Thursday, November 10, 2016

Can't We All Just Get Along? Probably Not.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I feel it necessary to make it known that I did not, nor do I now, support Donald Trump for president (although he is the president elect, and I will "support" him in that I will respect him in his office).  I did not vote for Donald Trump.  My "tribe" stands to lose very much from his election to the office of president (which, much to my chagrin, my tribe doesn't seem to understand).  For instance, I am of the opinion that the election of Donald Trump has effectively ended the debate on the sanctity of marriage.  Conservatives have unknowingly abandoned their argument for marriage being between one man and one woman by throwing their support behind a candidate who does not share a like-minded opinion on the sanctity of marriage.  The same is (somewhat) true for the life argument, although, to be fair, it remains to be seen how the newly elected president actually will deal with life issues.  At the very least, we can say that his commitment to pro-life values is very late in coming, and is not entirely robust.

I could go on and on about my problems with Donald Trump, but I'll leave it there for now.  I hope that you can see that I am not a Trump supporter, and that this reality will give you some context to what I'm going to say next.

In the two days since Trump's election to the presidency, there has been much consternation on the left that has manifested itself in the form of protests, riots, and social media outrage.  Others - both conservatives and liberals - have called for unity and to put our support behind the president-elect, and that this is a time for us to see how we can work together toward a better future for our country.

Well, it ain't gonna happen.

Please understand: I don't say this because I don't want it to happen, or because I don't think it should happen.  Indeed, I do want it to and think it should happen.  But the reality is that our society has changed so drastically in the past 10 years, that our collective cultural and social constructs and "enlightened" worldviews won't allow us to make peace with one another.  It's a fascinating (and frightening) time to be alive.  Let me give you just three reasons why I think there will be no peace and unity in our nation for the foreseeable future:

1. Because we now interpret disagreement as hate speech.  Certain issues in our society that used to be matters of opinion in which two disagreeing parties could engage in vigorous debate have been deemed to be the litmus test for bigotry, hatred, racism, etc.  For example, the opinion that illegal aliens should not be allowed in our country is interpreted as having racist motivations.  And nobody wants to reason with a racist, because racism is wrong, right?  Nobody wants to have unity or peace with racists, because racists are filled with hate, right?  In the eyes of some in our country, it would be akin to finding unity with the KKK, which obviously is a type of unity that nobody wants to have.  Another example is opinions about the sanctity of marriage.  Not advocating for gay rights is considered discrimination and bigotry.  Who wants to sit down and work together with a bigot?  No one.  Since one side is convinced that the other is filled with hate-mongers, they have no desire for unity or peace with them.  To do so would be to validate what they see as hatred and bigotry.  As long as people interpret the opinions of others as hatred and bigotry there will be no peace or unity in our country.

2. Because we we buy the narrative perpetuated by the media.  The media loves ratings, and they know that juicy stories are going to garner page views, link clicks, air time, and advertising dollars.  The media doesn't care about the truth so much as the bottom line.  They don't care about what's actually happening, but they're happy to report on fringe stories that are just that: on the fringe, so as to make people angry.  When people are angry, they visit websites and share articles on social media; they watch cable news shows and read magazines.  The media knows this, so they consistently report stories that they know will push people's buttons, and we - people who like to have our buttons pushed - take the bait.  We ingest these fringe stories and we react to them.  The media tells us what is important, and we go along with it like obedient sheep.  As long as we allow the narrative of our society to be perpetuated by the media, there will be no peace or unity in our country.

3. Because social media amplifies the worst about us.  Similar to the way the media spins the narratives in our country, many of us live in the microcosm of social media.  We're never more than a click away from airing our most inflammatory opinions that we haven't thought out, vetted, fact-checked, or even read beyond a headline.  This kind of sharing simply perpetuates the anger and extremism that we all fall into if left unchecked.  Plus, social media is a safe place for us to say inflammatory things - there are no checks and balances.  The worst that can happen is for someone to call us a crazy liberal or conservative.  A very recent and real example is this website that supposedly catalogs instances of racism that have occurred since Donald Trump was elected president two days ago, and allegedly as a result of his election.  Take a look at the examples posted there, and you'll hopefully notice a few things pretty quickly (note: I am not justifying any of the horrible things described on this site): 1) many of these reports are unsubstantiated; they are based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay.  2) considering that reality, it is possible that these alleged instances of racism could be spread by anti-Trump people who want to hurt the image of those who have supported Trump (in other words, they're intentionally causing trouble - something that has been done before the in the recent past).  3) it's also possible (and, in my opinion, likely) that these instances of racism (if substantiated) were perpetrated by fringe minority groups who always have been racist losers and are simply living up to their reputation.  It's unlikely that all of a sudden, once Donald Trump was elected, a vast number of people suddenly began to let their racist strips shine through.  It's more likely that racist losers - who were racist losers long before Donald Trump was even on the political scene - have taken this opportunity to perpetuate their wickedness because they know they'll get the spotlight (see point 2 above).  But people have taken these fringe incidences and have used them as an opportunity to showcase the very worst things about humanity.  And others on social media see them and are (rightly) enraged by them.  But rather than direct their anger toward the fringe minority groups perpetuating evil, they choose to instead direct it at those who merely disagree with them (see point 1 above).  There will not be peace and unity in our country for a long time because social media brings out the worst about us, and we're all too quick to believe it and attribute it to everyone who thinks differently than we do.

We are a long way off from having unity as a country.  We can't even trust one another when we say that we don't hate each other.

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