On the One-Week Anniversary of the Presidential Election

If America has learned anything from the election, it is that the basket of deplorables Clinton described is much larger than first imagined.

And to the person who agrees with (or at least has been caught up by) the narrative of events portrayed by the media, this must be a disturbing fact.

The day after the election, the Huffington Post printed an article titled What Do We Tell the Children? In it, it answered by saying that “we” will protect them and that “one mean person” cannot do too much harm (to the children, one assumes) in a democratic society where there are safeguards. It also said that we should reassure our children that we will remain committed to our fight against bigotry.

But nowhere did it say perhaps the most important thing that needed to be said: That on election night, an electoral majority of Americans voted Trump into office. That the reason this allegedly mean person and evident threat to children nationwide is now presiding over this nation is because the majority of America wanted it this way.

The reason a man whom the media calls mean and even a threat to our children is now presiding over this nation is because America wanted it this way.

Indeed, if the Huffington post article is an accurate assessment of reality, then America has much more to fear than a single man sitting in the White House. It should fear those who reside in homes throughout this nation, just like you and I, those who occupy cubicles and walk the hallways and stop in the break rooms of our workplaces, those who stand in line right beside us every morning at our local Starbucks. America has to fear much more than President Trump; America has to fear America itself.

Arguably, this is too much reality for the child in all of us. I think it has been for many Americans, as it was for the writer at Huffington Post, who did her best to suggest that “not everyone who voted for Donald Trump did so because they believe the bigoted things that he has said this year.”

If the Huffington Post editorial is an accurate assessment of reality, then America has much more to fear that one man sitting in the White House. American has to fear America itself.

No doubt, there were many reasons people voted for Trump. But tell me: If you were convinced the next individual to occupy the White House would pose a threat to the most vulnerable part of our population, our children, would any reason justify such a decision? I do not think so, either.

The sober reality, which the media is still struggling to come to grips with, is that at least half of America — half — consider Trump not only fit for office but good for this country. That is after all what it means to vote for him. After months of labeling Trump a bigot, a racist, hateful, and overall a danger and a threat to all this country stands for, America has now witnessed America say, “we are with him.”

As I see it, there are only two conclusions we can draw from this: Either half of America supports bigotry (and are most likely bigots themselves) and perhaps are just plain stupid. Or the media, as it was with the election, has simply got it wrong about America. And by extension, so do we.

There are only two conclusions we can draw from this: Either half of America supports bigotry, or the media — as with the election — has simply got it wrong about America.

Take Pastor Bill Johnson, for example. Johnson is a leader of a global Christian ministry headquartered in Northern California. In his article Why I Voted for Trump, Johnson outlines the reasons he made the decision to vote for our new President. It is a well-written, thoughtful exploration of the issues facing our nation. Johnson discusses such things as justice, love, compassion and protecting the vulnerable in our nation, much like our Huffington post writer does. At no point, however, do we get the impression Johnson is indifferent to the plight of America and its people, much less that he is a bigot. Nor do we get the impression he saw bigotry as a necessary means to a socio-economic end. And yet, this man was counted among those who voted for Trump.

Or take Asra Nomani, a Muslim, an immigrant, and a woman, who also voted for Trump. Despite the hostile treatment she has received from her fellow liberals (who in her own words have characterized her as both a traitor, an idiot, and names she “cannot even repeat on air”), she says none of that matters because of the responses she is getting from people saying “Thank you.”

And regarding the man whom the Huffington Post writer has characterized as mean and a threat to our children’s safety, Nomani states that she knows Trump is “not an Islamophobic or a racist or a bigot.” She goes onto say, “He is insensitive at times with what he says and his proposals are tough, but they reflect a reality of concern people have about an issue that’s killing people from Orlando to Paris.

What are we to do with such people? It is at this point in the dialogue that we, as a nation, now face a difficult decision.

What are we to do with principled, educated people who voted for Trump? It is at this point in the dialogue that we, as a nation, now face a difficult decision.

