The Right — capital R — is on the rise. So says the conventional narrative, courtesy of wits, wags, experts, mavens, doyens, cranks, and other blusterers.
Everybody’s trying to figure out why Marine Le Pen of France, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, the Polish Law & Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) Party, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and, of course, our very own 45th President of the United States, are or recently had been in charge, or are knocking at the door of the halls of absolute power in their respective lands. Add them to the already firmly established regressive, authoritarian, often theocratic strongarms in Iran, Russia, the Philippines, China, and Turkey.
Even Sweden, nice little, unprepossessing Sweden, has a rising, powerful nativist, right wing party that calls itself, bizarrely, the Democrats.
Acc’d’g to Freedom House, a largely American-run nonprofit that monitors such things, “Global freedom faces a dire threat.” The organization reports that in 2021 fully eight of 10 people on this Earth lived in a completely non-free or only partly free country.
As recently as 2009, Freedom House reports, twice as many humans lived in a flat-out free country as they did last year.
So, yeah, we’re clearly heading toward a new Dark Age — that is, if we’re not there already.
And, as I say, thinkers, speculators, navel-gazers, and pontificators are all tripping over each other trying to tell us why, why, why.
Realizing that I, too, am a thinker, speculator, navel-gazer, and pontificator, I’m throwing my own voice into the wind herein to explain what in the damned hell is going on around here.
Most people, sez me, are concerned with one thing and one thing alone: themselves. Always have been. Always will be. I’ve had the opportunity many times to shake my finger at people impatient with dissidents, protesters, complainers, activists and anybody else who isn’t them and has a major beef with the way things are set up either in this holy land or around the world. I call those impatient ones Front Door People. They open up their front doors, glance around, see clean streets, the neighbors washing their cars and tending their gardens, all of them reasonably similar in skin color, religion, class, and aspiration to themselves. The world, they conclude, is a fine place. Why in the hell would anybody complain about anything? For chrissakes, everybody’s got smartphones! What more do people want?
These are the same folks Richard Nixon referred to a little more than 50 years ago as the “Silent Majority.” They don’t kick because they don’t have to. And if somebody else is kicking, well then, they must be troublemakers, damn it!
Sure, there are folks who long for powerful, repressive, tyrants to run things but, by and large, they’re a minority pretty much everywhere you go. There’ll always be the 30-or-so percent who think a murderous bully is preferable to a cautious, thoughtful consensus builder.
That 40 percent, the aforementioned Front Door People, in the middle between the Putin/Trump idolators and those who plant Black Lives Matter yard signs in front of their homes, are the ones who are swinging Righty these days. And. again, it’s because their vision is limited and their ox is not being gored. Right now, that is.
See. the Front Door People would be all for LBGTQI rights, for Blacks Lives Matter, for wealth equity and all the rest if, for example, one of their kids turns out to be gay, or marries a black person, or they lose their job and health insurance coverage and face financial disaster.
Take old Dick Cheney, former vice president of the United States and, for the longest time, a staunch opponent of LGBTQI rights. Then, lo and behold, his daughter came out as a lesbian. Wouldn’t you know it, next thing anybody knew, VP Cheney, the darling of the Republican Party, Tony Soprano’s choice for “president of the universe,” became a warrior for the non-straight.
For years he’d looked out his front door and saw only straight people. If, perchance, a homosexual or trans blundered into his line of vision, he thought to himself, at best, the world’s full of all kinds, a bizarre patchwork quilt, and thank god in heaven I don’t know anybody like that.
Suddenly, his daughter is somebody like that. A person. A person he knows. A person he loves. Hey, she’s not so bizarre. I’ve seen her go to school, keep her house, make a career for herself, laugh, cry, dream, watch TV, win awards, get sick… all the things that normal people do. My daughter, Dick Cheney thought, is normal. So LGBTQI people, believe it or not, must be normal.
Were that daughter straight and found herself pregnant one day when she was, say, 17 years old, the president of the universe suddenly would look upon abortion rights as an awfully sensible thing.
Suddenly, as I say, women who want abortions aren’t irresponsible sluts. They’re my daughter!
The more Front Door People actually experience, are confronted with, that patchwork quilt of humanity, the more they become progressive.
Those who haven’t experienced it resent the bejesus out of trans people wanting to be teachers, the gays who go parading around like they own the place every June, the Blacks who are always pissing and moaning about this and that. They’re all trying to take over, goddamnit! What about my rights?
So when someone comes along to say the Mexicans are rapists and murderers, the Muslims are terrorists, the protesters are communists, the gays and lesbians are grooming our children, and any and all simplistic, short-sighted, self-centered campaign lines, they say, You know what, that guy makes a lot of sense. He talks just like me. I’m all for ‘im!
That guy, they believe, is gonna straighten things out once and for all.
Yeah, the repressive right is growing right now. As more and more people experience the rich quilt of humanity, as more and more voters, especially in America, have darker skin, are working with and loving people of color, are exploring their sexuality, the tide will change.
But in the meantime, the Front Door People are leaning toward strongmen (and occasionally strongwomen) and the damage they’re going to wreak upon the world — that they’re wreaking upon the world as we speak — is setting us back…, oh, I don’t know, to the 1950s, the 1850s, or even a New Dark Age.