I’ve been reading a book about lynching which points out how deeply it tied in to the Othering of black Americans. Savages. Subhuman unintelligent brutes, little better than apes, dangerously violent. Unfit to live as equals with their superiors. Etc.
The Othering of white supremacy’s enemies hasn’t gone away. The Nashville school shooter may have been trans (it’s unclear at this point) so that proves trans people are dangerous. Why are people talking about bigotry against trans people when they’re so filled with hate and rage? — say right-wingers who shriek at the idea their rhetoric has ever inspired violence or that any right-wingers are terrorists (many are). They’re even squealing about how most mass shooters are trans, which is a flat-out lie, but undoubtedly makes their whiny voters feel better. As C.S. Lewis says, hating your enemies is both poisonous and addictive. Bearing false witness against the Other makes it that much easier to hate them.
As someone once said (actually multiple someones phrasing it various ways), one of the basics of being a civilized person is the willingness to coexist with people who are not you. Different attitudes. Different faiths. Different races. That has always been a challenge in America but most Republicans aren’t even trying: they equate respecting the rights of people they don’t like with oppression. When those people — trans people, gay marriages, independent women, Muslims — demand equal rights, it’s an imposition on Real Americans.
In short, Republicans are the barbarians and savages they imagine other people to be, and that fuels their policies. Many of them support the death penalty for gays, restricted voting for The Other, overturning The Other’s votes, levying anti-trans bills against adults (regardless of potential collateral damage), calling drag queens demonic, book burning, and shrieking about gay and trans grooming while ignoring the elephant in their own living room. A number of them express creepy enthusiasm for running this country like the Taliban or the North Korean government.
Then there’s the endless paranoid rants about covid vaccines. If this were a 1950s movie, the anti-vaxxers would be the stereotypical third-world natives freaking out because the witch doctor says white man’s medicine is evil magic. Blood transfusion is a lifesaving medical technology but some anti-vaxxers want blood from only unvaccinated people. In Montana there’s a bill banning covid-vaccinated people from donating blood even though this would create major blood shortages (see also …)
The Republican Party is working hard to turn off its brains and make itself unfit for civilized life. Which is unfortunate because we’re sharing this civilization with them and will be for the foreseeable future; unlike some on the right, Taking away their rights, mass murder, or concentration camps are not acceptable solutions for dealing with them, even though many of them are down with doing it to us.
On the plus side, they’re a minority in the US now, for all the noise they make. They have outsize power because of the way our government is structured — by 2040, two-thirds of Americans will get to elect only 30 percent of the Senate — but just as we’re living through the backlash against the civil rights gains of the last few decades, I’m hopeful we can find a way to backlash against their backlash.
In the short term, it’ll be tough, as witness Perry Bacon discussing the challenges and role of being black and liberal in a conservative community. As a former resident (though a white one) of the very, very red-state Florida Panhandle I feel for him.
I’ll leave you with the words of playwright Charles Mee about how he loves Greek drama because the Greeks “take us back to what we know is true: how immensely hard it is to make a great civilization out of the raw material we humans are.” Truth.