As the days continue in the saga of the new American political circus, I am finding that more and more of the people in my social media circles have either come into a strong position of standing together for the upturn of the insanity that has infected our government, or for those few who were supporters of the insanity, most have fallen away into silence, or simply removed themselves from my circles altogether. The latter has, on occasion, been disappointing. One particular situation comes to mind in which a man who shared many of my own real-world social connections had begun to engage in dissenting conversation with me regarding my opposing viewpoint. While we clearly had very different values and views in regard to political and social systems, for me, the conversation had a lot of potential for mutual growth and understanding. Our exchanges were civil, mostly respectful, and somewhat informative – though my very open nature was met with his own unwillingness to lay his beliefs on the table, as he feared a backlash from the community as a whole, I believe. Just as I was preparing to reach out to him and invite him to a larger, and more formal conversation about the issues we are facing as a nation, I discovered that he had severed our social media connection.
What continues to surprise me is that there are still many people in the conservative world who seem simply unwilling to consider the bigger picture of what is arising in this time of dissent. They seem hell bent on simply upholding their values, speaking louder and louder, and doing what they can to force their ways on a majority that is simply not in agreement. The very idea of a mutually respectful conversation where true listening and sharing of values and ideas can occur is apparently quite threatening. Instead of the willingness to enter dialogue, the defensiveness of some conservatives seems to be digressing more and more into a mockery of the values of other people, carrying the maturity and humor of the average 13 year old boy.
One such meme I observed recently among these folks, who I am going to call adolescent conservatives here, involved the cartoonish depiction of a number of moderate to liberal democratic leaders, calling them “ranters” and implying that they were nuts. The very colorful label they have adopted, “libtards,” was of course prominently placed in the meme, and I’m sure that all who see it are laughing as loudly as they would after an especially colorful round of “pull my finger.” Curious, and ultimately hoping to gain some insight into the perspective of these people, I googled “libtard,” and found a great wealth of information on Urban Dictionary:
“A libtard wants to live in a fantasy world (in which life is the way that they WISH IT WAS) as opposed to dealing with life the way it actually is. The most idealistic libtard envisions a time when science/technology and Socialism will eliminate all poverty, hunger, war, disease, injustice, unemployment and prejudice… Most libtards subscribe to the notion that “people are basically good,” and build their foundation for activism and “improving the human condition” on that faulty premise… Metaphorically speaking, a libtard is a sheep who thinks that their grasp of diplomatic nuance or metaphysical sensitivity will prevent their flock from being devoured by the world’s Islamic/Communist wolves.”
And there it is. Also equally enlightening on the Urban Dictionary page is a list of specific fears and grievances that these adolescent conservatives hold as their values. Given that the values that they hold are so diametrically opposed to the reality that I live within, and have lived within for my entire adult life, it seems helpful to me to really take in and consider these openly stated beliefs. For those of us who are in a constant state of shock that there are *actually* people in our own country that could even consider supporting a regime filled with such hatred and lack of integrity, I believe that taking these ideas in can be helpful in coming to understand those who are so different from us, as well as what kind of thinking we are up against as we defend our democracy. Here’s a partial list of the “libtard” agenda, taken from the Urban Dictionary’s page ~ with bold italics for the quotation, and responses in regular typeface:
- The conservation of the environment over the conservation of the American economy. Let’s consider for a moment which of these is dependent on the other. The American economy requires a viable environmental state in which life can be sustained in order for it to exist at all. Not only that, but the environment – aka the entire natural world, including humans – is more than a simple commodity and resource for Americans to harvest and decimate based on personal whim. Other humans, other nations, and other life forms are equally and fundamentally interconnected in this world, and each part is undeniably impacted by the actions of every other part. Ultimately, the American economy is simply an idea within which we are all living in various states of participation, and LIFE did in fact exist far before the nation we call America was even imagined. For humans to continue to exist here, we must wake the fuck up to the reality of cause and effect, and face the results of the past century of ignorant, self-interested, and destructive choices we have made. If we don’t, the effect will be the ejection of humanity from this beautiful, diverse planet. Species extinction doesn’t exclude us, though the horrific ways that we might initiate that are certain to cause our exit to be rife with unprecedented ugliness and suffering.
