Dog Whistles, Right Wing Extremism, and White Nationalism in the Spotlight During PRIDE Month 2022

This weekend 31 members from “at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas…” and only “…one from Idaho” (Bellisle) associated with the white supremacist organization Patriot Front were arrested and charged with “criminal conspiracy to riot” (Pietsch). The “little army” (White), bedazzled in matching military stylized outfits depicting stars and stripes, Patriot Front insignias, and shirts with typical fascist slogans such as “Reclaim America,” loaded up into a U-Haul truck outside of a hotel with plans to riot at a PRIDE event in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Police officers guard a group of men, who police say are among 31 arrested for conspiracy to riot and are affiliated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front, after they were found in the rear of a U Haul van in the vicinity of a North Idaho Pride Alliance LGBTQ+ event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, U.S. June 11, 2022 in this still image obtained from a social media video. North Country Off Grid/Youtube/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

Security had been augmented when authorities were made aware of increased threats against the event and its participants, but it was a tip from an eyewitness who saw the gravy seals loading into a U-Haul outside a nearby hotel that ultimately foiled the plan for mass violence.

Right-Wing Extremist violence is steadily rising across America (O’Harrow, Ba Tran, Hawkins). The right-wing extremist groups, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, in partnership with the disgraced former president Donald Trump, for example, led the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (January 6 Committee) after the national embarrassment failed to get re-elected.

The country is slowly crawling towards progress, and as a result, conservative values–which lean toward anti-diversity, exploitative practices and policies, white nationalist philosophies, etc.–are falling by the wayside.

Extreme conservatism is dying, and its death throes are being expressed through lies and violence. As the lies lose the power to hold the masses in check, violence increases. A cursory glance at the Civil Rights Movement in history provides a clear example of this–which plays a role in why conservatives and the GOP are actively putting forth anti-Critical Race Theory propaganda.

Divisive rhetoric from community leaders such as Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld continues to serve the Right-Wing Extremist agenda by reenforcing us vs. them narratives in order to pit the community against itself. The ol’ divide and conquer strategy.

In response to local clergy offering opening prayers at the Pride Flag Raising Ceremony in Fresno, Ca, Bredefeld tweeted:

DISGRACEFUL ATTACK ON TRADITIONAL CHRISTIANITY THROUGH “PRAYER” AT GAY PRIDE FLAG RAISING AT CITY HALL.

I’ll continue to speak out against these attacks on Christianity & never accept this kind of perversion of God and what God truly stands for as revealed in the Bible. Never.

City of Fresno Councilman Garry Bredefeld via Twitter

Not only is this outburst entirely inappropriate for a sitting city councilmember in California’s fifth largest city, but it is entirely false and illustrates the far-right conservative tendency to lie, cheat, and steal when they don’t get their way. No one was attacking Christianity.

Prayer, for the record, is not the sole practice or intellectual property of right-wing conservative Christian nationalism. Prayer has been participated in by a variety of cultures, religions, and people throughout history. Written sources record prayer as far back as 5000 years ago.

Bigoted outburst from Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bedefeld

Not only is Bredefeld incredibly mistaken, but his message attempts to divide the community into us (straight Christian nationalists with a priority for old world western European ideals) vs. them (everyone else) camps. The “us” camp often self-identifies as flag waving patriots–a dog whistle and moniker for white nationalists. While some might object to the fact that “patriot” has become a moniker for oppression, bigotry, and fascism, I simply point to the hyper nationalism common in hate groups and right-wing extremist organizations such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Patriot Front, Ku Klux Klan, Save California, Act for America, Mass Resistance, Occidental Dissent, and many more.

Now, more than ever, events and programs promoting diversity, inclusivity, and positive community building are crucial! Events such as PRIDE help to breakdown negative stereotypes, ignorance, fear, and reveal the humanity inside all of us. (Why do you think many of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents wanted to keep society segregated?)

Power is shifting away from those who have excluded members of our communities across the country. Their system is failing, and as their death rattles grow, so will their lies and acts of violence.

Only we, American citizens, can put an end to the madness gripping this nation. Only by voting out illiterate knuckle draggers like Bedefeld from local, state, and federal government, and replacing them with leaders who can build up and unite our country, can we ensure changes for the good of the entire community. By coming together and refusing to allow bigotry a place at the table, we can reduce the strength and violence of the far right.

