Republican Fear Mongering: What They Thought after the ’08 Election

This may be very, very old news to those of you who have been liberal for years, but I was raised by conservative parents in a deeply religious environment, so seeing this from the other side is still new to me sometimes. I was cleaning out my closet the other day, and I happen to keep my old diaries in there. One in particular, from back when I was in high school, gives a response to the 2008 election, when President Obama was first voted into office. It came at a point in my life when anything I said was basically a repeated opinion belonging to someone else. I hadn’t yet started to formulate my own opinions. Here’s what it says:

An old diary entry from 2008. It's very disturbing to remember the crazy things I used to think about the president.

An old diary entry from 2008. It’s very disturbing to remember the crazy things I used to think about the president.

11/4/08

Dear Diary,

It’s official. I heard the announcement on the radio: Obama was just elected president. I’m afraid. Mom says he’s just like Hitler, lots of Charisma, [why the capital letter, 2008 me?] terrible ideas. He’s going to remove all restrictions on abortion, then he’s going to start a 3rd hollocost [sic] (abortion being the 2nd). He’s going to chase down every white man and woman and child in the country and he’s going to kill us!

I don’t want to die! I want to grow up and write stories and go to college and get married and raise a family!

I want to marry the guy of my dreams! Have my fairy tale ending! Please don’t take that away from me!!!

Thank you for reading.

As tempting as it is to spend this entire post making fun of myself for starting a journal entry with “Dear Diary,” here’s why I think this find from my past is worthy of a post here: I genuinely believed these things because the adults in my life–the people who were supposed to instill some basic moral values and people skills in me–were saying them.

These opinions, in varying degrees of panic, were brought up at the dinner table, whenever my family watched or read the news, whenever I attended my Catholic homeschooling co op or other activities run by homeschoolers. This was my reality. These opinions were everywhere, and I rarely, if ever, heard anyone disagree with them. I was living in a conservative echo chamber, and with any echo chamber, it’s easy to see how one idea–in this case, the notion that a particular candidate is the worst possible candidate ever and shouldn’t be elected, can get blown out of proportion; it’s like a game of telephone.

Remember that game, where you sit in a line or a circle, and one kid says a phrase or a sentence, and passes it on to the next kid, who then passes it on to the next one? Somewhere down the line, it nearly always got changed, often because someone did it deliberately to be funny, but sometimes simply because someone misheard the message as it went down. All it takes is one exaggeration or other slight change in each retelling for a story or an idea to morph into something completely different. A brown bear becomes a mythical monster. A man becomes a god. A run-of-the-mill establishment politician running for president as a democrat becomes a black Hitler. Never mind the fact that historically, the comparison itself is ridiculous and in bad taste. Never mind that having concern for the way minorities are being treated is not the same as hating the majority group.

I will admit I had a tendency to be over dramatic in my diary entries, which were often the oh-my-god-that-cute-guy-looked-at-me nonsense that’s typical for someone in the grasp of adolescent hormones. But I tried not to lie. It’s very possible that these were just the absolute worst things that I heard, and I skipped over the more rational ones. But it’s the terrible things that stick in your head, isn’t it? Especially when you’re young. I got an education and thought my way out of that nonsense, but what about the kids who didn’t?

I don’t know where those rumors originated because of how oblivious I was to actual politics at the time. Did a conservative talk show host bring them up? Were they spreading through conservative news organizations? Were they simply the terrified whisperings of racist middle aged republicans? I don’t know. One thing I do know, though, is that the conservative echo chamber leads to fearmongering. It lead to panic about a “black supremacist” president, who in two terms has clearly not done anything to indicate such a mindset.

This is what some Republicans thought at the time. Surely not all, but some.

Having switched sides, I hope that I’m not living in a democratic, left-wing echo chamber now. I hope I’m evaluating my fears about a President Donald Trump or Ben Carson or Ted Cruz adequately. I believe that I understand that the worst that’s likely to happen with any of them is bad policy decisions, not world war III. We need to be aware of this human tendency to imagine the worst, and not turn these candidates into caricatures. They’re doing a good enough job of that by themselves already.

