It is hard to know what to say in face of the circus that is current American politics. I have been feeling torn and tongue-tied; however this is not out of equal consideration of two opposing views, or out of a shortage of opinions to be expressed. Rather, it is because I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid the usual games of rhetoric and polemics that make the topic of politics such an ugly thing, despite its absolute importance. Regarding Trump, I don’t want to simply repeat the same labels of him and his followers that his many critics have been using. Rather, I typically find that such an approach doesn’t help, it doesn’t achieve anything constructive. Where possible, I attempt (again, not always successfully) to stick to the facts, and go into detail in explaining why I support a certain position over another.
With Trump however, I don’t believe a detailed examination should really be necessary. The problem with Trump is that if I say anything less than the usual rhetoric, I feel I would be holding back from speaking the truth, out of fear of offending others (including a few friends and family that support him). However, I could not live with myself if I held my tongue on this matter.
Of course there are many things that I can say without hesitation about him (and those that support him), all of which are already being said elsewhere. The common rhetoric from his critics is that he (and anybody that has and would support him) is insane, stupid and evil. This is where I really find it hard, because I generally don’t find such rhetoric useful. I don’t want to merely insult others that hold contrary views to myself. Certainly I can see that often both sides of politics lower themselves in their attacks against each other, and I personally wish to see politicians (and commentators) that are above such ploys.
The problem with Trump and co. is that anything less that the usual rhetoric wouldn’t really be true. We could try and sugarcoat it and present it in less offensive terms, but ultimately I think to conclude any less would be to fail to call things as they are. I have a policy regarding these things, and it is as follows: Speak the truth with love. This means to try to speak out about the things that matter, but to do so in a manner that does not seek to enhance ones own ego (in presenting oneself as superior to those on the receiving end). Basically, I believe one should be willing to stand up on issues that matter, knowing full well that there are those that will choose to take offense at your perspective. However, I believe we must be careful not to take this a license to deliberately cause offense, or to justify careless language.
Through this inner conflict I have felt regarding this issue, I have found this whole lead-up to the American election to be quite depressing. If only a handful of people were supporting Trump it would feel easy to just dismiss them all as being irrelevant to mainstream politics, and try and stay centred and optimistic about the possibility of improvement in the way our countries are run. However, with large numbers of Americans getting behind Trump it almost feels like there is no point caring about politics, if this is what so many people actually want for their leadership.
Whilst I am grateful to live in the 21st century in a Western country, with democracy, education, modern medicine and science, religious freedom and all that, it should be obvious to any reasonable person that there are many things that we need to improve and reform about Western culture (though I am aware of some on the far-right who wish to defend Western culture like a religious belief, considering anyone who is critical of any aspects of our culture to be self-loathing). To see improvement in the world we need leaders who are reasonable and intelligent, possessing wisdom, compassion and strength. Likewise, we need the general public to turn off their reality TV, put down their phones and be willing to take some time to educate themselves about things that really matter.
Now, from that last statement some might accuse me of displaying some sort of intellectual snobbery towards those that have no interest in politics. Certainly there are some amongst the privileged classes that turn their noses at the common man, considering themselves above the passions of the lower classes. Obviously, I do not condone such things. However, class snobbery goes both ways, and I have certainly witnessed numerous examples of those who actually attack those that seek to encourage greater knowledge on important topics. We can only blame our leaders so much; there comes a time when we must accept responsibility ourselves. If so many people honestly want Trump as the president of the United States of America, then the problem isn’t simply our leaders and the media. Rather, we the public are a major part of the problem.
I am fortunate enough not to know Donald Trump personally. Obviously, I try to see the best in other people, I attempt (and often fail) to be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Likewise, I always seek to get the facts from all sides and become quite familiar with the details of a topic before reaching definitive conclusions. I have initial impressions and intuitions of course, but I attempt to remain somewhat open about important topics until I have enough of the facts. It is true that I can often express very strong opinions on a topic, but I try and withhold such conclusions until after I have shown (or am about to show) why such opinions are well justified.