- The abolition of individual freedom. Wow, really? I see it as quite the opposite. In this current political environment, it seems that a culture of personal, individual freedom for the wealthy white Christians is being defended in more overt ways than ever before in my lifetime. And at the same time, personal, individual freedoms of pretty much *everyone else* is on the chopping block. Person of color? LGBTQ? Non-Christian? Woman? Poor? Differently abled? Somehow, in the adolescent conservative mind, protecting the rights of these people is felt as a theft of rights from the wealthy white Christian faction, and often the poor white Christian faction as well. So many of these people believe that their own freedom has been violated when they are barred from hateful speech and actions that are threatening to these other target groups. Ultimately, the adolescent conservatives hold fast to a fundamental sense of superiority and entitlement that has allowed them to believe that when those who are different from them are allowed to exist freely according to their own values and principles, it is a threat to their own freedom.
- The teaching of HATE (superficially disguised as “Women’s Studies,” “African Studies,” etc.). This one is a stretch for me to comprehend. Hate of who, white people? Hate of men? Hate of Christians? Hate of conservatives? For these adolescent conservatives, I imagine that teaching the true history of abuse, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and ongoing oppression for women, people of color, and others can possibly be imagined into a doctrine of hatred toward those who are being outed as the abusers, discriminators, and oppressors. There is ultimately either a lot of shame, or a lot of denial in this kind of thinking. Ultimately, bringing these conversations out of the closet and into the mainstream, and into academia, certainly initiates a powerful movement toward learning from our collective mistakes, and rewriting our current reality in a new way. But when these trends of abuse, discrimination, and oppression are ultimately still being upheld by those who believe in their own moral or ethnic superiority over those they prefer to dominate, the rage and shadow emerges. The haters project their hatred onto those who are merely stepping into their rightful place in the conversation and in the culture. As our collective tolerance for racism, xenophobia, sexism, and other forms of discrimination is dismantled more and more, these people are called on their shit, and are forced to change. That’s probably very uncomfortable.
- The establishment of one religion (with no personal accountability), OR the abolition of all religion. Actually, I can’t think of *any* group more dedicated to the world domination of one single religion than evangelical Christians. Both currently, and historically over many centuries, the Christians have done their best to infiltrate every corner of the globe in the name of cultural conquest and conversion. They have attempted to dominate Indigenous peoples on every continent, declaring anyone who is a non-believer to be worthy of servitude, slavery, torture, and death. If you doubt this, spend even five minutes reading through a list of Papal Bulls beginning in the 11th century. If the increasing number of agnostics, atheists, and undefined spiritual people are any indicator, it is true that more and more people are leaving traditional religions, either with a profound disinterest in systems of belief that are rooted in punishment, guilt, and shame (though they may profess to be built upon love and truth), an unwillingness to blindly believe mythical stories that require the abandonment of human intelligence, or the desire to embrace the sacredness in everything without all the dogma and pomp. That movement, however, has little to do with the “liberal agenda” and more to do with people who have had enough of the bullshit of religion, and exists across the political spectrum for sure. It takes only one minute of serious inquiry into the current administration to see that adherence to Christian faith is utterly absent from all those in positions of authority, if one is to consider the actual Bible and teachings of Jesus as a determinant.
- The disproportionate taxation of citizens “who have more money than they need.” I think that most progressive people would hope that in the name of basic human goodwill and responsibility that those with slightly more would be willing to give to those with very little. But ultimately, most of us would be perfectly satisfied with the whole spectrum of citizens being taxed at exactly the same rate. If a family in poverty must pay a certain percentage of their income as taxes, it only makes sense that a wealthy person, and indeed, a bazillion dollar corporation, must pay their percentage of taxes as well. This is a basic civic duty. And yet, the name of the game ~ especially in the Republican Party ~ is to do everything possible to dismantle taxation altogether. The reality is that we all share some basic amenities that are currently an indispensable part of our culture, and which we all benefit from directly or indirectly. While it is noble to assume that people would *want* to support these basic amenities, the truth is that the wealthiest people and corporations are constantly looking for a way out through tax breaks and loopholes. They take far more than their fair share, and they are undeniably benefitted by the systems that taxation supports, but they somehow believe they should be excused from their role in supporting these things. Ultimately, it comes down to greed, and the desire to stockpile money, invest in lavish and extravagant things, and live in luxury on the backs of the working class. As many of these adolescent conservatives align with Christianity in identity, if not in practice, I offer two excerpts from the gospel of Proverbs: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. — Proverbs 3:27-28 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. — Proverbs 11:25 If the Bible declares it, and Christianity is the dominant religion of the land, doesn’t it make sense that the people who hold fast to that doctrine would follow it?
