It started benignly enough, a passing comment about an email that my mother received from a far-away cousin. And then instantly it changed. You see, that far-away cousin forwarded a ‘news’ story portraying a subversive take over within American culture. His warning was that there is an incoming storm waiting to unleash itself upon us. In fact there was a storm, it was my fury. Not only was the story a false one, having the pictures taken from a completely different type of event(both legal and historical one), but it portrayed the belief that there was something wrong with a particular group of people.
I make it a habit to rarely discuss religion and politics with people; amongst my friends and as part of philosophical discussions sure…but arguing about those two with people is like arguing about the hue of the sky. No one wins, tempers flare, and the sky remains the same anyway. That being said, fear mongering is a pet-peeve of mine. It is all too easy to fall victim to the “illusion of truth”- an idea that we are more likely to believe something to be true because we remember hearing it, even if the information was invalid. That’s what is so dangerous about false news stories and constant flow of chain mail that is so easily discarded with a simple google search or common sense. The moment we forward, share, and perpetuate these stories we become part of the lie. And the scary thing is, we might not realize the information is incorrect, and if we do realize that we might still tuck part of it into our brain to recall later and believe it to be verified. Let’s review why this is a terrible thing. Even if we know something is untrue, we might automatically be more inclined to use it later as valid information because we will remember the information but not the source. Hear something enough times and it is easy to start believing it, even with little or no evidence to support any of the claims. This is what we did during the Red Scare(not to be confused with the Red Wedding) and the fear of communism in America. This is what Germany did to create Jews as the scapegoat, lining the way for the Holocaust. It’s how slavery, persecution, and genocides occur. Before these things happened there had to be the rise of a belief that it was being justified in order to pull in support. If a terrible idea isn’t supported, it doesn’t happen. But an idea that has a lot of backing doesn’t necessarily make it the right or good one.
At what point do current actions override historical injustices? So many people grow up being taught that they are against a certain group of people because “they were/are against us.” We romanticize the past and the fight against the oppressors, believing that we have now joined in the honorable line of a long standing tradition. At some point it stops being about where it originated from and becomes where it is still propagating from. We immortalize hatred, build walls to keep out the different, and justify it within ourselves because of some misguided notion that it is deserved. We eliminate the opposing force as less than, ‘other,’ marking them apart, and different, so that we can sleep easy knowing that any action against them is warranted. When do we realize that nothing is separating these actions from the propaganda we identify from the past? The Holy Crusades didn’t end in the middle ages. Scapegoating didn’t disappear in WWII. We are in the middle ages of our own time period, and it is time for our renaissance. It seems impossible to fight it all, there’s too much of it. The one thing each one of us can do is hold the line. We can say “this stops here.”
By: Courtney Kidd, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer
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