We’ve Got to BE Better

I’ve wanted to keep politics largely away from this site. Those topics I’ve brought up recently have been intended to be in a questioning form, talking more about the idea of something abstractly rather than any direct commentary. My thought is that I want to provoke contemplation rather than an emotional reaction to what I write. Honestly though, it is getting more difficult to sit back and watch the world spiral out of control without at least saying something. And if I can affect one person positively in this endeavor, then I’ll be thrilled.

So here this goes.

I don’t like Trump. Didn’t vote for him. Didn’t watch his shows. Never thought of him with any more respect than believing he felt more like the parody of someone pretending to be a wealthy business mogul/casino boss. Then he became a President, something I didn’t want. But honestly, I didn’t want Hillary either. Didn’t vote for her. I threw my vote towards the 3rd party. Problem is that both candidates characterized the worst in the two worlds they represented: Hillary – corrupt politician; Donald – greedy business mogul. People on either side of the aisles threw their votes behind who they wanted for the reasons they wanted. Some good, some bad, some ill-informed, some because they didn’t believe that they had a choice. One thing that I observed during that whole process though is that we didn’t fucking listen. Not to the other side anyway. Not to do anything more than to vindicate preconceived ideas on what the other side was all about. And it continues. Oh god is it continuing.

One of the tweets that sparked this post.

Now one of the things I often joke in what I like about Trump is how much he’s brought out the bad in people, about how you can see what people are really like as they scream, shout, pound their fists and generally behave like toddlers going through a tantrum, or elementary school kids insulting each other. But it isn’t funny. None of it is. Not Trump’s behavior in office, or the response that it generates. It seems that the longer we engage, the further into darkness we are all falling towards. I am watching as people I had a large amount of respect for react to the Nth nasty thing that Trump said by saying something equally nasty towards Trumps. Does Trump deserve it, sure. But what is it doing? It is like the parent, not getting a response any other way, red-faced and screaming obscenities at said parent’s teenage son who is smirking, because guess what, the kid just won. The parent lost control.

We’ve all lost control.

Trump is winning because of it. Our insults, our screams, our foot stomping over how racist, bigoted, or generally dickish Trump is just feeding into it. Doing so continues to justify his behavior.

Think of it like this: I have a son. He’s at that age where kids are becoming assholes. It’s the age where kids start developing their social hierarchy, where bullies start really appearing and social cliques begin. There’s a few big lessons my wife and I are trying to instill on him:

  1. If you hit someone, you deserve to be hit back,
  2. But if you get hit, it doesn’t mean you should hit back.
  3. If you ever have to choose between being kind and being right, always choose to be kind.

It seems that with Trump, those three lessons have gone completely out the window. More than the fact that Trump is President, I believe that people ignoring these three lessons is causing far more harm than what we perceive the President doing. And we justify it. It’s like pointing to your brother or sister after your parents break up the fight and say, “well, he/she started it!” as though it excuses the behavior.

We need to be better. And listening is a good place to start.

The tweet I reference… I’ve blocked out the name.

A tweet from another writer whom I respect stated “If you continue to support Donald Trump after today, then I no longer support you, and I don’t want your support. Enough was enough a long time ago…” There’s a lot of truth to the frustration there, but I am very much concerned with the part of no longer supporting and not wanting support. Turning our backs on others under these circumstances is not the answer.

Now maybe it is because I have family and friends who are big Trumpians. Maybe it’s because I know that deep down they aren’t anything but angry at a system that they perceive has been failing them, and they are finding answers in Trump.

There is a leadership void in this country and in fact much of the world.

Trump is filling that void for a lot of people for better or worse. With his warts and all. We are so desperate for a leader that Oprah is now our most serious 2020 Democratic contender because she made a moving speech. Certainly, there are a myriad of other favorable qualities Oprah has, but it does go to show that we are starving and will almost take anything we can get at this moment. And people still feast on Trump’s supposed leadership to get that craving. Now we celebrate those who think Oprah would be good and admonish those still looking towards our current President.

Let’s take a moment to liken the USA and the Trump administration to one of its biggest enemies: North Korea. In criticizing NK, we direct all of our energy on Kim Jung Un and his leadership team. We say that that man is evil. Seldom would we dare classify the people of North Korea as evil. In fact, we say that they are being held hostage, even though a good portion of that population believe themselves to be the superior race and would proudly die to follow their leader. The propaganda machine is churning the waters over there like no other. It’s Stockholm syndrome en mass. I would assert that those still supporting Trump to this day are not that unlike those in North Korea. And yet we have no trouble calling Trump supporters racists. Bigots. Assholes. Idiots. Uneducated. Zealots. Sexist. Rapists. Blind. Pick your insult.

