Us versus Them – Just Thinking Aloud

Today has been the same old conundrum: what do I write about? Most folks who read this blog already know that I do my posts as unplanned topics. For me, its a more organic style of writing. The only problem is that it can sometimes be a complete blank for a good part of the day. Well today was one of those days. So I just let my mind wander a bit and….well, politics started the entire thought process off. Don’t groan. It started the process, but its only the manner in which to get the topic started. So, shall we?

On July 3rd, the massive Orange Peel of a President here in the United States gave a rather passionate speech. I know most folks didn’t watch it. I know I didn’t. But I read a lot of the summary material. Donnie railed against the Left, as well as the BLM protesters – lumping them into the same pot, and declaring them as “the enemy.” this entire manner of thinking should sound familiar. He declared the media to be the enemy back in 2016. He declared the “deep state” of career government employees as the enemy. He declared the Democrats as the enemy. From those three declarations he created a straw man to attack, declaring he was going to drain the swamp. Every chance he got to speak, he beat the drum about this compiled straw man that he had created. And the people on the far right heard the dog whistles that they needed to hear. They had a common enemy to deploy their votes against. Donnie was declaring a change in Washington DC. He was going to drain the swamp. Except that he didn’t. In fact, he never intended to do so. He cleared the way for his “yes” people to put in charge of various aspects of the political structure, and fired those who obstructed the way. Now, in 2020 – an election year where his poll numbers are lagging behind former Vice President Joe Biden – he latched on to the two pieces that he needed to create a new straw man – the vehicle he hopes to get elected by. He has made several derogatory statements aimed at Black Lives Matter, pointing to the destruction of statues and various instances of destruction of property to label them as “dangerous” and “the enemy”. To help with his election process, he has attached the Democrats to this straw man as well, hoping to equate the destruction that has occurred with Blake Lives Matter. And to make it more personal, he has added a charge that this straw man of BLM and Democrats is out to erase History, change the very fabric of what we know of America. Strong, heady, and quite shrewd campaigning tactics. Add to that his politicizing the wearing of masks during a time of a pandemic – one that he wants to ignore as much as he can, since it happened on his watch – and you start seeing the way he wants to spin the playing field. He is creating a paradigm of “Us versus Them” – Them being portrayed by his caricature straw man.

The “Us versus Them” paradigm is a very heady potion to create and get people to quaff. However, its rather easy territory to cover, if you think about it. We see it in our films, our cartoons, in the novels we read, in the tales we tell one another – the fight of our side versus those “bad guys”. The UvT, as I like to refer to Us versus Them as – is a story formula we have been weened on. Our literature, movies, even our History is carved in this type of portrayal. So its not a difficult thing for someone like Trump or even Biden to latch on to. For Trump, he is trying to appeal to those who do not want to see the world around them change. They are complacent and happy with where things are for them. The world is easily placed into two piles – the stuff that is right, and the stuff that is not. The other side of the equation are those who are demanding change. They see the world is balanced unfairly, and they want things to be brought to a level of equality. If you flip the script, you will notice that it still balances into a UvT, just in a different direction.

The insidious part of UvT theory, is that neither side are hunting from common ground. Its either this or that – nothing else. When you have two sides in disagreement and unable to find compromise, you wind up with war at some point. One side or the other is going to feel frustrated, and step way over the line of somewhat civil discourse. Once that happens, bringing either side to a point of resolution will be difficult. And this is precisely what Donnie and the Republicans want. At the moment those folks are in absolute control. Once they goad the other side into taking things beyond a certain point – they will have the excuse they need to do far more destructive things to the other side. Through laws, through brutal enforcement of current laws, even through simple Presidential decrees to round up and imprison dissidents. Sound familiar? Do you hear the clinking of the chains of the fascism that everyone wants to fight against? Donnie has already made statements that the folks represented by his new straw man are the “true fascists” in all of this, again in his July 3rd and July 4th speeches. All in the name of the UvT theory.

Now, I am ex-active duty military. Back in March of 1986, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of these United States from aggressors foreign and domestic. I left the military in April of 1994, and not under the greatest of circumstances. But how I left, and when I left never cancelled that oath. When I took that oath of enlistment, the terms of what I must do never waned. My allegiance is not to a political party. My allegiance is to the Constitution of these United States, the document that outlines how we, as a nation are to be governed. I watch politics careful – not because I want to, but because I have to be vigilant against aggressors domestic. I absolutely loathe politics. I am an unaffiliated voter because I wish not to make allegiance to any party. Politics is that slimy to me. Do I feel that Donnie is a good President? Not one bit. Do I feel that he fulfills his own oath to the Constitution and to the citizenry of this country that he took back in January of 2017? Not at all. I see a self-centered, self-absorbed individual who only makes law that benefits him in his corporate world. I see an individual that I would have a very difficult time serving in the military under him as Commander-in-Chief, were I still in the active duty or reserve component of the Air Force. he is a shrewd user of the UvT theory….sow division among the citizenry, and get them to choose sides, stoking the fires of one side over the other….creating his version of “Us” – and by definition, if you are not in the “Us” grouping, well….. So long as there is argument and chaos, no one is watching the under-handed things he is going to benefit himself, and his equally criminal family.

