Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Saving the marriage

You probably saw that Marjorie Taylor Traitor Greene has called for a "national divorce" along red state/blue state lines, splitting the United States into two countries.  Here's her exact quote:

We need a national divorce.  We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government.  Everyone I talk to says this.  From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s [sic] traitorous America Last policies, we are done.

There are some, in my opinion overly optimistic, people who believe this is just a publicity stunt, another opportunity to increase polarization and ring the changes once again on the whole "Culture War" trope, and that she doesn't actually believe what she's saying.  Myself, I'm not so sure.  For one thing, in the past the woman has shown every sign of having the IQ of a Hostess Ho-Ho.  For another, her voting record is nothing if not consistent.  As long as a bill has the MAGA imprimatur, she'll vote for it.

Also, it hardly matters if she believes it, because apparently a good chunk of her constituency does.  While I doubt that "everyone she talks to" says this, I'm guessing that there are people on the Far Right would love nothing better than to turn the red states into a right-wing, Christo-nationalist enclave.

There are a number of problems with this, though, the main one being a wee problem of money.

The Far Right loves nothing more than to call the liberals a "bunch of socialists," living off of federal government handouts.  Wanting "something for nothing."  You know the talk; it's all over right-wing media.  The truth is, though, that if you look at federal government dependency -- the ratio of money given per capita to the federal government to money received as benefits from the federal government -- an awkward pattern emerges:

While the correlation isn't perfect, it's a curious thing that the states run by Evil Liberal Socialists tend to be least dependent on the federal government for funding, and a good many of the states run by the Stalwart Independent Conservatives are the ones who happily accept the most in the way of help.  (In fact, the nonpartisan study I linked above found that my staunchly-red home state of Louisiana is near the top, and relies on the federal government for 52.27% of its funding.)

So if MTG's loony proposal was followed, the liberated Confederate States of America (version 2.0) would instantly become the Western Hemisphere's newest Third World country.

The other frustrating thing about this is that whenever issues of secession come up, I hear from pissed-off liberals things like "Hell yeah, let 'em go and serves them right."  The problem is that even the reddest of red states is more diverse than the purveyors of polarization would like you to believe.  In Greene's own bright-red district in Georgia, for example, 34% of voters in the last election voted for her Democratic opponent, Marcus Flowers.  

So suppose we did split along red state/blue state lines.  I have liberal and moderate friends in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, and West Virginia (just to name a few off the top of my head).  If MTG's Christofascist MAGA paradise was realized, what happens to them?  What happens to the people of color, the non-Christians, the LGBTQ people?  They're already fighting like hell not to have legislation passed allowing discriminatory practices against them -- how do you honestly think they'd fare under President Greene?

Let me make one thing clear, and hopefully head off at least a few of the hate-comments; yeah, yeah, I know, not all conservatives.  I also have a good many conservative friends, and mostly we get along fine, because they are coming from a position of respecting others and trying to find common ground.  (Otherwise it's hard to imagine we'd stay friends long.)  But that's not where people like Greene (and Ron DeSantis and Lauren Boebert and Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham) are coming from.  They play on divisiveness because it gets headlines, and inflame hatred because fear and anger get people to the voting booth, even if that fear and anger is based on lies.  (And if you object to my saying "lies" outright, recall that recent legal disclosures make it clear that the Fox News hosts are well aware that they're lying to their listeners; text messages from people like Carlson and Ingraham not only state explicitly that they knowingly lied on air, they brutally ridiculed Trump and Trump supporters for falling for those lies.  They're not only liars, they are hypocrites who hold their own listeners in the deepest contempt.)

It's time for reasonable people on both sides to stand up and shout down the ugliness trumpeted by folks like MTG -- and demand the truth, not partisan spin (and outright falsehoods) from media.  Americans of all political stripes have more common interests than we have differences, and those differences can be discussed in a civil manner.  For a good example of this, check out the Twitter account of conservative commentator and former congressperson Joe Walsh.  While there's a lot we disagree on, he is a deeply honorable man and open to finding that common ground.  If more of us on both sides of the aisle approached issues like he does, we'd be a far better nation -- and hate-mongers like MTG would never get elected.

It's easy to feel hopeless.  If you read the news, things certainly seem to be sliding into a nightmare.  But when I look around me, I'm struck by the fact that the vast majority of people I see are decent and kind and want the same sorts of things; stability, peace, a safe place to raise their kids, a roof over their heads, enough to eat.  We might differ about how to get there, but that's stuff we can talk about.

Let's give ourselves a chance at that conversation by turning off the lying, hateful, and divisive voices -- and listening to each other for a change.


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