We can continue to hurl insults at them  — tell ourselves they are sexist, racist, bigoted, homophobic, islamophobic, that they represents all that is backward and wrong with America. We can of course choose to do so in a more civil and condescending (but ultimately, equally hostile) manner, saying that they may be sincere in their convictions but they are just plain ignorant of their own bigotry and perhaps stupidity. We can do that, just as the media has done.

Or, we can stop and take a moment to consider the possibility that maybe — just maybe — the world we live in is not as simplistic as we have made it out to be. That the real difference between ourselves and half of America is not love versus hate, compassion versus bigotry, good versus evil — or any other slogan that fits neatly on an Instagram meme or Twitter hashtag. Rather, the real difference between ourselves and half of America is that they simply do not agree with our point of view.

Perhaps the real difference between us and half of America is not love versus hate, compassion versus bigotry, or good versus evil. Rather, the real difference is that they simply do not agree with our point of view.

We might wish to consider the possibility that what we call evil and hateful and bigoted is actually another side of the debate worth listening to, instead of hurling insults at. And if we did, we may find individuals just as committed to the timeless principles of justice, compassion, inclusiveness and even social reform as we are. They just don’t agree with us concerning the best way to achieve those principles in a democratic society facing the present challenges we face in the modern world.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing here that those who agree with the ideology reflected  by the media (and also made popular by many celebrities) should change their viewpoint. If that is the way you see the world, then you should fight passionately for what you believe.

But there is a difference between passionately holding a viewpoint and failing to recognize that you have one.  There is a difference between passionately holding a viewpoint and failing to recognize that what you believe about complex issues such as gay marriage and immigration are not, in fact, a simple question of love and hate.

There is a difference between passionately holding a viewpoint and failing to recognize that you have one. That what you believe about complex issues such as gay marriage and immigration are not, in fact, a simple question of love and hate.

In other words, there is a difference between passionately holding a viewpoint among competing viewpoints in a democratic society, and assuming there is only one. And further, that all who do not agree with that viewpoint are hateful — and consequently, your own hate toward them is justified.

Nor is it necessarily helpful. Journalist and self-described liberal Jonathan Pie laments that the left is responsible for Trump being elected because “the left has decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable.” He continues, “If you are on the Right, you are [considered] a freak. You are evil. You are racist. You are stupid. You are a basket of deplorables. How do you think people are going to vote when you talk to them like that? When has anyone ever been persuaded by being insulted and labeled?”

The left has decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is inacceptable. If you are on the Right, you are considered a freak, evil, racist. How do you think people are going to vote when you talk to them like that?

–Jonathan Pie, fellow liberal

The way we see the world is indeed not the issue. The way we see — and interact with — the rest of society is. To hold a point of view and passionately fight for its acceptance in a pluralistic society is what it means to be American. To fail to recognize the legitimacy of other points of view, and the sacred right of others to hold them, is not. It is the very definition of intolerance.

But this is exactly what we see in America at this time in history, at nearly every level of  society — or at least in the most influential spheres. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Obama tweeted it as a victory with the hashtag “#LoveWins”, implying those who opposed it stood for hate. On college campuses — purportedly the bastion of the free exchange of ideas and open dialogue  — the suppression of diverse viewpoints is unprecedented, raising concern even among liberals. And it is now pretty much an undisputed fact that in the wake of the election, the media — purportedly a champion of objective and unbiased reporting — has lost all credibility.

To hold a point of view and passionately fight for its acceptance in a pluralistic society is what it means to be American. To fail to recognize the legitimacy of other points of view and the sacred right of others to hold them is not. It is the very definition of intolerance.

We may be a nation who prides itself on diversity, but only so long as that diversity is skin-deep. We have become a nation hostile to opposing viewpoints. We do not embrace the sacredness of others’ opinions; on the contrary, we revile and punish those who do not subscribe to our personal point of view.

And we justify our intolerant behavior by convincing ourselves that our point of view is the only legitimate one: That our relatively recent modern view of the world is not only morally justifiable but in fact morally necessary, so necessary that no discussion on the topic can be tolerated — for that too would be morally reprehensible. We have become the very moral intolerance we denounce.

We justify our intolerant behavior by convincing ourselves that our relatively recent modern view of the world is not only morally justifiable but morally necessary, so much so that no discussion on the topic can be tolerated.

