Disunited States of Outrage

Liberalism, by historical definition, has meant generosity — not only generosity of money and charity, of public welfare and the public good but more importantly the generosity of spirit. This has expressed an attitude of openness and inclusion, an equal treatment of all, including perceived others and outsiders along with those perceived as different or not fitting in: minorities, immigrants, and the poor; the underprivileged, outcasts, and the sick; the differently abled, neurotypical, and gender nonconforming; etc. That is the noble ideal that makes liberals feel all warm and fuzzy. On this basis, I’ve been sharply critical of the liberal class, aligned as it is with the DNC elite, for lack of understanding, empathy, and compassion toward those they perceive as their ideological enemies and their social inferiors. It’s an us-versus-them groupthink with a patina of liberalish rhetoric. Ideals, when betrayed, lead to cynicism and that is what we now have.

Then again, the liberal class is an odd term in reference to the academics, professionals, investors, business owners, and politicians who are economically comfortable or even wealthy. Many in the upper classes are not necessarily liberal. Meanwhile, the vast majority of self-identified liberals and those holding liberal views are lower class with many of them being downright poor. The liberal class, as an identity, not only excludes conservatives but also most liberals. This is maybe how liberalism has gotten a bad name and become a slur. Of course, there is an equivalent conservative class that silences, ignores, and dismisses most conservatives (and liberals) perceived as below them. The fact of the matter is class war has its own ideology that is independent of stereotypes of left versus right. Still, for a left-liberal, it’s the bad behavior of supposed ‘liberals’ that hits one in the gut, in how it undermines the entire moral vision of liberalism.

There are liberals who are offended when someone uses the same kind of criticism against vegans, feminists, etc that they themselves so carelessly lob against those on the right. They find it easy to identity with the members of their in-group while not taking seriously the suffering and grievances of those perceived as outsiders, as if everyone else deserves what they get. Sadly, many respectable Democratic partisans blame poor whites for the Donald Trump presidency and then portray them as a caricature of white trash, although interestingly the political right often goes along with this same rhetorical framing conflating class and ideology. The truth is most of Trump voters are middle class, not even working class and certainly not poor. Most poor Americans, white or otherwise, simply don’t vote or participate in politics and activism. The ignorance about the poor and indifference toward them is sad, sometimes downright infuriating.

There are those of us on the principled political left — Jimmy Dore, Glenn Greenwald, Ralph Nader, etc — who are used to being the punching bags of liberals (or what goes for liberal within corporatist politics), just as we are intimately familiar with the ire of the political right. We take our bruises and punch back. I’m one of the first to defend the poor of all races, by looking at the demographic data and pointing to the history of class war, as there is a lot more going on here that has brought us to this point. Then again, I’m one of those crazy left-wingers who gets why some otherwise good people would vote for a less-than-good demagogue and charlatan like Donald Trump, similar to why some otherwise good people would vote for corrupt elites like Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden. I know the attraction of lesser evil voting. To an even greater extent, I grasp the gut-level frustration that led to some to vote for Trump as an act of pure desperation, even as they admitted he was a corrupt swamp creature, for they saw him as a bully who would fight the other bullies or else blow the whole thig up. Then there are those on the other side who throw their lot in with the Clinton Democrats as what they think of as a last stand against authoritarianism — I get that as well.

I understand and empathize. Everyone has their reasons. I don’t want to hate upon anyone, to condemn them for making imperfect choices in an oppressive system that ensures all options allowed are bad and worse still. I’m not in a position to stand in judgment. I’ve felt the same frustration and anger, sometimes a naked sense of threat as authoritarianism digs its claws deeper into American society. Yet my offering of fellow feeling is not always returned. Such is the way of compassion in a world darkened by fear and anxiety, hatred and outrage. People are quick to see enemies even in potential friends and allies. Even familial bond is no guarantee of mutal understanding, much less kindness and forgiveness.

One person in my family is a poor white guy on disability who takes care of his sick father. He is libertarian-minded, lives in a conservative state, and probably supports Trump. He unfriended me on Facebook because I said something positive about the Black Lives Matters protests. It’s not as if I advocated violence, destruction, or anarchy; and I made clear that my position was as a proponent of free speech in the face of authoritarian force that wishes to take that right away. Another family member is similar except in being middle class. He has been even more vocally libertarian in the past, and yet recently he advocated a violent police state response to ending the same protests, in arguing he’d rather have authoritarianism than anarchy. What goes for libertarianism is about as uninspiring as what often gets portrayed as liberalism. Oppressed Americans like me, according to other oppressed Americans, have become the enemy to be defeated at all costs in order to fight oppression — I’m not sure how that is supposed to work exactly. As family, I know these two people fairly well and we share many interests. They are good people who care about their loved ones and communities. But their minds have been shut down and their hearts grown cold. It is the saddest thing I’ve experienced in a long time, as it is personal.

This civil conflict is taken as total war where one side must win and the other side eliminated. Yet if the police treated them and their loved ones in a similar oppressive fashion, they’d likely be advocating terrorism, revolution, and overthrowing the government while proclaiming ‘liberty’. But as long as those other people (minorities, immigrants, poor urbanites, etc) elsewhere are being oppressed, not them and their own, it is perfectly fine as those other people had it coming. Apparently, to their fearful mindset, it is as if there is a limited supply of moral concern with any compassion and kindness offered to blacks or leftists being a direct attack on whites and right-wingers. Equality, fairness, and justice is assumed as an impossibility. But to my mind, this self-enforced division of the citizenry is how oppressive rule is maintained. These right-wing family members, both living in a rural conservative state, don’t understand that they share the same basic problems of oppressive class war as do urban blacks, working class liberals, etc. Along with Democratic voters I know who are also family members, if my Trump-supporting family could get past the media narratives and propagandistic rhetoric, they would discover they have common grievances with most other Americans across various perceived divides. They’d come to realize they aren’t alone and isolated. If this can’t happen among family, what hope is there to be found in the greater society?