Now how does it feel if someone called you those names? Do you look at yourself? Do you self reflect? Or do you go on the defensive?

In this I am not trying to excuse anything. I want people to think.

There are indeed racists who back Trump, as the march in Charlottesville helped to prove. But that is a small portion of the greater population. That does not indicate that all who love Trump are racists, even if all racists love Trump (and to put to point, there are still racists on both sides as racism has nothing to do with power and everything to do with beliefs and prejudice). It’s like concluding that all dog lovers actually are cat lovers through this logic train:

She loves dogs.

Dogs have tails.

Cats have tails.

Therefore she is a cat lover.

 

We make that jump all the time without thinking of the flaws in the logic:

People voted for Trump.

White supremacists all voted for Trump.

Ergo, all people who voted for Trump are racist.

It does beg the question.

And no kidding, the illogical train of thought does flow both ways, but we also can’t keep doing that. We can’t justify poor behavior by pointing at others’ poor behavior. That’s only deflecting rather than actually dealing with it. I can go further into that, I just don’t want to digress too far.

Now I get it, Trump is infuriating. There are times that I want to put my fist through the wall as he makes greedy, poor decisions, and his supporters laud praise onto him for it, such as with the corporate tax cuts (don’t get me started on my anti-corporation opinions). Those who follow and praise these decisions are infuriating to deal with as well. And all for good reason. I get it too. I don’t want to waste my time trying to figure out what has given them their beliefs. Is it doubling down on a bad bet? Is it because they truly believe in the cause? Is it that they just don’t have the right information?

In everyone it is probably different. Take my father for another example in this long diatribe: My father is an Army Vet. And he’s a Trump supporter. He is one of those guys who is very conspiracy minded in his old age. For instance, he believed wholeheartedly that Obama was going to come to take away his guns. So whenever Obama spoke about gun control, my father would be set off. No matter how many times I would break down the logic that there was no way Obama was going to take my father’s guns away, he wouldn’t believe it. Conversely, he believes that Trump is going to do right by Vets. And no matter how much the opposite it true, my father only sees the evidence that supports this belief. He has gotten it in his mind that Trump is the good guy. That means that when Trump indeed does something that goes contrary to a stance my father has, he will choose to blame others for action. In other words “it was the Democrats’ fault.”

“Well, dad, the Republicans have a majority in congress.”

“It’s just the Democrats fault.”

It’s that confirmation bias and denial at work. Despite my father’s problems, he’s not a racist tyrant as far as I’ve been able to tell. (Even in the sense that such a statement needs to be made is a terrible spot for our society.) Although it is hard not to shake him violently and shout when there is obvious fallacies in the logic he uses. But I don’t. I try to listen first. Not always successfully, I mean, he is my dad. I am his child. Children don’t listen.

Let’s take a step back further too. Back to the election itself. My mother will state quite plainly that Trump wasn’t even in her top 5 of the GOP candidates. My father won’t say one way or the other. For certain though, they both said that there was no way they were ever going to vote for Hillary Clinton to become President and their vote was going to go in the direction that would best ensure she wouldn’t be elected. I am certain that if the GOP put up a poo flinging gorilla, they would have voted for the poo.

Oh wait… nevermind. I will try to keep limiting the snark.

Somehow, we can’t seem to get past these points. We can’t seem to accept that an opinion might differ from our own and there might be very good reason for it if we’d only sit and listen. Maybe someone doesn’t want nationalized health care because they feel that the healthcare industry is broken and making sure everyone has healthcare isn’t going to resolve the deeper issues of why we are unhealthy is one example. If one would sit down and listen instead of immediately resorting to distasteful retorts for opposition, one might find their own mind altered with information that they didn’t previously consider.

But let’s get back to the representation of all of this anger: Trump. Our [comment redacted] President. No matter how angry he makes us, we cannot let the anger overtake our ability to engage thoughtfully and with real meaning. Once we submit to that anger, we lose. It’s not only the argument we lose, but something deeper. We lose the ability to connect with others. We lose our humanity.

Does the screaming and name-calling make us feel any better? It can let off a bit of steam, but in the long run, the solutions to the initial problem continue their absence. And replying to his actions with similar tactics of name calling, insults, and generally being cruel, only further legitimizes them. Seriously. And we need to stop that. Let’s find another way to make things change. Let’s find a better way to be better.

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