So how ’bout this election cycle, hmm?
This will certainly make it in the history books.
I’m intensely interested in politics, though I try to keep my political rants to a minimum on social media. But I’m breaking my half-silence to talk about unity. And yes, Trump. Because, unfortunately, no one can say anything this election cycle without talking about him. But I want to make this post more about unity, if that’s okay with you.
This election has been the most divisive and rhetoric-filled in my short memory (Clinton became president right after I learned to walk), but I’m pretty sure it’s been quite a while before I can remember as well. When Trump announced his candidacy, no one was really sure what to make of it. Was it a joke? Satire on the current political climate? Publicity stunt? A way to push moderates to Hillary in the general? None of us really thought it was for real. Probably not even Trump. I laughed when I heard and immediately wrote him off.
“He won’t win the presidency,” I assured my non-American friends. “He won’t even win the Republican primaries.” Well, here’s me now crossing my fingers and hoping still that he won’t win the primary.
Anger over the current establishment, both at the federal level and at party level, have reached record highs over the past few years. Pundits point to the rise of a candidate as a celebrity (Obama in 2008) and the emergence of the Tea Party in the Republican party. We all know the Republican party has been fracturing for years now, the party elites ignoring the base. In their (little) defense, however, who even is their base anymore? Evangelical Christians, once the bulwark of the party from 1980s onward) are shifting and changing stances. The party is hemorrhaging Latinos and other minorities over hardline stances on immigration reform (or non reform). The log cabin Republicans and other moderates are increasingly tired of putting up with “traditional values.” For a decade or so scholars have lamented the “polarization of American politics.”
So perhaps we shouldn’t have been so shocked when Trump swooped in and capitalized on the grievances and anger felt by a large swath of the American public. What I mean to say is, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so shocked. After all, Nikabrik turned to a second-best candidate in Prince Caspian.
But here I am and here we are, and here the American electorate is. While I believe that many of the people have good reason to feel disenfranchised from the economy and politics, what they do with this anger is even more important.
I am seriously concerned right now for the US. Trump has whipped the latent anger into a frenzy, coaxing rage into nonsensical action. We were already divisive before. Some of my conservative friends say “liberal extremists are dangerous for this country.” Some of my liberal friends say “all Republicans are idiots and racists.”
My conservative friends: “The Liberals” do not get together in a back room and plot how to take down America.
My liberal friends: The Republicans aren’t trying to keep us in the Dark Ages or destroy all the progress we’ve made as a nation.
We can and should clash with ideologies, ideas, and action plans, but we have to trust that the other party are just like us and have the same goals, they just chose a method that’s misguided. Our social contract isn’t just with the government. It’s with one another. If that trust breaks apart, we have nothing left.
And Trump is stoking that narrative, blatantly calling for “them” to be silenced, carried out in stretchers, removed, etc. Who is “them”? Anyone who protests his rallies or disagrees with him, however respectfully. It’s “the blacks,” the “Mexicans,” the “Muslims,” and most recently “our communist friend’s [Bernie Sanders]” supporters.” Sometimes protests just make the division worse. But Trump isn’t calling out the differences in our beliefs and ideologies, he’s insinuating there’s differences in what makes us human. Words have consequences.
This ” us versus them” mentality is incredibly, incredibly dangerous. I would hope that we can all disagree on policy, economics, even religion, and still have more that unites us than divides us. This mentality of social identity assures us that we are better than the “others.” And superiority breeds indifference which breeds suspicion and hate which eventually turns to violence and discrimination. Just ask the Bosnians, the German Jews, the Tutsis, or the Yezzidis, to name a few. While the “us versus them” belief doesn’t always lead to ethnic cleansing or genocide, every instance of ethnic cleansing and genocide begins there.
Friends, don’t buy into the rhetoric that distances “us” from “them.” We are all one, American, and in this mess together. And Trump’s bombastic, violent rhetoric has energized some of the worst parts of ourselves,inciting violence, death threats, and mobs on the streets.
This disintegration of trust is dangerous to all of us. At this point, I’m not even concerned with who’s going to win the presidency any more (I still think Trump won’t win in the long run). I’m concerned with how our country is going to recover from this ugliness. Regardless of who wins the Republican nomination, regardless of who wins the general election, we will still be left with angry, hurting, resentful people willing to lash out at anyone that unintentionally stirs up their own fears and insecurities.
So what are we going to do? How are we going to mend this?
My conservative friends: Please be troubled by what’s happening in the Republican party. Be a Christian (or Muslim or Jew or agnostic) first and a Republican, like, fifteenth. You don’t have to be liberal to be against Trump’s tone, fascism, or division. Please be willing to pray, to speak, and to act against this growing violence. Be willing to listen to another point of view before writing someone off as a “bleeding heart liberal” or “whiny black kid.”
My liberal friends: Remember that as disgusting as you find Trump’s tone and his supporters’ response, as protester you must behave better than them. Protest all you like but do it peacefully, respectfully, and constitutionally. Think of the nonviolent tactics of the Civil Rights Movement. And remember that most protests only cause Trump supporters to dig in their heels. Be for unity rather than just against Trump.
My Christian friends: Christ rescued us from our hate. He loved us before we first loved him. He loved us despite our unworthiness to be loved. Speak truth, but speak it in love. God loves the Trump supporters that scream racial slurs and willingly embrace the neo-Nazi comparisons. And God loves the reckless youth that rip posters and disrupt rallies. We are to bandage the bleeding (and at this point we’re all bleeding because we’re all human) and hope for the despairing (and despair was definitely one of my emotions after Super Tuesday).
These sentiments that Trump has tapped into are larger than I first thought, and they will not–cannot–be ignored.
So what are we going to do about it?