There’s an angry wingnut in my town who writes furious letters to the editor of our local paper. Reading his rage-o-holic letters is like watching someone illustrate a Sean Hannity episode in cartoon form, drawn in poop. This guy is a big Trump fan, obviously, and before the election, the letters praised Trump and/or attacked his enemies.
When I moved back here a few years ago and discovered the anger-coot’s oeuvre, I submitted saucy, subtly insulting rebuttals that were often published. My husband told me that was mean because the letter writer is an angry, scared and probably lonely old fart. That’s undoubtedly true, but I think it’s unhealthy to leave bullshit unrebutted.
You can’t counter everything, but it’s important to speak up, IMO. Of all the “this is how we got Trump” takes, the one that rings truest to me is that too many people capable of rational thought believed that ignoring bigotry and lies would marginalize them. Tragically, it allowed them to flourish.
Anyhoo, my epistolary war with the anger-coot over Trump was short-lived: earlier this year, the paper’s publisher wrote an editorial explaining that he was specifically banning letters about national politics. My husband said this was probably due to my rebuttals.
As IF! It’s cowardice, IMO. Having failed to learn the lessons of 2016 or perhaps hoping for a repeat, the publisher has remained silent about the Big Lie, which is widely believed in this community. The national politics ban hasn’t throttled down the furious coot’s output. Now he rages about local issues and praises the Trumpian governor. The other day he wrote this about critical race theory:
I believe it is now time to have open and honest discussions on this movement. First and foremost, its core beliefs must be discussed. Here is a movement that believes that America is systematically racist and must be dismantled — that there is no absolute truth — and that individuals are either victims or an oppressors. These three beliefs are critical to the CRT message. After the smoke clears, their goal will become obvious — it’s simply about the destruction of western culture. Now, one must ask what do they plan to replace western culture with? You can be sure that whatever the replacement is, they plan to be in charge.
Anger-coot never defines who “they” are, but I think we can all guess. He praises conservative activist Christopher Rufo for alerting citizens to the danger of CRT. The CRT panic was ginned up by Rufo, whom The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells interviewed recently. Rufo openly admits he chose to weaponize a previously obscure framework for legal analysis because, quite apart from phrase’s meaning in context, the individual words — “critical,” “race” and “theory” — are potentially triggering to voters:
[Rufo] thought that the phrase was a better description of what conservatives were opposing, but it also seemed like a promising political weapon. “Its connotations are all negative to most middle-class Americans, including racial minorities, who see the world as ‘creative’ rather than ‘critical,’ ‘individual’ rather than ‘racial,’ ‘practical’ rather than ‘theoretical.’ Strung together, the phrase ‘critical race theory’ connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American.”
Rufo teamed up with Tucker Carlson to create the panic around CRT, and Trump cultists like the letter writer responded on cue. But far more serious than a hysterical coot polluting a local paper’s opinion page, Trump clones like FL Gov. DeSantis and others have responded by explicitly banning CRT from K-12 public schools, where it wasn’t being taught. Here’s DeSantis’s description of CRT:
Florida’s education system exists to create opportunity for our children. Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools. pic.twitter.com/ludv7ARgNP
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 10, 2021
As Wallace-Wells concluded, “mission accomplished.”
Trump wrote (i.e., had a minion like Stephen Miller ghostwrite) a hysterical, lie-filled screed denouncing CRT that was published recently. I’m sure the local angry wingnut was thrilled.
According to polls (which are dead to me forever, mostly), people outside the Trump cult are also buying the bullshit about CRT, and it’s no wonder because the marketing campaign is as slick as goose shit. The astro-turfed panic is affecting people’s lives already, at least in states like mine. It won’t ban the teaching of a critical framework that wasn’t being taught, but it will intimidate teachers.
Aside from jousting with big-mouthed jerks in local opinion pages, I’m not sure what us regular people can do to counter the hysteria. But when wingnuts in my orbit ask for my opinion, I steal this lady’s approach to explaining what “critical theory” is in general:
My favorite critical theory is historicism, where we focus on what was going on in the real world when a text was written. And pls believe racial injustice has been a part of that since forever. Anyway, see how we do this? I love it but it’s not crazy voodoo. It’s just learning
— Fakakta South (@FakaktaSouth) June 17, 2021
It’s relatable in a sense for the people who took English classes with me in Florida public schools. When we read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” we discussed the historical context. When we read “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” the fact that Tennessee Williams was gay came up. How could it not? Similarly, CRT is a lens to analyze U.S. law. How can you honestly examine U.S. law and leave white supremacy out? Most people who are reachable can understand that, I think.
But of course, this foofaraw has nothing to do with analyzing the legal system through the lens of race. As designed by Rufo and weaponized by Carlson, DeSantis, Trump, et al., it’s about scaring the shit out of white people so they’ll give Republicans power. That’s it. As Steve M. notes over at No More Mr. Nice Blog, the CRT hysteria, the plan to survey political views at Florida universities for funding purposes, and the push for “patriotic” K-12 education are straight out of the autocrat playbook.
What can regular people do about it, other than supporting the one viable political party that hasn’t been taken over by revanchist would-be autocrats? I think calling bullshit on the fearmongering is important, in whatever capacity.
Other than that, I got nothing. But I ask for understanding from folks who are living in blue states if those of us who are living in red areas with governors like DeSantis seem pessimistic sometimes.
Far from being chastened by Trump’s loss, governors like DeSantis and his ilk are emboldened and lashing out. So, life is changing for us in very real and frightening ways. If we seem panicky and impatient, well, we have our reasons.