Sunday, August 6, 2017

Rage and Constructive Politics in the Trump Era

Allow me to recommend a book review/essay in the Post by Carlos Lozada, titled Sorry, but I Don't Care How You Felt on Election Night Any More.
You saw them. You probably read a few. Maybe you even wrote one.

Seething political takes. Overwrought open letters. Emotional manifestos. They began invading our inboxes and Facebook feeds in the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, and continued for days and weeks. They frothed from keyboards across the country, countless renditions of what became an instantly recognizable genre: the How I Felt on Election Night essay.

The first one I recall was by New Yorker editor David Remnick, who proclaimed “revulsion and profound anxiety” at Donald Trump’s victory. But it was Aaron Sorkin, America’s leading purveyor of political self-righteousness, who typified the form in an open letter to his teenage daughter and former wife in which he pledged to “f—ing fight” Trump and reassured Americans that “our darkest days have always — always — been followed by our finest hours.”
Bunches of these horrified reaction/calls to resistance how been published as books that make Lozada cringe.
As fear passes, some hope does emanate from the pages of “Radical Hope.” Writer Parnaz Foroutan addresses women who are immigrants, exiles and refu­gees in America, urging them to “pay no heed to the darkness, the open mouth of greed, the hateful speech, the walls and the guns. . . . America is yours.”

But fear also morphs into anger and judgment, including toward Trump voters. “F— being nice and polite,” writes Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy. “These are not nice or polite times. Be angry. Be loud. And be free!” Poet Mohja Kahf breaks down Trump’s support, concluding wryly that “hey, really only about one-fourth of the country hates us and/or hates Black people, LGBTQ folk, Latinx peoples, Indigenous peoples, and immigrants. And we already knew that, right?”

Even some of the contributors seeking to reach out to Trump’s base — at least in a think-piecey, theoretical sense — find ways to demean. . . .
Lozada finds a useful contrast in another book titled Rules for Resistance: Advice From Around the Globe for the Age of Trump, edited by David Cole and Melanie Wachtell Stinnett. In this book people who have actually experienced authoritarian takeovers of their countries pretty much tell Americans liberals that they are doing everything exactly wrong:
Dismissing Trump voters as racists is an “idiotic simplification of extremely complex human beings,” writes Satyen K. Bordoloi, a Mumbai filmmaker. “We in India have been doing the same thing for two and a half years, and the results have been devastating. Our society has fractured much more because of these blanket accusations. Those who voted for [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi have gone into their defensive shells after such accusations and became more protective of their leader as their very sense of self became attached to him.”

In Venezuela, the opposition to the late Hugo Chávez made similar mistakes. “We wouldn’t stop pontificating about how stupid Chavismo was, not only to international friends but also to Chavez’s electoral base,” journalist Andrés Miguel Rondón explains. “ ‘Really, this guy? Are you nuts? You must be nuts,’ we’d say.” As a result, “whole generations were split in two [and] a sense of shared culture was wiped out.”

Rondón’s appeal to American readers is simple: “This does not have to be your fate. . . . Recognize that you’re the enemy Trump requires. Show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those who brought him to power.”
Anger, fear, hate, and talk of Resistance will change nothing. Anger, fear, and hate are the weapons of demagogues, the very life blood of tyranny. They are the One Ring: you will be tempted to use them but they will destroy you.

What might work is long-haul, determined, calm defense of things believed in deeply: democracy, the rule of law, empathy, dialogue, compromise, and perhaps most importantly a reasoned, orderly approach to the world and the problems it presents.

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