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THOMPSON: America has changed, and not for the better

January 25, 2021 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Last week driving the back roads of Marion County in Florida where I was born and raised - past horse farms large and small - I made a very troubling observation. A dozen or more farms, all gated and secure, had a variety of brand new Trump flags along with American flags flying from poles at their gates. All were put up since the Capital Hill riot of Wednesday, Jan. 6.

I stopped at the Winn-Dixie grocery in Williston to pick up a few items before heading home. I noticed that while most people in the store were wearing masks...there were maybe fifteen...men and women...by my count who did not. A few wore Make America Great Again caps. A few smirked as they passed those wearing masks shopping the aisles...and eyeing them...seemed to almost want someone to challenge them. As I left the store, I paused in the parking lot to see that most of those not wearing a mask had a Trump bumper sticker on their vehicle.

I was driving home when it hit me. America is no longer the country I fought for as a member of the U.S. Air Force 50 years ago. As a writer I’ve long followed my intuition...heeding that less-than-scientific pull called my gut...that almost always led to a story worth telling. Having witnessed Donald Trump’s crusade against democracy for more than five years, I know that he did not leave us unchanged.

And none of those changes make America better...much less...great again. Of course, Trump is no longer president...not that he ever truly was worthy of the title. He still has his followers. My gut tells me things are going to get worse.

Donald Trump is not a genius...no more than Adolph Hitler was a genius. They both simply showed up at a time when too many people sought an alternative truth...and lacked a charismatic leader. Nazi supporters then and Trump supporters now felt the real truth failed them. Not really, of course, but lies better fit their narratives than truths.

Truths and facts did not matter in Nazi Germany...and they do not matter to more than 50 million Americans. Proof? Some 74 percent of Republicans believe the last election was somehow stolen from Trump, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Remember, too, that 75 years after his death, Hitler still has followers!

So, I now have this feeling...it is more gritty...more visceral...than I have ever felt about America. There is an edginess today that is more than palpable than ever before...and it is ever-present. Donald Trump and Republicans have lied so often to Americans - a largely ignorant base - that a strange mix of people not only find solace in accepting the many lies...they are weaponizing those lies.

White supremacists, Evangelicals, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon conspiracists and un-American insurrectionists are now more than ever...one. What they have in common...a belief of the Big Lie...that the recent presidential election was fraudulent...that Trump didn’t lose...Biden stole the election. There is no evidence to support these fools and their wild ass claims...simply shared outrage...and a strong sense of white privilege that has always ruled America.

Anyone with a brain on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or Instagram for the past five years knows that social media was a Petri dish for the worst ills in society...and by that I mean...a place where bad people could gather to seem normal.

If we - those who choose democracy over insurrection - don’t get a grasp on the hate of insurrectionists...the uprising we witnessed on Jan. 6 will pale in comparison with what the future holds.

I’m convinced that America is on the brink of civil war. The battle lines will not be drawn as clearly in this war. But, I am certain we will see assassination attempts...riots and murders of men and women across America this year...targeted because they are Democrats or anti-Trump...or Muslims or Jews...or you-pick-the group-that’s-not-white.

Americans need to stand up...today....the biggest threat to democracy in 244 years is here. It comes from within...and has the following of those who fly new Trump flags...not just on wealthy horse farms in Central Florida...but everywhere. The insurrection fuelled by Fox News,  and Right Wing radio for years, now has Breitbart, One America News, and Newsmax...because Fox didn’t lie enough. Literally scores of alternative media...all masters not of journalism...but propaganda...sell the Big Lie every day.

Few are alive today who remember 1930s Germany...but now is a good time to re-read that history. Our time is no less bleak. We are on a similar trajectory...and like Germany in the 1930s...what comes next bodes ill for the entire world. Those who think what is happening in America isn’t relevant...think again. It is time for Americans to stand up against the treachery of Trump Republicans and their cesspool of followers. 

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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