Do any of you have memories of the ’08 election and what the two sides were saying about each other? Were the campaigns then anything like the ones we’re seeing today? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Ignorance and the Baltimore Riots

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week was a bit crazy for me. It was finals week, and I had to write multiple long assignments while packing and moving out of my dormitory. Everything went smoothly, but I had a brief moment of frustration when my roommate’s family came by to help her move out.

In the middle of the conversation my roommate was having with her family about buying some things she needed, her mother said, “Well, I need toilet paper. We should just go riot. Everybody’s doing it.” She was being sarcastic of course, but that comment got my blood boiling.

I managed to sit down and try to focus on my homework, and I’m proud of myself for staying out of the conversation. My roommate’s family has said many ignorant things in the past in my presence, and one has to pick one’s battles for the sake of getting along with a roommate.

Considering the widespread media coverage of the situation in Baltimore, I knew that was what she was referring to, and her comment showed zero understanding of the nuances of the situation. Yes, people have rioted. Yes, violence is a bad thing. Yes, stealing, vandalism, and other typical riot crimes are all wrong. But cops killing people for reasons other than self-defense? That’s really bad. The frequent racial profiling by police that’s only now coming to light, is absolutely wrong and harmful, and I’m glad the media’s finally catching on. It erodes the trust citizens have in their government, and believe me, my trust in the government had already worn dangerously low. Thanks to police brutality, not only do we currently distrust the policy makers, we’re now also afraid of the enforcers. The people we’re supposed to call in an emergency have shown themselves to be untrustworthy.

Luckily, the police involved in Baltimore did not escape being charged. Whether they will be convicted or not remains to be seen, but at least now we know they will have to face charges for what they have done. We can’t continue to have police offers operating with complete immunity from punishment. It’s tragic that it seems to have taken multiple murders for this issue to be picked up by the media.

But then people like my roommate’s mother come around, and try to turn a complicated situation into cops and robbers. A friend of mine shared this picture below on social media, attempting to do the same thing:

Found on facebook

Found on Facebook

If the situation were as simple as this meme suggests, there’d be no reason to protest. This meme and others like it assumes that the entire situation can be boiled down to the notion that “People broke the law and want to get away with it.” That simply is not the case. Yes, some of the people who’ve been on the receiving end of police brutality have committed crimes. However, the police response to those crimes is what’s in question. Frankly, the police response has often not been appropriate. Time and again, the police, not the criminals as the meme suggests, have been the ones to escalate the situation to the point where a death occurred.

The death of Eric Garner is a perfect example. I’m sure you probably know about him but just in case I’ll sum it up briefly. He was stopped for a minor crime: selling cigarettes illegally. The police involved choked him to death in an attempt to arrest him. The (disturbing) video of his death can be easily found online through a google search, and while he seems extremely upset, he clearly makes no violent movements towards the officers except in self-defense. The officer who was clearly shown choking him ON VIDEO was not indicted.

In addition to police brutality, we’re seeing that the American criminal justice system overall, the system whose job it is to hold people accountable for what they’ve done, seems to be more interested in punishing civilians, particularly black civilians, than anyone else. The system is broken. The people who hold power within it are more concerned about protecting each other than they are about protecting the general public. To simplify the events in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York, and beyond, to a clear-cut case of crime and punishment is to completely ignore the facts of the situation.

Regardless of whether this racism and brutality is widespread or “just a couple of bad apples,” as many Republicans are saying, the officers involved need to be held accountable. Otherwise, we’re looking at a country where for a specific group of people the law does not apply, and for another group, the law is enforced violently. That’s not freedom. That’s not what America is supposed to stand for. I hated sitting quietly and typing a paper about William Wordsworth instead of turning around and telling my roommate’s mother that black lives matter. But ignorant people dislike being informed of their ignorance, and unfortunately in that situation, it was the right thing to do.

As always, feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy