The Cuckoo’s Nest; An Evolution into the alt-right.

Let me start by saying that if this race was between Trump and George W. Bush, I would be shouting from the rooftops to vote for W joyfully and with much glee. If that is not chilling enough, let me tell you about some people I once knew.

  He listened to Bob Dylan. He listened to The Doors. There was a copy of the Whole Earth Catalog in our house. He wanted to take the family to Alaska and basically homestead and just disconnect from the crazy consumer world. He took us to a hippy love-in, albeit Christian, concert in the Pacific Northwest called Jesus Northwest. To a place that, to my later surprise, would be Vancouver, Washington at a fairgrounds 3 miles from the house I would later own. He once explained to me in Perfect Keynesian terms why taxes were the best thing that ever happened to Palmdale because it literally employed the entire boom. That it was defense industry was regrettable but still countered austerity bullshit. Once, he in a rage screamed and shouted and demanded that two police officers give him their badge numbers because his family had witnessed those two officers beat a black man to a bloody pulp in broad daylight on a sidewalk of a busy street because that man had said something untoward to the pigs. He had gone with his family to the poorest parts of Mexico with a youth group to give food and clothes and simply to see what the world was like outside our suburban bubble. Yes, Jesus had taken over his soul, but it was a different Jesus. One that was about to be forever altered as the late 80s marched on.
  She made a seven year old boy watch Roots. Utterly transforming that boy as he witnessed the most insane and injust cruelty possible to inflict on mankind. An injustice he would later discover that American prosperity was completely built upon. It may have been cruel to make a boy watch that, but it was what it was. She later showed a thirteen year old boy One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on a vcr borrowed from the church. This was the first time a vcr had been in our house. This was the first movie that was chosen. It terrified this 13 year old boy, who maybe having an inkling of the mental illness he would later struggle with was now living in horror of mental institutions. Later reading the book, the boy would come across the idea that Chief Bromden had of his father being so large and immense and powerful. Never seeing himself in that projection. One day in 1978, the television broke during a Summer rainstorm. There would be no television in that house until the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. That family read. It went to the library. And it read.
  Now, I don’t want to imply that we are talking about left wing people here. My mother and father were anything but that. Even I grew up basically conservative. Short hair, Decidedly preppy clothing. Polos. Button down shirts. Slacks. To high school, mind you. Nerd and all. I look back now and wonder how many thought I was gay. The mauve polos under a pink button down. The pink UC Irvine shirt. I wasn’t gay. It was far more complex. But I was certainly different. Less concerned to comform. Still comforming. I am reading Steppenwolf right now. I wonder that I never noticed that book before. I wanted to become a preacher for the Foursquare church. A pastor. Go to Life bible college. We are not talking about ordinary prosperity doctrine Southern Baptists in megachurches that you see now. We are talking evangelicals. Speaking in tongues. Passing out singing at church. Literally Christian psychics coming to evening services. (I would later learn that my mother was told she would have to abandon one of her children in the future due to his service to Satan and the new world order; I am sure you can see how all efforts were made to ensure that prophecy came true.) I would read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and plant the seeds of libertarian fervor.
  We weren’t left wing at all. Reagan conservatives. My fifth grade class was led by a Mrs. Heare, a teacher who lectured us about the perils of Communism with righteous fervor. Who showed us the inauguration of Reagan on the television in the room. The only time I ever remember it on. Who had Shane, the young scion, lead classroom prayers. Who paddled children in front of the class. Who had Shane check out and present films on the perils of drug use. Unfortunately for all of them, they had got me in the habit of reading.
  So I went to university. And when I got back, I found out that Rush Limbaugh had happened in our house. I had been forced to leave school after only a year, move back in with my parents, become a busboy again. Rush Limbaugh was on in the mornings. I was enraged hearing what I was hearing. I was enraged in the same visceral way I my gorge rose when I even saw William F. Buckley’s face. They were dittoheads. The Fairness Doctrine had been revoked in 1985 and here was the fruit of it. Right wing radio. The birth of what would later give us Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Fox News and later Alex Jones.
  Those people who raised me began to accuse me of changing. The left wing media and liberal professors had gotten ahold of me and changed me. Arguments raged over morning coffee. I had nothing of the nuanced view of the entirety of political economics that I do now. There was a rage. A rage.There were no longer rational arguments. The truth of a thing was determined by the degree to which an emotional reaction could be invoked. I remember a comparison I made at the time that still sticks with me: As a kid my father was our baseball coach in Little League. As in all games, umpires make decisions good, bad, controversial.Sometimes good decisions go against your team. Lets call that truth. My father would rage against such decisions loudly. In public. Belligerently. I was mortified. Our player was definitely out but my father didn’t even see what happened. Our team was the right. The only right. What benefited our team was the only thing that mattered and reality could be perceived only in terms of our team winning. This began to happen politically for my parents. My brothers were joining them. I was, once again on the outside completely. Yes, I had changed. True, but less true than they thought as the seeds of that had been planted long ago (as early as age 7 with Roots). But what they didn’t see was how they had changed.
