Politics of hate and intolerance alive & well in America’s ‘flyover country'
Derek Monroe is a writer/reporter and consultant based in Illinois, USA. He has reported on international and US foreign policy issues from Latin America, Poland, Japan, Iraq, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and India. His work appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Alternet, Truthout and Ohmynews, and has been published in over 20 countries.
The condescension aspect of it is such that anyone living outside of the most prized real estate on either coast is considered provincial and unimportant, thus not worthy of a visit or consideration.
In this context, the current set of issues being brought forward in the cradle of the 'flyover land' - Iowa and its East Coast equivalent of New Hampshire - have huge influence on the upcoming electoral caucus in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
Donald Trump, apparent leading contender of the Republican Party, has an ongoing rivalry with Goldman Sachs-backed Ted Cruz for the party nomination. The showdown is getting heavy media coverage that is full of insults, sound bites and criticism – mostly driven by the personalities of the politicians.
However, what is not considered is the fact that Trump's revolutionary appeal is a product of a political system incapable of reform. His ascendance on the right, with that of Bernie Sanders on the left, was a result of long process of societal discontent against the status-quo duopoly. Trump's rise would not be possible without the astro-turf Tea Party movement, as much as Bernie Sanders' meteoric rise would not have happened without the prolonged simmering protest of Occupy Wall Street.
The Republican Party inner fight has resulted in a circular firing squad where the contenders are unable to tame Trump. It is a virtual reality show where the "fake tough guys" are challenging Trump on his credentials of being the true conservative.
It is also comical to see the Republican candidates fight to represent the ‘soul’ of the American conservatism, an element that has been missing in action ever since it was first contrived. The soul of American conservatism was quartered and sold a long time ago to the highest bidder in the supply-side think tanks and neoconservative military adventures that brought nothing but financial and spiritual ruin to the American middle class.
Trump is a demagogue who is extremely intelligent and skillful in manipulating the electorate into seeing him as business messiah turned national savior. In their view, Trump is the new Andrew Jackson reincarnate that took on the Bank of the United States and won. The narrative presented is that of a hero-like figure who will bring the country out of the conservative wilderness to fight for the mythical ‘little guy,’ forgetting the previous image of George W. Bush as fellow that the ‘little guy’ could have a beer with.
In these times, the ‘little guy’ cannot afford to pay rent on the trailer home, not to mention a bottle of brew. The ‘little guy’ now possesses a large amount of anger about the political system that doesn't work for him, which shouldn’t be surprising since he repeatedly voted against his own interests during the republican tenure. Or, on the other hand, he voted for change advanced by the Obama team’s marketing "hopium" which resulted in him running in circles backwards in socio-economic terms.
Trump's bluntness is entertaining as much as it is revealing of our national level of discourse, which for generations has been stymied by political correctness. The anger is real and Trump offers easy scapegoats such as immigrants, Muslims and first and foremost the most hated thing that "lost" the country: the establishment. The grotesque political analysis on offer blames the allegedly socialist Obama for giving Americans the predicament of big government and a rigged economic system that benefits the very few individuals and corporations at the expense of the majority.
Left also embracing message of intolerance
Unfortunately, the left is also embracing the new political movement of "taking the country back" that is every bit as viral in its intolerance and hate as it is on the right. It is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) movement acting as blunt political tool that has aims completely different than those espoused by the great civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King.
Just like Trump, the BLM uses implicit language of racist division and hate mirroring of what it sees as opposition. For example during riots in Ferguson and Baltimore many black-owned businesses on instruction from the BLM have posted signs that said they are black-owned, thereby implying they shouldn't be attacked. However, all minority-owned businesses, including Asian were considered fair game thus subsequently looted and torched along with those businesses with signs.
During the Ferguson demonstrations, the BLM insisted that only black activists speak to the media as not to give out a universal i.e. non-black appeal. The design of movement by the blacks and for the blacks has turned off many people who otherwise would sympathize with legitimate claims of oppressive violence and death at the hands of largely white municipal police forces. In Chicago, this trend has been especially visible due to shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald and its subsequent cover up by the Chicago Police.