Happy Pride Month, everyone.

Parenting From Trauma

Raising my kids, I can’t help but think about all those in my past that I’m disappointing by treating my children as growing independent human beings. We communicate, work through our thoughts and feelings, we practice empathy, and we have both our good and bad days.

By removing the “I win, you lose” element practiced by my parents’ generation, acknowledging my failures and faults, and apologizing (I still suck at this) when I screw up, I find my children are learning how to both communicate and be empathetic towards others. They are growing up saying “asshole,” yes, but they are not growing up to be assholes.

And that, as far as I’m concerned, is holy.

“The families of those involved in the Texas school shooting were asked to give DNA swabs to help identify victims…”

It’s a headline no one should have to read, but every American must read. The title comes from a report written by Senior Breaking News Reporter for Insider, Cheryl Teh. The brutal and raw headline sums up the article succinctly. The first line reads:

Families of those involved in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were asked to give DNA samples to help investigators identify victims.

Cheryl Teh, “The families of those involved…,” Insider, May 2022.

The report discusses how the use of DNA to identify remains is generally reserved for incidents, such as natural disasters, when bodies are not easily identifiable. Gently put, it is safe to assume many victims of the recent elementary school massacre were unrecognizable.

Like many Americans, I have wept and hurt for those lost and left behind. As a parent, I can’t imagine the horror of losing my children to gun violence. Especially so young and while at one of few places which should be safest for them. Regardless of how near or far I am from understanding the profound suffering of those parents who stare into empty bedrooms belonging to the children so cruelly ripped away from them, I am nevertheless filled with rage.

When is enough, enough? How many people–children–have to die before America can finally admit to its gun problem? This fetish has taken too many lives. How woeful and tragic it is that we have placed guns above the lives of our children. Dead. Never to dream or laugh or play or have hope in the future again.

Where is the outrage? Where is the outpouring of anger over the lies and propaganda that have led an entire segment of America to be okay with blood on their hands just as long as they don’t have to change–or, more importantly, think about what it is they stand with and for?

Midterm elections are drawing quickly upon us. Remember this horror. Remember your outrage. Remember who stood in the way of everything which could have prevented this tragedy. Let our vote be our voice. Let it speak our condemnation on those who sacrifice our children for profit.

But, most importantly, remember:

Families of those involved in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were asked to give DNA samples to help investigators identify victims.

Cheryl Teh, “The families of those involved…,” Insider, May 2022.

Glimpsing Truth: A Critical Inspection of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands through Toni Morrison’s Site of Memory

In the fast paced environment of a first-person shooter (FPS) game, details are easily missed. The setting is often carefully rendered with masterful precision and full of wonderful surprises awaiting discovery by a player patient and curious enough to slowdown and explore. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a recently released FPS action roleplaying game set in a post-apocalyptic world by 2K Games, offers a treasure trove of social criticism through comically inappropriate jokes, parody, and over the top dramatic storytelling. In line with Toni Morrison’s “Site of Memory,” Wonderlands functions as a compendium of facts presented in ways wherein the player might discover truths about their own world.

A setting within a setting, the playing field exists on a tabletop and in the imaginations of external characters in a Dungeons & Dragons parody. The setting itself functions as a kind of heterotopia where the external characters work through aspects of themselves often suppressed and resisted. Through their work, and the player’s often mindless acts of gratuitous violence, facts are captured, but truth is never given outright. The player is invited into the story, into the narrative, of the game to parse out what they find to be true “[because] facts can exist without human intelligence, but truth cannot” (Morrison 193).

Tiny Tina, Bunkermaster

Tiny Tina, the inappropriately young orphan filling the role of “Bunkermaster,” throws wave after wave of monsters, traps, and puzzles at the player to force the external characters directing the action from outside the tabletop into challenging positions. Tiny Tina appears to be working against the external playing characters at first glance. The player is made to face overwhelming odds that are difficult to overcome resulting in multiple deaths and resurrections throughout the entire campaign. As the narrative progresses and more facts about the world are revealed it becomes apparent that Tiny Tina isn’t working against the external characters or the player, but forcing them into great acts of heroism. Here it would be easy to assume that she wills those involved in her game to progress to higher levels and gain improved equipment and skill, but this, too, proves incorrect. She is processing the loss of her own playable character through whom she had experienced what it meant to be a hero.

