The fear ads are coming fast and furious now. “The last person between this country and socialism is President Trump!” and “Donald Trump let 200,000 Americans die while he lied to us and played golf, how many more will die if he is re-elected?”
Fear ads aren’t new, of course. We’ve been told that the “other side,” whether that was the Federalists or the Whigs or the Democrats or the Republicans were probably going to murder us all in our sleep and then steal all of our stuff that they didn’t already tax us for (and probably give everything to those awful insert name of ethnic or racial group that we don’t like).
The “Daisy” ad was produced for the Lyndon Johnson re-election campaign in 1964 when he was running against Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was a very conservative and hawkish Republican. It only ran once, but it made its point:
Fear is a very powerful way to keep people in line. Demonizing the “others” has been an effective strategy since mankind began organizing itself. Religions depend on it; political parties thrive on it, especially today. Fear generates hatred, which makes it so much easier to justify terrible behavior toward other human beings.
Fear and hatred are shortcuts. It’s so much easier to just hate someone, particularly if all of my friends hate the same people. That’s not impossible to overcome, though. My mom’s parents had plenty of prejudices, most of them related to religion (they were Lutherans): they disliked Catholics and Jews primarily, as I recall. They weren’t rabid about it, but they were also sure they would never want to associate with any of “those people” unless they were forced to.
When they retired to Florida in the 1970s, they discovered that their mobile home park was full of – you guessed it – Catholics and Jews. They either were going to have to hide in their trailer or get out and meet “those people.” They chose the latter, and years later my grandfather told me how ashamed he’d been to discover that they were just nice people who had, like him, worked hard for many years, raised good families, and cared about making the world a better place. He made me promise I wouldn’t waste any of my life hating people that I knew nothing about, and I’ve tried my best to live up to that promise.
This has been a hell of a year, and it’s hard every day to find something good to keep me going in a positive direction. But things can change, and I have to believe that they will change for the better. There’s really no other option.