The disturbing trend in this phenomenon is that for many — especially the younger generation — the vicious attack upon opposing viewpoints does not seem to be mere rhetoric. Clinton may have portrayed Trump and his followers as a basket of deplorables during the election, but once the election results were in, she knew it was time to put away all the name-calling, recognize and support our newly-elected leader, and honor the democratic process. Obama did likewise.

But at the same time this was happening, a group of protesters,  comprised mainly of college students by some news reports, gathered outside the White House to protest the election. Their slogan? F*** Trump. They did not seem to realize that the election was over. That the democratic process upon which our nation is built had run its course. They did not seem to realize they were no longer protesting a cause, nor even a person, but the American people. Ultimately, they were protesting the democratic process itself.

In the wake of the election, we are now protesting not a cause, nor even a person, but the American people. Ultimately, we are protesting the democratic process itself.

This trend came to a head for me personally with my daughter sharing a recent anecdote from her experience at college. As she made her way across campus one morning, she observed a fellow college student and protester holding a sign which read: “Religious Freedom is Bigotry in Disguise.”

How different is this from what our own U.S. Constitution has to say on the topic: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Apparently the irony (and gravity) of the college student protesting the very article of the Constitution granting him the freedom to protest was lost on him. But this is where we are at in America. Before the rising tide of intolerance, even the U.S. Constitution is seen as reprehensible.

Before the rising tide of intolerance, even the U.S. Constitution is seen as reprehensible.

But in a way, this is a logical and inevitable consequence of what has been taking place in the media for years — and on college campuses for decades. I would like to suggest that as a nation, we have not done so great a job teaching our children the value of diverse viewpoints; for the most part, we have been too busy telling them there is really only one, and anything else is hateful, backward, stupid and evil.

We really have not done so great a job encouraging our children to foster an environment of opposing viewpoints on controversial issues in order to formulate their own opinion; for the most part, we have been too busy teaching them to demonize the opposition.

In short, we have not done so great a job at educating our children. Instead, what we have done is indoctrinate them with the belief that their is only one way of seeing the world, and only one way of seeing America. And they have believed us.

We have done a great job, not of educating our children, but of indoctrinating them with the belief that there is only one way of seeing the world, and America. And they have believed us.

What do we tell the children? I say we stop telling the children the President of the United States, whom the American people have elected into office, is a bigot and a racist.

I say we stop telling them that the President is a threat to their personal safety when in fact what we mean is that he is a threat to our liberal agenda.

I say we stop telling our children that the President of the United States is a threat to their personal safety, when what we really mean is that he is a threat to our liberal agenda.

I say we stop telling our children that the admittedly complex social and political issues that face this country are a simple question of love and hate, and that we are on the side of love, and everyone else is on the side of hate.

I say we stop telling them they should be afraid and angry when the democratic process does not go our way, when in fact they should be grateful we live in a country that allows for the free expression and support of opposing viewpoints, even dissenting viewpoints, which up to recently included our own.

And then I say we tell them what they really need to hear: That we are sorry. Not for our deeply-held convictions, but rather for creating, and being complicit with, an environment of intolerance and hostility whose diversity extends no further than the color of one’s skin, sexual orientation and sexual identity.

We can tell our children we are sorry. Not for our deeply-held convictions but for our part in creating an environment of intolerance and hostility whose diversity extends no further than the color of one’s skin, sexual orientation and sexual identity.

That we are sorry for creating a world where many of Americans feel it is better to be silent about what they believe than face the assault — not of superior ideas and persuasive arguments — but of insults, slander, retribution and (now) possible violence.

That we have created a world where it is considered a moral outrage to hold and put forth an opinion with which others disagree — that it is reprehensible, in essence, to be what it means to be American.

That we are sorry for having redefined tolerance to fit our own political agenda, for teaching them that a tolerance for who one is, and not what one believes, is enough.

That we are sorry for creating a world in which love demands agreement and conformity of belief, not acceptance and respect for one’s right to believe as their conscience dictates. Which, as we are now seeing in our country, is really not love at all, but hate in disguise.

