My husband and I used to take our kids to visit relatives in Texas every Christmas. The kids were happy to see their cousins and get presents, and they were even happy to see the older relatives, too. As for me, I was able to slog through the constant barrage of arrogance, rudeness, embarrassment, complaining, grouchiness, and gossip from certain relatives with the help of the Lord God almighty, long walks, frequent trips to the grocery store, and daily wine consumption. These same difficult relatives were also Trump admirers, which I could tolerate at this point. This all changed with COVID.
The emails, texts and calls started as a trickle.
Don’t worry, things won’t be as bad as the news says.
This is a plan from the democrats to make Trump look bad.
It turned quickly into a waterfall of conspiracy.
Fauci is the devil.
The virus is fake!
It’s a plan-demic!
One day, they said the vaccine had microchips. The next day, the vaccine made you infertile. Which was it? All of them? There was something about Bill Gates being in on it. Yes, all part of his evil plan to make us switch from Mac to PC. They begged us not to vaccinate our children. That one really burned my biscuits.
This was all combined with a growing fervor for Trump and paranoia of the liberal agenda to ruin America. We live in California, so naturally, we have been tainted by the libs. They needed to save us by sending us warnings about how the schools in California were confusing kids about their gender and leading them in ancient Aztec worship ceremonies. We responded, “Sorry, we all worship Aztec gods now, and our kids are still awesome! Don’t worry, they haven’t been sacrificed, yet.”
Over this time period we became inundated in right-wing, fundamentalist Christian books sent for the kids. There was a Rush Limbaugh book introducing Christian Nationalism, with a fun time-traveling adventure starring Rush himself and a talking horse named Liberty. So whimsical! Then, there was a 20 pound stack of picture books that had that signature low-rent Veggie Tales vibe to the illustrations. My favorite were the gender specific books teaching my son and daughter how to fit into narrow and outdated gender roles in the name of Jesus. My husband and I were drowning in their jet-stream of right wing conspiracy fundamentalist diarrhea. Needless to say, we haven’t gone to visit these people in 3 years.
I think my conspiracy theorist relatives are brainwashed. They also think I am brainwashed. To them, they are Neo, and I’m stuck in the Matrix goo. Well, if they watched The Matrix, which I’m pretty sure they did not because they only watch Alex Jones, Fox News, old westerns, and the Hallmark Channel. Some of them even conflate their CT (conspiracy theorist) beliefs with their spirituality. You see, my husband and I are not real Christians because we don’t believe in said theories.
To be clear: I think they are brainwashed into believing conspiracy theories, and they think I am brainwashed into not believing said theories. Based on this, there is no argument that could convince them to change their mind. What might work however, is an appeal to what outcomes these differences of opinion lead to.
Countless stories detail how families are torn apart by CT beliefs. This is usually due to the non-CTs distancing themselves in order to protect their mental health. There are many news stories and articles that link deep belief in current popular conspiracy theories to acts of violence. Many people are reporting increased marital strife from their CT spouse. There are several cases about CT men who have threatened or even killed their children because of these beliefs. CT thinking also contributed to the violence on January 6th. The most notable are the cases of Matthew Taylor Coleman, who murdered his children because he believed they were tainted with lizard people DNA, and Guy Reffitt, who intimidated his children when he thought they might reveal his participation in the January 6th Capitol riot.
As far as acts of violence or discord being linked to people not believing in conspiracy theories, I hear the sound of crickets at twilight. There has never been, nor will there ever be a person who thinks “wow, the mainstream news and government are moderately trustworthy, this makes me want to cause a scene at McDonald’s and/or Walmart, possibly involving public defecation.” Their trust in the government, news, and doctors is not 100%, nor should it be, but it is high enough to ensure that they stay calm enough in the day to day to make rational decisions.
The thing is, if you have zero trust in the government, mainstream news, and the medical and scientific community, and also believe that there is a extremely powerful and organized group controlling all these institutions and drinking tortured children’s blood, the natural reaction is to flip out and start murdering people. Invade the Capitol and pound on some police officers with flag poles? Oh, ya gotta! That actually makes a lot of sense to me, and that is why I am terrified of my CT relatives. I envision us visiting them for Christmas and getting stabbed because they believe that we are not ourselves but clones or some wacky shit.
CTs are convinced that all hell has broken loose and the destruction of society is nigh, but the truth is, they are bringing the hell and causing great destruction to themselves and society. I personally don’t miss our holiday visits, but I am sad for my kiddos because Christmas will never be the same for them again.