A few months ago I had a Twitter encounter with an American far-right Trump supporter.
Unbeknownst to me, this man had been lurking and – as incongruous as it sounds – apparently enjoying my Twitter feed (which is largely, these days, random stuff about science, literature and women in science, sprinkled with occasional absurdity). That is, until I made a rare snide remark about American politics. Then he addressed me directly for the first time, saying that a lot of my tweets had really ‘resonated’ with him, but now he was disappointed. I wrote back something along the lines of wishing him luck in finding someone with whom he agreed on every particular.
I expected him to flounce off and that would be that; instead, he took it with humour and good grace and it was at that point I decided to follow him. He returned the favor soon afterwards.
It’s been a very interesting glimpse into a strange world. His tweets and retweets drop into my timeline like grenades, so different than everything else that my follow choices have carefully filtered. This is deep wall-buildin’, bump-stock-open-carry-totin’, xenophobic #MAGA territory, so extreme that it’s almost difficult to believe that there really are people – quite a lot of people as it turns out – who honestly subscribe to this stuff. Today’s zinger, for example (which I appreciate for its unintended poetry):
Our Country Has Gone Batshit Crazy!
Have You Ever Read the Threads On Liberal Trash Pages
The brainwashed and brain dead Liberals, Worshipping Corrupt Scum
Being Played and Manipulated at every turn, like sheep to the slaughter!
What the Hell is Wrong with these People ?
Obviously, at this point any logical ‘liberal’ would be thinking about the cloud of corruption surrounding the current US administration, the arrests and indictments, the emoluments, illegal endorsements, hypocrisy and dodgy favors, the innumerable documented lies issuing forth from the POTUS on a weekly basis – in short, the biggest swamp ever seen in US politics. (#DrainTheSwamp is a frequent hashtag used in these tweets, utterly without irony.) The liberal would also note the way that Trump’s followers seem themselves to be ‘played and manipulated’ by these documented untruths. Are there really people who are blind to the fact that this tweet would have been much more appropriate aimed in the opposite direction?
Of course there really are. They must think that the ‘documented truths’ are in fact manufactured fake news, and that their own side is spotless and the victim of gross defamation. And there is no way to change their minds: even video evidence (Trump saying one thing one day on camera, for example, then denying it the next day on camera) could be faked, right? It’s fascinating to know that there is nothing I can possibly say to change these minds, and it’s also useful.
And that is why I follow this person: to remind myself of the sheer insurmountability of the differences that divide us. We will never reconcile. We will never believe each other and we will never make peace and work together, no matter how much I might want it to happen. Instead, we must fight, and when we are in power, we must do what we can until we lose power again – as we inevitably will – and all the good is undone (or evil, depending on your perspective) until the next cycle. It’s exhausting, and it’s almost impossible to get anything permanent done – like trying to build a castle halfway between low tide and high, which will never amount to more than a misshapen lump of sand.
What a waste of time and energy, when united we could do so much. But this is the reality that entraps us, and I cannot see any hope for escape.