No images needed. We're all familiar with the gesture, some of us more than others. The middle finger has essentially become the mascot of the Republican party; their style, their emblem for what it means to be free. "F$&* everything!" is their motto, "especially if we don't like it." They are the new anti-establishment establishment, the New Anti-Hippies, the 20's version of the 60's, the main difference being that the 60s were all about love, whereas the 20's version is all about hate. And let's face it, it's much easier to hate than to love; easier to mistrust than to trust. So I suspect that this movement may become even more influential in the short arc of our country's history than its predecessor. A lie gets half way around the world, after all...
So what does this mean in practical terms? That the dumber your electorate gets, the meaner it gets, because ignorance breeds suspicion, suspicion breeds intolerance, intolerance breeds hate, hate breeds... well, you get the picture. We currently live in a school district that prizes ignorance, prides itself on not giving homework until the 9th grade, rewards athletic prowess more than intellectual prowess. And so what are we left with? History teachers who can't pronounce the names of countries, students who don't know what the E.U. is, AP chemistry classes that are discontinued because of too few students, 35 valedictorians for the graduating class. And what does that all mean? That we're producing average citizens who are, well... below average (and sometimes well below average!), all of which breeds an insolence and insularity that are the hallmarks of the New Republicans. We live among them, and it sucks. (Yes, we're thinking of moving.)
Perhaps the most sucky thing about it is that, as the NR's gain in prominence, culture diminishes. Great art, great music, deep thinking, native curiosity... all those go out the window in an insular and backwards-looking community that is hostile to anything new. My special-needs son, who has Asperger's, is neophobic, which is the fear of anything new. Typical for an Aspie, and one we have to school out of him as much as possible if he ever hopes to grow up and function normally in the world. (He's making great progress, thanks for asking.) But a neophobic community? A neophobic country (if Trump is re-elected)?!? We've had several examples of this phenomenon over the years: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mussolini's Italy, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Putin's Russia... again, you get the picture.
And so here we are, at the start of a new year, and things are already looking down. Or this year could be the cinderella story for democracy, where the people of the United States wisen up and keep the Great Experiment going and beat out the trolls, the Nazi sympathizers, the well-armed citizen militias. Or, alternatively, we dumb down, lock down, and hunker down in our little political and cultural hovels and decide to reward intolerance over tolerance, suspicion over trust, hatred over love. What'll it be? I'm afraid to find out, because I have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.