Reading time: 2:20; Viewing time – 4:00 . . .
I’ve been wrong. I’ve been short-sighted and reactionary and embarrassingly foolish. The embarrassment is because I know better.
Something didn’t feel right and then I read Nick Kristoff’s A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump and it was then – at step #3 – that I knew that I had tripped on the attitude diving board and done a belly flop onto the political pool deck.
Step 3. I WILL avoid demonizing people who don’t agree with me about this election, recognizing that it’s as wrong to stereotype Trump supporters as anybody else. I will avoid Hitler metaphors, recognizing that they stop conversations and rarely persuade. I’ll remind myself that no side has a monopoly on truth and that many Trump supporters are good people who want the best for the country. The left already has gotten into trouble for condescending to working-class people, and insulting all Trump supporters as racists simply magnifies that problem.
I know that Kristoff is right, that nobody has a monopoly on the truth and that having voted for Trump doesn’t mean that someone is a racist. Indeed, I’m wondering what percentage of Trump voters were simply so convinced of the evil of Clinton that they were willing to ignore Trump’s negatives – or the percentage of Americans who chose Trump because at least he was speaking to the suppressed rage they’ve carried in their gut for decades due to government having so consistently ignored and abused them.
I’ve been frustrated listening to righties who claim the high ground of patriotism and love of America, who imply or outright say that they have it right and others simply aren’t patriots. I often have imaginary conversations with them and explain that I love America every bit as much as they do and I very much want to excoriate them for their closed-mindedness. At this moment, though, my aforementioned embarrassment extends yet further, as I’ve realized that I’ve been thinking about them with a closed-mindedness of my own and it’s as harmful as theirs.
Flagrantly demonizing people is wrong no matter who does it. Stereotyping is wrong when I do it. On the other hand, calling out hate mongers is the right thing to do.
Kristoff advises letting go of Hitler metaphors, so let’s play with that a bit. “Alt-Right” includes Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, militias, the Posse Comitatus and likely other fringe hate groups. Trump has installed Alt-Right hater Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as his attorney general and he’s bringing hyper-anti-immigrant hotheads like Mike Flynn and Kris Kobach into his cabinet. He has promised to round up Hispanics and to discriminate against Muslims and make them “register”. He stereotypes African-Americans as ghetto bums and continues to refuse to repudiate the hate mongers, including the seig heil morons. And Kristoff really wants me to let go of the Hitler metaphors? I don’t know if I can do that. I’m not confident that refusing to see a Hitler-like pattern is a good idea, because the hate induced catastrophes always begin this way. A key part of our answers moving forward lies in opposing the haters and stopping the bullies.
Meanwhile, we’re left with the rest of the question about what to do for our country, and I – perhaps you, too – need to take a step back and do a 12-step program – or maybe an 11.8-step program – and find some balance, accept that some don’t see it our way, but that doesn’t make them wrong or foolish or hateful or bad. Then perhaps we can all start finding some answers.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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