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Identifying Our Blame in the Trump Mess

Identifying Our Blame in the Trump Mess

Here's a big reason things went wrong on Tuesday, according to columnist Amanda Kerri.

Right now you're mad, you're scared, and sick to your stomach. You're probably looking for someone to blame. You're going to want to blame the 30 percent of Latinos who voted for Trump. You're going to want to blame the millennials and black people for not turning out in greater numbers. We'll blame the Baby Boomer generation. Of course, you'll blame those people who voted third party and the 11,000 people who wrote in '"Harambe." You'll blame the Democratic Party for "screwing" over Bernie. People will blame Clinton for not campaigning in states like Wisconsin. You'll blame the media for harping on the emails. And, of course, you're going to blame everyone who voted for Trump. There is one thing few people are going blame.

The failure to sell our ideology.

Now you're mad at me. You shouldn't be. I voted for Clinton, I told people Trump was a scumbag. But you're going to want to blame everyone, and I understand that. I've long struggled personally with thinking the world was out to punish me for who I am, for no other than reason that I was born to suffer. I have a tattoo that is written in Aramaic and it's the text of Psalm 22:2: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." Yes, that is a dark lament, it was one of the last things spoken by Jesus before he died. That's how much I thought I was meant to suffer in the cosmic sense. Yeah, I was arrogant to put my suffering on par with the literal death of a man who is the basis for one of the largest religions in the world. Yet, I still though everything was someone else's fault.

Now, I'm not saying that this is the sole reason Trump won last night. Yes, racism and sexism played a part. White privilege played a part, homophobia played a part, cisgender privilege, all of that played a part. All of that will have literally millions of words written about it over the next few weeks, and they're not wrong at all. Let me repeat this before you take to the comments section; all of those things are true and they all played a role, without a doubt, and I will not argue that. But one thing that we somehow will neglect to speak of, to think about, and we really should, is that we also failed to sell our system of beliefs.

Believers in progressive ideology have spent years, years, not just this election, acting as if they were the unquestioned anointed ones of social philosophy. We have acted as if anyone who questioned us were acting from privilege or deliberate bigotry. We, and yes we, because this includes me as well, have alienated those who do not agree with us, do not think like us, or are not part of our identity groups. We have behaved just as closed-mindedly and hatefully as those we think we are better than. Survey after survey has shown that we hate the conservatives or right-moderates with the same vitriol as they hate us. For those paying attention article after article has been written about it this election season, and for many sociologists and political scientists, this is common sense. We can scream and howl about how wrong the other side actually is, but they're doing it too. And the way we conduct ourselves is not helping.

After Tuesday night, so many people are going to scream about how every last Trump supporter is a racist or a sexist but ignore how many POCs and women voted for Trump. They'll ignore how many LGBT people voted for him. Because that's the easy rationalization: "They don't agree with me therefore they're the worst possible people I can imagine." Don't think I'm just crapping all over the left, because if Hillary had won, they would be calling us all kook, socialists, or whatever name they can think of. But the problem is, is that we still call each other names, we still turn on each other, we still hate on people who are even slightly deviant from ourselves.

Now, before you say, "But they're all racists and sexists, and how can you compare?!?!" just hear me out. It's easy to think I'm making a false comparison, but I'm not. And I'm going to use a phrase from the progressive playbook to put it into perspective: "microaggressions." You see, every time when you typed the phrase "cis-het" as a slur into your Facebook or Twitter, you were blaming an entire group. Every time you called someone a racist for saying #AllLivesMatter when you knew nothing about them but that they used that hashtag, you were attacking them. When you mocked their being from small-town America, from the South, for being white, for being male, for not having a college education, for believing in a higher power, you were making them an enemy.

When they weren't perfectly versed in Critical Gender Studies and didn't know the right phrases or theories or tried to defend themselves with saying, "Not all men are like that," and you called them shitlords or some other trendy insult, you were taking someone who was at least engaging and turning them against you. When you came across an ally who wasn't exactly right in your opinion and tore them to pieces, you alienated them. And each and every time you did this, you closed them off a little bit more. More than one person in this world has become a hateful and bitter person when they have been dumped upon for reasons no one will tell them. When you tell them, "It's not my job to educate you on why you're wrong and a bad person," you're entering into a territory Franz Kafka and his stories like "Before the Law" and "The Trial" explored well; punishment and denial by faceless and cruel authorities.

Now, that's not all. It's not just that. It's what comes after. After you have created a catch-all enemy out of the cisgender heterosexual white man and made it clear that you have no love for him, along comes someone like Trump. And it's a well-worn story from history. A group of people, told that they are evil, bad, and everything is their fault, and they must suffer, has become dispirited, bitter, and angry. Then a charlatan comes along to say, "Well, of course you're not! They're the evil ones!" This huckster comes along and tells them everything they want to hear; that they're good people, that it's some faceless other who is punishing them, that a monolithic power is out to ruin them and deprive them. But if they band together behind this person, they'll set everything right. Every bloody revolution from the French to the Russian started this way. Every authoritarian movement from fascism to Leninism to Maoism started this way. If you know Greek history, it's rife with one populist leader after another riding waves of sentiment that this one will set things right.

In times like these, no talk of policy matters. No talk of level heads, reason, and moderation will work. Those times passed long before and no one wants to hear it now. People just want to hear how they'll get revenge, how they'll profit from this. And in all of this, good people get twisted. Go back and read about how the German people in the late '20s and early '30s tried to rationalize Hitler; "Oh, he'll pivot," and "He can't do all of that, there will be checks and balances," and "He doesn't mean all that." He did, and those good people did horrible things because they were told it was right. One reason why it got that bad? Partially because otherwise agreeable factions hated each other for not being perfectly right and fought with each other instead of building a coalition to makes things better.

Now, like I said before, there is still a lot of bigotry involved in the election of Trump. There is a lot of turning a blind eye to a lot of terrible things about Trump, and there is more than enough blame to go around for why he won. But one thing that we have to realize is that we failed too. A major part in our failing to convince people to side with us, to agree with us, to support us, is because we made them our enemies when they were merely imperfect allies or faultless people we turned into villains because they failed to be just like us in thought and action. Now we must face a choice. Do we continue to alienate, divide, and drive ourselves further into irrelevancy and let this all end in the worst tragedy possible? Or do we begin to recognize that just because people aren't perfectly in line with us, they're not against us. Do we maintain a rhetoric and ideology that alientates and divides or begin to build a coalition of the imperfect but well-meaning others that we need in order to thrive?

Amanda-kerrix100AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.

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