The New Not-Normal
November 19, 2016 § 18 Comments
[Post-election reflections.] In writing Parallax, I have always made it a point to think outside the box.
One way of keeping my critical thinking skills sharp has been to consciously avoid overly-identifying with either of my country’s two major political parties. I have tried to avoid confirmation bias by trying to remain somewhat outside of politics ideologically. While I have strong liberal leanings due to my interest in human rights, and I don’t identify with the social values of the right, I have always believed that disrespect of The Other, whichever side it’s on, is the root of unnecessary conflict.
We can’t expect “them” to listen to “us” if we dismiss them. In short, I am a bridge-builder by nature.
Tolerance of diversity, I have always believed, should not just be limited to those allied with one’s own cause. These values should be demonstrated through example. If we want to uphold a celebration of multi-culturalism, we should not cherry-pick whose culture is worthy of that tolerance & respect. (With the exception of outright hate groups of course.)
It’s understandable why people do gravitate towards a buffet style concept of what diversity means—who wants to tolerate a religion or culture that does not tolerate them?—but because even the less tolerant religions and cultures are made up of individuals, I personally believe it is worth erring on the side of inclusivity in order to keep the dialogue going between all groups when possible.
While this approach is largely thankless—bridge-builders are viewed as a quasi betrayer by both sides, having no cultural country to call their own—I have persisted in my efforts because I feel that to remember our common ground as human beings is essential to progress. Cultural compartmentalization breeds contempt. It breeds violence and war. United we stand, divided we fall.
Therefor, I am careful to read both sides of the argument, assume nothing and make up my own mind with every new case in question, because I believe it is the responsibility of every independent thinker to avoid a default ideology. Dogmatic adherence to any ideology, even one that appears positive, creates blind spots & a ripeness for manipulation.
However, I find myself in a very difficult position as a bridge-builder in this post-election climate.
There is a limit to the bridge builder’s credo—for the Jewish people to have attempted to build a bridge with Hitler’s Third Reicht, for example, would have been an exercise in futility and naïve delusion.
When something is wrong, deeply wrong—like a blind nationalist fervor that excludes and demonizes certain sects of the population based on ethnicity or religion—we can not stand for it. You can not build a bridge to hell. Or rather, in doing so, you negate the initial purpose of the bridge: to create harmony & unity within the human race.
Unfortunately, I am having to assess whether this is such a time in America—a time when bridges become compromises.
Every cell in my body is feeling a sense of foreboding. In my gut, I am scared. All the signs are there for those who will see—the unexpected rise to power by a man whose campaign rhetoric feeds on & into an inherent distrust of The Other, channeling civic frustrations into racial scapegoating via negative stereotyping. This looks bad, very bad.
But are the charges of racism, sexism & xenophobia against our new president-elect “trumped” up? (Haha.) Is the rhetoric surrounding his newly appointed media strategist Steve Bannon—that he is a white supremacist bigot—sensationalized by a news media bent on destroying Trump? Let’s pan back for a minute before we answer that question.
One important piece to the puzzle—something that most conservatives know about and few liberals are exposed to—is the puppeteer presence of multi-billionaire George Soros behind nearly all of our so-called unbiased & reputable news sources.
My personal favorite news outlets, “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “The Guardian,” NPR, “The Huffington Post”—sources that to me feel like a beacon of sanity, culture, measured thought & emotional intelligence—are in fact all funded by Soros.
Don’t get me wrong; I still love these news sources—and they are responsible beacons of sanity, culture & intelligence—but we have to keep in mind they are neither neutral nor independent. They answer to someone in the global elite, an immensely powerful man with a history of manipulating elections through propaganda.
At the same time, these news sources are not propagating outrageous, false, inflammatory material in the same way that alt-right journals like “Brietbart News” do. There is a respect & regard for intelligent, responsible reporting.
Now, it just so happens that the leftist ideals that these Soros-funded news sources champion align with my own cultural inclinations. But I can not assume that he, as a member of the global elite, is doing it all out of the goodness of his heart. Money & power must be involved as well.
