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How I Escaped Being A Right-Wing Extremist

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How I Escaped Being A Right-Wing Extremist

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Right-wing, Trump supporters

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

How do you change the mind of a right-wing extremist in America today? How do you change the mind of a diehard Trump voter? You don’t. It’s a waste of your time and you have better things to do. We are not going to unite as a country anytime soon after what has happened.

I was raised in the ’80s to be a right-wing extremist like my father. I was sent to an extreme right-wing (John Birch Society) summer camp where I was brainwashed to be a heartless, paranoid conservative, just like my dad. I used to believe that homosexuals, atheists, immigrants, liberals, and anyone who wasn’t white like us, were out to take away our rights as good, god-fearing Americans. When I heard the words humanist, environmentalist, feminist, educated, and equal or civil rights, I’d get irritated, suspicious, and angry.

I was taught that if someone challenged my statements or beliefs, they did so because they were scared or intimidated and afraid of the cold hard truth. I was taught that liberals and Democrats were brainwashed and trained to ignore the truths regarding what was really going on in America. Arguing with a liberal was a complete waste of time, my dad would say. They were too dumb, too brainwashed and there was no way we could change their minds.

Every time someone argued with me about anything, I felt contempt. I felt ridiculed. I felt like they were telling me I was stupid and wrong. I felt they were telling me that my parents and everything I knew to be true was a lie. Just having someone argue with me or having my point of view challenged made me angry, regardless of the facts presented. I was taught not to believe your facts.

If you are wondering how to deal with a member of America’s extreme right, forget it. It’s a waste of your time. In fact, the harder you try to convince right-wingers or Trump voters that Trump is destroying America, the more they’ll support Trump and argue with and belittle you. As much as we all want every American to be mature, compassionate, and to believe only in actual facts, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. They think of us as their enemies. The GOP has been overthrown by the extreme right and they have zero interest in working together to actually keep America great.

It’s taken me over three decades to reject the filth, paranoia, and brainwashing that my dad, the extremist John Birch Society and the National Rifle Association emphasized. Both of my parents hate me for rejecting their nonsense. If I was more like them or Donald Trump, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Cruz, Ted Nugent, or David Duke, they’d be happy. Since I was 17—I’m 48 today—I’ve worked hard to not be anything like my dad. I’ve countered much of the ideology and negativity that was ingrained in me, but it’s been a struggle overcoming the lack of reasonable and honest judgment that was omitted from my upbringing.

I first began writing my thoughts down in 2011, after getting extremely frustrated with both of my parents when visiting with them for family events. I was also freaked during the 2012 presidential election when a few of the candidates started speaking nonsense and hate—things I had heard when I was an impressionable teen. That 2012 election revealed a lot about America when extremism began making the gradual shift from the fringe to the mainstream, and its cause gained a serious amount of traction.

Over time, it became obvious that I was writing a book about the role my parents (specifically my dad) played during my childhood, intentionally or not, in corrupting my life by molding me to be just like them. I shudder to think of what sort of person I would be today had I not escaped the influence of my upbringing. I’ve always known that there was something wrong with my parents. Had I not come to understand this, I’d likely be dead, in prison, or be a right-wing extremist politician.

Hate or Be Hated: How I Survived Right-Wing Extremism is my story of being raised by a paranoid, white-trash hillbilly in the woods of western Washington preparing for the impending communist invasion or overthrow of our country. One hundred percent of all book sale proceeds are going to the ACLU. It’s about how it took 30 years to undo the right-wing brainwashing I endured as a child. It gives a glimpse into what kind of family produces Americans who are primed to believe fake news and put their trust into anyone who seems as angry as they are.

This book is about my personal journey and the way these attitudes directly caused so much suffering in my own life as well as how they are still influencing the choices and decisions being made by a large percentage of people in this country today. It’s about my anger and embarrassment over who I was and how I was raised in an environment that didn’t value empathy, honesty, or caring. I am angry and embarrassed that on some level, I still want my dad to be proud of me.

Only in the past few years have I been able to look back over the life I’ve lived and seriously examine my childhood. I’ve had to come to terms with the thoughts, decisions, and actions that were a direct reflection of what my parents taught me as a young boy. This examination has been stressful and unsettling and has brought to the surface a lot of deep-seated anger which I’ve carried most of my life. I never understood it until recently. No child should experience the paranoia, despair, and isolation that my dad instilled in me. No child should be taught by radical right-wing American extremists that the only options in this life are to “hate or be hated.”

The United States of America has undergone a major upheaval and most people are still struggling to understand what the hell happened. What’s happened is done. The Republicans won and we need to get over that and never quit fighting to save this country. The only issue left at hand is that all of us, the Democratic Party, the progressives, and the true lovers of freedom must unite now or we’re going to be looking at more than just four years of this terrifying situation. We have to work together. All of us. Just like they did.

IMAGE: Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hold their hands to their chest as the national anthem is played at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl

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21 Comments

  1. dbtheonly February 10, 2017

    Mr. Daniel,

    Congratulations on your journey.

    But I reject the idea that others can not take the same path you have. You found the errors, inconsistencies, and blatant falsehoods in right wing ideology. Others too might be able to find a way out of RW extremism. Look only at the sons of Cliven Bundy and their backpedaling, once they saw they’d be opposed in their armed insurrection.

    Reply
    1. I Am Helpy February 11, 2017

      While I agree with you, I think the example you chose was poor. They didn’t back off because they stopped believing the idiotic drivel they’d been told – they backed off because they are yellow-bellied cowards. Without guns, we’d never have heard of those losers.

      Reply
      1. dbtheonly February 11, 2017

        Well yes, agreed. Let me try to rephrase.

