Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Confronting the Trump in all of us

It has been a week since America awoke to the news that Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States.  In that time, reactions from both Trump supporters and those who did not vote for him, have dominated the headlines.  

First, while I would prefer that those protesting Americans accept the fact that their choice did not win, I acknowledge their right to express their opinion in public demonstrations, just as, should Hillary Clinton had won, we would have allowed the Trump faithful to demonstrate on behalf of their candidate.  It should come as no surprise that so many people are angry and upset, as both candidates had high ratings of unfavorability during the entire campaign.  Someone had to win, someone had to lose, and half of the electorate was bound to be disappointed at the outcome.  To me, it is encouraging that so many people are expressing their concern, even though it comes in the wake of a reduced turnout at the polls as compared to 2008 and 2012, and might smack of closing the barn door after the horse has left for those of us who voted, for we all know that a certain percentage of the demonstrators didn't bother to cast a ballot last Tuesday.   But that would also have been true, regardless of the result.

I do however, object to the perception among the left that since Clinton won the popular vote, the second time in 16 years that a GOP candidate lost the popular vote but won the electoral count, we should consider abandoning the concept of the electoral college.  Or, that we should encourage some of the electors in that college, to vote contrary to the public's will, and choose Clinton over Trump.

As I said in a previous post, it is important to maintain the integrity of our institutions, despite our great disappointment at the recent election results.  If we allow the losing side to change the rules whenever it suits them, then the stability of our democratic system will be eroded.  The electoral college is not a perfect system, but it is the system designed by the founders to prevent a regional candidate from accruing such a huge majority of popular votes in a minority of states that victory in the overall election may be attained despite losing the popular vote in 30 or 35 states.  So yes, Clinton won the popular vote but she only won 21 states (if you include DC), which means that Trump won 30.  As I had suggested in a previous post, had Clinton won just 3 more states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she would have won the electoral college vote 278-260. 

Would the left be so quick to want a change had Clinton won those three states, 24 in total, but lost the popular vote?  Would the right now be clamoring for that change instead, if, in winning 27 states they had won the popular vote but not the electoral college?  (By the way, in the 2000 presidential election when Bush bested Gore, Bush won 30 states despite losing the popular vote.  Had Gore won Florida, he would have won the election with just 21 states including DC, as opposed to 29 for Bush).

Second, my respect for President Obama has increased dramatically by his handling of the transfer of power to a man who actively questioned his nation of birth and religion for many years.  What an incredible show of restraint, and respect for our nation and its laws!   Not to mention his plea for Americans to honor the results, results that may virtually wipe out his legacy and all that he did to advance the causes of those who elected him, twice.  Could you have been so polite, so willing to put the nation ahead of your personal disappointment?  Has anyone ever in our political history?  It would be a great boon to unity if Fox News would relate this information to its audience.  Perhaps just that one nod to civility would help move the needle a bit towards understanding that it is OK for political and philosophical disagreements to exist, in fact preferable in a democracy, but not OK to demonize those on the other side and to promote the belief that there is only one right opinion.  We must respect those on the other side if we wish to convince them of our perspective.     

But the real point of this post was to discuss prejudice, and its insidious effect on our great country.

Clearly, racial bias, and xenophobia were factors in this election.  NOT THE DECIDING FACTOR HOWEVER.  Let me make that point clear, again.  Trump won the election because he won over middle America, hard working men and women who feel that the American dream has been stolen from them, and Trump promised them he would fix that problem.  Had the Democrats and Clinton learned that lesson from the success of Bernie Sanders primary challenge, we might have had a different result, but they assumed that Trump's negatives would win the day.  One might even say that they assumed that it was OK to discount middle America's angst, believing that Trump's forays into belittling virtually anyone not a white male, would force the voters to choose her as the lesser of two evils.  

And this is why we need to address our own Trumpness, so to speak.  We all exhibit bias, demean those we think we are better than.  Using terms like redneck and white trash to describe some Trump supporters is no different than those who would call our First Lady an ape in heels, or who stereotype all illegal immigrants as rapists and criminals.  

Be honest, if you found yourself walking at night in an unfamiliar area and saw 4 or 5 young men approaching, would your first instinct to cross the street?  Hold tight your purse?  Is it more or less the same if the young men have dark skin?  

If a business person, do you look more closely at the resume, or the tattoos or piercings the applicant may have?  

If you are in a public situation where you need to sit within a crowd, do you seek a seat next to someone more like yourself in race, gender or age? 

Prejudice is deep rooted, often the results of generations of biased thinking.  A child who listens at the lap of a white supremacist grandfather and father as they recount tales of suppressing the negro, will more easily develop a deep hatred of that race, just as a black child who hears tales from their family of the white slave owner who abused their ancestors and separated their families.   

This is where I may disagree with some Trump supporters, but, to me, the answer to reducing and someday eliminating prejudice is familiarity with those different from us.  Contact with them.  More diversity, not less.

Imagine the surprise and change of perspective when an older person visits their lifelong friend, and finds that friend's grand daughter helping around the house, a grand daughter with a tattoo on her forearm and a pierced nose.  Perhaps the thought that young people have different ways of expressing themselves but are still just young people making their way through the world might remind them of the fads of their youth and how they were looked at askance by their elders.

Imagine the surprise and change of perspective when a gay marriage opponent finds herself stranded along the road, waiting for AAA, when she is helped by a friendly lesbian couple who change her tire and share their hot beverage to warm her.   Perhaps the thought that those young woman were not unlike her when she was young, hoping to find love and happiness.

Imagine the surprise and change of perspective when a left leaning progressive comes home to find his young child playing with the new kid in school who just moved from there from Mississippi, and when he takes the child home is invited in for a cold glass of lemonade.  Perhaps the thought that these new neighbors are probably as scared and unsure as he would be should he move to a new town, and how much a helping hand would mean as opposed to a stereotyped judgement.

We are a divided nation.  One might even say that some of that divisiveness still echoes from the Civil War.  But we are also known by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty which says 

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"     

It is why so many people risk life and limb to travel from Central America and Mexico to live and work here.  Why the newest wave of immigrants from the war torn countries of the Middle East have streamed into Europe and wish asylum in America as well.

Like those who sent opinion letters to their papers decrying the influx of the Irish, Italian, Polish and other European nations during the early 20th century, we find ourselves, children of those same immigrants, fearful that our country is changing, and that our culture will be altered by these new immigrants.  It is natural to feel that, and so understandable that so many people responded to Trump's call for restrictions, were ready to blame our problems on these newcomers.  And yes, perhaps some are over the top racists, but most are everyday Americans who want to provide shelter and security for their families and the opportunity for the same in the future.

Let's acknowledge our prejudices.  Confront our fears but in an inclusive way, with the knowledge that the problems will not be solved unless we involve everyone on both sides of the debate.   And let's understand that if we see unappealing traits in President elect Trump, we can best address those faults by turning that gaze within and rooting out those same traits in ourselves. 

1 comment:

  1. "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    Emma Lazarus, the writer of the above saying, was a communist. The communist ideology is an antithesis to everything that America stands for.
    As for the electoral college, it should be left alone, like you say.
    The communist scum in the "Democratic" party would be singing it's praises if Hillary had won by it, but in true Marxist fashion they want to play dirty to get their way.
    Trump needs to use the indefinite detention clauses of both the Patriot Act and the NDAA to cleanse the U.S. of these leftist vermin one and for all. With his appointment of ex-general James "Mad Dog" Mattis as SECDEF, I have full confidence that the Leftist filth in America is heading towards some well deserved Dark Days in the very near future.

    Such long awaited joy......