Her initial understanding of heroism is defined by having power over one’s world to ensure the ‘good guys’ always triumph over the ‘bad.’ The young “Bunkermaster” believes being a hero means having power in a world where she—who has witnessed the murder of her parents by bandits, the death of her mentor by wicked oligarchs, and who continues to lose companions to tragedy—has had none. Loneliness and fear of abandonment surface as facts to a larger truth being revealed little by little. Through her narrative journey, and that of her companions Valentine and Frette, an agreement with Morrison arises. These characters “are my access to me; they are my entrance into my own interior life” (Morrison 195).

In the moment, in the heat of it all, when the virtual bullets are flying across the screen, the player is swept up in the action. They, we, are a part of something. Something big. Something epic. The player is in control of a world gone off course—what’s wrongs they alone can set right. Perhaps that’s both the alluring and damning part of the game. The modern world appears in many ways broken, or more honestly, the paradigm we have constructed and upheld appears broken. It is in need of heroes, but too many feel powerless. Like the many mindless sprites populating Wonderlands’ setting, we take care of our own and hope it is enough, but is it enough?

The facts about power structures, and the thrill experienced in the game’s action, archive for us facts about our own world. They lay the framework for truth to take shape. It might seem to be enough for us to take care of just our own, and we might believe ourselves powerless to change or move the world forward, but the thrill experienced specifically in setting right injustices, creating better paradigms between warring factions, and rebuilding communities in more beneficial ways—in game—seems to argue against this illusion of ‘enough.’ Truth appears to be more than we thought it to be. Maybe ‘enough’ is the conditioned response meant to keep us submissive—meant to keep us from moving the world forward?

Toni Morrison, Time magazine.

Wonderlands is incredibly strange and arguably more interesting than the world we inhabit, but the impressions left on a contemplative player are as facts resonating within their own reality. Power structures corrupt and are corrupted. They don’t have to be. They are not fictional elements meant to convey a story, but real and tangible things which have been constructed and thus can be deconstructed and shifted. They can be corrupt now, and after some work, be not corrupted—or at least be made better for everyone. Perhaps this is what Morrison meant by: “’Truth is stranger than fiction,’ . . . it doesn’t say truth is truer than fiction; just that it’s stranger, meaning that it’s odd. . . . It may be excessive . . . but the important thing is that it’s random—and fiction is not random” (193). Truth is random. What is today may be something completely other tomorrow, if we choose to act.

Truth is elusive. This is why storytelling and art and literature matter. They shed light on facts which illuminate pathways towards truth. Even a video game such as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in its absurdity can cause one to pause and reflect on how many of our beliefs—especially about each other—have been conditioned in a specific manner. These glimpses, these facts, apply cracks along those things barring us from discovering truth.

And while it may be outside the scope of this work, perhaps these same glimpses leading to truth are really what’s behind the banning of books by authors and poets and artists of color, and of the same who identify as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, from school libraries across the United States. Perhaps that is what has conservative white evangelical nationalists foaming and frothing at the mouth. Too many cracks exposing too many facts are drawing too many eyes to the truth.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. “The Site of Memory.” Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Why I Speak Racism with White People

Tiktok’s @jolly_good_ginger shared a video that resonated deeply with me. In fact, if he grew up in an abusive environment and was raised in a cult, I’d think we were the same people. I’m not as good looking as he, but there are some physical similarities. We are both veterans. We are both poetic. And, it seems, we both have a unique insight into race, racism, anti-racism, and the part we’ve played in this very American problem.

Like @jolly_good_ginger, I wasn’t raised around racists, I was raised by them. I was them. And by God’s grace I escaped them, and continue to escape them. It is why I speak about racism with white people. My privilege, my insight, my experience—but especially my whiteness—grants me an open door to discuss these dehumanizing issues with people who refuse to even listen to the “other.” Those who—as Toni Morrison once pointed out—would rather these awful, horrific, and detestable acts of evil against our humanity be kept “drawn behind the veil” to protect our sensibilities.

