The Right Hates America

The Right Hates America

For my entire adult life I've been told that I hate America.

Conservatives have informed me that I hate my freedom (I like it just fine), I hate capitalism (guilty as charged), I hate the troops (it's the imperialism I dislike, really), and I hate the founders (well, OK, that's fair).

So maybe I do hate aspects of the country in which I was born. Perhaps this makes me the first person to ever be born into a nation deserving of critique, or maybe I'm just an old-fashioned hater infected by the insidious woke mind virus. But there was always a hint of projection in right wingers telling me I hate the United States. As they huffed and puffed and demanded I love our country – whatever it means to love a country – they bemoaned civilizational progress that had transformed the nation, making it a little less white, a little less straight, a little less Christian, and a little less crushingly conventional.

The folks with spittle flying from their pursed lips, behind their gritted teeth, hate when they turn on the TV and a major corporation advertises its products with a gay couple, possibly with a kid in tow, or a person of indeterminate gender. They hate that pro football fields and basketball courts and baseball fields have messaging saying racism is not, in fact, good. They hate that their child or grandchild or the local Starbucks barista rejects suffocating gender norms and maybe dyes their hair purple or green or blue. They hate that they can't use slurs in mixed company. And they hate that an overwhelming majority of their fellow Americans rejected the Big Boy's bid for another term in the White House.

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In short, conservatives hate America. That was never so clear as it was in the hours and days after WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony after being held as a political prisoner by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Right wingers took to social media in droves to chastise Joe Biden for making a deal in which Griner could come home after nine months in Russian prisons in exchange for some Russian arms dealer who was apparently the subject of a 2005 Nic Cage movie.

Here's the thing though: American conservatives couldn't say what they wanted to say about the prisoner exchange. If they could, they would have let loose with homophobic and racist invective about Griner, who is both black and gay. She also happens to be a professional athlete, and Republicans have decided they hate sports because sports leagues are part of an international woke cabal of gay space communists or something (I don't pretend to know exactly what goes on in the right-wing imagination).

Enter bad faith, and lots of it. Republicans had to feign deep interest in the fate of Paul Whelan, a former Marine held captive in a Russian prison since 2018. It should have been Whelan who came home, they said in one voice, not someone who puts a ball in a hoop for a living. Whelan is a troop! We love our troops! I came across dozens of posts saying Whelan "brought more value" to the US than Griner. I think we all know what that means, as vague and horrible as it is.

Meanwhile, Griner's family and WNBA players are advocating for Whalen's expedited release from Russian jail. Because it's always, tragically, incumbent on black folks who take the high road and do what's right.

Just as the American right cried crocodile tears about the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan after Biden in 2021 pulled troops from our Forever War, and just as they wept about the rights of Iraqi women in the lead-up to our illegal, catastrophic war against Iraq, they were suddenly and intensely concerned about both Whelan and the Russian arms dealer, whose nickname – the merchant of death – is quite scary. These bad-faith Americans had not previously spared one single thought for either Whalen nor the frightening Russian man from the Nic Cage movie, but they were forced to pretend to care about both if they were going to lambaste the deal that brought Griner back to her family. For reasons unknown, they won't acknowledge that their big, beautiful golden calf, Donald Trump, rejected a deal for Whelan during his presidency.

Nothing the American right says or does is in good faith. Cultural norms have shifted enough to make naked racism and homophobia untenable if one is to keep their job and (some of) their friends and family. There is now social punishment for hating someone for their immutable traits. They know they can't log on to Facebook or Twitter and say, "Why would we want to rescue a gay, black, dreadlock-wearing woman who knelt for the national anthem during the George Floyd protests of 2020? Why would we care about the life of an ungrateful black bitch like Griner?"

It's not exactly a new phenomenon. American conservatives during the Civil Rights era had to fake interest in state's rates – the Final Boss of bad-faith politics – to keep black folks from eating at lunch counters and attending public schools. "States rights!" they'd howl as they lynched a black man for having a sandwich at a diner during his lunch break. "States rights!" they'd bark as they burned crosses in the yards of black families who had dared move in to their suburban neighborhood. Hell, the South had to pretend the Civil War was about something other than maintaining the hellish institution of slavery. None of this is new. It's bad faith all the way down.

On Twitter last week, a few hours after Griner was freed, I had an "independent thinker" – a moniker for those born and bred in the profound darkness of bad-faith bothesideism – telling me that Griner should have simply followed the law and she would not have found herself behind bars in a foreign land. Apparently conservatives' love for law and order (all "independent thinkers" are conservative) extends to other countries' law and order. That's commitment, folks. You have to respect it. This Twitter user had come up with yet another bad-faith argument against bringing home an American political prisoner from the most corrupt, backward nation on the planet. It wasn't that Paul Whelan should be brought home, or that the Russian arms dealer threatens everyday Americans going about their lives, but that Griner had broken the law and deserved to serve out her decade in a Putin penal colony.

That the American right universally opposed freeing Griner from captivity after nine months of sheer horror behind the veil of Russia's utterly lawless autocracy is at once unsurprising and depressing. There is nothing we can rally around, no single cause in which we can find common ground – not even the joyous return of an American political prisoner to her wife and loved ones. It would be nice – refreshing, even – if we could fail to find common ground in good faith. I would rather conservatives say what they mean than cloak their toxic politics in layer upon layer upon layer of bad faith.

Just say it: You hate America.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.