        The Bundy Gang’s philosophy taught them that the USA is ripe for armed rebellion. Their guns allowed them to attempt to trigger that rebeliion. The failure to attract a further following and the resistance of the Government, convinced them to question their belief, lay down their arms.

        I’m open to better examples.

        Still, what hope is there for the USA if up to 45% of the populace is to be written off as beyond acceptance to/of the government? And we don’t even need that large a figure.

        Reply
        1. Zengo February 11, 2017

          I think it was all the dildos people sent them and the 50gal tub of lube

          Reply
          1. dbtheonly February 11, 2017

            It was not exactly the reaction they expected

            Reply
        2. BG Davis February 12, 2017

          “convinced them to question their belief, lay down their arms”
          Please do explain when and where they “questioned their beliefs.” As for laying down their arms, they did that only after the law got the drop on them. What is the source of your ideas? They seem quite distant from the events that we all saw and read about.

          Reply
        3. BG Davis February 12, 2017

          “what hope is there for the USA if up to 45% of the populace is to be written off”
          How did you invent the 45% figure? Trump got about 25% of eligible voters to vote for him. Many of those votes were anti-Hillary votes as much as anything. So what is the basis of your “45%?”

          Reply
          1. dbtheonly February 13, 2017

            If you’re going to appropriate the name of Gen. Davis, you owe it to him to hold to the high standards that he established for that name.

            Reply
    2. BG Davis February 12, 2017

      “Look only at the sons of Cliven Bundy”
      We did look at them. They turned out to be cowardly blowhards, but they never rejected the sick fantasies that turned them into low-grade domestic terrorists.

      Reply
  2. rednekokie February 11, 2017

    I agree with you, and empathize totally. As I was growing up (I’m 80 now) my father and a local physician were the only two Republicans in Jackson County. Now, I feel, mostly, that I am one of very few Democrats here.
    You failed to mention just what it was that sent you over the edge into reason. Perhaps I should buy your book to find out — but your article could have been a bit clearer on that.
    I simply do not know how to talk with right wingers. For one, I don’t have the patience to put of with their outright lies — and get angry over them. This is my problem. I would like, indeed, to have some bit of guidance toward just how to either deal with them, or, better, to enlighten them over their extreme ways.
    Keep up the good work, sir.

    Reply
    1. The lucky one February 11, 2017

      I’ll share with you two bits of advice that were given me by different people over the years. Unfortunately i sometimes forget them and try to argue with extremists.

      You can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into. In a contest of reason vs. emotion the emotions will win most of the time.

      Don’t argue with a fool. It’s pointless and onlookers won’t be able to tell who is the fool.

      Cheers

      Reply
      1. rednekokie February 11, 2017

        Thank you — I know you are right on this. However, conversation, and, hopefully, dialogue, should eventually be the outcome – – even with fools.
        And this is what I’m trying to learn how to do.

        Reply
        1. dbtheonly February 11, 2017

          I’d suggest finding areas of agreement to start.

          Reply
      2. BG Davis February 12, 2017

        “You can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into.”
        Best summary yet.

        Reply
    2. BG Davis February 12, 2017

      ” I don’t have the patience to put of with their outright lies — and get angry over them. This is my problem.”
      Why is it your problem? Any decent person should be angry about dishonesty and destructive lying. They are destroying our nation and damaging countless lives. It should make one angry.

      Reply
  3. Jim Samaras February 11, 2017

    While someplace in the middle is probably the correct road, denigrating your fathers’ beliefs is totally wrong. Here’s a guy who sent you to school that taught you to actually believe everything he said was wrong which I’m certain it was not. The old saying buy them books, send them to school and they chew the cover off the books surely applies here. I bet your father is proud!

    Reply
    1. Bob Eddy February 11, 2017

      I totally disagree. When, as a child, you are taught hate, intolerance and the worship of ignorance whoever was responsible deserves no respect. My father who was very bigoted never passed that on to me…He is someone to be respected.

      Reply
    2. BG Davis February 12, 2017

      “I bet your father is proud!”
      I bet you’ll lose that bet. My dad wasn’t as extreme as the writer’s, but he was rigid in his beliefs and took any questions of those beliefs to be a personal attack. Basically he was too insecure to tolerate any variation or alteration of his mindset, no matter what the evidence. Even if you didn’t argue with him, the mere fact that you didn’t do things his way and live life his way was taken as an insult, a threat and a challenge. He had no values, only rules and slogans. His dad was even worse: charter member of the John Birch Society, etc. And my NRA uncle was another. I left home at 17 and never looked back.

      Reply
  4. Evan Wagner February 11, 2017

    I’ve made 104 thousand dollars last year by working online from home and I manage to do it by wo­rking part time f­­o­­r several hours every day. I was following work opportunity I found on-line and I am thrilled that i was able to make such great money. It’s newbie-friendly and I am just so happy that i found this. Here’s what I did… http://statictab.com/h8vxywm

    Reply
  5. Thomas Martin February 12, 2017

    Try living in a Red state and you will get the picture. Unfortunately, it is difficult to leave, but it may soon become the only option. Becoming a republican is an expectation and standard set by the community. Anyone who dares not follow the Red path is looked down on.

    Reply
  6. Seth Garza February 14, 2017

    I profited 104 thousand dollars in 2016 by working on-line from my house a­­n­­d I was able to do it by wo­rking part time for 3+ hrs daily. I followed a business opportunity I found on-line and I am so happy that i earned such great money. It’s very user-friendly a­­n­­d I’m so happy that I found out about it. Check out what I did… http://statictab.com/x4biwaa

    Reply

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