We have created a world in which love demands agreement and conformity of belief, not respect for one’s right to believe as their conscience dictates. Which, as we are now seeing, is not really love at all, but hate in disguise.

We can also tell them we are sorry that when others rose up and denounced and demonized an individual who dared to voice a dissenting opinion, we remained silent. Because it was more convenient for us to do so than defend their right to be heard, and for us accept the responsibility of meaningful discussion. And by this, we taught our children that in a democratic society, open discussion and understanding is not the goal; silencing the opposition by whatever means necessary is.

And finally I suggest we do something that some may consider a bit old-fashioned: We repent. To our children, to our fellow Americans, and also to ourselves.

And if we find it in our heart to do so, to God Himself. So that our nation might heal, and find its way forward.

2 thoughts on “On the One-Week Anniversary of the Presidential Election

  1. Someone pointed this out to me, and unfortunately I decided to read it. With respect, the clearest thing about this essay is how little critical feedback you get, from yourself or others, and how narrow your reading and scope. You can and should do better.

    Some thoughts:

    At this point, given the role that Putin played in helping to elect Donald Trump, much in the top part of what you wrote is up for debate. I’ll simply say that citizens protesting the electoral — not popular — victory of an avowed sexual predator, racist and xenophobe, is both supported by the Constitution and morally defensible by most religious and humanist value systems. So not sure your problem there.

    The anecdote about the college student’s sign is nonsensical. A college student, who has a First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly, was holding up a sign. Are you arguing here for a multiplicity of views, or are you not? How does this single example show a “rising tide of intolerance”? Not a clear link — or even an obvious connection — based on the story you tell.

    You seem to have a poor opinion of “the media” and cite only the Huffington Post article. Is that the entirety of the media you consume? The entirely of the scholarship you consume? That could be a problem. There’s a lot of thoughtful, long-form, deeply reported journalism out there, on both sides of the political spectrum. Take responsibility for what you consume.

    The biggest logical flaw in your confusing, poorly reasoned essay is this: treating rejection of racism and bigotry and xenophobia and misogyny as equivalent to rejecting diversity of opinion. Codifying racism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia is trying to rewrite the values of the country. Loudly condemning efforts to codify and legitimize malignant belief systems that will directly affect and harm living human beings isn’t thought control — it’s having moral integrity. If you don’t condemn those efforts, that is a moral failure, however you rationalize it to yourself.

    Tolerance isn’t a political agenda, and to be able to say that illustrates the most arrogant privilege. What a ridiculous thing to say.

    We have an incoming chief White House strategist who endorses race science. The new education secretary, a billionaire whose children never went to public school, wants to dismantle public education. The new housing and urban development secretary disagrees with anti-discrimination law — the man in charge of public housing doesn’t think the poor need help. The appointee to be U.S. Attorney General is against the Voting Rights Act, which has already been gutted. The incoming NSA chief publicly propagated a theory that the Democratic nominee for president ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor. Presumably, these things won’t affect you, or you think they won’t.

    “It would be counterproductive to say, as some have, that all those who voted for Trump are stone-cold racists. People who voted for him for various and complicated reasons. But it must be said that all those who voted for Trump did not find naked bigotry and misogyny to be disqualifying. Some discounted it, and some thrilled to it. That is gutting.” — Clara Jeffrey, editor, Mother Jones

    Re the pastor you cite, I strongly disagree that what he wrote was a thoughtful, well-written “exploration” of his reasons for voting for Trump. Within the first few paragraphs he says this:
    I found that murder/abortion was wrong, which Clinton approves of even up to the point of delivery.

    And he lost me, because abortion isn’t possible at 9 months, and framing it that way is dishonest, medically inaccurate, manipulative and indefensible.

    Have you known anyone who has had to face what Republicans and Christian fundamentalists love to call “late-term abortions”? I reckon you haven’t. A brief education: it’s not called that. When parents are faced with a termination late in a pregnancy, it’s because the baby will not survive outside the womb, and/or the mother will not survive the birth. Sometimes, it’s because the baby is missing a brain stem. Sometimes the heart never developed. Can you imagine more heart-breaking news? You probably can’t, because your imagination is filled with a phantom troupe of sociopathic women who blithely decide to kill a baby at 9 months of gestation. That’s a made-up story, it isn’t what happens. If you give birth to a baby at 9 months who dies upon being born, that is called a still-birth.

