By Mike Duehring
The rise of far right-wing extremism is no new phenomenon. It ebbs and flows under certain political, economic, and social climates. The roots of current American right-wing extremism can be traced back as far as the Great Depression. At that time there were nazi rallies with thousands in attendance held across the county. The climate was ripe.
Since the Great Depression, Republican politicians in America have largely portrayed the Democratic Party as being hell-bent on taking money away from hard-working people only to give it away. They have convinced many voters that people of color, women, immigrants, and others wanted something for free at the expense of the working class. This was done in a concerted effort to draw in votes for the Republican Party. But unbeknownst to many voters, the Republican’s intentions were to benefit wealthy business owners who were losing money from President F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. This is how the business sector has worked with the government to siphon money from those in need into the pockets of the already wealthy. The result is a widening of the gap between the rich and poor as well as a shrinking of the middle class. We see the impacts of this in all of our communities today.
This successful public relations strategy based on a fear of loss and on a perception of theft continues to denigrate the Democratic Party today. It is often true that Democratic Party wants to increase taxes, expand government programs, and restrict business practices. But they want to increase taxes on the wealthy, expand government programs to help those in need, and restrict harmful business practices.
The experience of taxation as theft resonates well with anyone that has ever received a paycheck. Even if you get a tax return you’re still being ripped off. I remember when I realized that the government is essentially taking my money, making a profit off the interest gained from having my money all year long, and then giving it back to me as if we’re all square. Money in hand has always been worth more than money down the road. This firsthand experience of loss supersedes any promise of aid that may or may not come. And any economic hardship only amplifies the immediate loss in wages due to taxes.
Playing into this fear politicians have knowingly pushed many Americans further away from the political center and out towards the edges of right-wing extremism. These extremists have come to see any remotely leftist policy as being a direct threat to their person and are willing to go so far as to put themselves in harm’s way to oppose it. But an unwavering opposition to any left-wing policy is detrimental to anyone who works for a living regardless of their political affiliation. We can’t afford the loss.
So where should our efforts be focused? Do we work to change the current system that is responsible for the economic hardships experienced by so many? Or do we work within the system to help the victims by utilizing already existing programs? And the answer has to be both. We ought to help where we can when we can, and we must do so politically, economically, and socially. Shunning any avenue that could potentially have a positive effect would be negligent.
If we want to see a decline in right-wing extremism we can only do so by first providing the poor among us with economic aid. Politically we must continue to advocate for change actively participating in our democracy. And socially we eliminate the fear of loss by creating abundance.
Making sure that people have everything they need lessens the initial sting of taxation as they are simultaneously comforted by aid. The narrative of taxation as theft is left with no legs to stand on. It is not through ideological debate nor by punching nazis in the face, but through our acts of compassion that we teach and spread compassion.
About the author:
Mike Duehring is a North Carolina native, visual artist, musician, and traditional karate enthusiast. He is currently working towards attaining a joint MSW at UNCG and A&T university. He also has been cutting his own hair with little negative feedback since 1993.