In a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed piece, writer John Fountain clearly listed the failure of the movement and the community to account for deaths caused by black on black violence that gets almost no societal and establishment reaction.
The righteous indignation of deaths at the hands of the few (the police) is thus used as expendable political prop invalidating the deaths of many others. It is tribalism of the worst sort as it also reinforces the worst negative stereotypes in addition to being an insult to those who died. It is used not only as platform to get political revenge by the black political elite that sees the issue as validation of its own relevance, but as political mileage to get itself more influence and power in this deeply divided city. It has done next to nothing to address issues plaguing black communities across the country while raising its political profile with the elections of President Obama. The ongoing train wreck that is Chicago School System along with criminal mismanagement of its dwindling resources has put the city on the brink of solvency with threats of schools being taken over by the state.
Many watch these developments in horror as the majority of the nation is now arm itself at an alarming and unprecedented pace. The Obama administration’s eight-year-rule has witnessed a record number of arms purchased by Americans, with guns outnumbering the population for the first time ever.
There are now more guns than people in the United States
The effects of growing racial divide are often extrapolated by deep socio-economic divisions as the average white family wealth is now measured at 10 times the average black one.
The gap leads to anger and frustration on a personal level as well.
Last year, a black check-in agent verbally attacked my family at the American Airlines counter of O'Hare Airport. Last week, I was refused service at the local Walmart by a black service clerk in a very demonstrative manner indicating personal contempt. I contacted Walmart Corp for details in regards of their associate training manual. The company declined to respond to inquiry about its training/hiring practices that would allow this type of behavior in its store. So was the response from American Airlines who instructed me to "move on without making a fuss."
The politics of identity dictate the lowest common denominator of cause and effect and the BLM uses the myth of "white privilege" as battering ram for its arguments. The identity factor has been always present in the political system based on competitive division and regardless of Obama's election that was supposed to usher in the era of post-racial America. Trump has used the myth of 'white privilege' as nuanced message of what "makes this country great," without delving deeply what is the version of the country he wants back: 1950s, 1850s or 1750s?
The BLM also uses it as dog whistle to garner its base of the young and angry. The conflict becomes even more inflamed when taking into account vile historical baggage of racial relations in the US.
Researching this myth and its relevance in 2016, I posed the question of "white privilege" and its meaning to one Polish immigrant who has lived in Chicago for over 20 years. Due to his undocumented status, Krzysztof declined to provide his last name. "I came to this country in 1994 and America is a place you have to work for everything, nobody will give you something for nothing. I once hired a black guy to work on a construction project and he was probably one of the best people to work with, ever. Very hardworking and precise," he told me.
Unfortunately, the client decided to scale down the project so I couldn't keep him on as there wasn't enough work for both of us. I got some comments from people as we worked together for 2 months like there was some type of master and servant relationship. My English is very limited and I couldn't explain the situation so the impression stuck. Actually I paid him more than I earned since the project was changed so if you take it at face value the roles were actually reversed. I own business so I am actually lucky in comparison with other people who really have to fight for work and compete on price.
I guess someone forgot to tell Poles, Russians or other Eastern Europeans about the "white privilege" and I think it would make a good joke if you are working for $8/hr illegally and can barely afford to pay rent and food. Personally I have to be very careful dealing with authorities as I could be deported anytime for anything. If that is the type of privilege you are talking about then I'd say thanks but no thanks." Krzysztof concluded.
The field of intolerance has also been increased to the educational sphere as well. Michael Moroz, a High School student in Philadelphia had his op-ed criticizing the University of Missouri BLM protests, pulled from a school newspaper as result of death threats he and the newspaper staff received over the piece. Incidentally, the school left a pro-BLM op-ed that appeared alongside Moroz's piece, clearly indicating the school administration's choice of politics.
Whether one agrees with the ideas or words coming out of Moroz piece is beside the point. The idea here is that if our society is not capable to see each individual human being as just that, with all of his/her/its rights and responsibilities then it is going to be morphed into something so ideological that it will care less about personal politics, color of skin or religion.
The "taking back" part will eventually take us into the past any civilized society should learn from rather than relive it.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.