By Jay Menard,
The U.S. election proved what can go horribly wrong when we only pay lip service to the ideals of inclusion.
The worst type of exclusionary politics isn’t practiced by those who are overt in their exclusion — the racists, the bigots, etc. — but rather it’s practiced by those who profess to be inclusive, yet exclude all of those whose views don’t march in lockstep with the groupthink.
And last night’s election results were merely a reflection of that frustration.
My social feeds tend to lean fairly heavily to the left. And the statements I read last night were telling:
“What is going on?”
“This can’t be real…”
“What are they thinking.”
The “they” part of that statement is the problem. And it’s one that plagues the so-called progressive, left-leaning members of our society. Inclusion isn’t about us and them. It’s about all of us.
I saw American voters branded as rednecks, simply because they voted for a Republican candidate. There were those who branded anyone who voted Trump with terms like “racist,” “bigot,” “misogynist.”
Trump ran an abhorrent campaign. He spewed vitriol, racism, and sexism over a political landscape. There is no forgiving him as a person. But he also represented an alternative for people who have very real concerns who feel they can’t state them in our current social environment. But he also focused on the James Carville strategy — but instead of “It’s the economy, stupid,” his message was “Make America great again.” That resonated with a lot of people and trumped his own Trumpiness.
There are a lot of people in this world who are afraid. They fear terrorism, they fear losing their jobs, they fear any number of things. But they also are unable to express that fear because as soon as they open their mouths they’re branded as an “ist.”
And there was an arrogance to those who gleefully applied the brands. There was a pervasive mocking, condescending, and supercilious tone to the speech. “We are better/smarter than you…” or “you are not good enough to be my friend” were some of the messages — so it’s not all that shocking that the vast majority of those who voted for Trump didn’t interact (other than the nutbags on either end of the political spectrum — but those squeaky wheels aren’t really worth the grease. Most people fall in the middle.).
The way to combat ignorance isn’t through condemnation but rather education. Unfortunately, in our current social environment, diverting in any way from what a cultural elite has deemed appropriate is social suicide.
If one wrongly feels that all Muslims are terrorists and expresses concerns about immigration, the answer shouldn’t be to immediately brand them a racist and excommunicate them from the social network, but rather have a discussion and educate them about the realities of the situation.
It takes more effort to educate than denunciate, true, but it’s far more effective.
Ignorance flourishes in the dark. It’s dispelled by the light. So instead of automatically condemning and excluding, our culture of inclusion should allow for debate and discussion. Any idea or thought, good or bad, needs to stand up to scrutiny and can be challenged. But if we simply choose to dismiss outright, what are we actually doing?
What are we saying to these people other than their opinions aren’t valid and, as such, they’re not valid. Those fears exist. One side is saying, “You don’t have a right to those fears. You’re a bad person.” The other side says, “I know you have fear. And I’m going to fix them.” It doesn’t matter if the root causes are wrong or the fixes are unfeasible — there was one candidate who essentially stated, “I hear what you’re saying. And I’m going to act.” For people living in fear, however unjustified you believe that fear may be, that’s a comforting sentiment.
So should we be surprised at all when they rebel against the popular sentiment?
We understand when marginalized groups resort to violence because it’s a natural progression of frustration. If your voice is not being heard, if your ideas and ideals are being suppressed, then you need to have them come to the fore. That can be done through protest and through violence.
But in addition to the bullet, you have the ballot. And that’s what a lot of people last night chose to use to express their frustration. Last night was a vote of violence.
Or, to be less aggressive in my language, yesterday’s result is just a natural reaction to the status quo. Just as the sanitized, Ken-doll like safe-sexuality of boy bands like the New Kids led to the raw, flannel-infused dirtiness of grunge, so too has the filterless Trump emerged as a response to an allegedly-inclusive-but-selectively-exclusive world.
I firmly believe everyone who voted for the Republican candidate last night is not a sheet-wearing, homophobic, sexist bigot with limited to no intelligence. Sadly, they’ve been branded as such. And were immediately lumped into that group the second they chose to show any affinity for any part of Trump message. Yes, he played on fear, but those fears exist. Instead of adamantly stating that people are wrong for having them, it would have been better to openly and honestly discuss why those fears are wrong.
That’s a huge distinction, but too often we, as a society, leap to the former.
People are complex. There are shades of gray in every issue, but we treat everything as an absolute. Locally, I can believe that the first step in cleaning up the downtown core is by removing the highly visible drug traffic and trade, without that meaning I don’t care about those suffering from addiction. One solution does not exclude the other. But we often frame arguments about issues in that manner.
We’ve seen the future and it is us. I wrote back in March how we play a “Trump” card with increasing regularity. “Thanks to hyperpartisanship, a predilection for self-congratulatory confirmation bias, and a Zealous approach to framing arguments based not on merit, but rather on side (right/left/Conservative/Liberal), we’re well on the way to dealing ourselves a similar hand in Canada.”
Will it be any different in Canada? Should we be surprised if a candidate emerges who uses xenophobia and protectionism as platforms? Should we be surprised if that candidate strikes a chord?
We shouldn’t be surprised, but we will. After all, when you exclude all those other voices because they’re not echoing the same mantra as you, word for word, it’s hard to hear what they may actually be saying.