I had a response to my open letter to police chief Mark Kessler than includes one line that I’d been meaning to elaborate on. Steve Harmon writes, “The Chief, God bless him, is simply trying to unpussify my America.”
In a response to my post about media coverage of guys like Mark Kessler, dskall wrote, “How about put on your wooden shoes and get out of the house and go visit the real America. Middle America, small towns, farms, oilfields where the real Americans live. The ones that build this country. Not tear it down.”
The real America, with its real Americans.
And here I was thinking all this time that the American ideal was that everyone is equal, no matter where you live or how much money you make. One man one vote and all that. It’s certainly not reality, but I thought real Americans believed in the ideal. Apparently I was wrong.
Okay, that was sarcastic of me.
The thing is, these terms–“my America” and “real Americans”–are used by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the like, and by the anchors and pundits at Fox “News”. Fox News broadcasts mostly from New York City. Rush Limbaugh started in Sacramento, California, then went to New York City and now he broadcasts from Palm Beach, Florida. Glenn Beck broadcasts from Dallas, Texas, home of the oil barons.
These people are financed by big corporations and billionaires like the Koch brothers. Their goal is to get people to vote Republican, so their big corporations can go on doing whatever they want, most of which is not the least bit in the interest of small town America. How many small stores in small towns did Walmart put out of business, for instance? What is the difference between the salaries of the oilfield workers and those of the oil company CEOs? How many corporations do you know willingly provide complete health care coverage and decent pensions for their employees? And how many Republicans do you know would be all for paying good teachers more to work in small towns?
(If you don’t believe that Fox News is a direct Republican mouthpiece, just listen to them for a while and count the number of times they refer to Democrats or left-of-center as “them” and Republicans and conservatives in general as “us”. They’re not even being sneaky about it. It’s right there in the open. )
Statistics show that, in general, people in small towns and in rural areas have less income and less education than people in big cities. It’s not in their interest to vote Republican. So how do you get them to do so anyway? You utilize the very fact that people in rural areas and small towns are overall less educated. You pay your right-wing media to stir up resentment and suspicion of people in big cities in general and liberals and liberal ideas in particular and you slap the rural and small town people on the back as often as you can, calling them the “real Americans”, who live in the “real America”, who “build this country”, etc, etc.
Of course, everyone loves flattery, and with phrases like that manipulated into their vocabulary, small town people don’t have to feel insecure about their lack of education. Doing something about the low quality of education for their kids’ sake will be a low priority as well, because hey, who needs those elite liberal intellectuals anyway? They’re not even real Americans. They don’t live in the real America. In fact, I read in one response to a post (I didn’t approve it because it was just too low) that liberals aren’t even human.
And there you have it. As easily manipulated as the Germans were by Hitler. They, too, were brainwashed by constant messages that they were the real Germans, that they kept Germany pure, that the Jews weren’t even human… And if people could be made to believe that the Jews were to blame for everything that was wrong with the country, they wouldn’t look too closely at the actual problems–at their actual problems. After all, hatred easily trumps self-interest.
This is not to suggest that undereducated folks have absolutely no mind of their own, and that they’re too stupid to see when they’re being manipulated. But I do think that people can be too ignorant to know when they’re being manipulated. Ignorance has nothing to do with intelligence, but with a lack of the knowledge and insights that a decent education can provide.
A good education–and I’m not even talking about anything beyond high school–should teach students how to listen and read closely to what is being conveyed. For instance, if a commercial says that “nothing works better than Tide”, what is your first impression of what is being conveyed and what is actually being said? School should teach students to consider the source of the information and what reasons the messenger might have for conveying a certain message. Then, when they’re adults watching or listening to the news, they might ask themselves why guys like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh rant and rave about European-style universal healthcare being fascist, socialist, whatever-ist? Why do they make it out to be the most vile, evil, tyrannical system anyone has ever devised? Why do they yell so loudly and incessantly that it doesn’t work? Could it be so their listeners don’t research it?
These are the skills schools should teach. Why should high school students have to know which battle came before what battle during the Civil War? Or the exact date of D-Day? What they should be learning is the reasons for the Civil War, and the arguments made on both sides, and the political manipulation that took place, and the same for the Russian Revolution, World War Two, Vietnam, etc. They should be shown different news channels’ versions of the same story and they should learn to recognize the difference between fact and opinion.
But that would make kids independent thinkers, and guess who don’t want that? In Texas, it’s actually in the Republican party platform that public schools should not teach anything–anything–that could make kids question their beliefs. How do you prevent kids from questioning anything? Well, you don’t teach them to think for themselves. And there we have it again. Because people who can’t think for themselves don’t recognize when other people are doing their thinking for them. How convenient.
I hear Glenn Beck say things like, “Don’t let them brainwash you! Don’t let them tell you what to think! Let me tell you what you should be angry about. This is what you should be furious about…” At which point he proceeds to spell out exactly what his viewers or listeners are supposed to think. And people gobble it up. Dskall and Steve Harmon, when you use those phrases–“my America”, and “the real America”–you’re parroting the right-wing media. You have adopted exactly the attitudes they want you to have.
Do the two of you have decent health care? In return for paying about $10 a month into a healthcare system, can you walk into any doctor’s office or hospital and get whatever treatment you need and never see a bill? Can you live your life without putting a price on your health, without having to choose between gas for your car or getting that weird spot on your skin checked out? It’s a rhetorical question, because of course the answer is no. But the Republican strategists don’t want you thinking about that. They want you to focus on feeling free because you are free to own a gun–on feeling that you have choices because you can choose which guns you own. They want you to fixate on that instead of on the things that are actually important.
What do you really need? Do you really need more than a hunting rifle? Or do you (or your children) really need a decent education so you (or they) can get a decent job? Do you really need a gun that can fire 50 rounds in less than 50 seconds or do you really need your boss to pay you overtime when he asks you to work more than 40 hours a week? Do you really need to listen to Rush Limbaugh rant and rave about those fascist-socialist Europeans or do you really need to get your prostrate checked? Do you really need to hate all liberals and/or all black people or do you really need a pension so you can sit back on your porch at age 65 like you deserve after working for 40 years?
Think about it.