An Odd Political Counter In A Pizza Shop: Street Activists, Political Apostles Might Want To Think Before They Act
I went to pick up a pizza. The cashier was a younger black woman, who I had dealt with several times before. She was speaking to an older, unkempt white man about his daughters and their love of dogs, which they apparently adopt any dog that strays into their neighborhood. The man continued to speak with her, turning to speak to me as well, as I waited silently and politely. I do not think she actually knew the man, but I believe he lived in the area. After about five minutes, he started to leave with his pizza and 2-liter of pop. As he opened the door, he felt compelled to rush back in and randomly say that he forgot to mention his bumper sticker was outdated: "My dog is smarter than my President," referring to Obama. He then went on a mini, yet seemingly planned, rant filled with Right-wing propaganda about jobs before concluding with “it seems more people are working under Trump.” She just politely smiled and nodded, which I did as well.
In the real world, I try to let people freely express their opinions before I interject my own views or reshape their ill-conceived conclusions while I only speak when I feel they are willing to accept what I have to say. I actually tend to avoid speaking about politics, unless engaged about specific topics. Only if they use insults or personal attacks do I correct them in the bluntest of terms. Thinking this odd exchange had ended after the man finally walked out of sight, I made a sarcastic comment to the cashier: "I don't think he liked Obama; I would think his bumper sticker is more correct now." I am not necessarily anti-Trump, but I am an opportunistic smart ass. As the young lady let out her first real laugh, the man suddenly returned to "show” her a picture he “happened” to find on his flip phone. He then went on a rant about how liberals are worse than Nazis, throwing out abortion statistics and a personal story about his daughter’s miscarriage.
At that point, the young lady discretely went to check on my pizza as soon as the man turned to me, which meant he had to rant to me. I just smiled and nodded, until he finally left. I turned to get my order and complimented the cashier on her handling of the situation, including my own counter-politicking. Suffice it to say, I found the whole situation weird. It is not that I necessarily disagreed with the man’s position on abortion. What I found off-putting was his approach. Inserting politics into a work environment creates a very sticky situation, especially when one of the participants is an employee and the other is a customer. When political discussions arise in a workplace, most people are not free to express their true views, because they are often at a disadvantage, thus the discussion is dishonest and unproductive at best. Civil discourse requires a willingness of participants to willingly accept disagreement, even when that disagreement evokes an emotional response.
As someone with a political background, this writer has obviously engaged in political discussion in an number of situations, including potentially awkward situations like the employee-customer scenario. What the aforementioned gentleman did to place the young lady at a disadvantage was assume she fully agreed with his positions and engaged in the negative, attack politics that has become increasingly prevalent. A partisan political joke is one thing, but a seemingly premeditated anti-Obama, anti-liberal, pro-Trump, pro-Right, propaganda-filled rant is street activism. It is political evangelizing. It is part of a mass effort to force-feed people a political agenda and silence dissenting views. The goal is not to engage in political discussion or civil discourse on social issues. It is to establish a bubble that isolates people from counter arguments, fosters “group think,” which favors the political interests of the powerful, and suppresses actual free thinking. In other words, the goal is to create a political cult.
Toward the end of the George W. Bush years, people on the Right could often be heard saying things like “I am a Conservative” to justify their disagreement with allegedly liberal policies and views, especially when they did not have an actual argument and/or the policy aligned with conservative principles but conflicted with Republican positions. Today, the propaganda machine of the special interest-controlled, radical Right has instilled a myriad of catchphrases, including “sheeple,” in the minds of their followers. The goal is not to foster “free speech,” offer an alternative perspective, or foster a constructive political discussion. The goal is to normalize their propaganda so more people are willing to support and spread their views based on the simple fact that most people do not want to dissent from mainstream thinking or feel stupid.
Obviously, all people have a right to express their views in a respectful manner, which they should in a constructive way, but it is abusive and counterproductive to use free speech and expression to suppress the views of others. When the goal is to foster political division and dysfunction in order to push an agenda, political activism is a problem, not a solution. With that in mind, activists from the far-Left and radical Left also succumb to many of the same destructive forces as those from the far-Right and radical Right. Unfortunately, the rise of angry politics, which was fueled by political commentators like Glenn Beck and political figures like Donald Trump, has inspired far more people on the Right to seal themselves into a very think ideological bubble and suppress anyone who dissents from their hardliner views with insults and personal attacks.
A New York City lawyer entered a Midtown restaurant and threatened to all ICE when he overheard employees and customers speaking Spanish. Although an extreme example, it is an example of extreme Right-wing activism fueled by blatant racism and hardliner views on immigration. In likelihood, social media blow back will mean the end of this lawyer’s life. Although all people are entitled to their views and censorship by oppressive peer pressure is a serious issue, this particular case serves as a reminder that the political world may accept outrageous tirades, but there are still very serious costs for those who reject civility in the real world. Going back to that Trump apostle in the pizza place, his activism was civil and he happened to encounter people who were unwilling to reactive in a negative way. He could have, however, easily found himself in a situation were emotion-driven responses created an unfavorable scenario. As it was, he did nothing to actually spread true conservatism or inspire reflection, because he was regurgitating the propaganda of factions that seek to divide and vilify those who disagree with them for their own interests.
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