Tribes and Bridges

I don’t have many triggers, and I’m rarely offended. Scratch that: I have many triggers and I’m constantly offended. But, I have realized that these triggers all come from the same type of offense: tribal mentality.

The "me vs them" philosophy where every group is on an island and because they are not with us, they are against us. It exasperates me to no end when a black-or-white way of thinking forces people into rounding up or down their own ideology to whatever fits into their overly simplistic, divisive nature.

A prime example, and the reason I’m writing this now, is the US election. Now that it is over, a half of their population is befuddled while the other is celebrating.

I’ll try to make sense of both sides, and to do this I’d like you to meet David Wong. He, among other things, is the executive editor for Cracked. I normally don’t care much for the website outside of its humor, but two of his pieces really caught my eye. Especially since he presents the case for both sides, beautifully. He’s definitely in my "favorite authors” list just for this.

So let’s begin. I’ll start with the left’s side: socially liberal, economy federally-controlling,, progressive, etc. As of this writing, the left is bordering on depression, thinking “I thought we were better than this.” Its main problem towards Trump is he’s bigoted, racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc.

David has made their case quite clearly of why racism and discrimination in general is still a thing, even having elected a black president and legalizing same-sex marriage. Yes, a white heterosexual male may not have ever discriminated against a black person, may never have diminished the opinion of a female or treated her as anything else than a human being, and may have never thought less or treated badly anybody based on their sexuality. Why is he still labeled as being privileged?

Because, as David points out, we can’t consider ourselves as just a group of individuals living in the present. We are a community that interacts with one another, and the reason that I’m here, writing this, in the present, is because of all the persons that have come before me. Yes, I don’t own a slave. Yes, I treat my wife with the utmost respect and with the love she deserves. Yes, I don’t discriminate. That doesn’t mean that I’m not reaping the rewards of the hideous things my ancestors have done to get me where I am right now.

If I walk down the street at night, I do feel fear of what could happen to me. But that’s nothing in comparison to what a woman feels in those circumstances. My fear is based on being mugged. Her fear is based on being raped. Big. Fucking. Difference.

The reason why I have the wonderful job that I have right now is, in great part, for the hard work that I’ve done over the years. Work that was of better quality than others and, thus, I could say that I earned this job through my own merits. But, another great part of the reason I got it is because I was fortunate enough to have parents that supported me financially to get the education I needed to let my hard work flourish. And my parents were fortunate enough to have parents that sacrificed themselves to provide a better life than they had. I stand in the shoulder of giants; I’m part of the history that is currently unfolding. To believe that I’ve done everything on my own and that I owe nothing to anybody, is being oblivious to reality. To this effect, to think that I’m not privileged over somebody because I have it the same as them because of equality of opportunity is the same as thinking that I was born out of nothing. There’s precedence; none of us have it the same.

However, there has been a misunderstanding when this point comes up: “being blamed for something” is very different as “being responsible to fix it”. Yes, I did not provoke the dreadful economic circumstances, as well as the social conflicts, that resulted in the social-economic differences between ethnicities and genders. Yes, I cannot be blamed for the sins of my forefathers. But, we are a group, and we are ALL responsible to fix this, including me. And since I am in a position of privilege, like it or not, I have more power to do something about it.

So, yeah, racism, sexism, homophobia, and their respective discrimination are still there. They may be there at a much lesser degree than centuries ago, than decades ago, but they are still there, and something must be done about it: if you know somebody doesn’t like an specific word, avoid it in their presence, but also talk about why is that word offensive; if you know women don’t feel safe in an environment, get in there and see what you can do to make it feel safer; if you see a person being left out of a group gathering, go talk to that person. Things like these may produce better circumstances for the person that are going to stand in our shoulders.

[Take a breath.]

Ok... time for the right’s side: social and fiscal conservative, market-dependent economy, etc. Right now they’re celebrating, but how? What is it that turned them on to that creep?

David made their case in another piece. Lets get something out of the way first: I am in no way condoning the words and feelings that Trump has stated; and in no way am I saying that people that agree with him in those terms do not exist. They do, unfortunately, and it’s sickening. The reports these past few days of the repulsive things carried out by that fraction of the population that has now decided to come out of their racist, xenophobic closet have been nothing short of horrifying.

