Last week, I gave a talk at Bradley University in Peoria based around Out of Sight, but updated to discuss post-election issues. Basically, I outline the basic issue of how corporations are controlling our society by moving production wherever they want, undermining the global working class wherever they organize, including in the U.S., and then discussing how we can deal with that through demonizing others or by coming together collectively to retake power from corporations, as we did a century ago. It’s a political talk about global capitalism rooted in historical analysis. I also give talks with a good bit of energy. Say what you will about the content, but it’s not boring.
I’ve given that talk a few times now. But after this one, a student came up to me wearing a sweatshirt with his frat letters and asked me a serious and earnest question: “Why do you hate America?”
This was basically a life highlight. I always love it when right-wing stereotypes actually come true for me. I can put this up there with the time I was called an outside agitator by the priest who ran the Newman Center at the University of Tennessee for organizing for a campus living wage (I had graduated a few months before) and of course the NRA attacks. Good stories, all.
I answered the question by saying that, first, capitalism is not America. Second, I said that I was trying to save America, not destroy it. Third, I suggested to the student that he consider rethinking his ideas and focusing on the people who organized in the past to make America a better place. He eventually mumbled something about not agreeing with me and wandered off, no doubt to complain about left-wing professors oppressing conservatives.
I mention this though because it gets at a larger issue of how kids who grow up in right-wing bubbles are taught about liberals and leftists. The parents are no doubt at fault, but also the churches, some teachers, and of course the right-wing media also teach this. It’s not that people disagree with corporations or religious conservatives. It’s that they literally hate America. Criticizing capitalism means you hate America. Supporting abortion rights means you hate America. Not voting for Donald Trump means you hate America.
This is very scary. This is how democracies fall apart into violence, fascism, and civil war. When critiques of the state and its economic system means you hate America, the problems are very deep indeed.