    Take responsibility for what you’re advocating, which is manufacturing a moral reason and the narcotic of moral superiority to deny health-care to people who need it. Interesting to me too that members of the party typified by Paul Ryan, who decries feeding poor children lunch so they can concentrate on school, are so adamant in their self-satisfaction at protecting the rights of theoretical children while denying actual children and their parents humanity.

    Read more widely. Educate yourself. Make yourself accountable. Read about the Holocaust, if nothing else — read about scapegoating an entire religion.

    Some examples of Christians I admire exploring the moral failure of voting for Trump:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/16/white-evangelical-christians-vote-trump

    http://okgazette.com/2016/11/16/commentary-what-have-we-done/?utm_content=buffer3549b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    By all means, anyone who voted for Donald Trump can and should repent. I would also suggest that anyone who calls himself a follower of Jesus who voted for that unprincipled caricature of venality maybe needs to spend more time reading the gospels, and living by example, helping the least among us, and less time using biblical passages selectively to mansplain fear-based nativism and self interest.

    1. Hi Mo:

      Thanks for stopping by and taking time to read, and also for your comment. I am sorry you found my essay so confusing and poorly reasoned, but am glad you felt it substantial enough at least to take the time to write 15 paragraphs in response 😉

      I often do not respond to comments that seem more interested in maligning and chastising than engaging in thoughtful dialogue, but I will make an exception. To some of your points:

      * Putin’s efforts to sway the election in whatever way are regrettable. Still, I do not think they do great harm to the premise of this article.
      * Citizens protesting for any reason is not something I have a problem with. This post was not a political treatise on the evils of freedom of speech; it was a social commentary on the rise of liberal intolerance. A citizen can lawfully and rightly protest and still be intolerant of any viewpoint but his or her own. My essay is in itself a protest and an exercise of the same right of free speech.
      * The anecdote of the college student was (again) not brought up to denounce the right to protest; it was brought up to present the irony of protesting the very act being exercised.
      * No, Huffington Post is not the entirety of media I consume. Are you then implicitly agreeing with my assessment of the HP article? At any rate, I would be happy to concede my lack of scholarship, should that be shown to be true. Saying it is, or suggesting it is, however, does not make it so. It just appears to be an ad hominem attack.

      Lastly and most importantly, let me address what you call “the biggest logical flaw” in the essay: That “treating rejection of racism and bigotry and xenophobia and misogyny” is equivalent to rejecting diversity of opinion. In other words, you are saying that standing up for what is right and denouncing what is wrong is not intolerance, and I am thinking that it is. Not only is this not what I am arguing, but the fact that you think so strikes at the root of the issue I explore in the essay. The issue at hand is not about denouncing evil, but in how evil is defined.

      Let’s take your own statement for example: “Loudly condemning efforts to . . . legitimize malignant belief systems that will directly affect and harm living human beings isn’t thought control — it’s having moral integrity.” No one would object to this statement in principle. But who is to define what “malignant belief systems” are? By your definition, abortion would be a malignant belief system: It is directly harming living human beings. Is it evil? Should those who practice it be punished?

      Or do you have in mind something more along the lines of our college student denouncing the practice of religious faith in American (which is, mind you, not just Christian but Jewish, Muslim and all other religious traditions)? Is religion the malignant belief system you had in mind? If so, then let me ask you: On what basis is your definition of what is malignant morally superior? What makes your sense of what is evil the true evil, and everyone who disagrees evil?

      This is the issue we are driving at. It is not passionately fighting against evil, but defining the world outside one’s narrow ideology as evil.

      Of course racism and mysogyny and bigotry are evil, just as hate is evil. But calling all who disagree with your view of the world those names does not make it so, and probably does not help things. If Jonathan Pie has any insight in the matter, it is what did more harm to Clinton’s chances of winning the election than Putin ever could.

      Thanks again for stopping by, and have a great Holiday season.

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