Now, I’m quite certain this post is going to piss some folks off….I completely grok that. I have quite a few friends that are quite happy about the Cheeto-in-Chief being in charge. I get how they would be upset with much of my assessment. I also understand that there are those that will think my assessment doesn’t go far enough in damning this current Administration. However, I will remind you – this is my personal assessment of where things are, and what is going on. I have no political affiliation with any party – and I don’t want one. I am affiliated with the Constitution of the United States. My approach will be different than yours….because neither of us is the other. We are all individuals, who can think for ourselves and make up our own minds. My biggest hope is that this post will stir the idea that some form of communication needs to be kept alive. Without that line, all of this slips further and further towards the anarchy and fascist approach that none of us should want. Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Libertarians, and whatever political affiliation I am leaving out – we all have an identity that should be held up above any political party – we are all human beings, and deserve the same respect.

–T /|\

We’ve Got a Long, Long Way to Go, Baby!

IMG_1047Made it back from Houston, where I got to watch my beloved Reds take the Astros into extra innings in both games I was there for. The atmosphere was nice, the stadium is still one of the nicest places to watch a ball game I have ever been to…and surprisingly, the people were quite cordial. Unlike St. Louis or even here in Dallas (Texas Rangers country), where I get assailed for wearing my team’s “colors” (Reds branded t-shirts and my only Reds jersey). I just don’t understand that mentality. Visiting fans are doing more than just supporting their team, they are buying tickets at your stadium, they are buying the food at your vendors, they are most likely staying at hotels in your local area. Why treat them like shit, just because they travel to support their team on the road? I understand being a fan, but I certainly don’t get why folks have to be assholes about being homers.

But then, on the way back home, I stopped at two different Buccee’s. For those that might not know, this is like the WalMart of gas stations. Lots and lots of stuff to buy. Food, drinks, souvenirs. Many, many gas pumps. And everyone rolls through the place like there is a riot in progress. I would never have guessed that a gas station could bring out the asshole in people so quickly. I like the variety of the products in the store, Nine Hells – I can even get a slurpee whenever I want, and there’s FOUR machines rolling at any given time!

Let’s not get started on the way politics has literally turned people into Trumps…err…assholes, even towards their friends and fellow neighbors.

I have harped on this before. On July 5, 2015, at the final show for the Fare Thee Well concerts, Mickey Hart of Dead & Company made a statement that has literally become my battle-cry towards the world around me:

The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this: Please, be kind.

I grew up always being asked to put myself into the shoes of the individual I was thinking of at that moment. Trying to remember that anyone you are about to judge in your thoughts has feelings too. That they can be hurt internally by what you say/don’t say, by what you do or don’t do, by how you react or don’t react. That every single time we say, do, or react to something – there can be a powerful negative or positive repercussion to the individual. I am not saying that you hold back your statements to people when they are doing something wrong. But sometimes, its the force by which you react that takes your perspective and magnifies it.

Every Astros fan I ran into where fans of their team. But nearly every one of them wished my team luck in the game. Remember, my team is playing theirs. And here they are wishing my team luck in the game against theirs. Surely, they wanted to see the Astros beat the pants off the Reds. Probably just as bad as I wanted the Reds to win. That’s called being “classy” and having “sportsmanship” – something I cannot say for the two games I attended in St. Louis, nor for the twenty-plus games I have attended here to watch the Rangers.

But what about the Buccee’s crowd? Well, I chalk that one up to rampant consumerism, coupled with a lack of respect towards one’s fellow human beings when greed sets in. I went in to use the bathroom, and purchase a Slurpee and a packet of beef jerky. Somehow, I believe that one doesn’t have to be jostled, bumped into purposefully, or forced to walk into a display case to avoid running into someone yakking on a cell phone…especially not in a mega-gas station. And yet, each of the three times I have been in one of these behemoth gas stations, the crowds inside the store (not to mention the idiots pulling into and out of the gas pump lanes) are hardly cognizant of anything beyond their personal two-foot area of circumference.

::sigh:: I have a hope for human society. One where other people are respected for being who they are:  other human beings. Where people don’t have to hide their religious beliefs, their affections for their own loved ones. A world where people can respect and tolerate those that are dissimilar from themselves. And I have to wonder – how do we get there, when people can’t see two feet beyond their personal space in a gas station? Or can’t set aside the overt worship of a sporting team to be welcoming to other people visiting their city?

virginia_slims_01The old Virigina Slims cigarette ads had a saying attached to them: “You’ve come a long way, Baby!” It was aimed directly at women who had started to find their feet and stand up for their rights in this society. Perhaps I can make an ad for all of human society:  “We’ve got a long, long way to go, Baby!”