It is a love story for the dark ages.
Girl meets conspiracy theories. Girl falls in love with Q. Girl wins election. Boy dreads her arrival in Congress. Girl claims Democrats are satanic pedophiles with pizza shop fronts. Boy says you’re wacko and humiliating. Girl screams cancel culture and goes on anti-semitic screed. Boy strips her of her committee assignments. Girl spends the next two years throwing spitballs and making fart noises with her armpits. Boy starts making violent “jokes” about beating an older woman with a gavel. Girl dedicates her life to the Big Lie. Boy decides, if you can’t beat ‘um, go along with an attempted coup. Girl is intrigued. Boy pledges fealty to losing candidate. Girl spews racist replacement theory. Boy says she’s misunderstood. Girl thinks, now that’s my kinda jellyfish. Boy decides he would rather suck up to girl than never be Speaker. Girl smells weakness. Boy promises to do her bidding. Girl fastens lock and tosses the key. Boy, now only a floating figurehead in a jar of formaldehyde, wins Speakership on 15th vote. Girl tells the head, I’ve made you what you are today. Head bobs in agreement and proclaims, “I will never leave that woman. I will always take care of her” and appoints her to the Homeland Security and Oversight Committees.
I wish this were all a farce. It's not.
It is one story out of thousands of true and terrible stories that have degraded our democracy, made us less safe, and literally cost lives. The Trump years that have resulted in a MAGA-aligned GOP have been ones of escalating authoritarian markers, including increasing normalization of lying and political violence. In 2021, a majority of the House GOP caucus voted against certifying the results of our free and fair presidential election. Today, Kevin McCarthy and his boss, Marjorie Taylor Greene, have control of the House and have stacked committees with members who supported Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. Most still refuse to acknowledge that we have a legitimately elected president in the White House, and some now lead committees critical to the safety, security, and functioning of our government. Jim “I turn a blind eye to sexual assault and requested pardons for insurrectionists” Jordan now chairs the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee.
In November 2022, the National Terrorism Advisory System, part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a bulletin about the escalating threat of domestic terrorism. The bulletin noted, “Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration.” That inspiration included the November shooting at the LGBTQ+ bar in Colorado Springs and an October 2022 shooting at an LGBTQ+ bar in Slovakia. To close that horrific loop, the shooter in Slovakia “posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States.”
Since then, a failed political candidate in New Mexico hired three people for $500 and, along with them, fired shots into the homes of Democratic elected officials. One bullet went through the bedroom of a sleeping child. Gunfire has taken energy infrastructure offline in an apparent show of displeasure over drag performances that were not canceled. LGBTQI+, Jewish Americans, refugees and immigrants, and BIPOC communities live under politically motivated and escalated threats.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Not all political violence can be eliminated, but simply by denouncing violence consistently and genuinely, political leaders can take the temperature down. I know cries of “what about Antifa” will go up when some on the Right read this. Still, it is politicians on the ideological left who consistently call out violence as an unacceptable reaction to political or social differences. Too often, the admonishments from the Right come with caveats and explanations for why people were forced to resort to violence or, more often, they say nothing at all.
With every excuse made and scapegoat invented, another person considering violence finds cover and comfort in knowing they will not be cast out of their social or political groups should they follow through on violent fantasies. The justifications from the Tucker Carlsons of the right explain: It’s not their fault, you see. They were driven to it. They’re being replaced. Democrats are flooding the country with immigrants to win elections and destroy our culture (read: white culture). Teachers are indoctrinating our children with dangerous black history lessons and acknowledging that LGBTQ+ people exist. We can’t trust teachers to choose books, teach history, or talk with children who are being racially bullied or are struggling to love themselves as they are. But guns? Why aren’t our teachers packing? Teachers can never have too many guns.
Wielding weapons of fear and control doesn’t require expertise in domestic terrorism, a deep understanding of why our brains are drawn to conspiracy theory, or the meaning and impact of amygdala hijacking. You don’t even need to know that throughout history and across cultures, people have sought seemingly simple solutions to complex problems. When humans can remove complexity, assign blame elsewhere, and shield themselves in the company of like-minded people, it’s difficult to resist the lure of simple solutions. Just ask any insurrectionist, domestic terrorist, or even participants in genocides like the one occurring in Ukraine. Their justifications are so black and white. Most don’t act out of courage; they’re reacting to fear.
And that’s the poison, the insidiousness of someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene’s constant efforts to reinforce fear in her supporters and why her newly found power and position on the Homeland Security Committee is so dangerous. The replacement theory she continues to promote tells Americans to be afraid of their government and of their fellow Americans. She encourages us to be fearful of people who don’t look, talk, dress, worship, or live as we do. Because, as the theory goes, people who aren’t like you want to repress, replace, or even erase you. Their very existence is a threat to yours.
So what is the logical next step if you, your family, or your way of life is threatened? It’s simple: eliminate the threat. That simplicity pushed by so many on the right today has mass appeal and tragic results – you can read it in the manifestos, the social media posts discovered too late, or the final videos made before someone walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh, a nightclub in Orlando, or a supermarket in Buffalo.
Cue the right’s denialists, apologists, and propagandists, and the divisive and often deadly cycle of simplicity continues.
Solutions to complex issues in a diverse country aren't simple; that makes civil conversation and a desire to understand essential. It is critical that we recognize that the adage "there is more that unites us than divides us," as more than a line trotted out in political speeches but a foundational belief in a functioning democracy. If that is truly the type of society in which we want to live, working with those building bridges rather than setting them on fire isn't a bad place to start.