I am still somewhat new to politics, in that I have not yet gone into the detail that I would like to in order to be able to offer my thoughts on comparing economic polices of progressives and conservatives, and other such topics. However, regarding Trump and co., I really do not think that you need to be an expert on politics to see what is going on here.
You would have to have been living in a cave to be unaware of all the crazy and disgusting things Trump has said and done. As a result, I’m not even going to try and document them here. Many people already have done so, and everything I am saying is easily verifiable to anyone with an Internet connection.
Trump encouraged the paranoia of evangelical Christians with his hysterical comments calling for his supporters to boycott Starbucks because their special Christmas coffee cup (in red and green, Christmas colours) wasn’t “Christmassy” enough? He stated that if he became president everyone was going to be saying “Merry Christmas”. So, is he going to send the army around to the houses of non-Christians to force them to sing songs about baby Jesus? He openly mocked a disabled man and then lied about it straight afterwards (gaslighting). He has repeatedly incited his followers to violence (and defended them for beating up protesters at his rallies), he commented that a female reporter that asked him difficult questions was having her period, and then there is of course his treatment of women… He openly said that using loopholes in business law to avoid paying tax “made him smart” (actually Trump, immoral), and then again denied it straight afterwards (gaslighting again). He has stated that there is a media conspiracy against him (like, why on earth would anyone not like him?), and that he may not accept the results of the election if he loses.
Now, I don’t really like the way that the media goes through peoples closets looking for skeletons. It’s generally malicious gossip and tabloid trash, and it doesn’t help. I have certainly said and done things, which I’ve been ashamed of later, and I think most people if they are being honest would confess the same. However, in Trumps case it is not as if he has made mistakes in the past but now he is a changed man. No, the man seems to have no genuine remorse for his obnoxious behaviour, and he continues the very same behaviour. Regarding the video that was recently released with Trump boasting about chasing a married woman and forcing himself on woman without their consent, the problem is that this wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Rather, the content of that video was simply another explicit example of Trump’s true nature, and its not like we haven’t already seen enough examples of that (check out his row with Rosie O’Donnell for the full ugliness of the man).
Donald Trump honestly thinks he is above the law, and above morality. That is, he does and says whatever he wants; he honestly does not care. He thinks because he is wealthy and famous he can say and do anything. He seems to be saying: “Look, I’m a jerk, and I don’t care”, and it has encouraged others to follow in his image, showing the full potential for the ugliness of the far-right. Somehow, Trump is being seen as a hero by many people. In their polemics about political correctness the far-right abandons common decency as well, and they have repeatedly defended Trump’s actions (whilst more reasonable conservatives have – to their credit – denounced him).
And then we have the bizarre situation that Trump has somehow managed to appeal to many underprivileged people, by telling them that he will bring down the system? Here’s the thing; Trump is the system! He’s a billionaire that doesn’t pay taxes, running for a party that objects to raising the minimum wage to a liveable level (that wouldn’t require working 2-3 jobs or being on welfare as well as working full-time), objects to universal healthcare, progressive taxation and affordable higher-education, to name a few things that would help the underprivileged.
Most significantly, Trump is the exact opposite of what we need. We need honest, trustworthy, decent, compassionate and wise leaders. Trump is none of that; rather, he’s pretty much the exact opposite of what we need.
What then of the opposition? There are many people claiming that Hillary Clinton is no better, or that she is actually worse. Well certainly Clinton was extremely careless in breaking the rules and using a private email server for classified government emails. So, she was irresponsible, majorly, but does this make her as bad as Trump? Well, obviously no. Being an amoral jerk and being severely irresponsible are pretty much at two opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m not sure how severe the email scandal should be considered in normal conditions, but by comparison to Trump it’s nothing. Beyond the email scandal there are many, many claims made about Hillary Clinton, that she is crooked, taking bribes, using her foundation for profit instead of charity, amongst other things. The problem is that almost all of these are either false, half-true or unprovable speculations. Yeah, maybe some of these accusations against her could be true. Maybe she isn’t a saint. Or maybe they are almost all false.
