I’m so tired of talking about politics, but I can’t stop. I’ve been seeing a lot of lashing out on the interwebs about people who voted for the wrong candidate (e.g. white people, women, minorities), at the Democratic party, at Hillary Clinton. Vanity Fair even had the gumption to draw a line between Jon Stewart’s absence to the election. The media lied to us. The pollsters were incompetent.
And I’d like to point out that, “bitches be crazy” has never been a great conflict-resolution tactic. Neither is “people are idiots.” Which is not to say that showing empathy and open heartedness is a great idea either.
Much has been made of ignorance. Plainly, if anyone studied American history (e.g. witch hunts, House Un-American Activities Committee) or World History (e.g. the rise of fascism), they wouldn’t vote for Trump. But we can’t give half of America remedial history lessons, and even if we could, I would put the chance of success to… nil.
I mean, let’s take everyone’s favorite example of the Holocaust (1940-1944). Lots of people (Jewish people, but also homosexuals and the mentally ill) were systematically killed.
The world was horrified, but it didn’t stop there.
– the Cambodian Genocide (1975-1979)
– the Rwanda Genocide (1994)
– the Kurdish Genocide (1986-1989)
And so on and so forth, you can go look it up yourself here.
And let’s not forget Syria. That in addition to a lovely Civil War, there is also the mass murdering of Yazidis and other religious minorities by ISIS.
While we can split hairs about if enough people have died yet to consider it a genocide (though the House of Representatives thinks it is), I think we can conclude that it’s not a field of butterflies, unless they are the carrion eating variety.
Historically-speaking, history hasn’t prevented people from doing shitty things to each other. We’re not all mass murdering fuckheads, but we shouldn’t underestimate our capacity for complacency and complicity.
One of Trump’s most notable claims is The Wall. Talking to other people, they have compared illegal immigrants crossing the border to a bank robbery or a home invasion. I sympathize with this feeling of violation. I think one of the current shitty things we’ve been doing is mocking or downplaying hurt feelings. Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Feelings are always valid. Emotions are neither bad nor good, and often we have no control over how we feel. But we are socialized from a young age to control our behavior. It’s okay for little Timmy to feel angry that Jimmy made fun of him, but it’s not okay to throw a chair at him.
It’s difficult to have a conversation with someone who thinks he or she is under attack, and you’re the liberal freak who is fighting to allow him to be robbed by a mysterious swarm of others. Why would any sane person grin and throw money at criminals? This person must be insane or hate me or hate America. Or all three. At best, you’re the moron who unwittingly invited in a monster. At worst, you’re Judas, beguiled by thirty pieces of silver. Or stupid Edmund seduced by Turkish delight. Edmund is the worst.
And yet, as much as I sympathize with fear and change, to me, talk of the Wall or the Muslim Ban or the bombing of terrorists’ families, it veers dangerously into the territory of seeing other human beings as less than. I feel like giving any ground on these issues is akin to appeasement. It is a step closer to the already dangerously close reality of beating one’s neighbors to death. It’s not just fiction; people all over the world have been murdering their neighbors since we had neighbors.
I think we all have the capacity of being monstrous. But it’s not something one aspires to.
And what happens when you pit two people or 300 million, half who feel under attack, half who feel like we’re edging up against unforgivable inhumanity?
I’ve been thinking a lot of this Edward R Murrow quote. I’m a fan of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, and the intro has a man’s voice saying, “If we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, we will remember we are not descended from fearful men.”
Edward R Murrow was a radio and television journalist. In college, we had to listen to some of his broadcasts on the concentration camps, but he is probably best known as the subject of that George Clooney movie, “Good Night, and Good Luck” The film details his interaction with Senator McCarthy who galvanized people’s fear of Communism to ruin a lot of people’s lives.
The quote is taken from A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy See it Now (CBS-TV, March 9, 1954)
We will not walk in fear, one of another, we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. If we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, we will remember we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Sen. McCarthy’s methods to keep silent or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom where ever it still exists in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the Junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And who’s fault is that? Not really his; he didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right: the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Good night, and good luck.