The world is fractured. I think we all know this, but it was brought home jarringly on Twitter this week as news broke of the bombing in Manchester. More specifically as I saw right wing Americans pounce with delight, too overjoyed at having all their prejudices confirmed to bother hiding their ghoulish glee.
Sadly, that’s nothing new. Right wing Americans love nothing better than pontificating about the socio-political situations abroad via Twitter. Who cares if they can barely locate that country on a map? Honestly I was mostly just grateful the dimwit in chief was in Saudi and someone had obviously confiscated his phone, because imagine his tweets if he’d been left to his own devices and wasn’t busy selling arms to the country he accused of masterminding 9/11.
Then the real wingnuts came out the woodwork. People so convinced everything is a conspiracy, so convinced everything is about them, they immediately decided the Manchester bombing had been staged (these are the people who say Sandy Hook was a false flag operation, remember). Or maybe it had really happened, but at the behest of Hillary or Obama.
And why do they think that? Because Hannity had promised salacious details from Kim Dot fucking Com of all people alleging that DC staffer Seth Rich had been murdered by the Clintons for passing emails to WikiLeaks. A conspiracy so bizarre, so desperate, and so ludicrous it isn’t even worth the time debunking. Even Fox News retracted it. Yet despite Rich’s parents pleading publicly for Hannity to stop, he remains defiant. Or as defiant as he can be on Twitter to appease his base while still keeping his job.
“They’re wrong, we’re right,” he promised his fawning fans. And that right there is the problem. Politics have become so partisan there’s no middle ground anymore. America is a nation of two peoples: one liberal, diverse, and accepting; one… not.
“Divide and conquer” (derived from the Latin saying Divide et impera) in politics, sociology, and economics: a strategy to gain or maintain power.
I lived in Manchester. I attended the university for four years and earned two degrees there. I lived in Fallowfield and Hulme, surrounded by people of all faiths and colours and creeds. I went to the gay village every other night, taking the bus through the Curry Mile in Rusholme. Muslim drivers dropped me off and wished me a good night, or picked me up and turned a blind eye when I was drunk and moronic in the backseat of their cars.
I sat in Muslim-owned takeaways at 3am surrounded by same-sex couples drunk and high on sex and life and not going easy on the PDAs and the guys working there never batted an eye. I’ve been down Wimmy Road during Eid and been made to feel part of the celebration, and the first bloke who ever spoke to me in the village when I was a shy and nervous noobie was a fucking Muslim.
Don’t give me that “them or us” bullshit because in the Manchester I know and love we’re all “us.”
When terrible events happen, two instincts surface. Fear and defiance. One says “stick together,” and the other says “keep away.”
The right wing—most vocally in the US, but growing throughout Europe—like to think they’re tough. They’re “tough” on immigration. They’re the first to call for arming the police and limiting civil liberties. They respond to perceived threats by electing strongmen and going to war. All their “tough” talk is a lot of smoke and mirrors to hide the fact they’re afraid. They’re so afraid they’ll hand over pretty much anything except their guns, because guns make them feel safe.
Liberalism confuses them because we embrace what they fear. We welcome the members of the community who are other. Perhaps because so many of us are other ourselves. And that really confuses conservatives.
Please appreciate the meme because you have no idea how hard it was to find one that didn’t have a dead body in it. Conservatives especially enjoy the shock-factor.
Memes like the one above abound because to conservatives there’s an uncrossable line between “them” and “us.” That’s why they give genocide and death penalties a pass in the Bible but freak out when they’re in the Qur’an. Why they can’t imagine a secular Muslim. A Muslim who doesn’t take every last word of his holy text to heart. So when they see queerfolk defending Muslims, they can’t explain it. They think we should be as scared as they are. They think we should be more scared, and that we’re not pisses them off.
What they don’t realise is the ones we most have reason to be scared of are them.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a video of an American Christian activist saying the “pro-sodomite” people who died in Manchester deserved what they got (many many TWs). He was also happy about the Pulse massacre, btw.
The right wing is real quick to point the finger but the old expression rings true that you know your own tricks best. Just look at the campus rape rate. Or the gender pay gap. The bathroom bills or institutional racism in America’s law enforcement and criminal justice system. Let’s ask why American only completely decriminalised homosexuality in 2003.
Except nobody wants to talk about those things. Just like nobody wanted the uncomfortable reminder that this is the second time in my memory that Manchester has been bombed, and the first time was by Irish Catholics. That’s over now, I was told. It doesn’t matter. Those terrorists were white Christians so they don’t count.
—Okay nobody outright said that last line, but they came close. Not surprising when you consider how many “lone wolf” white Christian terrorists there have been in America.
Definitely nobody wanted to be reminded that Americans had a direct hand in funding IRA terrorism. When somebody did raise that point, here was the response.
“You hate America.” Any criticism means you hate America. And they think that shuts down the argument. They think they’ve won. It’s curious how this particular brand of American exceptionalism insists it’s only special when (because?) the world hates it.
The problem is, I don’t know where this ends. I don’t see a way to fix it. At least not in America. Both sides are too entrenched. The right fell for the first conman who told them what they wanted to hear, and stacked the house and senate with pantomime villains whose hopes and dreams involve stripping healthcare from millions and taking food from the mouths of hungry children. When a newborn’s heart defect becomes a matter of partisan politics you know something has gone very, very wrong.
These people are simply unelectable from a liberal standpoint. There’s no such thing as a perfect politician but there’s an astronomical gulf between “I’d rather he was better on X” and “given his way he’ll strip your family of food and healthcare, raise your taxes, eliminate your safety net, remove your workplace protections, dissolve your marriage, and make your sexuality/gender identity illegal.”
On the flip side, conservatives don’t trust anyone outside their bubble anymore. And that bubble gets smaller and more extreme by the minute. Gone are the days when Fox News was all we had to contend with. Now half of them think Fox News is part of the “liberal agenda” and InfoWars is speaking truth to power.
They’re so caught up in their own echo chamber they think the billionaire fleecing them is their friend. They love the ACA and hate Obamacare. They think Michelle was a slut for showing her arms but Melania looked hot in that naked photoshoot. Obama’s kids were the subject of an NRA attack ad, they called Malia an ape when she was accepted at Harvard, a GOP staffer publicly chided them for the way they dressed, and a host of pundits from Glen Beck to Ann Coulter (curtesy of Hannity’s platform, quelle surprise) have said Obama’s underage children were fair game. Yet conservative thinkpieces abound dragging what they call “vicious attacks” of “liberal hypocrisy” when Ivanka Trump—the adult daughter who has a White House office but no title, and allegedly sways policy on a regular basis—is subject to criticism.
These people will never find a middle ground with Democrats. They’re too entrenched. They’ve chosen their side and they’ll cling to it so hard they’ll disapprove of an action when a Democrat suggests it but support it from a Republican. The most recent example is the Syria airstrikes, which garnered 22% approval from Republicans under Obama, but 86% approval when Trump did the same thing for the same reason.
It’s okay to be afraid. To mourn when terrible things happen. I’m sure more than one person in Manchester wondered if it was safe attending the vigil in Albert Square, but thousands of them did anyway. Just like the people of Paris, who ignored curfews and took to the streets the night after the Bataclan attack to reclaim their city, their home, and show the world they would not be cowed.
There’s a huge difference between being afraid and letting fear choke you.
I don’t know how to cross the gulf between the right and left. I don’t have the words to take fear away and make conservatives reasonable people once again. All I know is faced with a choice between fear and determination, I hope I’ll always pick the latter.