It's not easy
After a few conversations tonight, I understand why people like being authoritarian-leaning. Today was a “free speech” rally in Boston that, despite constantly coming with quotes on cable news, actually was a free speech rally — not a euphemism for white supremacist rally.
It was hard to tell, especially since over 40,000 people showed up to protest white supremacy and Nazism. If they're the counter-protesters, well I guess the others are the protesters in support of white supremacy!
So after I started arguing with someone on the internet, I found out it wasn't actually a white supremacy rally. I had to admit I was wrong after really digging my heels in to my very righteous argument, and that was my moment of realization.
This shit is hard.
Especially in this political climate, and as someone entirely unaccustomed to the political world before this last election, it's hard to keep your head. There's no doubt this administration skews reality and gaslights us all to a new extreme, but it really is tough knowing who to trust, where to fight, who's the real enemy, what the real facts are, what the argumentative frames are, etc. As a non-Trumper we have no leadership telling us what to think, really. The right has their dictator, and all the talking points nailed down and widely distributed. They're all on the same page.
But us others are left to crawl and feel our way out of the dark. We have to decipher what Russia is doing, and how the administration is employing their tactics to dismantle the country. We have to parse propaganda from Fox News, Sinclair-backed local news, online blogs, social media trolls, right-wing personalities, Trump supporters, crony capitalists, and the White House itself. We have to know what ball to keep our eyes on. We have to know what tactics are going to work to fight the enemy-of-the-day (e.g. do we punch Nazis? Use non-violence? Mockery? Compassion?). We have to not chase every enemy ball thrown our way.
I have no doubt we're all figuring these things out as we go, and no one group has all the answers. That's what happens when you don't have a demagogue, I guess — you're all on your own, out in the middle of nowhere, in infinite gray instead of a world of comforting black and white. You are forced to dig deep and search and refine and discover all the nuances to all the issues so you can reach a conclusion that provides and codifies some core American values for everyone. The answers aren't simple, like the authoritarian followers trust and believe they are.
You have to invent democracy, I guess.
And maybe that's what we're doing right now. My complaint is that we're all spread out — I can barely find groups in my area that I feel are tackling the big, overarching issues. They're all focused on smaller subsets of problems. But I guess that's how it should work — the bottom-up. Diverse groups of people addressing their particular issues and then coming together into larger and larger groups, until it reaches the top.
But finally seeing what true democracy looks like (or needs to look like) has me concerned for all these distractions we have right now. Obviously democracy has been on the decline in America for long before Trump, but the White House agenda and constant drama is making it seriously difficult to build a stronger democracy at the very moment we're all realizing how badly we need one. We know a weak democracy is Russia's goal, but how much our own regime is assisting in that weakening is especially ominous to me.
Things have been messy this year, for the country and for me. I've struggled a lot to grasp what the hell is happening, and have put myself out into the world more, often to get smacked in the face by missing facts or overlooked points or inane arguments or realizations of my own emotions getting the best of me. But it's served to stretch my mind and teach me, and I think finally I'm starting to see what prize to keep my eyes on.