Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Political Discussions and Pet Names

A lot of people I know have been asking some version of why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? Normally, it feels like breaking the rules of proper discussion to answer a question without asking it directly, but when tweets from Trump supporters creep into my feed, they often are defending their choice in the face of perceived disapproval. If it stopped there, I'd dismiss this as people on Twitter being people on Twitter. It's always kind of weird on there, and elections take it from weird to downright kinky in all the wrong ways for a while. Here's my problem: I am not going to try to engage in a conversation with someone who uses a slur like "libtard" because someone who is using that sort of a term isn't in a place to have a real discussion about different opinions on issues.
Growing up in the 1980s, the Republican party was synonymous with conservatism when it came to spending and small government. The party also seemed to be a magnet for devout Christians. Consequently, the hot issues that came up were usually related to reproductive rights, taxes, defense spending, and education. In the 1990s, the issues remained the same, but the extreme right wing started getting a little weird and a bit more mainstream. Disagreement became defined as more of an us vs them engagement instead of sharing opposing viewpoints. Since then, things have eroded into what we have now.

Here is what I've been seeing and hearing about the choice to vote for Trump that I have found troubling: the systematic pattern of "campaign promises" to "Make America Great Again" by taking away other people's rights. The things that his most vocal supporters seem proudest of are not the constructive things like trying to improve our infrastructure, improving job opportunities, or strengthening our economy. They take pride in the idea that they now have a free pass to terrorize women, Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, people with disabilities, the elderly, veterans with PTSD, victims of crime, babies, or anyone else who they're feeling annoyed with that day. As if the amount of brazen hate in all of this isn't enough, there also seems to be this sense of entitlement that comes with it. They seem to have the idea that because they "tolerated" having a black president for 8 years, and "tolerated" paying for health insurance or paying a penalty, or abstractly "tolerated" random stories about some college classes providing trigger warnings, that they are entitled to this rampage because all of the "tolerance" has just been too much.

I realize this doesn't describe everybody who voted for Trump. In my dark moments, I catch myself grumbling that, but I know it's not true. I know that this doesn't even describe the people who tweet stuff like this 100% of the time. A lot of people out there are frustrated and having trouble dealing with it. I get it. I'm there too, and this isn't the first time, and won't be the last time.

If you truly believe that Trump will affect positive changes for this country that don't involve impeding the pursuit of happiness for our fellow citizens, I welcome your thoughts because I have no idea what they could be. That doesn't mean I'm dismissing the idea out of hand, I'm just saying this is very different from the way I see things, but maybe you have access to information I don't. Who knows? I'm not even saying I have a problem with people who voted for Trump being happy he was elected. That seems like a natural reaction to voting and getting your desired outcome. What I don't approve of is people saying things like, "He's President now whether you like it or not." What? That sounds like what you're saying is you voted just to try to make half of your fellow citizens miserable. How is that productive?

Also, I want to address this "libtard" business. If you want to name call, fine, but don't expect anyone to listen for long. If people stop talking to you when you're doing that, it isn't because they were stunned into silence by your brilliant rhetoric. They just don't want to talk to a complete jerk for longer than necessary. For those people who feel soothed saying "liberal" in a way that makes it sound like a euphemism for something like a**hole, do what you need to do. At least you're using a word that's found in the dictionary and one that describes a group that espouses certain views. Blending a word like liberal with the word retard is a blatant excuse to say half a word that has no place in polite conversation ever. Learning disabilities are extremely common (and yes, a lot of people who use the word retard don't realize that learning disabilities and mental retardation are not the same thing) and mental retardation is an issue that nobody has any business mocking. It's not like anyone chooses to have a low IQ at birth. Do you have any idea how difficult things are for someone like that even without dealing with all the nasty things people say about them? That is shameful behavior.

What is a post about political discussions doing on a book blog? Primarily, I needed to get this out somewhere that I wasn't limited to a Tweet and where it wouldn't just be in the bubble of my like-minded family in friends because I hope that someone out there does actually care about trying to help bring this country together and work toward problem-solving instead of just escalating hostilities. Also, politics do shape books both in terms of the settings of stories and in terms of the books that we have access to in our schools and libraries (as well as the ones we don't have access to in the same places.)

If you made it this far, thank you for your patience as I try to make sense of all of this.