The latest article in my column for the Good Men Project.
Most people I know are not strict ideologues of one set of ideas or another. People generally have beliefs that straddle party lines. I personally have some beliefs that align with the Republicans and others the Democrats. It’s been my experience and observation that the majority of people fall into the same category. But in our political system there are only two options, and people are forced to vote for one side or the other.
Today more than ever, we’re a divided nation. Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation are the major lines that come to mind.
There are many outside forces influencing and furthering those divides. The media, political parties, and corporations play a major part in the peddling of division amongst the people, each with their own motives for doing so.
I frequently read articles that discuss how alarming the current social and political climate is. The problem is not a well-hidden secret, we are all more or less in agreement of it. So then why do we continue to actively participate in our own division?
The answer appears clear to me. It is because we like to be right. Especially when discussing politics, it has now become more important to be right than to be effective.
In the past, the right brought ideas to the table, as did the left, and they compromised somewhere in the middle for the greater good of the nation. In the current state of politics in America, we have passed the tipping point where it is now more desirable to further ideology and partisan politics, than to compromise.
This problem is not a Republican or Democrat problem. Both parties are equally guilty of participating in this form of governing. Remember how Obama-care got passed? What about the several times the government was shutdown the last eight years?
The country is moving incrementally towards political extremes. The political parties have their own extreme factions, the tea party conservatives and the ultra progressive liberals. Both of which are now gaining power and influence. The right and left wings have their own media outlets, which push their agendas.
What most people don’t realize is that the political spectrum is not a line, but rather a circle, and by going too far in one direction you come out on the other side. The middle ground is at the bottom of the circle. Each side, right and left, gets more extreme until they meet at the top of the circle, where they become the same thing.
Far left ideology and far right ideology end with the same result for the people – oppression.
Whether it was Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or any number of the extreme right or left wing governments the world has seen come and go, the end result is always the same. The far right and left have wildly different ideologies but when they are implemented they produce similar outcomes. Nationalism, media control, and the role of the police state are all hallmarks of both.
But this is America, land of the free, none of that could happen here.
If we stay vigilant, well informed, and look out for one another than no, authoritarian oppression is highly doubtful.
But the infrastructure is in place. Lets take the first commonality, nationalism. Trump had a nationalist message. He created the idea that America had lost its grandiosity, mostly at the hands of foreign nations and immigrants, and that we have to take our country back and make it great again.
The increasing polarization of the media is another piece of that infrastructure. I ask many of my peers where they get their news. Depending on their political views I usually get Fox, MSNBC, or some other variation of either right or left wing news outlets.
At face value there is nothing wrong with either one of those news outlets. I watch both. The problem arises when that becomes the only source that people get their news from. Once again, depending on ideology people tend to exclusively watch one or the other. They tend to only listen to ideas that reinforce their own ideas, because at the end of the day we all want to be right.
As a result, many people live in an echo chamber, rarely hearing differing opinions or points of view from their own.
The most alarming commonality to me is the militarization of the police force. After the two wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had a huge military surplus. Countless humvees, armored vehicles, body armor, and military weapons were bought and paid for, sitting in warehouses.
What became of that military surplus? Cue your local police department.
In the post 9/11 America most towns, big or small have a SWAT team. Every police force is armed to the teeth with military style weapons that until recently were exclusively reserved for the battlefield.
I remember watching the Ferguson riots as they happened. The police response was more than just officers in riot equipment. Police were marching down the street in military formations behind the cover of armored vehicles. Images I was used to seeing in war footage from Iraq. The same is occurring right now at the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota
If you were to take pictures and footage from these two events and remove the police logos from the uniforms it would be easy to confuse them with an occupying military force. To me there is no difference in the military wearing green uniforms overseas, or blacks uniforms that say police here at home.
The insidious underlying thread that makes us lose all perspective and allow incremental extremism to protrude into our daily lives is fear. Take the most recent example of the proposed registry for Muslims. The fear that we do not know who is coming into our country, and that we are not safe allows us to lose logic and reason. Once policies like this are enacted, where do we draw the line? Is a gay registry next on the list, or a Jewish registry?
The logical answer is that anyone who comes to America, including refugees already are vetted. They don’t just show up here out of thin air.
The biggest lie of all is that the registry, militarization of police, and fear mongering is for our own safety. It’s not about safety and never was. It is and always has been about power and control.
As Americans we possess the inherit values of perseverance, healthy skepticism, and goodwill towards one another. Values we must keep in the forefront of our mind in these times of fear and division.