For the past few weeks, my columns here have focused on local issues, and I have not addressed the major national concerns that have arisen. While it should come as no surprise to anyone that local and national issues are very much connected, I’m going to shift my focus a little. Allow me to catch you up, if you haven’t been paying attention.
After years (decades, really) of conservatives working hard to gain control of local and state governments and ensuring an ever-more-rightward tilt of the Supreme Court, we are seeing the results. Meanwhile, most progressives, as usual, have not noticed the ship was sinking until their hats starting floating off their heads and wishful thinking did not put them back on.
After 50 years, Roe vs. Wade is in serious danger of being overturned -despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans do not want that to happen. Most Americans do want some regulating of abortion, but fewer than one-third want it banned outright. Red states around the country have proposed - or already passed - laws that would, in the event the Court overturned precedent, forbid abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or overwhelming danger of death to the mother. Some propose forcing women who have miscarriages to prove they did not cause them, on pain of prison, or to carry the lifeless fetus to term. Our very own state legislature recently considered a bill that would allow the family of a rapist to sue his victim if she aborted the fetus his crime put into her. Now some states are coming forth with plans to ban any form of birth control.
Meanwhile, just in the last few weeks there have been more mass killings, with several targeting ethnic minorities - on top of an ever-rising number of smaller hate crimes. This is being indirectly stirred up by conservative politicians and media personalities who are parroting “replacement theory” - one of several ideas and slogans popping up on the far right lately that originated with American pro-Nazi groups in the 1930s. This theory states that there is a Jewish plot to bring in immigrants and bolster native people of color so as to overtake white people as the majority and take over the country. The logical conclusion of that line of thinking, in the minds of impressionable or unstable individuals, is that it is patriotic to do everything possible to stop that from happening, which is exactly what the mass shooter in Buffalo claimed he was trying to do.
All over the country, there are politicians saying and/or voting for crazy things. And regular people, too; there are folks right here in White County who believe that Tom Hanks is part of a secret baby-eating cult, that Bill Gates invented COVID in order to put microchips in your brain, and that the “My Pillow” guy is privy to secret information verifying their conspiracy theories. I think his pillows must have something more potent than feathers in them.
I am not saying that everyone who disagrees with me goes to such extremes, they do not. But the number of people who do is growing, and the consequences are becoming very, very real. Unlike the conspiracy fantasies of the far right, this stuff is actually happening and can be empirically documented.
Those folks are being hoodooed. Tricked. Bamboozled. Their fears are being stoked into a frenzy until it becomes potentially violent - and why? To get their vote, yes… but also to keep them from noticing what is really going on. Who benefits from this? Follow the money. The corporate bigshots who own the politicians would do anything to keep their taxes low and their businesses unregulated. So what if it divides the American people to the point of bloodshed? It has worked before. Check your history… while you are still allowed to.
Come on, neighbors. Let’s put down our pitchforks and take off our blinders, together.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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