  A conversation was no longer rationally acknowledging that Israel was a functioning democracy with legitimate claims against terrorist actions; a conversation was now about how we should murder those bloody Palestinians, their women, their children, raze their homes, turn the sand into glass with nuclear weapons and support the Jewish People as our allies in the coming Apocalypse. This is not exaggeration. The conversation was no longer about how a black man should not be beaten by police men; a conversation was now about the obvious and clear difference between a nigger and a black man. So far as I could tell a black man was one that had assimilated as fully to white culture as possible and behaved properly. A conversation was no longer about how beautiful nature was and how camping in the Sierra Nevadas and its national parks was an amazing family adventure; the conversation was about complete private ownership of the entire earth and denial of global warming and a rallying cry to deregulate everything in the service of the most rapacious form of capitalism available. Now that man who had been outraged at police brutality was willing to scream at his 33 year old son that his son was the racist when his son had gently pointed out casual bigotry.
  I believe that is background to the Alt Right. Now I don’t know if my parents are Trump supporters. I don’t know to what degree they have fallen. I have not spoken to them in more than 4 years now. But lets face facts: on account of the dangerous socialist California laws and all of the god damn Mexicans and Blacks, they packed up 3 families and took them and their assault weapons to a compound in a part of Idaho that has the highest concentration of white supremacist groups in the country. That could be coincidence.
  The summer of 2014 is when I saw this cycle that has resulted in the Trump phenomenon really begin. The tea party had certainly already made its mark. It was evil enough. But in that summer of 2014 two things happened that unleashed the worst of the bigots. Israel began to bomb Palestine and Ferguson happened. Things like this had happened before, it is true. But not in the age of the comments section and twitter. Previously I had only seen such rhetoric in the dark corners of the Internet like 4chan, a hive of scum and villainy: never go there. But now unleashed was all of the bigotry and racism and hatred came out; all that had been repressed since the Carpetbaggers took over the South that wasn’t really inclined to change at all. Only it was everywhere. The people that weren’t frothing at the mouth over the righteousness of bombing Palestinian hospitals were frothing at the mouth over the inherent evil of the Jew. The hatred of Muslims became vocal, real, tangible, memed.  Every slur, every bigotry that had been tamped down during whatever progressive evolution had happened in this country was set loose. Then Ferguson. Then there were civil officers in military gear on top of trucks with sniper rifles trained on crowds of black people who were tired of extrajudicial executions. Then those officers were joined by armed militia partisans with literally fascist ideas also on rooftops ostensibly to protect property, truly to protect white interests. They were called the Oathkeepers: the brownshirts of what is coming. Housewives with flag icons on their facebook and twitter accounts were screaming to shoot the niggers to implement martial law. To bring law and order to the animals. Housewives. Not neo-nazi troglodytes in their mother’s basement ranting about minorities and projecting their own failings onto entire groups of Others. Housewives. And millenials. Oh so many millenials. Video gamers and entitled snot nosed kids (yes I am an old and cranky too) who grew up sheltered from everything were joining the chorus finding ‘rational’ arguments to support raw old-fashioned bigotry. Then ISIS happened and not only was the name of the Goddess co-opted and villified but old culture wars were reborn. The hints at Bush’s crusades mentality were now puerile and generic. We now had the real thing. Christians fighting the Caliphate. A dream come true.
  Alex Jones, a conspiracy right wing nutjob with a huge audience was now mainstream. Birther, truther, anti-Illuminati fervor had become part of a much much larger crowd. Yes, it started as a highly vocal minority. Yes, it does not define this country nor is it pervasively taking over our children’s schooling. Yes there is some hype to the fear of it. But you have to understand that people who had changed to rage addicts  during the 2 decades of Fox News had fully stepped over a line. There was no going back. Legitimate concerns about immigration in a nation-state system (if you have to have such a silly thing) became mass deportation, walls and old ladies screaming at people speaking Spanish in the IHOP lobby. Fundamentalist Muslim extremism became blanket bans on all Muslims entering the country from basically anywhere. Hilary Clinton, a fairly normal politician in this day and age with actually higher than normal honesty ratings, was vilified on the most heinous of crimes: being a woman seeking power and she better knock that shit off (I believe right and left are both guilty of this.) Everything became backwards. The people against bigotry were called bigots. Obama, about  5 inches right of center, was called a far left socialist. Irrational hatred of a FUCKING REPUBLICAN HEALTH CARE PLAN became a rallying cry. And then, the real crazy starts. In an era where everyone is screaming about corporate influence over government, people start voting for a Billionaire. Who hires lobbyists with ties to Russian Oligarchs? Who praises Russian Oligarch methods and their leader Vladimir Putin? Who brags with a sly wink that he has peddled influence for years with the wealth he has worked Oh-So-Hard for? A fucking Oligarch. That’s Who. They began to vote for literally the source of the problems.
  A year ago it was still hyperbole to call Republicans fascist. I had done it and honestly I am a bit ashamed of it now. I would kill for a choice between Romney and Clinton. Or even John McCain. Trump doesn’t even matter any more. He is too much of a buffoon to do anything but land himself in jail even if he were to get elected. I don’t think he is smart. I don’t think he is a good businessman. I do not even think he is good at marketing. Listen, when a 3 year old throws a temper tantrum in the middle of Target you do not call him a marketing genius because suddenly he has everyone’s attention. The ‘media’ wanted a dramatic story and they helped create one. I don’t blame the media. I blame the millions of people who now have woken up to their worst fascist instincts. The dog whistle has been blown. There is no going back now. A major Presidential candidate is being cheered on by white supremacist groups in this country as he retweets memes from their arsenal. There is no such thing as Republican any more. It’s small comfort though.
  There are no good outcomes to this. There is violence even before we know who is President. Less than a mile from me, there was violence in the streets just because Trump showed up. There has been violence in the Trump rallies that are straight out of Hitler’s Germany. Either side winning will spark the most violent elements from either side into a rage that will not be contained. I hope I am wrong.
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~ by Shane Harris on August 28, 2016.

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