I think you're right about the "nihilism and despair" among rural people. I live in the rural South, and I have noticed a real decline in general morale, and especially social trust, in the last forty years. Most of it has happened in the last 20 years or so. Twenty years ago, my neighborhood was full of people who just dropped in on each other unannounced and sat around in kitchens talking. Now I am almost never invited into other people's houses. People are superficially friendly, but I don't know their whole life story as I did with the neighbors 20 years ago. (Most of those people have died or moved, and have been replaced by younger families.)

This is not to say that those old neighbors were "good." Some of them were very bad: the men drove drunk and harassed women and bullied their wives. The new, younger families don't do those things, and that is huge progress. But they are very paranoid: a few weeks ago, I parked my car down by the creek and within an hour, there were texts flying around the neighborhood about the strange car. (They had apparently forgotten that I got a new car a year ago!) They sent one of the husbands to investigate, with a gun! Fortunately nobody got shot.

They seem to worry especially about pedophiles: they don't really like for me to talk to their kids. I'm a seventy-year old white woman, hardly the typical sexual predator. But who knows? Their kids are barely allowed to stray beyond their driveways, even though there is no traffic and almost nobody here that we don't know. Even playing at another child's house has to be negotiated carefully.

About religion: only a few people go to church regularly, and they go to an evangelical church.

The "nihilism and despair" here seem particularly intense for old people, who are indeed pretty lonely I think, even if married. It affects both liberals and conservative retired people. Retired people seem to spend a great deal of time on the internet, becoming more nihilistic. They send me crazy memes about why Ukrainians are really Nazis, etc. They become extremely angry if you mildly disagree. I much prefer to hang out with younger people these days: at least they have kids to focus on, instead of their loneliness and despair.

My solution is to consume news in very small quantities, meditate twice a day, and have a lot of projects and outings with friends, even the grumpy ones.

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Thanks for this comment, Shannon. It's depressing but articulate and perceptive, I appreciate that. You might "enjoy" or derive some comfort anyway from the film based on a well-known article, The Brainwashing of My Dad -- https://www.thebrainwashingofmydad.com/ . It tells a lot of the media part of this story that you mention at the end here. And the pedophilia stuff too, all a kind of insanity and paralyzing fear. There's much more to explore here. Your solution sounds incredibly wise to me!

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I did watch The Brainwashing of my Dad a while back. My dad was also brainwashed for decades by Fox News, until the actual day of Jan 6, 2020. During the riot, he called me and was obviously really upset. He said, "What is going on?!" (He was over 90 at this point.) I said, "The Trump people are trying to kill Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi and maybe some other people."

After that he never watched Fox News again. Now he watches CNN but can't really tell you what they're talking about. He doesn't remember that he was a Trump supporter and gets kind of mad and upset if you remind him that he was.

But in the fall of 2016, when the Access Hollywood recording about pussy-grabbing was released, he told me that it was "normal" for men to talk like that, "on fishing trips and stuff." This really upset me because he used to take my son with him on these trips! He said, "I'm sure that women talk that way about men too, when it's just women around."

I said that women do not talk like that. He said, "Well, what do they talk about?"

I said, "They talk about how to maintain their dignity in a world of pussy-grabbing."

Recently we revisited this conversation, and he had no memory of it, and he became very upset when I told him about it. Now he says that he and his friends never really talked that way about women. My son also said that they did not: that the old men mostly talked about money. So why was he defending pussy-grabbing in 2016? Because (1) he reflexively supported Trump no matter what Trump did or said; and (2) he was trolling me. Both pretty reprehensible.

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I don't know how to comment on the Forward article, so I am doing it here. I live in the Bay Area and hang out in Berkeley from time to time. In the spirit of both/and, there is both substantially more antisemitism than I have ever seen and, yes, it is more virulent, gleeful, and hateful. I've been in the room with it, so yeah, it's there and it's real--what Foer and Horn write is not wrong.

AND, this spate of antisemitism isn't necessarily a "the sky is falling" moment. There is a lot of push-back and organizing from the Jewish community and allies. I am offered support from people I know. I wear a kippah--and part of the reason is to gauge reaction to "out" Jews. Never been harassed. And the past March primary saw some of the worst offenders primaried or just gone (depending on the race).

I am concerned with how antisemitic tropes that go back a very long time are being used to isolate Israel and justify the demonization, delegitimization, and double standard antisemitism of the present. There are two conversations and they are regularly conflated.

One is about the reality of the region, Israel's actions, its government, and the reality of how to fight this war--whatever that means.

The second is how the rest of the world responds to Israel's actions.

The WCK tragedy is an example. There is every reason to grieve for the people who died and for the damage done to the best NGO ever. The IDF screwed up royally, as the IDF's report said. Yes, Israel took responsibility. Yes, it was an accident. And yes, the policies and IDF culture that allowed for this to happen need to change.

Yet that grief and anger is also being used to generally demonize Israel. Again, both/and: it is possible for Israel to be very wrong AND for those actions to be used in antisemitic ways. Holding and talking about those two realities is pretty near impossible. Which makes all of this so much harder. Take the reality that, whatever the real numbers, too many innocent people have died and too many people are hungry or homeless. That is real. Hamas engineered the situation, but Israel's response--necessary or not (and I refuse to comment on a field I know nothing about)--was the direct cause of that suffering. That is real; so is the impossibility of the choices.

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