NOTE: This one will be a little longer than typical. It is not due to rambling, rather that I am asking a lot of a group of people and I want to thoroughly explain why I think they should do it.
Car horns, clapping, and loud cheers heralded the changing of the guard as word spread through New York of the near certain projection of the victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump. The air was thick with the merriment of the victorious as people flooded into the streets to celebrate with their neighbors. My girlfriend and I witnessed all of this as we walked about our Queens neighborhood and celebrated her birthday with lunch, and I found myself frustrated (for reasons explained in the previous post) and projecting my perception of toxic left-leaning people onto those celebrating in the streets. I voiced my frustration in a group chat with my friends and one friend called me out for what I said. He scolded me for rhetoric that was divisive, and he was clearly correct. As our two parties wrestle in attempts to gain control of all three branches of government, I think we have forgotten that one political party having control of all three branches is not the goal, and division is not acceptable. The goal is to foster loyal opposition.
Conservatives need liberals, and liberals need conservatives. A liberal is constantly seeking for opportunities for change and to make things better, but they can be overly ambitious and seek change that ends up causing undue pain. A conservative wants to keep things constant and perfect what is already there, but they can stay loyal to systems that are broken rather than search for something new (please note that I am using small “l” for “liberal” and likewise for “conservative”). The liberal needs the conservative to help them temper their ambition for change, and the conservative needs the liberal to push them out of their comfort zone to discover better things. The Disney animated movie, Moana, demonstrates this dynamic wonderfully (also the music is great).
Moana is the daughter of chieftain of a tribe that lives on an island. She has wanderlust and is desperate to explore the ocean, but her father prohibits her from sailing because it is too dangerous, and they have everything they need on the island. Moana sneaks off anyway, and sails to find the demi-god, Maui. While she is away, her tribe’s island experiences a blight and the coconut crops begin to fail. Moana’s exploration allows her to find a new home for her tribe, rescuing them from the impending starvation. Moana’s journey was dangerous and should not be done without purpose, but without Moana’s exploration, the tribe would have starved. Moana is the liberal and her father is the conservative and they need each other.
I have discovered that I am more vocal in my criticism of Democrats than I am of Republicans, and I believe that is because I think of myself as a Democrat and thus I am more concerned with the state of my political “home” than I am with the state of the Republican political “home”. To extend an olive branch to my Democrat readers, I will vocalize my critique of Republicans, briefly, and I will do it first. With the defeat of Donald Trump, Republicans need to be gracious towards Joe Biden and his supporters. In January, he will be the president and it is in all our best interest for him to do well. They must react according to their morals, and not let their stances be determined by the quest to oppose Joe Biden at every turn. No one should stop trying to “Make America Great” just because Donald Trump has left office.
The Democrats have different challenges. When thinking of how this post-election should play out, I was reminded of UFC fights. The victorious fighter takes his/her walk around the octagon, screaming to the crowd and celebrating the hard fought contest, but the victors that we respect quickly follow that up by consoling the other fighter and speaking in their ear the equivalent of “good game” (some even rush over to make sure that the defeated fighter is physically okay). A UFC match hardly works as a metaphor for this election aside from how I wish the victor would treat the defeated. As those who supported Biden take their victory lap, I see behaviors and rhetoric emerge that will continue this ugly divide and, in some cases, widen it.
This tweet from AOC shows an instinct that was triggered within her, that she likely believes to be indicative of a concern for justice (otherwise she may not have expressed it so publicly). I think that it has more to do with vengeance which is a much less virtuous instinct (for good reason). What might go wrong with creating a database of all the “Trump sycophants”? After World War II, Nazis were chased all over the world to answer for their crimes so why should Trump supporters be let off the hook? Well there are two big differences:
- Trump supporters would not be answering for legal infractions, but rather the crime of working with/supporting the “wrong” political party. In the few instances where they are answering for legal infractions, there is be no need for a database. The justice system is equipped to make them answer for their crimes.
- These are our fellow citizens, and we must coexist.