- The filing of specious law suits in order to thwart the will of the people. The specific law suit that was referred to in this reference was one where the people of California voted to bar all illegal immigrants from receiving any public support, including public education and healthcare. Though the law was passed in a majority vote during an election, the enforcement of it was barred in an injunction, and never went to trial, ultimately allowing for the continuation of illegal immigrants being able to receive support in the form of public education and healthcare. Now, as most of us have already observed, the adolescent conservatives were the ones cheering when a young woman from El Salvador was taken from a hospital where she was receiving treatment for a terminal brain tumor, and denied any further treatment while being locked up and awaiting deportation. The issue of illegal immigration is a rich topic that challenges us to really define how we wish to go forward as a country, having a long history of colonialism, oppression, and injustice in the name of this thing we call America. Though many adolescent conservatives deny it, the reality is that any one of us who is not a full-blooded Indigenous North American is the child of illegal immigrants. Some came through the entitled desire to steal land from the Indigenous people. Others came through forced oppression. But very few of us can truly claim this land as those who have the fundamental right to be here. And now that the white Christian culture has exerted its presumed right place in the social order, there is a strong amnesia of our history.
- The abolition of all private property rights. I don’t even know what to say to this one. I don’t know any progressive, Democrat, or other liberal person who actually has any investment in this idea. Could this come from the idea that the government has the right to regulate certain things for the safety and well being of all citizens? Is this ultimately about gun ownership and the belief that certain things that are used *only* to cause harm should be regulated to make sure that insane people aren’t stockpiling weapons? Given the number of mass shootings executed by white males in the US, as opposed to foreigners and immigrants, only the most stubborn and fearful conservatives could continue to believe that guns should not be regulated at all, living in utter denial of the reality of gun violence in this country. Beyond the gun ownership situation, though, I have no idea what this could refer to.
- The establishment of a Socialist “utopia.” If this means a country that uses its tax money to provide education, healthcare, and other positive contributions to the people of the country, then YES, hell yes, God yes, we do indeed want to create a Socialist utopia. Having people who are educated and can contribute in a meaningful way to society is good for EVERYONE. Having people who have good jobs and can support their families is good for EVERYONE. Having children who are well fed, safe, and supported in learning is good for EVERYONE. Having a society that is taken care of during times of sickness and injury is good for EVERYONE. Realigning basic human needs as social wellness issues instead of business issues is ultimately based in moral integrity. What continues to baffle me is the number of poor, struggling, white Christian families who oppose these things, calling them “handouts,” and preferring to continue trudging on in their misery than stepping into the re-imagining of our culture as a place that is morally invested in making sure that ALL people are well taken care of simply because we DO have the capacity to do it, both financially and logistically. The only argument that opposes this seems to be the one that believes that other people are “not my problem” and that it’s just too expensive to care for each other. Oh, but the bazillions of dollars that we spend on war, war that leads nowhere… And of course, there is full denial of the numerous countries in our world that provide these things for their people – many of the most highly developed and wealthy countries in the world – and the ways that this has allowed people to thrive mentally, emotionally, physically, and economically.
- The legalization of marijuana. All I can say is that the person who posted the meme that inspired this article is a confessed frequent pot smoker who procures it illegally. I could go on about this, but it seems to make more sense to bring this piece to a temporary close.
As there are so many more elements to the adolescent conservative rhetoric around the “libtard” movement, this conversation will be continued in next week’s blog.