This same outrage has pulled other individuals in my family toward supporting Trump, including some who didn’t vote for him last time in cleaving to their identity as old school Republicans. The Cold War rhetoric of commie fear-mongering has worked them up into a state of terror, as if a Biden presidency will unleash a Stalinist takeover, not to mention the postmodern neo-Marxism and cultural Bolshevism. Some of these otherwise moderate conservatives are rightfully feeling mad about the corporate media shut down of the Hunter Biden scandal, although no more pissed off than us left-wingers who have received similar or worse treatment over the years and decades. A total lockdown of corporate media has kept left-wingers silenced for generations. But these right-wingers take this silence as a sign that we freedom-loving leftists don’t exist or don’t matter, instead taking the corporate whores among the Clinton Democrats as representative of the political left — a truly sad state of affairs.

Sure, the DNC has its tentacles in the corporate media, as does the GOP. Yet as Fox News might tell part of the truth about Hunter Biden, they are just as quick to lie to their viewers about the same kind of corruption and legalized bribery in the Trump family. The propaganda model of media is not a new phenomenon, as many left-wingers have been protesting it for a very long time. But to many right-wingers, particularly among the white middle class, it’s as if they are only now discovering that the corporate media serves a corporatist power structure that doesn’t give a fuck about truth or about the average American. They are being red-pilled but lack any historical context to realize this is an ongoing pattern of censorship that, in many ways, was far worse during the Cold War. My God! Just look at the Operation Mockingbird in the 1970s and Otto Reich’s white propaganda in the 1980s.

But to the outraged mind, whatever is the most recent outrage is the worst outrage that has ever happened. Outrage eclipses any greater awareness in enclosing the mind a mystifying fog of historical amnesia, which is the entire reason the ruling elite use the corporate media to incite outrage in the first place. Republicans and Trump supporters, mostly white and middle class, are shocked to realize that they are treated with the same propaganda and censorship as everyone else, that are treated as equal to poor minorities — God forbid! It is disturbing to find out that one’s racial and class privilege doesn’t guarantee special treatment, after all. They have no sense of the historical oppression so many other Americans have suffered for generations and centuries. The censorship in the corporate media pales in comparison to the censorship they’ve internalized in their own minds. Instead of it being a point of solidarity among the oppressed, competing victim identities are played against each other, as is the purpose of divide and conquer. Outrage shuts down empathy and disempowers the public.

Despite what they’ve been told by the right-wing corporate media, these right-wingers aren’t the first to feel frustration toward oppressive injustice and censorship. Nice to meet you, comrade! Welcome to the reality many of us have been living in for our entire lives! I felt that frustration about bipartisan attacks on Ralph Nader in 2000. The corporate media shut him out back then and, ever since, has continued to silence candidates that are third party and independent. If you think right-libertarians have a tough time competing in the duopoly of a one-party state, try being a left-winger like a Green supporter. Right-libertarians at least have powerful plutocrats like the Koch family funding them. To return to the 2000 election, consider how bizarre and disheartening it is that both parties and all of the corpoate media, from Fox News to MSNBC, refused to report on the stolen election, even though the data shows that Democrats won both the popular vote and the electoral college. The Supreme Court defied all pretenses of democracy and simply appointed George W. Bush as the supreme leader. The Democrats submitted to this power play, since the transpartisan ruling elite doesn’t care all that much about which party wins as long as the system itself maintains an illusion of legitimacy, thus allowing bipartisan backroom deals to continue in defense of coporatocracy and plutocracy. The only unforgivable sin of Donald Trump is his having destroyed that legitimacy and shown it to be the fraud it always was.

About protests, look back to the anti-war movement under the Bush regime. It was the single largest protest movement in the history of the United States and the world, having united multiple ideological groups on the right and left, not to mention including the citizens of numerous countries joining in their own protests against American imperialism. Unlike the Vietnam War that required many years of failure before public opposition formed, protests against the Iraq War were organized at a large-scale before the war even began. Most Americans opposed the war right from the start, but that didn’t stop the corporate media from being unified in their attack o peace activists while beating the war drums in service to the military-industrial complex. Many of the people now acting so outraged were perfectly fine with the workings of that propaganda machine. Likewise, there was more recent bipartisan support from the corporate media in spinning state propaganda by falsely reporting on Syrian gas attacks that blamed the government, despite the evidence pointing to other actors. None of the corporate media has ever admitted to this propaganda, much less apologized for being willfully wrong, and so most Americans remain ignorant.

Do you want to feel outrage? There is no lack of reasons. Let’s not be selective in our outrage by only getting worked up when we are personally harmed and our own views suppressed. This country was built on outrage and has been continuously fueled by outrage. There is a reason or rather many reasons Americans have been in a near continuous state of protest and revolt for centuries. There is plenty to be outraged about and there always has been. But we shouldn’t let outrage darken our minds in lashing out against fellow Americans, against even our own neighbors and family. Outrage without compassion will rot the soul and destroy the public good. We need to deal with our own damage, not continually projecting it out onto the world with trauma leading to ever more trauma, with each generation of victims becoming victimizers. Arrogance, haughtiness, and righteousness, makes us vulnerable to manipulation. We aren’t right-wingers and left-wingers, Democrats and Republicans. We are all Americans. We are all human. Our fate is shared but so is, if we choose, our sense of hope and promise.

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