Monday, November 14, 2016

Comments for my biracial niece

I spent the night after Trump’s victory consoling my biracial niece worried about the election. Here are my comments. You won’t like them, expecting the opposite given the title. But it’s what I said.


I preferred Hillary, but that doesn’t mean Trump is an evil choice.

Don’t give into the hate. You get most of your news via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which are at best one-sided and unfair. At worst, they are completely inaccurate. Social media posts are driven by emotion, not logic. Sometimes that emotion is love of cute puppies. Mostly it’s anger, fear, and hate. Instead of blindly accepting what you read, challenge it. Find the original source. Find a better explanation. Search for context.

Don’t give into the hate. The political issues that you are most concerned about are not simple and one-sided with obvious answers. They are complex and nuanced. Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they are unreasonable or evil. In today’s politics, it has become the norm that we can’t simply disagree with somebody, but must also vilify and hate them. We’ve redefined politics to be the fight between the virtuous (whatever side we are on) and the villains (the other side). The reality is that both sides are equally reasonable, equally virtuous.

Don’t give into the hate. Learn “critical thinking”. Learn how “cherry picking” the fringe of the opposing side is used to tarnish the mainstream. Learn how “strawman arguments” makes the other side sound dumb. Learn how “appeal to emotion” replaces logic. Learn how “ad hominem” statements attack the credibility of opponent’s arguments. Learn how issues are simplified into “black vs. white” options rather than the nuance and complexity that actually exists.

Don’t give into the hate. The easy argument is that it’s okay to be hateful and bigoted toward Trump and his supporters because they are bigoted against you. No, it’s not okay to hate anybody, not even Hitler, as Atticus Finch explains in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. In that book, Atticus even tries to understand, and not hate, Robert Ewell, the racist antagonist in the book who eventually tries to stab Scout (Atticus’s daughter). Trump’s supporters may be wrong, but it’s a wrongness largely based on ignorance, not malice. Yes, they probably need to be kindly educated, but they don’t deserve punishment and hate.

America is the same country it was last week. It's citizens haven't changed, only one man in an office has changed. The President has little actual power, either to fix things (as his supporters want) or to break things (as his opponents fear). We have strong institutions, from Congress, to the Courts, to the military, that will hold him check. The biggest worries are that he's the first President in history with no government experience, and that he's strongly "populist" (which historically has been damaging for countries). We should be watchful, and more willing to stand up and fight when Trump does something bad. However, we shouldn't give into hate.

2 comments:

trishmcneill said...

Thank you, Rob. This is excellent advice for all of us!

Paul Willis said...

He may not be a simple "populist". I would beware of labeling people because that leads to overconfidence when it comes to predictions.