11 November 2016

Fear and respect

Two other points in all of this. There's a fair amount of talking past each other going on. I'm trying to interpret it. Because something just happened that I genuinely did not understand, or did not expect this country to be capable of. So I'm doing some listening.

In looking at Trump supporters. I'm seeing a lot of talk and discussion about a demand for respect. There is sometimes a genuine disdain evident from "elites" toward white working class people living in rural Wisconsin, say. I don't think Trump was paying them better respect (because he's a con man). Still. I understand the demand for it, if not where that lead them politically. There is a manner in which discussing his voters as ignorant, racist and anti-feminist country bumpkins dismisses this need, which is justified, and provides more incentive to lift a middle finger in response and go do something kind of dumb to get back at people who don't respect you and your interests. In the way that people become spiteful in order to try to harm others who do not grant them the respect and common decency that is required in societal norms. For one thing. Most of them are not like this depiction. Social and polling evidence is strong that many are, depending on the subject (particularly exhibiting xenophobia toward Muslims and immigrants), and that some number of Clinton supporters were also, depending on the subject. That still leaves a big chunk of people who voted Republican the other day for all sorts of complicated reasons that were not sexist, racist, or idiotic. That is difficult to explain on the merits. But it isn't difficult to explain that they have complex motives and self-interests that are not the same as "what I think they should be", the position of "people voting against their self-interest" which is far too commonly taken up by liberals and progressives in examining right-leaning constituents. Dismissing other people's interests is not a sensible way to govern versus seriously arguing with them.

The issue for me is more that most of them deliberately overlooked what Trump was (an ignorant, racist, and anti-feminist bumpkin in a suit). I had thought at multiple opportunities we were better than that to see this as a problem as a country, as something beneath us to represent us to each other and to the world. Respect is something earned by being a decent person, someone who is tolerant, patient, and kind to others. Most of us try to do that privately and publicly where possible. Most of us I thought wanted the country to reflect that even as we disagree vehemently over how. If we are in need of respect as a nation, we should find a better exemplar who earns and commands respect even from his or her rivals. Reagan was great at this, even as I would have to find many of his policies ridiculous. Do not go run with a belligerent jackass. That is not the route to the respect you demanded. You will get a lot of people pissed off. "They" of the infamous "they" will respect you even less for exercising such poor judgment. Not elites, whose respect people do not seem to even want anymore. Other regular people who happen to be more liberal than you, because of a position on guns or abortion, say, and are otherwise trying to lead normal, happy lives. Or people of a different ethnicity than you. Or who live in another country. Or who wanted to come to this country and build a life. And it is these people who may suffer most from what happened Tuesday, not the elites who look down upon you. This is what has happened. In the quest to punish elites for a lack of respect, it is normal people will suffer and no respect will be earned or given. Only more division. It is hurtful and often disrespectful or dismissive to be called a racist or a sexist, particularly when you do not feel those terms should apply to you. It is much less so than suffering the consequences of someone who is racist or sexist in their actions and words.

In looking at Clinton supporters. This is something that I think many people are far too quick to dismiss among the right. There is a genuine fear based upon the things Trump and his surrogates have said they intend to do. Significant and sometimes terrifyingly large portions of his supporters have expressed a demand for particular changes in policy that are genuinely harmful to some number of "other people", people unlike themselves that they hate and fear. Minorities. The LGBT community. Foreigners. Immigrants. These are groups of people who have been given every reason to be concerned right now. This is a fact.

It is wishful thinking to push it away and claim Trump is the most LGBT friendly Republican nominee they've had (I am extremely dubious, as Goldwater comes to mind immediately as having been pretty pro-LGBT as a Senator, especially later in his career). When they also have Mike Pence on the ticket and the most explicitly anti-LGBT party platform they have ever had. Trump has said explicitly he wants to overturn the Supreme Court ruling granting marriage as an equal right and is in a position to appoint people who could do so. Pence has taken much more harsh stances. This is not imaginary. This is not merely about people getting pissed off because some bigoted baker wouldn't make them a cake for their wedding.

Changes to abortion restrictions and access to birth control should alarm many women. Changes to police militarization and justice department restraints of abuse by police of civil liberties should alarm anyone and everyone, but will fall most harshly on ethnic minorities. Changes to immigration policy should alarm migrants and people who look like they could be immigrants. Changes to the way we surveil and treat Muslims and their religious liberties should alarm the Islamic community. Changes to the way we accept refugees should alarm people fleeing from authoritarian governments and active war zones. Changes to environmental policy should alarm environmentalists (and everyone else). These are innocents. Not people who wish us harm, merely sometimes people with which we disagree. People can claim these are deserved and necessary changes (I disagree, for the most part), or be unconcerned, even gleeful, that these other Americans or other people are now afraid or potentially will suffer. But they don't get to claim that fear doesn't or should not exist and that everyone should pipe down and get on with it.

These fears are grounded in what has happened in the campaign, what has happened when Republicans have had control over the levers of government, and what is most likely to happen now as a matter of American policy. It is not made up. It is entirely reasonable to wonder why large numbers of voters went to the polls, and seeing these same elements, and decided "yeah, that's a good choice for President". If the fears people have are from experiencing sexism, and racism, and ultra-nationalistic chest bumping on the receiving end, it will not be appropriate for such people to declare and decide that their white (mostly male) countrymen are all sexist, racist bastards who just want to burn everything down and make other people suffer. But it isn't an entirely unreasonable conclusion given that this will be the effects they experience.
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