I wish AOC was alone in expressing the sentiments found in her tweet, but there are more (it got 346.6K likes for god sakes), and they are worth mentioning. In the replies to her tweet:
The Trump Accountability Project is exactly what it sounds like, and I do not think I should do a deep dive into it. The only thing I will say is that their mission states: “We should welcome in our fellow Americans with whom we differ politically. But…”. The devil is in the conjunctions.
Earlier in October, Tucker Carlson highlighted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission idea floated on Twitter by Robert Reich, an author and former Secretary of Labor:
These are high profile interactions on Twitter about creating systems to punish Americans for their political beliefs. They are met with resistance in the replies, but, as you can see, they yield significant amounts of likes. We should not ignore it, because Trump supporters will not. What better way to show good faith than to stand up for Trump supporters when the vengeful emerge?
Destruction of Trump
I have seen doctored videos, memes, artwork, and rhetoric demeaning and disrespecting Donald Trump to an unnecessary extent. I hear the song “Fuck Donald Trump” being blasted in cars as they drive by my apartment, I’ve seen balloons of giant naked baby Trump, I saw weird obsessions with making sure to say that his hands were unusually small. In the 2016 election, it was clear that anti-Trump folks ignored or diminished the fact that 63 million people voted for him. In this election Donald Trump has won nearly 71 million votes. After seeing how Donald Trump acted and governed for four years… after Russia-gate… after he was impeached… after 250,000 Americans died from COVID-19 under his watch, Donald Trump got 8 million more votes than he did in the last election. 71 million people thought that Donald Trump would be better for this country than Joe Biden, and unless we can respect that, there will be no unity in this country. They believed in Donald Trump and if we seek to destroy him or destroy his image, we will ostracize them. Democratic elections reveal the most preferred candidate, but it does not make those who voted for the defeated candidate “wrong”.
If we call these 71 million people who voted for Trump “stupid”, “ignorant”, “racist”, “fascists”, “gullible” there will never be unity. If we demand that they apologize to us for “supporting a fascist” or “allowing racism to grow”, the bridges will remain burnt and broken.
I feel like this is the toughest pill to swallow and will likely be thrown away by those who most desperately need to ingest it. One of my future essays will be making the case as to why the fascist label for Donald Trump suffers from a severe lack of evidence. If anyone reading this is made uncomfortable by me saying that, I would ever so strongly urge you to read that essay.
If I said this to anyone who I saw out in the streets celebrating Biden’s victory, I would guess I would meet a ton of resistance. They might point to the long list of transgressions by Republicans or Trump. They might tell me about a Trump voter that they know who is completely unreasonable and is beyond attempts of reconciliation. They may tell me about people whose suffering was related to Trump’s behavior. Sure. That makes sense. A lot happened in the last four years. The behavior of Trump and Republicans does not warrant generous behavior from Liberals. How dare I ask that. Here I am, though, asking it.
American Exceptionalism is a fraught term, but I believe it is important in this situation. It is argued that America is a new type of nation; one that never had feudalism and began based on concepts of liberty and equality and is thus “exceptional”. Many feel that America’s sins, and there have been many, disqualify us from any classifications of “exceptionalism”. I believe in American Exceptionalism, but I believe we have been handed a chance to be exceptional, and so far, we have come up short.
Human history is laden with stories of groups of people who allow hatred to boil over into violence and destroy each other. Let’s be different. Let’s be exceptional. Let us depart from this strict pattern of human history and do the hard work to mend this divide between us. Let us turn back onto the path of forming a more perfect union. Let’s head towards the greatness we are capable of.
P.S. I am well aware that Trump supporters and Trump himself believe the election was stolen and Trump is taking this to the courts. It would be nice if he would make a concession speech and say that he is pursuing investigations on irregularities, but I am not holding my breath. Trump is a divisive figure and we all know this about him. We don’t need Trump to bring us together, though. If you encounter a Trump supporter, tell them that you fully support the investigations into suspected fraud. Tell them you believe in fair elections and you would want any wrongdoing to be discovered and corrected. You are not agreeing that the election was stolen, rather that we should audit our election process. For fun you can even muse that they might find some voter fraud that helped Trump.
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