Thoughts by Richard Bleil
When I was in graduate school, my parents did visit. Oddly, it was not until they realized that I was living with a family in exchange for room and board. Suddenly they were worried about their twenty-five-year-old son to be able to make decisions for himself and planned a visit to Boston. Well, that’s fine, I guess, until we went to the historical parts of the city to see the sights. Suddenly, in the public streets of this relatively large city he started with his gratuitous use of a derogatory term I had asked him before to avoid using in my presence. I certainly wasn’t prepared to deal with it in such a public place. That was when I just left them where they were and walked away.
Some people might write it off as “just how they were raised.” I don’t accept that excuse anymore. At this point we have moved past that as a society and anybody continuing with racist rants are doing so with an agenda of fanning the flames of anger.
Our government has used racism as a tool for years, particularly in the military. In a war, people often don’t want to kill fellow human beings, so how do we encourage more killing by our troops? Simple. You dehumanize the enemy. You’re not killing a Japanese family man; you’re killing a nip. You’re not shooting the son of a German family; you’re killing a kraut. It’s hard to fault the military too much for this tactic during an active shooting war. Those soldiers are trying to kill ours, so psychological tricks to get our troops to pull the trigger is a form of self-defense if you think about it. The danger is when these racist terms and attitudes persist into society during peacetime, or worse, when they are used against our own people.
We’ve seen the rise of these terms by our president. While he is supposed to be the leader of the entire nation, he has divided the nation into what he perceives as supporters (“very fine people”) and his enemies (“violent left”). He has worked to vilify democrats and liberals, using terms like “AntiFa” (a group that doesn’t even really exist as an organized group) and “socialists” (meaning concerned about the people in the society) in clearly negative and derogatory terms. And we’re seeing the consequences.
In Wisconsin, an underage boy armed with an assault rifle (called a “long rifle” to make it sound less threatening but an assault rifle nonetheless) fired on a group of protesters killing at least one of them. There is ample evidence that he and his friend went to the demonstrations in search of a fight, and yet Republicans are defending his actions rather than calling for a fair and unbiased trial. A video of him walking calmly past police armed with his rifle saying “I think I just killed someone” without emotion circulated soon after the incident. I have no doubt that, in his mind, he didn’t kill a human being.
I believe he sees himself as a hero, because he doesn’t think he actually killed an American. In his mind, I’m certain he sees it as having killed an AntiFa, or a protester, or a liberal, or a violent leftist, or a socialist, or any of the plethora of terms the president has utilized to vilify and, worse, dehumanize those people, those citizens, those actual living and breathing humans who are protesting for nothing more than fair and equal rights.
Throughout his presidency, Obama faced blatant racism from people based on nothing but the color of his skin, a superficial trait that he certainly cannot control even if he wanted to. Despite far more accomplishments and improvements than I can cover in this blog, it was still not uncommon to hear people refer to him in derogatory terms based on race. These are the people who were raised to see minorities as somehow sub-human, as less than they were because they were privileged (enter the concept of white privilege) to have been born white. I was standing in a store in Iowa when somebody walked in and made sure everybody in the small store heard him speak of the president in this term. This was a Republican with an agenda, namely, to try to dehumanize the president to take votes away from the Democratic candidate that followed since this was late into Obama’s second term. The store owner was livid and threw him out.
Use of dehumanizing terms has brought this nation to the brink of a second civil war. Hatred and division has increased more dramatically than I can recall it having ever been before, caused by a president that sees himself as the hero of the Republican party (who are clearly falling in line to support him as their new demigod) rather than as the leader of the entire nation including those who did not vote for him. Now he’s turning on Biden, looking for some kind of hook to dehumanize his opponent in the upcoming election, be it his age (Biden and Trump could have been classmates in high school), his mental state, inappropriate sexual allegations (there’s an ironic thing for Trump to try to claim as the DOJ is defending him from allegations of rape) or socialism. I don’t want to tell my readers how to vote, but I will beg you all to distinguish between discussions of actual issues and simple attempts to dehumanize an opponent.