Red Houses vs. Blue: Red Tells a Better Story But Blue Tells the Truth

8 mins read

A recent article in Fast Company, “Why People Believe False Information and How to Combat It, According to Experts,” had the simplest explanation for the behavior of QAnon and MAGA followers: they listen to storytellers. The surest way to get a human’s attention is with a good, no, … great story. Prior to the Trump administration, the government itself was not a story. But once the chaos began, people took notice. Many admitted, “Five years ago, I didn’t know much at all about how our government works or what it was even doing or who the official officers were. Now I know the names and faces of people in governmental roles, both state and federal, and many parts of the issues being decided.”  

Nika Kabiri, Ph.D., a decision science specialist and faculty member at the University of Washington was quoted in the article: “What registers is stories, which is why conspiracy theories are so great — they’re fascinating stories.” The answer to the question of how to reach people is to not alienate one another in debate insisting on being right, but instead open-mindedly engaging in conversations of opposing points of view. By revealing a kind of story, reciprocally listening and using a neutral tone of voice, we can begin to exchange thoughts on contentious subjects. 

So here we are. And from what I am experiencing … Dr. Kabiri’s theory sounds good but feels undoable in our nation of red house vs. blue house.

The Democrats say, “We are very concerned with the insurrection and are confident the Intelligence Committee’s Jan. 6 investigation will get to the bottom of this, following the facts wherever they may lead and holding the individuals involved accountable.”

And what do the Republicans say? “The election was stolen! We can’t allow this to continue or this won’t be a country anymore. America is being invaded at this very moment by rapists, murderers, and immigrants who will take your jobs, abolish the English language, microchip you, burn down your towns, kill your families and pets!! This is what’s happening folks, so WAKE UP! Stop the Steal! Keep the ‘White’ in the Red-WHITE-and Blue! Return America to Anglo Saxon, Christian, Caucasian English-speaking people. That’s who we were in the beginning, that’s who we are, and that is who we aim to stay! So, damned right ‘Make America White Again,’ say it with pride. Take Back our Country! May God bless America, the real America, and may God bless our Heritage!”

Which narrative makes the more compelling story? As Rep. Jamie Raskin put it, “This is not going to be Benghazi part two because that really was a political show, and this is extremely serious business getting to the bottom on the attack on America.”

The GOP has already implemented multiple state-government takeover efforts in sweeping and systemic fashion. The MAGA population is defying truth and logic and has abandoned respect, intelligence and decency altogether. This minority has succeeded in cleaving off a chunk of our nation’s voting public, three-quarters of one party in our two-party system. They have chopped themselves off from the body of a democracy that, until now, has at least maintained a modicum of coherence and shared rules. In their “separateness,” they have proudly wrapped themselves in the Trump flag and assigned themselves the role of soldiers for the king.  

Because the individuals subscribing to this movement have been whipped into a frenzy of mob mentality, we are seeing a wholesale abandonment of truth and logic. Decency has been exchanged for belonging to the king’s guard, wearing the colors, singing the anthem, kissing the ring. 

Now alarmed voters in the United States live in side-by-side houses, like Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets. Red houses next to blue houses. Each house is listening carefully and because the noises coming from many directions have become deafening. There is intense fear.  

It’s like we are driving down the road and hear our car sputter and choke, then feel the brakes go out. Immediately, we turn down the music on the radio and listen to figure out what’s wrong. Where do we turn?   

The blue house takes the car to NewGear Auto Repair and learns a few hours later what the issue is, obtains an estimate, reads reviews of the repair shop, and researches the issue online, maybe gets a second opinion, and then brings in the car for repair. The mechanic works on the car until the problem has been resolved. End of story.

The red house goes to Jimmy’s Pretty Good Car Repair. The mechanic uses theatrics to explain what happened to the car, using confusing car part terminology along with dramatic tales of injury and even death if it isn’t fixed to convince the owner that a vast amount of work needs to be done. The customer entrusts the mechanic and the shop with the vehicle, not looking elsewhere, and pays whatever the bill happens to be. 

The juxtaposition of the mechanic stories looks a lot like our politics today — honest and unbiased knowledge vs. manipulative, fear-based dishonesty.

Donald Trump is our current day Scheherazade, a spellbinding storyteller, implementing all the dramatic details that enrapture his audience. The gossipy lewdness, the shock and endless fearsome details that imprison the victims who are drawn to his siren’s song, his Pied Piper tune, his snake charmer dance. The prey then is ensnared in the Black Widow’s web, and in that state of paralysis, becomes food for the venomous arachnid.

Surely somewhere out there a more compelling story is being written by people in the blue houses.

Photo by matthaeus on Unsplash

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