It’s always easy to identify when someone else is being toyed with, but knowing when we are the ones being emotionally manipulated is harder than quantum physics. There is a simple reason for this, the minute we invest ourselves in demagogues is the instant we let logic be superseded by belief. Con artists know that the hardest step is to get someone to give the first dollar. After the initial deposit, justification and rationalization kicks in as victims go to any lengths to avoid admitting that they’ve been duped.
Such is the state of our politics here in the United States. Each side of the political divide looks to the “other side” and shake their head in disbelief that anyone could fall for the antics of such frauds. The same people who have profile pictures of Obama throw hay makers at Trump supporters for being gullible sheep. Likewise, the same folks who once used to bash Obama loyalists for being unthinking robots can’t see the irony that they have become Trumpeting bots. Few dare look in the mirror and cop to being hoodwinked.
This goes beyond just politics though, our social conversation at large is being led by charlatans and demagogues who have financial motives to keep us in strife. There is a lot of money to be made and status to accumulate by slicing and dicing America into cauldrons of identity and ideologies. Divide and conquer has been monetized as opinion leaders and pundits across the political spectrum push deceptive talking points while pretending to be uttering truths. What they are seeking is not truth but ratings, the easiest way to do that is to cater to our fears and vengeance instead of speaking to our better angels.
I never realized how brilliant this tactic of segmentation was when I used to count myself as a true blue Democrat. Understanding iniquity and pursuing justice back then was simple, Republicans were the evil party and Democrats were the good guys. All we had to do was elect more Democrats and in time we will bend the arc of history towards inclusion—or so I thought. There to push this binary vision of the world were the baying hounds on MSNBC, CNN and the rest of the establishment left who made it their mission to have me dependent on Democrats.
It took two years of struggling with a bout of indigence and losing everything for me to realize the hoax of this identity driven political system. Both parties are cunningly manipulating their “base” while they take part in the very injustices they rage against. In the process, they have convinced millions of Americans that their enemies are people who struggle just like them. People on the left are being force fed images of individual racists and Nazis while people on the right are being inundated with pictures of foreigners and outsiders. All sides are being conditioned to fear; as long as we focus on individuals who say bigoted things or a few folks who look different, we never look at the system that is creating these imbalances. Click To Tweet
Republicans traffic in racism to cater to some on the right who think America belongs only to them, Democrats use the plight of the marginalized not because they care but to advance their hidden agendas. Meanwhile, mainstream media personalities and supposed journalists make a spectacle about injustices while all along they chase checks from the source they are supposedly speaking against. It’s all a hustle, they are playing all of us because too many of us view justice through the lens of just us. With each passing year, we seemingly creep closer to open conflict. We are letting firebrands on all sides foment social unrest, we better think long and hard before that day arrives.
The sad thing is, if you put aside our differences, most people—irrespective of politics or externalities—are up in arms over the same core issues. We all want to be treated fairly, to be able to earn a living, and for our government to work for us instead of working against us. But these common goals become sources of diverging conflicts as agitators convince us that our travails are not like those who struggle like us. Martin Luther King realized in his last days that the challenge was to unite Americans and to overcome social constructs in the quest to realize economic equity for all.
“By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.”
The above quote is from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee founding statement. SNCC realized back then what too many in this era of indignation are forgetting, a revolution that is not grounded in inclusion and love for your fellow human is one that eventually leads to retribution and renewed repression. We need to heed the examples of moral giants who sacrificed and led us out of the wilderness instead of following moral midgets who have us clawing at each other for the sake of their paychecks.
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.