For the past month, I’ve been taking an online professional development course designed to teach museum educators, like myself, how to develop and write formal lesson plans for K-12 teachers. It’s been a pretty interesting class; our end project is to write a lesson plan for our museum. I chose to write about our vast collection of World War I propaganda posters. Most lesson plans are no more than 5-10 pages; mine currently is 36, and I still need to add in the curriculum standards for Vermont. While I did get a bit carried away, my teacher said the lesson plan did not contain anything that wasn’t needed. In fact, what takes up the most pages are the posters themselves as well as background information on the artists and posters. I also compiled a list of early propaganda techniques. Tweets and accusations of “fake news” may be everyday politics for Trump, but in April 1917, the U.S. government had to create an entire committee to influence media and shape popular opinion; and for the most part, they used propaganda for the good of the country.
When I look at the various propaganda techniques, I see correlations to the tactics of the current administration. The only difference is propaganda is usually based on at least some shred of evidence or a grain of truth. What that man in the White House says and disseminates has no grain of truth; it’s just lies. He doesn’t even attempt half-truths, and when he does tell the “truth” such as in his Tulsa speech when he said he ordered a slowdown in COVID-19 testing because it was revealing too many positive cases, the truth is worse than fiction.
For this assignment, I’ve been doing a lot of research on types of propaganda, and it’s easier to come up with ways Trump uses it than ways it was used in WWI. To give you some examples: Name Calling (Sleepy Joe), Transfer (I’m a very stable genius), Plain Folks (calling Neo- Nazi’s “very fine people”), Weak Inference (referring to Putin’s claim of not interfering in the 2016 election, “I believe he believes it”), Stereotyping (Kung-Flu), Guilt-by-Association (Liberal Media=Fake News), Bandwagon (“I’m a winner. I beat people. I’m ahead in the polls and there’s no end in sight.”), Faulty Analogy (“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here—a lynching. But we will WIN!”), Glittering Generalities (Make America Great Again), Virtue-by-Association (Trump’s claiming he’s a Christian), Patriotic Symbols (How he abhors protestors who kneel for the National Anthem), Testimonials (Trump’s new slogan “Transition to Greatness”), Distortion of Data (Do I even have to give examples of his more than 19,000 lies?), Emotional Appeal (the way he demonizes immigrants, protestors, Democrats, etc.). The list goes on and on and on ad nauseam.
It’s difficult to understand why people blindly follow Trump. It can’t be only about being pro-life. Which brings me to the main point of my post: I’ve been a bit down since Sunday night. I got into an argument with my mother about her support of Trump. She made me so upset, I ended the call by telling her, “Bye,” and hanging up the phone. I just could not take any more of her parroting Fox News drivel. I told her she had disappointed me by supporting a bully like a Trump, that I’d dealt with bullies all my life—which she knows—and I didn’t want one in the White House. I don’t want an amoral person as president who goes against everything I was raised to believe in. I was literally shaking when I got off the phone. What upsets me the most: she didn’t seem to care that I was upset.
I read an article in The Washington Post the other day that talked about how many public health officials were being harassed and threatened. People were publishing their emails, home addresses, and phone numbers so others could harass them from around the country. I thought of my mother who spent 25 years as a nurse at the county health department. If she were still working, she’d be one of the people enforcing rules to mitigate the spread of the virus. I wonder if my family—my mother specifically—could have faced the hatred and retribution of Trump supporters who care more about money and their “freedom” than they care about the safety of others. I wonder if she were still at the health department would she have felt differently about an administration that has downplayed the deadliness of this disease and politicized a public health crisis for their own political gain.
Mama was always a particularly good and caring nurse; I don’t understand what has happened to her. She wasn’t like this when I was growing up or at least, I never saw it so blatantly. I can’t help but take some of the blame for her change of heart. Since she found out I am gay, she has become more of a fundamental evangelical Christian and a diehard Republican who sees no good in anyone who doesn’t think like Fox News tells them to think. She has closed her mind to so much of the world, and I wonder if this is all because she has a gay son. She has never been able to accept my sexuality. As she becomes more and more in line with conservative Republican ideology, the less I want to talk to her. I am getting to the point where I no longer care what she thinks of me. I have held off finding someone to spend my life with because I knew she’d never accept him. Now, I fear I’ve wasted my life hoping for my mother’s love and acceptance when that hope can never be fully realized.
I do love my mother, and in some strange, twisted, and warp-minded way, I know she holds some love for me. But I don’t know if I can continue to live my life this way. I live 1,100 miles away from my parents. Perhaps it is time to become who I really am, and to quit holding back because of the fear of what my parents and family might think of me.