One problem with Soros’ monopoly, as well as his interest in funding grassroots movements in a major way, is that it creates an atmosphere of mistrust for conservatives & independents. It becomes easier for them to dismiss marches & protests & hate crimes as Soros-lead manipulations with the goal of foiling Trump’s presidency.
Beyond that, it’s also entirely possible from a conspiracy theory standpoint that, like most of the world’s elite, Soros is operating from a perspective that we are easier to control when we are confused, disempowered & divided.
“Despite skeptics asserting that most incidents of assault, vandalism, or harassment publicized since Donald Trump won the presidential election are unverified and over-reported, the US has indeed seen a spike in hate crimes in the past week,” reports the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Apart from this heartbreaking & terrible development, it’s worth noting that the Southern Poverty Law Center is funded by none other than…George Soros. Maybe because he’s such a great guy! I don’t know. But his pervasive connection ends up de-legitimizing these attacks in the eyes of the right at the very least. ( It wouldn’t be the first time someone with power & an agenda exploited already present issues to create civil unrest, fear & confusion.)
Unfortunately, knowing America, I’m betting on this wave of hate crimes being sadly quite real. And we can not afford to buy into conspiracy theories when we have black people fearing for their lives.
So this is the atmosphere we find ourselves in; no one trusts anyone. Facts aren’t facts.
No major news source is purely independent or objective. Minorities feel betrayed and unsafe in their own country, liberals feel disillusioned that someone like Trump—a man who objectifies & degrades women, who blames the country’s problems on immigrants & denies climate change—could have been elected president.
Third party voters feel alienated as Democrats blame them for Trump’s win. Conservatives are tired of their concerns being neglected & dismissed as racist, when there appears to be data to back up the fear of, say, a surge of refugees increasing rape statistics—liberals consider this subject a sacred cow for fear of adding to xenophobia, but may be putting women in harms way in the process. Minorities & progressives are tired of reaching over the isle to try to explain how comments their leaders are making are in fact racist & sexist.
As one example, some Republicans I’ve spoken with seem to think that racism has only one obvious face: the overt hatred of another race or the perception that said race is fundamentally inferior. While that is, of course, one face of racism, saying things like “I love the Muslims” & “I have a great relationship with the blacks,” as Trump has said, is another. Lumping all black people, or all Muslims, into a single category shows a detachment from perceiving this group as being composed of individuals.
I know that explanation plays into conservative’s irritation with “smug liberals” explaining cultural issues to them, but hey! Liberals study this stuff. Conservatives study other things, like the constitution. We have different strengths. As CNN contributor Van Jones has remarked in his web series “The Messy Truth“: liberals love justice, conservatives love liberty. Both are important aspects of the American ethos.
Speaking of “smug liberalism,” the tone & content of “alt-right” publications such as Brietbart News appear in many ways to be a reaction against “political correctness”—otherwise known as considering the feelings & perspectives of other races & genders than yourself when speaking.
The progressive taboo placed on loose, culturally insensitive language has lead many to call “political correctness” a new form of facism due to word policing.
What is ironic about this reaction, is that people are feeling oppressed by oppressed people’s objection to the use of language that perpetuates their oppression. So anyone upset by the oppressiveness of PC needs to understand that they are getting a taste of the very reason PC started to begin with!
I get it. Hey, if drag queen superstar RuPaul is getting heat from GLAAD for a segment playfully titled “Female or Shemale,” the serpent has definitely reached the point of biting its own tail. But it’s not like people are being jailed for using an outdated word. They are being notified by those who have to fight every day for visibility & validity & basic human dignity that—“Hey! That hurts me when you say that. Perpetuating these words have real life consequences for me.”
It’s up to the person being told that if they want to listen or not.
(Many on the right are concerned that political correctness is hurting America’s ability to defend its people in the fight against terrorism, which may warrant a different category than other PC issues, as it involves the fear for physical safety rather than just a feeling of entitlement.)
So, is the new administration as bad as it seems to the 75% of us who didn’t vote for Trump? (The majority of Americans didn’t vote. Thanks guys!) And is bridge building at this time an act of naïve futility? It’s not looking good—to the first question. And: no, to the second. Not yet, anyway.
