This is one of those posts that may end up being controversial. Given the state of affairs in politics at the moment, this becomes even more controversial. But as a primer to this conversation, watch this video, titled “This Video Will make You Angry”
With the beginning of my blog, I have wanted to do three things.
- Talk about news that is not as widely covered around the world for those who are interested.
- Talk about my personal life, trials and tribulations.
- Talk about politics, and try to leave a mark, no matter how small.
With points one and two, they come pretty easy. I read world news and read things I find interesting, or things I think pool into a greater need of awareness. I also have been writing about my weight, my dog, and other things that come by. The third, however, is a bit harder. I have always been interested in politics, and I have always wanted to talk, debate, argue… or what have you about what is going on in the world, and even a few weeks in, I find my political posts stilted, or at best parroting what is already out there. Right now, when I talk about politics, I focus on Donald Trump and his actions as President. I will be clear in that I think he is wholly unfit to be President, and that the actions by many in the US (and around the world) are justified in stopping him from causing lasting harm to the United States and the World. I have sometimes widened that to the GOP, speaking as someone who is disgusted with the establishment’s appeasement of the man and the administration and their lack of duty to prevent the damage he is causing. I have held off at times on being critical on some of the Democrats responses, for reasons I will articulate in a moment.
I, however, try to never make it personal. I talk about politics at that high level, about public figures, saying public things, and my policy for a long time has been when I discuss with individuals, I remind myself that they are not avatars, but actual people, and that I may not always have it right. I stopped calling Politicians names, and always keep in mind that they are people too.
A Couple weeks ago, I talked about Hate Speech and the limits of tolerance, and I feel those still apply. Those who are White Nationalists and other hate groups and their beliefs have no place in decent society. The problem is when we equate any and all disagreement with those excessive hate groups and treat them all with the same venom.
Thinking back to that video, he talks about how some arguments, when met with countervailing opinions, don’t cancel each other out, but actually cooperate. Creating that time honored statement I loathe with a passion: “You are with us or against us.”
I find his analogy of flowers and butterflies to be rather apt here. You cannot have one outrage, without the other. And once these groups get large enough, they don’t even interact with each other, but rather… with themselves, creating in essence, avatars to fit preconceived notions.
We have seen this before. I will admit, I have fallen into this myself. The cycle had ebbed and flowed from Liberal to Conservative, to both. When Obama was called Satan, or “Socialist” or evil, we saw many many people turn off their brains and their ability to discuss things rationally in the political sphere. You didn’t argue with TEA partiers, you argued with the idea of TEA partiers. We are seeing that with “Trump Supporters” and “Anti-Trump Supporters”
This week I have seen two articles on Gay men who have either come out as Conservative, or having attended Pro-Trump events, and the reaction from the community has been eye-opening. First devaluation of their person, bringing up their past and every negative thing they personally know, trashing their character, and wholly dismissing their opinion to the point of othering them so completely we act like they were never apart of our community to begin with.
And I see this coming from great, wonderful people in my life, who I would never suspect of being so completely… dehumanizing to someone else.
Now before those rush in to defend those statements, I am not here for those arguments. Those can stay on personal Facebook pages where people can create the caricature they want so the mob can burn it in effigy. I just find it depressing and reductive. It does absolutely nothing in tackling the very serious issues of what is happening in the US. I don’t engage because, as the video above explains, it only fuels the fire.
When I see that, I wonder, has the LGBTQI community now created its own purity test for inclusion? Can you have difference of opinion while still being a part of our community? Can one not support a Democrat and still attend Pride without ridicule? Can someone be Conservative, and against Trump yet still be included? I come back to tolerance, and the limits of tolerance, and I don’t see “Conservative” being one of those red lines we cannot cross. And I don’t conflate “Conservative” with White Nationalism or hate either.
The argument is often, “Well, Conservatives believe in A, B, and C, and D, and therefore I want nothing to do with them” as if being a Liberal means that we all believe in lock-step with each other (well, if we have “purity tests”… then maybe there is a point there). It is simply not true, and we need to stop that way of thinking. We also struggle with the single issue arguments, “They are against Gay Marriage, I’m done with them.” or “They’re Gay, I don’t believe in that.” that doesn’t help either. While I respect you don’t want those people in your life, we can’t just put them into a box, call it “Evil” and shove them in the closet either. I greatly dislike the Salvation Army and it stances on Gay people and unmarried couples, but they does good work too. I have to remember that.
I know Conservatives who are Pro-Choice. I know Conservatives who are Pro Gay or who give time and money to help those less fortunate. I know Liberals who are racist or anti-immigration. I know Liberals who look down on the poor. Very few of us live fully into the stereotype people push us into, no matter what box, and I think we tend to forget that when we argue online or with others in person. We create that imaginary construct, and instead of thinking of the person we talking to, we talk to the ideal we know we can argue with, and dismiss anything that challenges that stereotype.
So, I sit here, wondering how best to try and change this discourse. How do we stop screaming at each other, which has proven to not change minds, or hearts, or opinions, but rather, talk to one another and try to understand their motivations on *why* they make these decisions, and have these opinions. We cannot just forsake every person forever who voted for Trump because if you want him removed from office, you are going to need their help at some point. And screaming at them, calling them all racist bigots and lumping them with Mr. Bannon is not going to change their minds, not matter how vindicated you feel.
And likewise Conservatives, treating every Liberal as a whining cry-baby sore-loser and calling them cucks and snowflakes, and not listening to their concerns is not going to make this go away, no matter how smug you feel.
We decried when the GOP treated everything the Democrats said with “No” yet we are doing the same thing thinking we are better for it. We’re not. It’s hurting our nation every bit because it allows Mr. Trump and his Administration to do exactly what they want: to divide and conquer.
It’s time for tolerance. Tolerance for people who do not agree with you 100%, or 80% or even 60% of the time. Tolerance that some things you are not going to agree on, but a great many things you can. Take a step back. Remind yourself that there is a person behind every article, every comment, and every post. That we are not stereotypes, but complicated people with our own motivations, fears, and concerns that might not match yours. We need to strive to understand why we (and they) fear, because through that, comes compromise, understanding, and change.
We need to stop creating the ideal avatar we want to argue with and using it to ague with anyone, and actually sit down and listen. Both sides, or else a lot of people are going to get hurt, and history will look at our failures and use us as the example of what not to do.