So I have really gone down the rabbit hole these last few weeks. I have followed crazy links and memes shared by friends and relatives on FB and read thousands and thousands of words written by alt-right personalities, like Milo Yannoupolis and Mike Cernovich, conservatives who've disavowed the alt-right like Ben Shapiro and David French, and angry liberals like Charles Blow of the NYT, and Joy Reid of MSNBC.
Reading this stuff, particularly the alt-right stuff, was a revelation for me. As I scrolled through articles mocking the idea of consent and dismissing victims of rape as liars who don't understand human sexuality, articles that claim that racism no longer exists while claiming that OBAMA (yes, OBAMA, our first black President) "created" racism, and articles chock full of derogatory terms for a "left" I didn't even consider myself part of, things all clicked into place.
"I've heard this stuff before," I realized. From people I know. Relatives. Friends. Acquaintances. Online. I just hadn't known where it was coming from. When my brother told me that "affirmative action is the cause of racism" (an idea so ridiculous it doesn't even need to be countered) and "liberals are perpetuating racism to win elections", I had assumed he was a crazy, lone-wolf. When I shared a particularly strongly worded post-election piece, and was told, gently, that "systemic racism doesn't exist anymore, it's just the media blowing things out of proportion", I thought I was just hearing one person's opinion. But once I went down the alt-right rabbit hole, I realized I'd found the well-spring.
So THIS was the source of it all; I had wondered why so many seemingly rational and compassionate people are so convinced that racism doesn't exist, and that if it does, it is to the advantage of people of color and at the expense of whites. The answer is simple: because they have spent the last x number of years imbibing the words of a neo-Nazi agenda so close to the rhetoric of the religious right as to have become nearly indistinguishable from it.
Think about it; the alt-right and the religious right share views on abortion (wrong), Islam (wrong and dangerous), Hillary (evil and wrong), women in power (threatening and un-Biblical), gays and transgenders (perverted), environmentalism and climate change (scientists support evolution and are therefore untrustworthy).
The alt-right knew they could find common ground with the religious right, especially if they downplayed their more outrageous, racist views and emphasized their religiosity and disgust with liberalism and its slide toward Sodom-like hedonism.
And so with cleverly crafted memes, diversionary scare tactics like the "war on Christmas" (look around any mall in America and you can see that there is no war on Christmas...not anywhere...not even close, unless you count the token Hanukkah tree on the fringes of the food court as a "war"), and the subtle message that political correctness is not the antithesis of cruelty but of truth (and why should we pander to the feelings of a bunch of LIBERALS anyway?), the alt-right "stole the hearts" of the religious right, as Absolom stole the hearts of the men of Israel from his father David.
And what kills me is that I wasn't paying any attention. Oh, sure, I read the news here and there. I followed the primary and Presidential debates; I planned lessons on Huckleberry Finn and discussed the N-word with my students; I was surprised when a few of them wrote papers on on how "black people just want handouts" and "black people are more racist against white people", but assumed they were aberrations. I had students who wrote comments on articles they were supposed to annotate, like "I don't trust anything this author said, because I looked them up online and they're LIBERAL", but I embraced it because they at least had an opinion, a rarity at times in an 11th grade classroom. I didn't know.
I didn't know what dark current nourished these comments and thoughts, but I do now. I can't unknow it. The Christian right and a good portion of mainstream America has suckled at the beating heart of white supremacy. The motive may have been to repeal Roe vs. Wade, or to establish a "righteous" government, or any number of noble goals. But the road to those ends led through the boudoir of hate and many Christians are there now, either willfully blind and protesting their innocence, or insolently aware, jutting out their chins and asking the rest of us, "so what? I'm tired of this enforced, nanny-state femininity and want to be a MAN of GOD", even though they KNOW full-well who they've joined hands with in their pursuit.
As a Christian, I am ashamed.
I do understand that this logic can go both ways. I understand that just as I see the white supremacy undergirding the religious right's new preoccupation with "ending identity politics", I also know that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ believe that the "liberal media" has seduced me with its anti-Trump fear appeals. To them I would say that the liberal media doesn't scare me half as much as the writings of the alt-right. I also hear the argument that God ordains rulers and therefore I should fall in line. To that I would say the Bible doesn't say that all ordained leaders are good leaders, nor does it say that you aren't allowed to question them, so long as you are respectful. Still another argument is the fatalistic one in which America "deserves" whatever it gets because we have pushed God out of our country. But to that I would ask who you are to decide who "deserves" anything?
I can't unknow what I now know. I can't unsee what I now see. And I can't stop speaking.