Independence from the Culture War

What, exactly, is this culture war the far right imagines they’re fighting? And why do they believe so strongly that they are in a war for the future of their country?

There is a clear divide of “Us vs. Them” and of freedom-loving people vs. controlling fanatics who have devised plans to destroy every aspect of our country, if Trump wins the election.

Whether we want to be involved or not, this conflict manufactured by the GOP seems likely to boil over this year, so let’s look at who and what drives it.

“Family Values”

The far-right claims their goal is to preserve families, yet they actively reject any measure that involves feeding children. Apparently, perpetuating food insecurity is a family value because you don’t deserve to eat if your family can’t afford food.

They also don’t want people making their own private medical decisions for their own bodies because… Actually, we aren’t sure. It’s gross that they even think about what goes on with other people’s bodies, but legislating on and controlling reproductive organs that don’t belong to them is another value of the far right.

They have no rational reason for this. It’s merely an ongoing perpetuation of their own special brand of hate.

The people and initiatives here in Nebraska that have manufactured and continue to feed into the culture war include Governor Pillen, Cass County Sheriff Robert Sorenson, the Nebraska State GOP, nearly all the county GOPs – Cass, Sarpy, Saunders, and Douglas, in particular – and other right-wing extremist groups and people in the state.

They have an ax to grind. And for what reason? Since they can’t articulate an intelligent reason for their stances, let’s look at what’s really going on here.

Control

As stated, this isn’t about preserving family but control, because these people feel like they have none. They don’t care about you or children, or anyone but themselves and their own feelings of helplessness. And that is what they are driven by – feelings and emotions.

If they cared about family, getting the Summer EBT signed into law wouldn’t have been a fight. They would adopt all the children in foster care regardless of age or skin color or behavioral and emotional challenges. They would advocate for universal health care and common sense gun laws. And they would stop calling for the eradication of LGBTQIA individuals.

Why do they want forced birthing, an end to same-sex marriage, and to eliminate transgender people? What end goal does this achieve for them?

It’s as simple as eugenics. They believe that by forcing homogeneity on us, they can purify their culture. They do this by shoving racism under the rug, gay people back in the closet, and telling women the only value they have is as breeding stock. They claim to want to protect your children, as if you aren’t capable or intelligent enough to do this as a parent, which is exactly what they believe: that they are the only ones with the knowledge and ability to make decisions for everyone else.

Individuality, independence, freedom, and love are anathema to the people desperate to propel this culture war forward.

Behind their “family friendly” facade you will find America’s very own Nazis, who eagerly dehumanize anyone not like them. They want to create an alternate reality in which people who are gay, transgender, Black, Latino, Indigenous, an immigrant, or a woman with the ability to rationalize for herself cease to exist.

Why Are You The Way You Are?

We’ve been asking this question about them, too. What is the common thread linking all of these hateful, right-wing people who are transphobic, homophobic, and want to invalidate the experiences of individuals based on race and gender?

When examining the social media posts of our besties – the Cass County GOP, the Sarpy County GOP, Terri Cunningham-Swanson, Robert Anthony, Linda Vermooten, and Liz Davids (just to name a few) – we found two major things in common:

The first is that they are part of a type of “Christian” whose hard-line interpretation of the Bible is dark, hateful, and far removed from anything Jesus ever said.

The second is that these people blindly buy into and perpetuate disinformation and conspiracy theories, and their absolute favorite is at the top of the conspiracy theory pyramid: Cultural Marxism, which falls between the Antisemitic Point of No Return and Out of Touch With Reality. There is a whole host of other bizarre things they believe in that have rational people unsure of what is wrong with the people who buy into these alternative realities.

It’s not difficult to pinpoint exactly what is going on in their minds. Some folks display an obvious mental illness in their biases. Other such biases are passed from parent to child, and still others are central teachings of churches especially in rural places. Plattsmouth Baptist Church, for example, is well known for broadcasting The Mind Polluters and pushing a political agenda rooted in baseless fears and delusions born from these conspiracies.

In my interactions with these people everyday (it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it), it’s clear that they need help. They carry this internalized fear and fragility with them constantly, and cope with it in the unhealthiest ways possible. Furthermore, they pass this hot mess of delusion along to their children.

We’re here to remind all of you, especially adolescents and young adults, that you can reject the teachings of your parents, churches, and peers. You can reject their hatred and the hypocritical rhetoric that claims to preserve families when, in fact, it is obvious that these people want to destroy them.

In studies of people who lack the ability to discern what is real from what is delusion, mental health professionals have concluded that those who spread conspiracy theories do so because they feel impotent, powerless, and helpless.

They want to feel a sense of knowing, belonging, or of being “right,” but these things elude them. The further they fall into their make believe world, validated by others who share that reality, the more any sense of positivity about the world or people in it slips away from them. These people are unwell and unable to see that for themselves.

Of course, many people use these unhinged beliefs as a way to gain power over and take advantage of others (Moms for Liberty, Ed Weniger, and Allie French are excellent examples of this kind of political grifting). Radical right politicians wield these lies and weaponize the fears of those who believe them to gain support. If elected, they don’t serve the people on all the issues, just the ones who helped them get elected (case in point: Terri Cunningham-Swanson, whose policies only found approval with a minority of voters in her school board district; look how well that turned out for her).

