My country right or wrong has become my party right or wrong. There are pitfalls in its original version—such as extreme nationalism—but during war it has merit: To mobilize a population towards a common goal against a hostile invader. It can be toxic, however, in a country with a two-party political system.
How did we get here? It doesn’t seem it was that long ago when everyone agreed all politicians were self-serving, greedy, and not to be trusted. Even in the ’50s and ’60s this concept was so accepted that Saturday morning children’s cartoons got into the act with Foghorn Leghorn, a loud-mouthed barnyard rooster modeled on the quintessential gasbag politician. I first noticed a shifting of sensibilities during the George W. Bush presidency, and it wasn’t so much a lifting up of him as it was a denigrating, via infantile characterizations, of anyone who belonged to his party. One example stands out. Some nameless source was quoted in the newspaper: “When you walk down the street you can always tell a Republican because they are the ones who look angry.” Well, as my mother used to say: Only idiots smile all the time. But more to the point, whether you’re on a busy city avenue or small-town Main Street it doesn’t take incisive wit to know that all kinds of people feel all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons at any given moment. And mind you this was years before Hillary Clinton and her “basket of deplorables” broadside. I remember another observation, snarky, like Clinton’s, being posited during the 2016 campaign: “Trump voters are the only ones who are happy.” No polls were cited, no anecdotes offered, just a generalization. A branding. Whether grumpy or happy it’s all rather dopey—a way to let you know that you’re in with the “in crowd”—or you’re not. The “soul” of our nation? Apparently, it’s stuck in high school.
Political party loyalty now smacks of a Be True to Your School sensibility. Little wonder genuine political satire has been replaced by resident class clowns in the form of late-night comedians who, instead of skewering politics in general, designate the opposition—and that would be Republicans—as the fat kid with glasses “we” all hate.
At the same time, political partisanship is creeping into actual high school—and earlier grades. There’s much talk about how bringing LGBT issues into the schools is really just a form of “grooming” kids for the gay life style, and presumably for the gay adults who will take advantage of them. Perhaps something important is being missed by focusing on the salacious aspects. Are kids being groomed? Absolutely, but the question is, groomed for what? The insinuation is it’s for sex, but I disagree. They’re being groomed as a voting bloc by today’s Democratic Party, which has made identity politics its stock and trade and the cornerstone of its vote-gathering strategy. And it is cynical, because most of these kids will find themselves swept up into a supposedly oppressed group (very hip these days) that they don’t have a true affinity for, and one not as easy to part with as a dumb tattoo or pink hair. It becomes a lifestyle, not simply a fashion statement. And for those who do have an actual affinity, whatever that may or may not be based on, let them come to it on their own in adulthood.
But wait, what about books with graphic depictions of gay sex finding their way into schools? That is trolling kids for sex, and it’s being ignored by a political class of madmen in favor of “transgender care” for “gay youth,” passed off as “fighting prejudice.” Thank God parents are waking up to how Man/Boy Love Association types have infiltrated their school boards, and are now taking back control. Back to the subject of political grooming: While the adults are regressing into high school-clique mentality, children are being coaxed into life-defining social identities just so the party that fights for the little guy has an endless supply of little guys to fight for—and providing the little guys with an identifiable supply of oppressors who, Democrats claim, are hell bent on robbing them of their rights and destroying our democracy simply because they are presenting an opposing argument. Republicans are guilty too in that they also benefit from anger and division, or as both parties like to call it: Voter enthusiasm.
I’d like to finish by telling a story about addressing hate. It took place in a saloon of questionable repute, which of course all the best saloons are. On the bar stools next to me were patrons engaged in a philosophical discussion. One asked: What is your definition of heaven? The one who answered had a parochial background and so began by saying: “Sister Mary Margaret said such things are unwise to delve into, however . . . I imagine heaven will be like the very best party you’ve ever been to. And it’s not just because of great food and drink, although there’s that. The really fabulous thing are the people. Everybody is at the top of their game, and you’d never expect it! Who knew Fred from accounting had such a collection of jokes! Who would have guessed that Ethel from down the hall had traveled the world and seen so much, or that dour Bill from the dry cleaners was such a witty story teller? To see all these folks who I thought I’d known so well in a completely different light is eye-opening! And I’m on fire too! All my jokes are landing, I’m a big hit. We are all thrilled to be in each other’s company and having the best time ever! But in life everyone there hated my guts and I hated theirs.”