breaking binary

Until recently, there has been very little confrontation in personal relationships throughout my life. This is true because I have (usually) adhered to this idea when interacting with family and friends of different ideologies: never talk religion or politics. I learned from the mistakes of people who crossed these no-man’s landmines several times–some, early in their own ideological development–and the mistrust runs as deep as it does did 20 years ago.


picture credit: The Economist

People might be thinking that it was spineless for me not to have stood up for my ideals in the face of organized religion. You could say that I was a chicken shit for keeping quiet about bigotry; I was, after all, being educated in the art of empathy: Comparative Literature. You might be right. Then again, I was young. Then again, I was lucky to get my first email account with dial-up access back in 1997, the middle of my undergrad studies, long before the advent of social media. News didn’t travel or develop as fast back then. And I didn’t have a platform.

I am now out of excuses.

This past political cycle saw me break my own pacifist domestic rule-of-thumb: in September, I had heated skirmishes with my father-in-law, my aunt- and uncle-in-law, whose perspective may align closely with that of the blue-collar worker, whose perspective I regrettably never considered because I was looking at things in the politically binary way in which our system forces us to think. Shortly after the election, I was beginning to look at my ideology through a new lens; I began asking myself if I could be truly progressive without having an open mind. The idea was soon put to the test when an old family friend (a strong mother figure of sorts from my youth whom we’ll call “Fran”) sarcastically wrote in response to a post I had made on Facebook about T’s Twitter usage that she and her husband were “deplorable.” This was an instance in which I could have acted like someone from the Herbal Tea Party. However, I chose diplomacy. After that, the exchange of ideas–as well as can be related on a Facebook post–had a dramatically different look to it than most threads I have read (granted, I don’t have much patience to sift through those long threads for a millimeter of respectful discourse). In my thread, there was an exchange of ideas and a vetting of sources.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind via Facebook exchanges. But there seems to be a growing realization that there is importance in vocabulary and tone, not to mention decorum. Among those who voted for T, there seems to be two factions: the ones who stand by their man in the Oval Office no matter what, and the ones who say he was the lesser of two evils, implying that they really don’t stand behind their president on at least a few issues. Knowing “Fran” as I do/did, I would not hesitate to guess that she doesn’t support, for example, all that Steve Bannon stands for.

In no uncertain terms, I defy everything this president stands for and the belligerent, irresponsible way in which he tries to deliver on campaign promises. And I loathe his attacks (Twitter and otherwise) on free press, free assembly, and the judicial branch of government. But I will not be drawn into counter-productive Molotov cocktail-throwing at differently-minded people I know or encounter, for that will lead to further chaos among the populace. I believe chaos is where the president and his cronies intend to make their hay.

Some might say that I am involved in Molotov cocktail-throwing when I make clear my views about T’s unsuitability for the job. I would counter by stating that a leader has to expect criticism, he has to process the criticism, and he has to decide what can be constructively done with that criticism. But, if the president himself–a public figure by choice–would act a little more presidential rather than like a petulant 70-year-old boy who cannot take criticism, he might actually be able to accomplish more, perhaps even get a few of those who voted for the other “lesser of two evils” to believe in his abilities.

As it stands, the actions taken in his first two weeks in office were unprecedented in their volume, form and function. It has led to protests (of varying sizes and purposes, almost all peaceful) that, I might argue, increase our national security: the sheer number of protests show the rest of the world that a majority of people in this country are not represented by the president in, say, his views on refugees and immigration. The first two weeks also led many people to become politically active for the first time in their lives. They have signed petitions, called their representatives, written emails to voice their displeasure. I know there are conservatives out there who may have embarrassment that their president has, for instance, made a mockery of the court system or the advancements in science. I would implore those conservatives who don’t like some aspect of T’s policy to write emails, sign petitions, call their representatives.

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