Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My virtual journey to the land of the politically unhinged

It started one day last week when I was reading a Facebook discussion about the latest from the Trump administration. It was the time of the infamous ban on immigration from certain countries; his prayer breakfast ask for better ratings for The Apprentice; his angry and inappropriate conversations with world leaders; and his Black History Month statement with the astonishing reference to Frederick Douglass.

Most of the people in the Facebook discussion — progressives all — were expressing various degrees of outrage, shock and embarrassment. It was the mention of embarrassment that raised the subject of people in the US who had voted for Trump: do you think those people are regretting their vote? Do you think they're feeling remorse and will be joining the resistance as time proceeds?

It was right about then that a commenter showed up to say something like, "Let's give him some time. Every new president has to learn the ropes and he should be given the same chance as others."

This is not an uncommon view on the Internet but I was surprised to see it in this particular discussion. So I popped over to his place to see what kind of fellow he was. I took a look at his profile — he's a Canadian — and checked out a few of the discussions on his own page. Nothing outstanding. Some of his friends looked intriguing though so I took a ramble around. The people I clicked on were American but apart from that, completely random — I chose them either because I found they were interesting looking or they made a comment that invited further investigation.

It's hard to come up with numbers but I clicked on dozens of different people starting with that fellow and moving through whole colonies and communities of his friends and their friends and so on and so on. Most people don't use tight privacy measures and all of the people I checked out had hundreds — some had a few thousand — Facebook friends. I read many many discussions on their pages and saw little disagreement among the participants so I think it's fair to say that I managed to get a wee taste, at least, of the political climate.

The people I chose were not wild-eyed, tobacco-chewin' reprobates. Many, but not all, of my choices were women — women who garden and who lay a lovely Thanksgiving table and have grandchildren. They're church-goers and they quote the Bible regularly. There were quite a few from Texas but also people from Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, California, Maine and I'm sure a few other states I'm forgetting.

Having spent a few days following a variety of their discussions, I can assure you of one thing: they do not regret voting for Donald Trump. On the contrary, they love everything he's done so far and they're looking forward to whatever outrageous thing he does next. They couldn't be happier about his cabinet and judicial choices and the harder the Democrats fight against the appointments, the more gleeful and gloating these Facebookers are.

I can see something else very clearly: their love and admiration and support for Trump has risen to the top of their political lives but it's built on a foundation that is solid and enduring. That is their malevolent, toxic, vicious hatred for President Obama.

The accusations of Satanism are just the beginning. On most of the pages, when he's mentioned, he's referred to as Barack HUSSEIN Obama II. The hatred of Obama is matched only by the hatred and fear of Muslims which is never far from the surface of the discussion. It is also deeply rooted in racism and full of words and images that I can't get out of my head and that I'm certainly not going to report here. I will only say that more than once — many times, in fact — I have seen references to "our" America (quotation marks theirs) and I've often seen a picture like this. . .

. . .with the statement, "Thank God, we have a real family in the White House now."

Now I wasn't that surprised to see and experience the hate. I've always known it was there. Anyone who follows US politics knows it was there. I admit that I was taken aback by the extent of the virulence of some of it and there are plenty of posts, memes and pictures I wish I could un-see. I'll have to hope it fades.

If I wasn't surprised by the hate, I was surprised by the love. I don't know if it's really love but it's expressed that way.

"I love President Trump so much," was one simple post I saw from a woman in Baton Rouge. There were no comments following it, just a series of sweet little heart icons. It made me sick, to be honest. I never thought someone could feel that way about Trump. But it wasn't the last time I saw that sentiment expressed. It was all over the place. It made me wonder how people could feel so differently about one man and his actions? How could Trump be mocked and ridiculed, scorned and despised by one group of people while another group swoons with happiness over every scandalous action he takes and every atrocious word he utters?

Two reasons: It's possible that the real divide in the US is where your information comes from. The Trump-lovers are not getting their information from the New York Times or the Washington Post or the LA Times or CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC — any of the outlets that Trump himself calls the "dirty lying media." Source of all fake news.

And if Fox News and Breitbart disappeared tomorrow, Trump-lovers would not be left high and dry looking for news. There are certainly hundreds — probably thousands — of "news" sources out there ready to pick up the slack. The appointments Trump makes, the things he says and does, and the things that others say about him are "reported" so differently as to be unrecognizable. When they read the beautiful things about Betsy Devos' life and beliefs and then read about the obscene, repugnant teachers unions and civil rights groups who spoke against her appointment — they're convinced. They love Betsy and anyone who's so kind and so generous will save and protect the children from the perverts who make up the education system.

So yes, media make a difference. But maybe not the biggest difference.

This picture has been going around in various communities. It's a big joke in some of them but believe me, to the people I've been visiting with, it's no joke. They not only accept this version of what's happening in the Oval Office, they believe it was ordained. One person posted, "If only you knew a little more about the REAL US history, you would know that Trump is a freaking force of nature sent by GOD to defeat evil! End of story!" The history he's referring to is slavery. He posts a picture of Jesus signing a bill then, a few breaths later, he launches into some of the most disgusting hate language I've seen all week.

So I think this is all pretty complicated. I wrote this because I became convinced that there are probably many people who voted for Trump who are not sorry and who love him and his presidency. I've now come to believe that if anyone tries to remove him, there will be hell to pay.