Today in America we are safer than we've ever been in any point in our nation's history.
On the surface, this simply seems implausible. Our nightly news is filled with stories about death, violence, and destruction. In our local communities there exists a never-ending wave of violence and crime. Every single day our nation is forced to deal with gang violence, illegal immigration, an eroding respect for the our own law officials, as well as foreign and domestic terrorism. And internationally, we've seen the world's greatest terror threat in Al Qaeda be replaced by an even more sinister threat from ISIS, leading to the Europe's largest migration problem since the second world war. Each and every day there seems to be a new issue or threat that could potentially derail our country at the drop of a hat.
At least that's what today's Republican Party wants you to believe.
The truth of the matters is quite different. Violent crime in this country is at its lowest levels since 1978. The year 2015 saw the second-fewest number of cops killed in a century. Net immigration has been zero for the past five years and there have been no recorded terrorist attacks by refugees despite grave concerns regarding this possibility. Despite still being a formidable foe, ISIS has lost 14% of its territory over the past year and its second-in-command, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was recently forced into an early retirement by in Iraqi airstrike a few days ago.
Unfortunately, these pesky "facts" aren't good for the Republican business of fear. Because to admit to these inconvenient truths would undermine the majority of their party platform. Obama is waging a war on the police! These #BlackLivesMatter thugs are inciting violence! Illegal immigrants are streaming over the border, selling drugs, raping our women, and taking our jobs! ISIS has gone unchecked because Obama is weak! We can't allow any refugees from Syria because they could easily be agents planted here by ISIS! All this at a time when Obama is doing everything in his power to take away our guns!
See how easy it is to drum up fear without using facts?
And that is what Republicans have become experts in during the 21st century: Fanning the flames of fear. They know their base won't take 10 minutes to Google those simple facts about the truth so Republicans tell them what they want to hear. Of course, this can be a challenge. How does the party of rugged individualism explain to its voter base why they can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps? The answer: Blame those who don't look like you. Didn't get into the college of your choice? Blame the policies of affirmative action! Didn't get that new job? Blame the illegal aliens who are stealing it from you! Feeling like your neighborhood is becoming rundown? Blame the influx of immigrants in the community! Wondering why your local church isn't as full as it once was? Blame the Muslims down the street for scaring off the good Christian folk who used to attend service every Sunday!
By blaming others, it allows for Republicans to take on an "us versus them" mentality that is tribal in nature. You see others not as your peer but as your enemy. You have preconceived notions of people and you adopt a worldview to fit these notions. The Latina at the grocery store becomes an illegal alien regardless of her true legal status. The lone Muslim in the park becomes an ISIS sympathizer regardless of how he actually feels about the group. The successful black man walking downtown is only successful because of affirmative action regardless of his true ability and merit. The teenage mom at the bus stop is a welfare queen regardless of her true financial situation.
It is through this mentality that all empathy is lost. You don't take pity on anyone else who might be struggling because you yourself are struggling and it is most likely something that one of "them" did that is causing your struggle. Why else would someone like you, a hard-working white man, have any problems finding a job in America in 2016? You're nothing like that teenage mom who is mooching off government assistance or the Latina woman who is struggling to buy groceries for her family. You're much more pious than those wretched Muslims to have the audacity to worship a violent and manipulative God. And, you know for a fact that if you weren't white, with your background and skills, you'd be able to have a job in no time through affirmative action policies.
Republicans are masters of manipulation. It's how they continually get poor, rural Whites to vote for them election after election. It's how 9 out of 10 of the poorest states are Republican. It's how 97 of the poorest 100 counties are in red states. It's how Owsley County, Kentucky which has the highest percentage of residents on food stamps, is 99% white and is 95% Republican. It's how Kentucky can elect a Republican governor who actively campaigned to take away health insurance from 400,000 of the state's residents. And it's why 16 Republican state governors have chosen not to expand Medicaid, despite the initial cost being offset by the Obama Administration.
These poor, rural whites are the result of decades-long groundwork laid by modern-day Republicans dating back to the southern strategy implemented by Nixon. Although their party couldn't stop integration, these poor, largely uneducated voters still felt that it had their best interests in mind. And so today when it is now forty some-odd years later and their financial situation still hasn't improved, these people are left wondering what happened. Rather than seeing Reaganomics for the complete and utter sham that it was, these people are instead being told by the Republican Party that their communities are being overrun by immigrants, that their Christian values are being threatened by Muslims, that their current jobs are being stolen by Latinos, and that their dream job is being given to a black person. By having these poor, rural whites blame others, the Republican Party is able to convince these communities to keep voting Republican or else their situation will only continue to erode.
Malcolm X once said, “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” There can be no finer descriptor of today's Republican Party. Through the use of a ratings-driven media that focuses on death and destruction to bring in advertising dollars, the Republican Party has used these images to paint a picture of a violent and unsafe world. By then using conservative television, radio, and internet, the Republican Party is able to use this fear to keep those poor, rural whites from realizing that it is not their neighbors who are causing their financial ruin but rather the party that has merely pretended to care about them and their well-being for the past forty years. They have been lied to for decades and have been used and manipulated by a party for the sole purpose of keeping its leaders in power and lining their own pockets. By using fear to do this, the Republican Party has preyed on our country's most vulnerable and convinced them that we are living in the most dangerous time in our nation's history.
Which, as we all know, couldn't be further from the truth.
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