For nearly a year I’ve been watching elections unfold in the United States. Like so many people, I laughed at the absurdity of the two-ring political circus. It was impossible to take seriously. It felt staged. Like all of civilization was in a bell jar and some sardonically twisted overlords were playing an elaborate prank.
But when the joke was finally over… it wasn’t. Donald Trump was elected the representative for the Republican Party. And with that, over 160 years of comparatively civilized and respectable politics went out the window. There is no point in listing all the reasons that we should be horrified at how far this man has come. There are more than enough articles pointing out exactly this. Though, sadly, they seem to be falling on deaf ears and blind eyes.
It also does not make sense to mention Hillary Clinton’s stellar experience and knowledge when it comes to both foreign and domestic policy. Again, plenty of articles have outlined all these things, too. Yet, to the dismay and concern of anyone of sane mind, a large percentage of voters choose to concentrate on one misjudgment by Clinton, while unequivocally discounting countless, innumerable, infinite statements by Trump that suggest he would make decisions not only far worse, but also in direct defiance of national and international doctrine.
People will continue to hear and understand what they want to. But at the heart of all this insanity is a vitriolic rhetoric. One of us versus them. One of segregation and distancing. One that celebrates the individual over the whole. And it is currently being used to incite the masses. It is manipulating the skeptical and frustrated into believing that we are stronger alone. It is convincing the fearful and racist that everyone who is not like them is out to get them. It is purporting to the hopeless that their dilemmas will be solved as soon as the others have been put in their place.
This language is not new. It has haunted us throughout the course of history. It has plagued us since the dawn of civilization. As we have evolved socially, the human condition has been marked by a desire to be unique, to stand apart, to shun the we for the I. And in order to do that, the I must be clearly defined by taking stock of the others. This recognition of the uniqueness of others is often beautiful. However, too many epochs in history have demonstrated that it can also have horrendous consequences.
This is the road we once again find ourselves on. Baseless fears and doubts about others are compelling voters to buy into promises of a greater America, a greater Britain, a greater us. To the detriment of them — anyone not like us. Them is Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, powerful women, black men… every day the heads of some others are on the chopping block. And the vitriol keeps spewing, contaminating the thoughts and beliefs of the frightened and downtrodden and fueling the ire of the prejudiced and misinformed.
I can sit here and preach love and tolerance and respect for our fellow man. But if Gandhi can’t convince the world, then I have less than zero chance. So what can we do in the face of such divisiveness? How do we dissuade a nation from condemning entire ethnicities and creeds? How do we prove to people who are not willing to listen that hate fuels hate fuels hate fuels…?
Unfortunately, we do not. We CAN not. Donald Trump is the perfect example of what happens when you try to convince someone of the wrongness of his dogma. You find yourself suddenly faced with a petulant child hurling incognizant mumbo jumbo.
But it is not time to throw our hands up in the air and give up all hope for the human race. We need a new approach. We must take a good hard look at the breeding ground for this hate. Why are people so susceptible it? Why do they so want to believe that the others are the enemy?
Fear. A fear of having their safety, security, identity, freedom seized. A fear that the others are stealing their livelihoods, flouting their authority, threatening their liberties and destroying their culture. And this fear has been spreading for years like a volatile fluid, seeping into every nook and corner, waiting to be ignited.
The likes of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Marie Le Pen are all too happy to throw the lit match, but it is up to all of us who know better to discredit these peddlers of disparagement and cruelty. It is our responsibility, our civic duty, to combat lies with truth, misinformation with fact, fear with wisdom. Armed with evidence and proof, we need to be loud. So loud that the deceit is drowned out.
I hope that the voices of reason, justice, intelligence and graciousness will prevail. I believe that they are powerful and plentiful. And if they all resound together, they can prove that I stands no chance when faced with the strength of we.