It is not just our fellow humans who look differently from us that we mistreat. No. Those that are different—whose religion, race, ethnicity, sexuality, identity, poverty (that is, their poorness), family make up, etc., etc., etc. are “wrong”—we treat with the utmost indignity.

Let me draw the veil completely open. That which I shame are the same things I practiced. I speak to white supremacy with intimate knowledge which no amount of propaganda can ever dissuade—which can no longer dissuade.

And before any accuse me of suffering from “white guilt” caused by “CRT,” as some who cannot even spell “CRT” have already accused me, let me offer this:

Repentance is the turning away from something—an act, behavior, habit, etc.—in agreement that the thing from which you repented is wrong. This boldness of bigotry and racism in the American 21st century is wrong—is evil—and if I say nothing, do nothing, then I am equally culpable in that evil. If I go on pretending not to notice it because it doesn’t “hurt me directly”—which it does—then my repentance is nothing and my growth as a human being is a sham.

Those who have experienced, and repented from, the side of the aggressor like @jolly_good_ginger and myself, have an obligation to speak up not only of the blatant racial and bigoted injustice that plagues America, but of the tactics and strategies used by whites to further sustain and uphold white supremacy.

Racism, and all the other prejudices borne out of white supremacy, is not solely the problem of its victims. White supremacy dehumanizes all of us—transforms us into animals and a means of profit for a system which benefits only a few. This problem is a problem for all of us.

Critical Stirrings

…This is why art and literature and storytelling matter. Through them light can be shed on identity, culture, society, and the systems and institutions by which we live. Matters become illuminated revealing the need for further critique and deeper conversations. More importantly, we are brought to a reckoning where we must defend or condemn these matters.

Perhaps this is what drives the recent string of book banning in public school libraries across the United States. The very specific texts and topics being targeted appear to shut out very specific conversations. In this way, those that might defend what ought to be condemned, the same who prevent progress toward a more equitable public paradigm, are empowered to continue to do so without having to look themselves, as it were, in the eye.

…In short, we are searing our collective conscience.

The Noise

In a small town somewhere in America, parents–not particularly bright, nor well informed, nor given to things like compassion, empathy, or kindness–gather to concoct plans to bully a school district into ignoring a statewide mask mandate for k-12 schools.

They are a minority. A terribly loud, terribly obnoxious, and terribly dumb minority. Armed to the teeth with conspiracy theories, debunked information, and a zealous confidence that they alone are awake in a world full of deceived sleepers.

This group looks like any other disturbed rightwing-conservative mob drooling and slobbering and dragging its knuckles at school board meetings across the country. Carbon copy, peaked-in-high-school, can’t spell “CRT,” book-burning fascists trapped on a hamster wheel of fear and lashing out, fear and lashing out, fear and lashing out ad nauseum.

If their lunatic ravings harmed no one but themselves, I wouldn’t care. As it stands, their brand of stupid puts the whole community at risk.

These unmasked, unvaccinated, pandemic-denying, petri dishes of disease want their plague-carrying spawn to run wild and mask-free where they can infect and spread their illness to those just trying to attend school without catching a case of COVID.

They say masks are inflicting psychological trauma on our children, impeding their ability to learn the naturally evolved emotional responses ingrained in our species, and leaving them in deep emotional ruin. This, however, is only smoke they hope to blow up our collective ass.

I said, if we cared about the psychological wellbeing of our children, then we would have done more to address school shootings. They, of course, jumped to the defense of the gun. This is how we know it isn’t about the kids; this is about scratching some white nationalist-affirming political itch. As if, somehow, getting rid of masks means Jesus wins and Trump is king of America.

God save us from these idiots.

When History Repeats

An observation:

During the fight for Civil Rights in America, confederate statues and flags were raised throughout the South to intimidate the communities demanding Civil Rights for all. Community leaders swore black people would never be equal with white people.

Today, as we continue the fight for equality and equity for the marginalized (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, women, disabled, poor, etc.) schools are under attack as demands for books and lessons which weaken white supremacists systems and power be removed.

Additionally, the same powers which resisted all paths to allowing diverse voices to be included in the American conversation during the Civil Rights Era, are now actively trying to strip away those gained seats through voter suppression, community intimidation, and substituting education with propaganda.