Let’s review what we’ve learned as we face 2021.
The moveable middle is shrinking. This is both good and bad news. It means that more people are sympathetic with causes for equality, while it also means that others are stuck in the extremist right-wing and more immovable.
We thus must recognize that there are some we cannot reach and that it’s not our fault or personal responsibility when we don’t.
For most of these the best we can do is marginalize them societally by laws and practices that support the world as we want it to be and live our lives as models of what should be. For many nice people that is a hard lesson to accept.
It also means that we need to encourage and strengthen those who are already with us. As the old preacher said, “We’ve got to preach to the choir because so many of them aren’t singing.”
There is little need to listen more closely to right-wingers (especially members of the previous president’s cult).
It is more often a waste of time that keeps us from doing what is effective. We know what they believe and they have nothing new to say.
If anyone finds something new, let us all know, but the odds are on the bet that we’ve heard it all before and that it’s been answered before. That means hardly any new mean, self-centered, hypocritical things they do should surprise us.
For them there’s no bottom just as there was nothing too low for their hero, the previous president. Expect the worst and hope to be surprised because upping the outrageousness each time gets more of the attention they desperately need from media, both mainstream and social. Doing so is a practice perfected by Westboro Baptist Church.
When right-wingers claim liberals don’t listen or don’t understand them, they’re saying that until you agree with them they won’t count it as listening or understanding them. Baloney.
Most of us understand them and couldn’t disagree more. We, in fact, disagree vehemently because we understand them.
So, do not expect more listening to them to change their view about you not understanding them.
Remember that their use of this tactic is a means of control used by abusers to manipulate the abused, one that is often internalized by the abused to blame themselves. Essentially, it is your fault, “If you just understood him better, we’d get along.”
Don’t buy into any of it.
When they say liberals talk down to them, right-wingers mean that liberals just insist on using facts and careful, peaceful language. Pro-equality people, liberals, will be accused of talking down to right-wingers until liberals agree completely with them.
And, by the way, no one talks down more to those they disagree with or uses labels to put down those who disagree than right-wingers. Examples abound.
The current right-wing mindset is not based on reason, rationality, or logic. It is about supporting their prejudices and power by any means possible.
The more that liberal people argue as if reason and presenting facts will work, the more they’ll be accused of talking down to them. Right-wingers are not caught up in their ideology because they’re stupid or just don’t understand something you have to tell them – they are caught up in something like the comfort of a cult that has teachings that support their prejudices and fears.
Cults are not rational enterprises. They attract people who have other deep emotional and psychological issues. They function as addictions, and their members’ responses sound like those of the non-recovering addict who blames everyone else and needs to protect their stash.
That means arguments that challenge their beliefs and anything that challenges their suppliers threatens their very beings and what they’ve based their lives upon. It’s difficult to argue someone out of a cult.
Right-wingers will lie, reject anyone who points out that they’re lying, and defend their heroes no matter what they do – unless, maybe, its same-sex relations with children.
We have seen this with the previous guy’s presidential cult. Even he knew that his followers would continue with him even if he shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Right-wingers love to play the victim role – no matter how much they’re in power, they will always talk like a persecuted minority. There’s a long history of playing the martyr and raising any casualties of their beliefs to the status of martyr.
They count on that act raising more liberal guilt. And liberals are really good about thinking it’s their own fault (something they did or didn’t do or didn’t do enough of). Many of the analyses liberals promote sound like excuses that abused spouses give for why their abusers don’t change.
And, again, doing that blames the abused.
Right-wing religion supports all of this if it makes right-wing religionists winners. Look at their view of the end times which includes their salivating about the violent, vengeful destruction of their enemies.
The key to right-wing religion is experiencing and seeking the high of righteousness, and that means winning at all costs. Those wins are how they renew that high. That’s why they’re so ruthlessly sought after.
Political activity and supporting anyone who promises that high of righteousness are not add-ons in their lives. They become essential ways of finding meaning, self-love, attention, and worth when society around them looks as if it wants to take all that away.
The leaders of the Republican Party who dominate it are not dumb or lacking in some understanding of democracy. They have shown again and again that they know how to use the minds of their cult members and how to con liberals to get their oligarchic ways.
One of the skills of an addict who is not in recovery is the ability to con others. By the questions asked and the claims made, they can sound sincere and convincing, and they know how to turn those around them into enablers by getting others to play the games they invent.
Linguist George Lakoff for the last twenty years is still the best analyst of what needs to be done and why it’s not based on so much that liberal people have used because they don’t understand how the mind works.
Though he gathered attention for his writing in the previous decade, few seemed to follow through, and the old guard, the entrenched, looked on with skepticism because he was challenging the established and lucrative approaches of what economist Paul Krugman calls some “very serious people.”
It’s past time to read more of George Lakoff. His approach still works well for me and seems even more valuable in 2021 after over three decades of an activism for equality that’s taught me these lessons.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.