I can’t say either way with what information I have encountered, and I haven’t seen anyone make a proper case against her. Rather, I have seen many, many heavily biased and poorly written articles saying she is this and that. As far as the full-blown conspiracy theories go that say she is part of the Illuminati and/or a Reptilian alien, if you want me to believe something like that and conclude she is no better than Trump, then you are going to have to actually make a really, really good case. Sure, I have read some David Icke and I have spent many, many hours reading through the endless conspiracy sites on the Internet. I suspect that some of it may be true, but if I were to commit to holding very serious positions, I would want to be absolutely convinced.
I am not so naïve to be taken in by mainstream media; however from what I have seen the whole conspiracy genre fails to meet the standards of argumentation and evidence that are required to accept their conclusions. It is true that sometimes just because a case hasn’t been made properly that it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some legitimate points. However, you can’t expect me to believe that Hillary Clinton is as bad as Trump on the basis of rumours, conjecture and the email scandal. By comparison, to see the problems with Trump you just have to be aware of the things he has openly said and done, and the crazy policies he wants to implement (like building a wall between the US and Mexico, and trying to get Mexico to pay for it!?! Ok conservatives, if you want to have a serious discussion about open borders and immigration, make a sensible case).
It is rather depressing that the leadership of such a massive and powerful country is decided by something that could not be called anything less than a circus. One could easily be forgiven for giving up on politics, for giving up on caring about important issues, or trying to encourage positive progress. If this is what America really wants, one could almost ask if they actually deserve democracy? Of course the opposite isn’t worth considering, I am simply voicing the frustration that I have felt in watching the Trump campaign.
There are reasonable conservatives out there. Far-left Socialism is indeed a true evil, and there are real problems with the moderate left of Western nations. However, I simply don’t know what to say when dealing with the far-right. It pains me to my soul to see and hear the way they go about things, and I don’t know where to start in pulling apart the web of misinformation they spread.
All of this is rather unpleasant, and I don’t enjoy it at all. I totally understand why many people run for the hills the moment a conversation turns to politics. Yet, we must be politically active. We must urge people on both sides of the spectrum to be reasonable, be patient and forgiving with those on the other side, even though they may appear to be our adversary.
If there are any conservatives reading, can I please ask you to consider that most people on the left in Western nations are not simply Soviet spies trying to covertly bring about full-blown Russian communism. Rather, they generally simply care about social justice, the environment and sustainability, and wish to see Western civilization find balance between economic progress and technological advancements, and a healthy ecology and fair social-economic system. Likewise, I urge progressives to consider that there is often another side of the coin to be considered, and that they can often go too far in fighting for a just cause.
We need to show kindness to those that hold different opinions to ourselves, even when they show aggression towards us. Likewise, we need to be honest enough with ourselves to consider the possibility that our deeply held opinions and beliefs may be wrong. We need to be cautious and slow to wholeheartedly accept definitive positions on far-reaching topics, and we absolutely must compare arguments on all sides before we reach our conclusions.
I don’t think we can reform our political and economic models simply through making our case really well however. Rather, we are talking about fundamental human behaviour, and whilst I think we should be active in standing up for what is real and good and trying to create a better world, we must have peace inside. Our actions often reflect our inner state, and where there is conflict and imbalance in external circumstances it is guaranteed that there is inner turmoil that is feeding the fire.
We must truly know that we are not simply our mind or our body. We are all capable of experiencing unspeakable inner peace and stillness, regardless of external circumstances, and nobody outside of ourselves can ever have the power to withhold that peace from us. I am still working on it myself (I fluctuate); however I have certainly tasted it. We can hold that peace within ourselves, and act in accordance with it. When we do that, we have the potential to change our external circumstances. Rest assured, that those who create and continue the imbalances of our external world do not have peace inside.
May we all strive to be the best we can be, and encourage others to evolve into their best person, whilst being patient, accepting and forgiving with both others and ourselves for being flawed human beings.