All my life, I’ve considered myself a social Democrat, sometimes a moderate Republican (remember them?), a liberal, a progressive, even a socialist.
I’ve always seen government and social policy as being about making lives better for the people, and especially for the needy and the vulnerable.
But I think I have to learn to call myself something else now and to find something else. Being progressive is coming to mean something else.
Since I started writing about the Amish, every day I get one, sometimes more than one, hateful message or another from someone – often a young someone – who claim the progressive mantle but are carrying the stench of the fascist.
More and more, they are beginning to mimic the very people they claim to hate. People who lie, distort, hate, and intimidate. The anger and grievance of the far-right and the anger and grievance of the far left are fusing into one whirlpool of rage and hostility.
My friendship with Moise and his family is not political but personal. And it seems to be the business of a lot of angry people.
I’m not doing my job.
I do not hate the Amish enough, or at all.
The interesting thing for me is that for most of last year, I was writing about politics and was sometimes critical of Donald Trump, and I got the same kinds of letters every day, almost as if they were coordinated.
They used the same words, the same insults, had the same tone. Like the ones I get now, they were all hit and run people, post one nasty message and run.
These messages have become a ritual I almost look forward to because it is important to identify them and challenge them and call them out It gives my life more meaning. I post their messages and reply once.
Let’s pause and moment and re-construct a message that appeared this morning on my blog post section:
David’s Message to me responding to sharing my experiment about the safety strips for Amish carts:
“You say, ” We are all much more at risk driving and riding in automobiles, motorcycles, and trucks- or walking in city streets – than the Amish are riding in their buggies.
Percentage-wise, there are far fewer accidents involving their carts than our cars. Horse buggies are inherently more safe than automobiles. They are lighter and go much slower, and the Amish don’t speed or drink or break the law.”
They are full of logical fallacies. Safety is not determined by a vehicle rambling down an empty area or sitting out in a field; what is relevant is the risk of BEING HIT on a busy roadway. It’s like driving a tiny car down a highway with high-speed trucks flying by.
Is your adoration, loyalty, bromance so intense because the object of your admiration holds positions of power and great privilege in his narrow little world and can dominate women and men, girls and boys, which compensatory experience you never had, so continue to try. Like the many thwarted males (good science on this btw) who voted for the last president seeing His bullying as the tough man they could never be. These 3D reflecting lights reveal a lot more than buggies careening dangerously down the road.
Have you thought through your actions here? Wait till there is an accident with one of your target’s buggies and the opposing attorney gets ahold of your blog notes that you tried to help him diminish the danger, and he REFUSED. At least you need to not8fy of the increased risk you cause.
It is occurring to me lately that these messages are almost exactly the same as messages sent out by an angry Trump and his followers, just from the other end. And this is what happens when you agree!
Are the left and the right really different any longer?
There is no left for me and no right. The center seems to be shrinking, feeding both extremes.
These messages are a good thing for me, in an unexpected way. It forces me, just like the Amish, to figure out who I am and who I wish to be and hold my ground. It is no longer about winning or losing; it’s about who I am.
If you aren’t challenged, you can’t always know who you really are. If you are challenged, you have to try to figure it out.
I’ve always hated labels and being labeled, and now it happens every day. They call it the Death Of The American Mind.
I’m sure there is a place for me somewhere – I have to find it, or perhaps let go of politics as having relevance for me and my life.
There are many good reasons to be wary of the Amish. They are a Patriarchy; there is little or no open dissent in their culture, women are always subservient to men. Their meetings are closed and secretive. The church dictates almost every aspect of their lives.
There is also much to admire about them – their honestly, their rejection of the greedy corporate culture, their lifelong care for one another, their gentleness, love of family, their hard and independent work, their love of the land.
They take wonderful care of each other.
I refuse to hate them to please the blood lust of angry feminists or the new generation of hateful progressives. I’m not selling them out for praise.
My issue is that I don’t hate them for the things I don’t like, and they don’t hate me for the things they don’t like. This is what my messengers don’t like.
This idea of tolerating the other makes the warriors on both ends crazy. It’s the fascists who can’t bear being disagreed with.
It’s disheartening but not the worst place for me to be. These challenges make me stronger. I have to stand up every day and remember who I am..
I used to think I was one of the good guys; Now, I wonder who they are and where they are.
For the past two years, I’ve had the idea we are fighting one looming evil; lately, I’ve wondered if we don’t have two evils gathering around us and no way of fighting them both.
This is an age of anger and hate, love is taking a pounding.
It’s like putting your little finger into a leaking dam.
It’s frustrating to try sometimes.
You never get to change anyone’s mind, and they never get to change yours; it’s just a spinning wheel, going round and wrong, crushing honor, honesty, compassion in the wake.
I’ve been choosing a message a day to make this point and posting it.
It’s my own way of fighting back, as small and inconsequential as it is.
The latest message I want to share is from someone named David who hates the Amish, especially the dominance of men in their church and culture. He seems to be trying to be a feminist, he seems more like a general-purpose hater.
Because I like my friend Moise and the family, and find much of Amich culture fascinating, David has chosen to hate me as well, even as he castigates the big men in trucks who hate him and me.
I can’t help it, really I can’t even bring myself to hate David, and he’s a lot nastier than the Amish. I’m a wuss.
We can see the circle grow, hate-to-hate-to-hate.
Because I like my friend and his family very much, then I “adore” them; my friendship is not a friendship but a “bromance.” Friendship is just something else to sneer at. (I can’t wait to read that to Moise.)
He took the prize for the best illogical fallacy of the year by telling me that pushing for safer carts will cost many lives, and was itself an illogical fallacy. I’m still working on that one.
If you watch the news at all, which I can’t recommend, you will see that this kind of thinking is now mainstream. I’m the freak.
These people are a test of my hope. They make me hopeful because I am not them and will never be them, and that fills my soul with joy.
I can stay hopeful. And I do. And I will.
It’s true: sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me. The values of the Middle School Playground are now our social currency and discourse, online, at home, in Congress.
I am happy to be that strange voice in the wilderness, peddling a message nobody really wants to hear; it suits me. I am not alone, but it is getting lonelier.
If this is how we are learning to speak with one another, I am a fossil, a relic, of no consequence to the world. It surely isn’t worth David’s trouble to throw up on me. That’s pretty much what it feels like.
So there is David’s message, what I call the most obnoxious message of the day. I had some doozies to choose from. The Amish touch people very deeply, and in different ways, but more importantly, I understand that they also reflect and mirror the rest of us in very powerful and revealing ways.
I was always taught it was wrong to lie, and I felt bad when I did. David has no problem with it. Neither does half the country.
David shows his contempt for bullying men by apeing them like a chimpanzee in the zoo and being one himself. How does one repel the anger and cruelty of Trumpism by becoming a Trumpist?
I have to disagree with so many of the things Moise believes, yet I respect him so much more than the wanna-be progressive who would write a letter like that.
I blame my writing about this on Hannah Arendt, the leading moral philosopher of the last century, a former teacher of mine (one class), and a lifelong inspiration to me.
The reason bad people win, she wrote, is that good people say nothing. That’s how they get started; that’s how they conquer. That’s why I’m writing this. I wish to be good.
So I won’t shut up.
If I can stir up one good person, it is well worth the time.
As for David, he will get his one chance to respond to me, and then I will ban him from my blog forever. I don’t want people like him anywhere near me or my writing.
It’s a safe bet.
Hours after David posted his message and hours after I replied, there is no sign of him. One more refugee from the truth, hiding behind his user name, spilling his poison into the well but making sure not to take a drink.
It’s the least I can do, David.