For about 40 years we have seen culture wars break out around America. I use the term “culture” instead of “class” because it is more about perceived culture than class. It is true that class is the target, but only in terms of who are we to blame rather than what is actually at fault.
All across rural and exurban America, there are thousands upon thousands of what some call “angry white men”. These are people who have lost their farms, business, and jobs. They have downward mobility and see the American Dream disappearing before their eyes. These are people who feel their “legacy” has been taken from them. They see the government as the demon because they don’t believe it was sympathetic enough to “their” troubles. And to some extent, they are right!
They believed that if you were loyal to your employer, you would have job security. You would obtain financial success. You would be able to retire in comfort. Their family farms would be handed down to the next generation. Their family businesses would be handed down. But, everything went wrong. Instead of inheriting their “legacies” they watched as everything disappeared. Their factories were closed and their jobs were sent overseas. Their farms failed because of low commodity prices. Their family business closed because customers dried up with the factory closures and large low paying national chains like WalMart opened and forced prices so low they couldn’t compete anymore.
They became angry. The became disenfranchised. They felt as if their masculinity was being challenged. They became depressed. In the 1990′s suicide was the cause of more deaths in rural America than accidents. They felt hurt, lost, and abandoned. Anger soon turned to hate.
These are people who love their country. They fiercely believe in capitalism. They are patriotic. They are mostly Christians. Most are veterans. In a word, they are “us”. I can empathize with them. I grew up on the south side of Chicago and saw the mills and factories close down. I saw how devastating it can be to lose your livelihood and pensions without prospects. I can understand the anger. Unlike them, I did not turn to the right and blame others. I blamed the real culprits. Corporate America who was only interested in profits and greed. Politicians who made unions the culprits.
The Far Right has taken hold of this hate and began leading the culture war. They are very quick to point out who is to blame. It is the blacks, gays, immigrants, and women who are to blame. And, since the Far Right is mostly white men themselves, they always use racial “code” words to rile up their constituency like using Urban Poor to mean blacks. They have even come up with a fantasy called “The War on Christmas” in order to tap into these people’s religious beliefs.
The major problem is that these Far Right politicians are the real cause of what is making these “angry white men” angry in the first place! They are the ones who have made it easy to move jobs overseas, keep minimum wage so low it guarantees you live below poverty, passed “right-to-work” laws to eliminate unions and guaranty low wages for companies, made is easy for small business to go under due to low-paying “super marts” to crush their competition, cut education spending which could help build better futures for their families, and cut the safety nets that many of these “angry white men” needed to save their farms, businesses, and homes.
The Far Right, Radical Conservative Christian Groups, Race Supremacists Groups, and Right Wing news outlets have all joined together with billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Walton Family to drum up the culture wars.
It really wasn’t hard to get these people’s blood boiling either. As much as we like to believe that we live in a multi-racial nation, the prejudices of the past are very real in many parts of the country. Wherever one race of people are isolated from others, prejudices are easy to come by. It doesn’t excuse it, it just makes it easier to understand.
Then, when you have the likes of FOX News, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, etc., telling them they are the victims of the “takers” in the country, their anger grows. They fail to see that it is the policies of the Far Right that have put them in their predicament! They fail to see that it was the Far Right who pushed through “free trade agreements” which they blame for their job losses.
Instead they turn their anger outward to the Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and “inferior races”. They are bolstered by the likes of Pat Buchanan who in his “A Brief for Whitey” after President Obama called for a national discussion on race wrote: “It is the same old con, the same old shakedown. America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”
From that quote, I am sure Pat thinks the blacks should kiss our feet in gratitude! Rather, it is an obvious reference to the belief that we are ruled by minorities and that whites are the new “oppressed minority”. That is exactly what these “angry white men” want to hear, because it is what they have come to believe. They wonder why they are losing everything and seemingly everyone else is getting the gravy. They need to hear it is not their fault, and the Far Right is quick to tell them it is definitely these “others” fault.
Rather than dismissing them, we need to embrace them and show them they are not alone. It will take a lot of work and effort, but it is time to attempt to get these “angry white men” to realize that it is the Far Right and their minions who are the real cause of their plight. They need to understand that it is people like the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation who are pushing for their demise. Their plight is shared by millions of people in all walks of American life. They need to discover it is not only them, but everyone in America who is suffering beneath the yoke of oppression from the Far Right.