But unlike Jonestown or Waco, the Trump cult hasn’t succumbed to arsenic-laced Kool-Aid or fiery smoke. Instead, this mass poisoning continues to propagate, grow, and metastasize. And now, America is riddled with a cancerous, malformed notion of truth.
The biggest threat to our nation and our democracy is the continued bastardization of truth and the potential for that strategy to become a framework or playbook for the next power-hungry demagogue.