Make America Sane Again

Last night was a spectacle to see unravel. Flipping through channel to channel, I watched as the mainstream media imploded attempting to reconcile their polling data with reality. In just a matter of hours the narrative had changed completely. The narrow path for Donald Trump to claim victory had mutated into Hillary Clinton needing a miracle. And then in a single moment it was over: Donald Trump became the 45th president elect of the United States.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the course of this election cycle, it is this: Never underestimate the ignorance of the American people. This will no doubt be remembered as an absurd climax in American politics, but it was something that had become gradually inevitable for the wildest year in my lifetime. Indeed, 2016 included the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, massive vehicular terrorist attacks, the Panama Paper leaks, and a Chicago Cubs World series win. Still, the question everyone will be asking today and for many years to come: How?

I believe the biggest reason that Donald Trump was victorious was because of the extreme resentment for Hillary Clinton. It was blatantly obvious to anyone outside of the Hollywood, Wall Street and mainstream media bubble that she was a terrible candidate. She represented the essence of the status quo when the country was screaming for something new. Her campaign was shallow and unexciting to get behind. The Democrats failure to elect Bernie Sanders as their nominee was their biggest mistake.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that at the time of writing this piece that Clinton will win the popular vote and I suspect that she will do so overwhelming as the votes continue to come in. The majority of the country didn’t get swayed by a demagogue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter now. Perhaps there is something to be said about an outdated electoral college system, but I digress and will leave that to the hundreds of Op-Ed pieces that will surely be coming.

Finally, a third point: Leftists have rightly highlighted the sexism, racism and bigotry throughout Trumps campaign, but have also failed to engage in these conversations honestly. Being critical of Black Lives Matter doesn’t make a person racist. Being critical of Third Wave Feminism doesn’t make a person sexist. Being critical of Islamic Terrorism doesn’t make a person an Islamophobe. The failure to distinguish and separate steel man arguments from true bigotry is a key factor in the rise of Trump and the platform he now has. We should never begin by assuming the worst intentions of our political opponents when thoughtful disagreement is possible. It’s simply lazy thinking and it’s completely ineffective for changing minds.

Emotions are high as this two year long bitter campaign comes to a close, but Leftists and Liberals now more than ever need to be rational and champions of reason. The election of Donald Trump in addition to Republican control of the House, Senate and Congress leaves the door wide open to massively regressive changes these next several years.

The silver lining in all of this, ironically, is that Donald Trump is not a traditional republican. The man has no ideology and his policies have been all over the map from the beginning. There’s much reason to believe that his ideas will continue to evolve as the realities of world politics finally settles in. In this regard, I’m hopeful that the presidency can humble the narcissistic egomaniac and make for a survivable 4 years. Don’t hold your breath.

Advertisements

Stereotypes and Uncomfortable Truths

Humans like to categorize things. The world is a complex place, so in order to better understand how things work we simplify them down. And given the limited information of our personal experiences, we often jump to conclusions.  We’ve been doing this since the dawn of language- sometimes for our benefit, but often times for worse.

The poor are lazy. The rich are greedy. Muslims are terrorists. Christians are xenophobes. Irish are drunks. Asians can’t drive. Southerners are stupid. Politicians are corrupt. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, there is something very uncomfortable about some stereotypes: they may hold a comparative truth. In other words, when comparatively speaking between multiple groups of people, stereotypes may represent a larger percentage of a specific group then they would compared to another. This is often why the stereotype exists in the first place. Of course, many stereotypes are complete nonsense and founded in ignorance. But for others, science even provides evidence to confirm them.

For example: It’s a fact that within the European Union, Ireland ranks the highest for per capita consumption of alcohol. Does that mean that all Irish people are drunks? Or even that the majority of them are? Of course not, but comparatively speaking they drink more alcohol than other European countries.

The problem with stereotypes isn’t the fact that it oversimplifies things, but rather that it can potentially enable people to avoid critical thinking. Stereotypes are natural ways our brains can store and retrieve information, and they’re useful so we’re not overloaded with details of everything. However, this means the world can begin to look very black and white. Critical thinking allows for nuance and shades of grey to appear.

We need to be able to acknowledge stereotypes for what they are, but think critically about what they actually mean. This can be done by thinking slow. By doing this we can speak with more clarity on important topics and not confuse nuance for bigotry. So let’s be clear to help prevent misunderstandings of this kind.