Children can recognize the dangers of dog whistles – Why can’t we?

It really bothers me that the “average” teenager’s parents seldom integrate their child into a discussion on political “awareness”, let alone the role our economy may play in their future. Growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, we ignored such events at our peril; locked in the grip of a Cold War with the USSR where to lose spelled Armageddon, “our side” fought an intellectual war wherein the contest meant that our weapons were nothing more than the basic principles of democracy pairing off against Stalinist-led nations preaching to an economic order based upon Stalin’s warping of the “Communist” theories of Karl Marx. 

Unfortunately, all that is required for us to properly embrace such principles is for a politician, wrapped in the clothing of narcissism and endowed with an ability to sell his self-serving counter-message to the gullible. Senator Joseph McCarthy was a master practitioner of the art of self-deception, taking Cold War rhetoric to new extremes when in February of 1950 he claimed that there were U.S. citizens working in government who indeed were “Communists”, later expanding that rhetoric to include those who worked in the arenas of entertainment and news – all today eerily being replicated by another narcissistic personality, Donald Trump.

Phrases such as “the Communist menace” are now classified as “dog whistles” Their purpose is to convince “true believers” in a cause’s objectives to retaliate against those they fear will destroy its purpose and intent. Such responses are usually benign, but there are others that even threaten the tenets of democracy or even the existence of humanity. For instance, following a 1964 alleged attack by North Vietnamese forces upon two American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, American military commanders and ranking U.S. Republican politicians ominously predicted that this act could eventually lead to so-called “democratic states” such as South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, “falling like dominos” to oppressive Communist regimes. Even then Americans knew that South Vietnam was led by corrupt politicians owing allegiance only to army generals making huge profits from the opium and heroin drug trades. 

Now, instead of asking the questions back then, Americans are still asking, first, was that war worth the 58,281 American military personnel who died in the conflict, much less the 3.8 million in all, most of whom were non-military personnel caught in the crossfires of this skirmish? More to a now serious public concern, was this war literally guaranteeing heroin and opium gaining a stranglehold in the United States drug trade worth the now-evident result of individuals seeking even greater “relief” from scientific “improvements” to these drugs in the creation of OxyContin and Fentanyl?

Why anyone would even want to embrace the more subtle nuances of dog whistles is a question we have to start asking ourselves. The terms we utilize in Saskatchewan may seem benign, but their result is STILL to create social chaos. What’s even more relevant is that even people who should be paying greater attention to this matter, myself included, may not realize how detached our politicized warning signals have become. As an example, in June of 2020, my then 17-year-old niece dragged me downtown to attend a “Black Lives Matter” rally. It wasn’t just the dozens of teens attending the event that caught my eye; rather, it was triggered more by parents who’d attended this rally with their teenagers asking their CHILDREN to explain why the messages being delivered applied to them, when all that the adults could glean from the speaker’s words was the word “black” was being “interpreted” in a more racist form, “anti-white”, in some conservative media sources.

With such naivete being displayed at an inconsequential rally to raise social awareness as to the utilization of race as a reason to oppress, we have to now start recognizing the economic and social malaise rising from the fermenting discontent created by our usage of dog whistle terminology. For example, Premier Scott Moe is publicly “explaining” his government’s utilization of the word “protect” to mean shielding us from the ravages of federal government overreach, even as party trolls in rural Saskatchewan gleefully point to the formation of the Saskatchewan Marshal’s Service, in reality created to “fight” rural criminal activities and property damage created by “heavily armed and extremely dangerous” Indigenous gang members and drug addicts. 

What the Saskatchewan Party has failed to recognize for years is that economic malaise has also bred the continued evolution of gang growth. Ironically, this growth factor has itself been aided by dog whistles, wherein the devastation of their own community’s economic plight is perceived by many to be a result of a colonialist mentality imposed upon “their own”. Years later, that protectionist “appeal” to join with them in protecting “their own” have become its product’s victims. 

Indigenous communities are now exposing the hypocrisy of the gang leaders’ words; however, fearful of losing that influence, they now choose to punish their disillusioned deserters of the “cause” with a brutality so extreme that those fortunate enough to actually get away without physical harm will be looking over their shoulders in fear for years to come. 

Today, we are seeing the evolution of our youth recognizing the weak points of argument and substance we bring forward to address our “concerns”. We’re no longer protecting them from something evil and unwelcome, so much as like our own members of the “sexual revolution” we actually believed that penicillin would protect us from all evil, and gave no further thought as to where our actions might lead or the consequences we’d have to face were our perceptions of reality are found a trifle lacking.

Our kids have already outgrown us in their understanding as to what the future might hold for them were we to continue to fail to confront even the most elemental problems of racial tolerance, food sustainability and the need to bring our climate back from the brink of environmental disaster.

What is wrong with us in our failure to analyze our problems with such clarity?