Last week I visited a couple I’m very good friends with, who live on the other side of the ridge from me. He’s a local politician (like many local politicians, he also has a day job), and she is an early-education expert who focuses on antiracist education and social-emotional learning.
Both of them feel anxiety about the current situation America is in. They feel it because they are figuratively in the trenches of this current political cold war. Conservative yahoos have more or less taken over the board he’s on after the last election, and he’s now the lone voice of reason. Since conservatives aren’t that into helping their constituents, the conservatives’ plans are not going to be good for the area. Given he is a local leader who gives a damn and works hard to improve his home region, he is very unhappy.
Just one look at what she does gives you an idea of her situation. Making all children feel welcome in school is apparently Ruining America, and since you can’t turn on the TV or computer these days without seeing a parent screaming “CRT!!!!” or a “centrist” column about how “wokeness” is dividing and destroying the nation’s freedoms (read: The Sacred Right to Be an Asshole that is so precious, apparently), she feels overwhelmed.
Bad times for good people, indeed, but it is very difficult to not think that many in the media, and the country itself, feel much more empathy for racists and authoritarian enthusiasts. There have been so many stories about Trumpers in diners and how “sad and forgotten” they feel, complete with all-American images of pensive folks staring out diner windows, that it’s become a punchline, a maddening meme of our moment.
What you will not find is much in the way of empathy for the people who see where our nation seems to be headed, and are terrified. They are equated as somehow on the same footing as the craziest of Trumpers.
One of the Good New York Times Columnists, Michelle Goldberg, lamented this on Total Political Nerd Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show in 2018. It is quite cruel to the people who are trying their best to make our country live up to its ideals, people who are terrified they might be a victim of future political violence, people who are protesting peacefully for justice, and compare them as somehow equal to those who are openly supportive of violence and autocracy.
It’s not just both-siderism, but clear hostility to liberals and progressives and open contempt for their legitimate fears. Former Atlantic Now New Yorker Word Slinger Emma Green, who really does write some good pieces, infamously embarrassed herself back in May when she browbeat liberals for still thinking there’s a pandemic going on. So quick to mock anxious people, because haha those silly libs, she ended up looking spectacularly bad as the summer progressed and the death rate rose.
While liberals and progressives are mocked and declared “just as bad” as conservatives, over and over again, you see empathy and benefit of the doubt offered to the worst offenders on the right. Future Fox News Star Kyle Rittenhouse got a headline about how he is studying to become a nurse, which Arizona State corrected and said he is a non-major student and not a nursing student. Which is great news, given we really don’t need any more people like Kyle in healthcare.
I think a lot of people in elite media find progressives and liberals hysterical and annoying, likely because many of them come from very comfortable backgrounds. This is despite our being correct more often than not, and the Reasoned Very Serious People in DC media turning out to be the ones tragically out of touch.
For example, Celebrated Beltway Journalist Jonathan Karl, who spent a good amount of time tsk-tsked and dismissed those of us who had our hair rightfully on fire about Trump, confessed in his new Trump book to being flummoxed by what he was seeing during the Trump years.
We could have told you, Jonathan, but you were too busy dismissing our concerns.
As I said before I think some of it is people in the media from comfortable backgrounds finding the left to be too shrill. I think some of it is what media critics like Jay Rosen refer to as a misguided attempt at non-bias. I just know that we do not see very many visits to places where liberals and progressives congregate to listen to their fears and concerns about what is happening to America in 2021. Little in the way of empathy for people who are scared right now. For reasons which are very real.
The last word goes to Marc Maron, who back in 2017 on The Tonight Show spoke for a lot of us about how terrifying Trump was and is.