It’s so strange out here.
How did this happen? I’m a progressive. I see government as a tool of the people, and I think things like food and healthcare should be basic human rights. What am I doing out here, shunned and exiled by all my liberal friends and keeping it a secret how relieved I am that Hillary Clinton lost the election?
They all treat me like I’ve lost my mind. Maybe I have. One minute I was cheering and whooping with delight at the rapier wit of Jon Stewart and John Oliver, and the next I’m hearing an audio clip by Alex Jones and thinking “Hmm… well, he has got a point there.”
"The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation" - the late, great, Terence McKenna pic.twitter.com/VMnD8scv5h— The Higherside Chats (@HighersideChats) May 14, 2013
What a plot twist. I can’t watch CNN or NBC anymore without wanting to throw something at the TV like a demented old lady, and when casual acquaintances roll their eyes and talk about how they can’t believe what’s happening in America I struggle to override the urge to say “Well, at least we don’t have to go to war with Russia! Plus hey, no more rigged primaries!”
Oh God, the primaries. That’s when this all started. My lefty tribe was fine with me supporting Bernie Sanders, but they saw him as at best a Plan A, with Hillary being the obvious second-best choice if my fairytale candidate fell through. Once it became clear how horribly the DNC and the media were treating him, though, I started realizing more and more that he was a completely different creature than her, and by the time the DNC leaks confirmed it all, I couldn’t understand how people were even mentioning these two candidates in the same breath. When it became clear that they’d shut my Bernie out of the presidency, I’d seen enough and learned enough to lock me into total opposition to all things Clinton for the rest of my life.
It was such a frustrating experience, once Hillary forced her way into the nomination. Most of my lefty tribe went one way, and they could not for the life of them understand why the rest of us refused to follow. They all agreed with each other, everyone on TV was telling them they were right, their perspective was being validated by everyone from the Washington Post to the New York Times, and there was really nothing in their world telling them they might be wrong apart from their weird friend babbling frantically about Julian Assange and no-fly zones.
A really concerning picture is emerging from the WikiLeaks emails (yes, they’re still being released and they get more gobsmacking by the day). In one particular attachment back from 2007, John Podesta and billionaire businessman George Soros outline an Orwellian plan to capture the deep-blue liberal progressive agenda and funnel it into a self-reinforcing “echo chamber” by creating a safe space where progressive ideas get reinforced through artificial grassroots organizations and think-tanks so they can “control the political discourse.”
I was reading this thing and two thoughts came to mind — Oh! That’s what Karl Rove did to Republicans. Is that why Democrats sound like Republicans now? And — that’s why I feel like I’m on the other side of a wall from my friends and family. That’s the wall of the echo chamber. I’m on the other side, floating around out here with all the deplorables, people who read Breitbart, people who love guns and trucks and beer and stuff. Not a green smoothie to be found. I don’t even know if I could get a chai latte out here if I tried.
I mean I’m not alone, there’s definitely a small but solid group of progressives, and we’re all staring at each other wide-eyed and whispering things like, “What is this place?” and “I watched Fox News this morning… and I liked it!”
It’s really, really weird. I don’t know if you remember, but I recall that in 2007, folks on the political left were gentle souls who were well-read, well-considered, and highly cynical of the press and power. We weren’t good at soundbites and we weren’t good at shouting people down, and our conversations were littered with statistics and facts. We were very live-and-let-live and didn’t like to impose our worldview on people, and in any case, our worldview was very nuanced so it took a curious soul to bring us into the political discourse.
We were called bleeding hearts because we wanted to do the right thing by everyone. Fair elections and no one being above the law was a hallmark. Anti-war and anti-corporatism and anti-corruption, and very anti-right, obviously; an anti-abortionist like Tim Kaine would have been a deal-breaker for us. We were pro First Amendment and always harping on about how Fox News was just propaganda for the right. Being from the left, the Russians were not scary to us. Julian Assange was emerging as a hero of the left for his work with bringing transparency to government.
News Flash, Democrats: You’ve Become Everything You Hate https://t.co/FNNjMkDk2D— Daniel Buswell (@UvKLvr47) October 19, 2016
Spring forward to 2016, and the left is unrecognizable to me now. People upset that the election wasn’t rigged for them like they were promised, calling for Assange’s assassination, shouting down evidence as “conspiracy theory,” happily spouting the CNN propaganda as fact, doing ridiculous things like red-baiting, signing petitions to override the election results, and using a weird hyper-morality to justify their views, one where sexist comments are a deal-breaker, but sabotaging democracy and drumming up conflict with a nuclear superpower is just fine, dandy, normal stuff.
And the whole time they’re telling us all this stuff in an infuriatingly snide, condescending “Of course it’s this way you silly child” tone as they dismiss our concerns and fears without listening to them, which secretly made us all the more happy to see their candidate cast down in defeat. And now they’re all huffy and indignant, protesting in outrage that such a thing could happen, and anyone who disagrees with them is a racist, a fascist and a misogynist.
At no time during any of this have we been able to pass so much as a note over the towering wall of the echo chamber, so completely encompassing are the lie generators. When their stories are being validated from every corner of their personal world, any conflicting narrative is seen as an outrageous heresy.
But Thanksgiving is coming up. Family members will talk to each other. Won’t they? That’s what it’s all about, right? Maybe an environment of mutual love and respect can allow some real communication to begin to take place.
The old political lines are shifting in America. New alliances are forming, new delineations are appearing, and old coalitions are falling apart. We can’t keep pretending we’re living in the same world as we were before 2016. Everything’s different, but we’re not going to be able to figure out what’s happening as long as we’re all holding on to obsolete models and refusing to listen to each other.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]