The news media may have trumped up charges against Steve Bannon to some degree—though there’s no direct evidence I can find of anti-Antisemitism, there are whispers: Bannon’s ex-wife, who has also issued spousal battery charges against the media mogul, has said in court that he is anti-semetic. Additionally, his media company Brietbart published a story that needlessly brings up a Republican senator’s Jewishiness—“Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew”—albeit written by Jewish writer, David Horowitz.
However, the sexism propagated by the site is completely overt (see “Here’s Why There Ought To Be A Cap On Women Studying Maths & Science”). If Bannon’s Brietbart is that out-of-touch with concepts of equality, I think it’s fair to assume the prejudice won’t stop at women.
This is a man who, like Trump himself, proudly caters to the disenfranchised white working class by feeding them fear-mongering, prejudice-stirring opinions masked as news. He has had no problem exploiting fear & already present prejudice with divisive rhetoric. His Brietbart news has helped empower & legitimize hate groups. He is not part of the solution to the already present human tendency to demonize The Other. And he’s fine with that.
“Darkness is good,” Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter this week. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they [liberals] get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
Um…guys? The president’s key strategist just told us evil is power & aligned himself with the lord of darkness. This is not normal. This is not okay.
As far as bridge-building goes: as long as we can agree that all humans deserve equal rights & treatment, I’m not giving up yet. I completely understand that people of color & other minorities are sick of always having to be the ambassador of their own legitimacy. I hope that this is one way I can use my white privilege for good, to continue to try and speak diplomatically with the other side, to ferret out objectives truths like human dignity that have fallen between the cracks of rhetoric, overlapping narratives & unmet needs.
Republicans, be kind to your liberal friends and family members. We on the left are not just being sore losers. We are genuinely afraid—deep down, in our bones—-for our rights and the rights of others. We are afraid of a political climate where casual bigotry & cultural insensitivity is normalized…and where that will lead. Because it’s been the harbinger of some pretty dark chapters of history in the past.
We always look back on twisted times like Nazi Germany and wonder: how did it happen? How could a nation be so mesmerized by such obvious evil? Unfortunately, it starts like this, with the normalization of racial scapegoating & negative stereotyping. As Trump did with Mexican immigrants & Muslims on his campaign trail. As Bannon did with Brietbart news before he became the president’s right hand man, aka the self-described lord of darkness. (See Joshua Foust’s “This Is Not Normal” to avoid falling into the spell of normalization; Sara Kendizor’s “We’re Heading Into A Dark Time: How To Be Your Own Light In The Age Of Trump.”)
But liberals, in the interest of our survival as a country, let’s not make a monolith of all Trump voters as racists. Demographics are composed of individuals, with complex motives. Trump addressed many neglected issues for a certain swath of voters, many of which had nothing to do with race. Where there is a monolith, there is an enemy. But where there are individuals, there is hope for dialogue, communication & humanity.
At the same time, those of us who are feeling spooked by the current rhetoric have to stand for what we know is right: human dignity, equality, diversity—America’s cornerstones. I believe we can do both.
I feel I can no longer responsibly remain impartial or “outside” of politics. The threat to human rights is too real.
I don’t feel like the same person I was before this election. The person who wrote “Surviving The Collective Exorcism,” as though this rising rhetoric were just some passing ghost in the night to make us all think a little harder about the specters of oppression. As though I knew it would all be okay in the end. I no longer feel that I know that. And I’m worried this exorcism could become a living nightmare.
But if we keep talking to each other, if we continue to stand for what we know is right—if we can get out of our comfort zones & privilege bubbles & the impulse to tune out the inconvenient drone of American politics & actually take action to further the causes we believe in—then we will still be moving forward.
*A note: I would love to hear your thoughts, reader. I feel like this offering is jumbled, in-process & not up to my usual Parallax standard. Your comments encouraged! I think the only way this post makes sense is as the initiation of a conversation, not as a finished piece, because I’m still trying to process & untangle everything myself, as you can probably tell.