I got sucked in. Again.
I work with and sit next to my co-worker, who is male, Caucasian, middle-aged, and right-wing. He would argue this last adjective, as he frequently reminds me that he’s been “a Democrat my whole life and voted for Obama.” But he’s right-wing. As you shall see. We occasionally get into lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong debates over social and political issues. I’ve learned to – usually – save my breath. But this time I couldn’t help myself.
I have to take blame for this instance. I emailed an article to my co-worker – let’s call him “Mitt” – that was designed to torque him a little, being a list of charts recently released by the government showing how the economy has been improving the last two years. Although Mitt never really reviewed the charts or data, he refuted them immediately on account of the article about the charts being published by The Atlantic. This then led to a hour-and-a-half debate – just when it was time to go home – over issues of government, bail-outs, poverty, birth control, drugs, moral decline, etc.
The thing that made Mitt the most angry was when I said that there is a direct correlation between poverty and increased crime rates, and that the way to reduce crime is to reduce poverty. “Being poor does not make you a criminal! I came from a poor family, and I had morals!” Here’s the thing: he did not come from a poor family – he grew up middle-class in Minneapolis in the early 70s – and doesn’t understand what true poverty is.
Mitt thinks the base problem in our society is a creeping lack of morality. An underlying menace. Brought about by the lack of “real” man/woman families, not going to church, not teaching morality…and being black. OK, he didn’t really say that, but the dog whistle was loud and clear. Here’s Mitt’s thesis in one convenient jumble:
Single black moms have lots of kids with deadbeat dads who aren’t held accountable for child support by the government via DNA tracking and then take scads of government welfare money which raises our taxes and leads to having no impetus to ever get a job and not having any responsibility and using all that cash to buy drugs and liquor which leads to more crime but using birth control is bad because the Pope says so and immoral so we shouldn’t offer birth control and sex is only for procreation but since they are so lazy they sit around all day watching all those TV shows that advocate immorality and then have more babies and no work ethic.
Mitt is actually a very smart person. But he’s so convinced of the overwhelming populace of these fictional freeloaders that he is impervious to facts. His lack of exposure to people of color and over-exposure to
Faux Fox News makes him fearful of the different. He is a poster-boy for the fear-driven I-work-hard-and-anyone-else-can-do-the-same-to-get-a-job-and-be-successful all-regulations-are-bad-the-market-will-regulate-itself I’m-not-a-racist-but-people-with-different-colored-skin-scare-me crowd.
These people sadden and worry me. I’m saddened that some people are so fearful that they let themselves be unwittingly led by hatemongers. Worried that so many of this type of person end up – usually by virtue of inherited wealth – in our political system. The thing that gives me hope is evolution. Gradually these people are dying out, to be replaced by a younger generation with more acceptance and open-mindedness. We can see the course of history, and how over the long arc of time we’ve inculcated acceptance of different classes of people: Jews, Irish, women, atheists, Protestants, etc. It hasn’t been perfect. We’re still fighting the battles for women and different religious groups. And we still haven’t fully accepted – as a society – blacks, Native Americans, and homosexuals. But it’s coming. The old white males and fundamentalists are becoming less and less relevant. And I think that this trend will continue.
We shall overcome.