There’s always been an undercurrent of demented paranoia in American politics, and one of the side effects of the new media revolution is to allow it to spread more and more every year. Hence the topic of this post, the Jade Helm drama, which if you’ve lived in blissful ignorance is ably summarized on its own very long Wikipedia page.
Personally I think that when the U.S. history books of the future are written they will cite the Jade Helm controversy of 2015 as a delineator for when the splinters in the Republic really began to show. But then, I’m inclined to view things through the lens of the fall of the Roman Republic. History will show if I’m insightful or just a crank.
Note this is not a matter of liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. It’s a matter of people with a grasp of sanity and people without.
Let’s dig in. Jade Helm, if you’re lucky enough to be ignorant of this whole situation, is a military term for a training exercise they conduct every so often where they simulate meeting an opposing force the armed forces train to defeat. It’s known as Jade Helm because during the cold war the armed forces created complete uniforms for these forces which included helmets colored jade for easy identification.
As I type this the military is conducting a large-scale exercise in infiltration and concealment in several states, including Texas, which was chosen since its geography resembles certain other countries where those forces may have to deploy. Think desert.
Which seems rational, right? The military has to train in order to be effective in hot situations, does it not?
Nope! Here’s where the fever swamps come in and why I believe this is such a huge deal for the Republic. See, a sizable minority of, not to put too fine a point of it, lunatics, have convinced themselves that this operation is just the cover for a cunning plan by the U.S. government to—read the next bit slowly—invade Texas.
You might be saying, “Huh, why would a government invade its own territory?” And that would be a good question. And it’s where you and the fever swamps part company.
There are a bunch of other paranoid oooooh-kays added to the mix, including the suspicious closures of Wal-Marts that are clearly going to house Chinese and Russian soldiers or perhaps be food dumps for the occupiers or perhaps be internment camps for Patriots, underground tunnels, and ice cream truck mobile morgues. Here’s a brief roundup of some of the conspiracies.
Take a moment to center your chi and then let’s talk about the basic idea here. Which you would say is a fringe lunatic thing and you would be correct, except, and this is why this one will go in the history books, this idea has spread enough that the governor of Texas has ordered the National Guard to keep an eye on things and every potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate asked about Jade Helm is giving the most vague answer possible in order to not upset the base. It is no longer an idea for the most deranged message boards: The idea that the U.S. government is planning to invade itself is, if certainly not mainstream, way outside the Black Helicopter fringe.
Why is this?
First off, there’s always been a paranoid, delusional strain in American politics. Douglas Hofstadter wrote the seminal work about this in the 1960s and his words ring like they were written yesterday. If you’re interested in this at all, Douglas Hofstadter is the place to start.
Though back when Hofstadter was working, it was a small core of fringe elements who believed the Jewish conspiracy, the United Nations Black Helicopters and the Illuminati were factors in American politics.
But it’s spreading. When the governor of an American state has to kowtow to ideas the military are plotting to abduct freedom fighters in its own country, something has changed.
If you spend any time at all online looking around the places where Dastardly Plots to Destroy Freedom are discussed, you find that almost everybody involved considers themself a Patriot (yes, capital-P). These are people who believe in the Constitution of this great nation and who see it being corrupted by people who hate America.
According to them, every day the people who hate America go to work, check the Gay Agenda to make sure they’re not getting in the way, and then pinch away at the Constitution any way they can.
Hofstadter had this to say about the idea that the people you disagree with are anti-American:
The two-party system, as it has developed in the United States, hangs on the common recognition of loyal opposition: each side accepts the ultimate good intentions of the other. The opponent’s judgment may be held to be consistently execrable, but the legitimacy of his intent is not—that is, in popular terms, his Americanism is not questioned. One of the unspoken assumptions of presidential campaigns is that the leaders of both parties are patriots who, however serious their mistakes, must be accorded the right to govern. But an essential point in the pseudo-conservative world view is that our recent Presidents, being men of wholly evil intent, have conspired against the public good. This does more than discredit them: it calls into question the validity of the political system that keeps putting such men into office.
The idea that the person you have an ideological disagreement with isn’t just coming from a different angle than you, but that this person hates your country is what takes it from politics to feverish paranoia. For extra credit, do a Google search on “Does Obama hate America” and see what you find.
And this is where things get very interesting from a psychological standpoint. These are Patriots who want to preserve their country, but who have found that the government of this country are in fact out to destroy it. That is, the democratically elected representatives of this country are actively anti-American.
It’s key for this world view that the American government hates America and the Constitution.
All Americans have grown up being taught to respect our Armed Forces. And we should. Every soldier who puts themself in harm’s way to protect their country deserves our respect and above all our help when they come back from their battle fields.
But notice how the Jade Helm hysteria has changed this: Now the might of America and its soldiers is turning toward small cities in Texas, which will be invaded and taken over, the true Patriots taken to concentration camps in chains. Or tunnels under Wal-Marts. Either way, it’s bad.
How is this not utterly insulting to our Armed Forces? American citizens are now believing that their soldiers (many of whom come from their communities) are anti-American thugs who will smile as they disappear True Patriots? How does that jibe at all with respecting the Armed Forces?
Again, if this was contained to the fever swamps it would be one thing, but when the governor of Texas feels the need to appease people who believe that the young men and women from their own communities are now coming to establish prison camps for their fellow citizens because … uhm … freedom? something is horribly broken.
It’s not hard to see why people would become disenchanted—travel small-town America and you see communities falling apart from the lack of work and the infestation of drugs, an infrastructure that’s falling apart, young people leaving as fast as they can rent a U-Haul, a shrinking middle class and a general feeling of malaise.
(If you don’t believe me, drive two hours from the metropolis where you live and stop at the first small town you get to. Then walk around for a few hours. Visit the Wal-Mart. Then tell me what you saw.)
But in the Patriot mind this is not because America is having a systemic problem but because the enemy is succeeding, hurting America every day through its cunning conspiracy. America is the greatest country on Earth so the decay you see every day must be due to a conspiracy of powerful enemies. It can’t be due to a long series of bad decisions since America by definition is great, so it must be due a conspiracy, and not just any conspiracy, a conspiracy large enough, powerful enough to bring the greatest nation on Earth to its knees.
A conspiracy only a true Patriot can see.
And after Jade Helm is concluded, the humvees drive away and it turns out nothing apart from a military exercise has taken place, the true believers will know that it’s only because they watched the military and kept them from executing their horrible plan.
Because having a few people in camouflage clothing hanging around would surely stop a plan by a military and a government to take over its own country in its tracks.
And then the rumors of the next conspiracy will begin to circulate…
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