People prone to feeling as if they are failures, full of humiliation and resentment, and lacking a healthy world view, are drawn to their rhetoric. These politicians know everything they’re telling people is disconnected from reality and harming the believers even further, but they don’t care because they’re benefiting from it. This is how they mobilize their “soldiers” in their culture war, by playing on their frailties and emotions.

They embrace the idea of being “patriots” who defend everyone else from the unpleasant emotions and history of our country, and play on the fears of those who don’t want to face it. This viewpoint is far more cowardly than having the courage to look unpleasantness in the eye, address it, and decide to be better. We can be proud of our country’s history and heritage, while still recognizing the violence and immorality of much of it. Marriage vows often ask if we will stick together for better or worse. Clearly, the radical right lacks the mental and emotional fortitude to face and resolve the “worse” if they continue to let their fragile emotions get the better of them. Their marriage to the United States and democracy has irretrievably broken down.

This will not change our state or country for the better. The Nebraska GOP and county GOP parties have been taken over by these fear-mongering populists. They aren’t giving solutions. They’re feeding into a war and manufacturing enemies that don’t exist. While they fret about so-called family values and “the helpless, innocent babies,” they don’t care if you or your children are starving, homeless, or can’t afford to keep the lights on. Why? Because caring for our own people is wasteful, according to them.

Make it make sense, people!

To The Extremists

So, here’s the part for all of you lost, scared, small-feeling extremists out there: Those of us who are minorities or immigrants or in the LGBTQIA community are not your enemy. We’re just busy living our lives.

Those of us who have children and don’t believe books should be banned are not your enemy. We’re just trying to teach our children discernment, love, and respect, and to keep them fed and safe. In fact, you’re the people we have to protect our children from. We want each individual family to have the freedom to decide for themselves what their kids may or may not read, because that’s their right.

Those of us who are not Christian are not your enemy. We just don’t want your religion shoved in our faces and claimed to be some sort of truth that can save us. We can make our own decisions about our spiritual beliefs without you.

Let’s tackle a biggie: racism. You don’t think it exists because you’ve never experienced it.  But you don’t get to decide that it doesn’t exist or that others don’t get to talk about it. Just because you’re terrified to have those conversations doesn’t mean the rest of us are. The more you deny it, the less likely racism is to be addressed constructively (and, yes, we understand that’s the goal for these people).

Do women deciding not to have babies really bother you that much? We realize you’re listening to propaganda about abortion and it’s hard to sway you on that issue, but here’s the thing: everything you believe about it is based on lies. This isn’t about “murder” and “innocent babies.” It’s about controlling women.

If you are truly pro-life, then you should be fighting for parents – regardless of race, religion, gender, or martial status – to have stable housing and plenty of food for their children. Nurture life instead of treating it like a prison sentence. Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be on equal footing, safe and secure, with equal access to education, clothing, housing, and food. Stop hoarding resources and pricing people out of the basics they need to live.

Also, consensual sex between adults isn’t a crime. Regardless of gender, it isn’t anyone’s business but that of those involved. Why do you need to know what’s happening in the privacy of other people’s bedrooms?

Every aspect of the radical right platform is completely disconnected from the ideals of freedom and independence. This country was founded on the principle of the people having a voice in government, and what the radical right wants is the opposite of that: Authoritarianism. What you want to do to this country is as un-American as it gets.

The right loves to persecute and pretend to be persecuted, but imagine what would happen if you just… stopped?

Let it Go

Seriously. Take a deep breath and let it go.

What if you simply enjoyed the sunny days, the glimpses of red-winged blackbirds that come out all summer long, the beauty of the golden Nebraska fields under our blue skies, the way our neighbors wave as we pass each other when we’re driving? What if you went to work at your job every day, provided for your family, raised your own children and did your best to secure their futures without worrying about what anyone else was doing?

But also, what if you were kind to someone who represents everything against whom you’ve directed all of your irrational fears? What if you had a conversation with them? What if you found out they aren’t so different than you in the most basic ways?

What would happen to you if you let go of all of that fear? Or if you understood that we don’t care how you live your lives, whether you’re straight or white or cis-gendered or having babies or not, or any of that? Accepting that there are people who are gay, transgender, non-Christian, and/or a different skin color than you is an easy thing to do.

It may take interventions, if there are still people who love and care about you, or perhaps some deep self-reflection to see that hurting the people around you – people whose lives have zero effect on you – isn’t going to bring you happiness or resolve your internal struggles. You are trapped in a vicious cycle as long as you continue to consume counter-media and shut yourself off from those who are trying to save you from yourself.

We know you’re feeling small and scared, and that’s okay. But this hateful behavior isn’t okay.

Our country was built on diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Not everyone is going to agree, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can live your life the way you choose, and so can the rest of us, and that’s the beauty of the United States.

If this is truly to remain the land of the free, then the first step is to liberate yourself from what the radical right is doing to you and declare your independence from their culture war. They’ve already hijacked our country. Don’t let them continue to do the same to your heart and mind.

More about Nico Emerson

Nicolette "Nico" L. Emerson is an observer of politics in small town Nebraska, especially as it pertains to education, school boards, and adults who want to decide the direction of the next generation.