However, it is arguably similar to how to some members of the black community reacted towards white folks when Obama was elected: “Now you sit in the back of the bus”, “Guess what cracker? I can kill you and nobody can stop me”, etc. The defense back then is the same as now: yes, these people do exist and they do this because of they live in their own fucked-up version of the world, but this was not the reason why the majority voted for him. In fact, many of the defenses I’ve heard from Trump supporters have been mostly in disagreement of his offenses, but that they’re willing to overlook them in the face of what he symbolizes for them: an outsider.

In this moment I want to remind you of what I mentioned in the left’s side of the argument: it is up to ALL of us to fix this. What is there to fix in this mostly white mentality? That, right there: being white is normally considered being privileged, however, in all of my leftist argument I never mentioned that I was privileged for being white. I’m Mexican, I’m brown as fuck. But I’m privileged in relation to others in my country. The mentality that just because somebody is white they can be automatically labeled as privileged, is just as ignorant as not acknowledging one’s own privilege.

Privilege is a complex thing. Yes, race has a lot to do with it (specially in the USA), but it also depends on where you live, who your parents were and how they were economically, access to healthcare and education, social stigmas, etc. Rounding it down to just “being white” is by definition being racist.

Many of the persons that voted for Trump live in small rural towns that are normally ignored by left-leaning governments. And when I say “ignored”, I mean given the economical middle finger... repeatedly. Manufacturing jobs are the soul of their economy, which are shipped internationally without hesitation by progressives. And, worse yet, these jobs are of companies controlled by corporations which, in turn, lobby the hell out of the government. When this is done time and time again, from both sides of the aisle, it presents a picture of the established government as not caring about them at all.

But here comes Trump, a person that presumes to not have those ties. “He doesn’t have any political experience” is a selling point. “Y’all can go fuck yourselves and shove your political correctness up your ass” is a battle cry. He gave them the opportunity for them to point out to the left their own hypocrisy: a group of people that has been tortured by censorship is now censoring people. When the left has this list of words we can’t say, I can’t help feel reminded of George Carlin's “10 words you can’t say on the radio” bit which ridiculed the right for doing exactly the same thing.

However, saying things out of comic relief, and actually meaning them is two very different things. To this effect, I turn to what David Wong wrote, since I can’t put it better myself:

"But Trump is objectively a piece of shit!" you say. "He insults people, he objectifies women, and cheats whenever possible! And he's not an everyman; he's a smarmy, arrogant billionaire!” Wait, are you talking about Donald Trump or Tony Stark?"

David goes on with the analogy with Dr. House and Walter White. Yes, they’re fictitious, but his point is still correct. An asshole is less of an asshole if he’s on my side… if he’s on my tribe. Hell, bring in the real-life left-leaning millionaire talk show hosts that are really offensive to the right (bashing on religion, fat-shaming conservative politicians, calling Sarah Palin a bitch, etc.), but the left doesn’t care: they are hitmen doing wet work for their side. A clear example that comes to mind is Bill Maher: he reeks of islamophobia but he still has a job (even after his 9/11 debacle) because his followers choose to ignore that about him. Or, as Wong remind me, David Letterman’s sex scandals: I love the guy and I had completely forgotten about them. Why? Because I agree with him politically. In fact, I remember pretty clearly the left rolling their eyes every time “Lewinsky” was uttered during the Clinton years. I rolled my eyes with them because in that moment I mostly cared that he was taking the US in what I thought was the right path for both the US and Mexico (big selling point for me).

So that is what Trump is for these rural white Americans: a savior in dire economic circumstances, packaged in an orange bigoted box with a sexist bow. But mainly, they have labelled him as their savior, because (to paraphrase David Wong) they believe: he doesn’t care about the rules, he is the one who will get shit done.

[I hope you’re all still with me.]

Blanket labelling all the persons that voted for Trump as racist and sexist is being as discriminatory and ignorant as a person that does not acknowledge their own privilege. The left has repeatedly asked the right to understand their plight, to walk a mile in their shoes, and understand the hurt and emotional turmoil history has brought upon them. Its time for the left to teach by example.

This is not a black-and-white world. Rounding up or down is too simplistic for a species that came out of the caves millennia ago. We have no need for tribes anymore. We are not our own enemy. To be tolerant of intolerance is the first step in getting rid of it because it forms the foundation of the bridges between our islands.

Be the better human being and reach out for understanding even if its difficult. Be a better human being. Be like David Wong… (hahaha, sorry, couldn’t help myself).

PS. Thanks to Cin Ceja for posting one of David Wong's articles on her feed. I hadn’t read him until now, and it was the seed for this entire post.