Let me first say, this post isn’t meant to convert everyone into Bernie voters. My intention is to share my positive personal experiences at a Bernie rally yesterday while demonstrating that political discussions don’t have to turn into I’m right. You’re wrong anger-fueled debates.
Anger is sometimes a natural and appropriate reaction to something that morally disturbs us. It’s not about how we should or shouldn’t feel it. It’s human to feel it. But it is about what we do with that rage. For instance, in my last blog I acknowledged how I struggle with real disgust when I hear Trump make ignorant or hateful statements. That being said, I can usually find shared ground with individual Trump supporters.
That might sound absurd given how terribly opposed I am to his politics. But I see that he uses fear—a very powerful emotion—to manipulate people. A lot of Trump supporters aren’t fully aware of the danger in some of his comments. Instead they are motivated by their feeling unsafe with the many complex and scary issues our world faces. Rather than having to sit with that fear and uncertainty, it’s easier to follow Trump who promises concrete solutions with confidence. He makes extremely convoluted and layered issues sound like simple problems with one fix-all solution. Then, he claims to have that solution.
As a person with anxiety, I understand how fear makes a person act irrationally. I’ve also felt the desire for certainty that causes someone to follow a confident leader without fully understanding what they’re following. Acknowledging my own fear is the only way I can keep from vilifying Trump and his supporters.
Do I think Trump is Dangerous? Yes. Do dangerous people scare me? Yes. Does fear make me quicker to act irrational in a debate? Yes. This personal characteristic frustrates, even disappoints, me sometimes. But it is also what allows me to empathize with someone arguing angrily in favor of Trump. I realize we’re both being motivated by subconscious fear. I don’t think subconscious fear is ever a good attribute to an argument. Now, this is not the same as conscious fear, which I think can be a powerful tool in a disagreement when both sides admit to the vulnerability of feeling afraid. This can actually connect them in their humanity and foster a genuine open discussion.
An open discussion isn’t about proving someone right or wrong. It’s about trying to better understand one-another. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have been taught that a disagreement is rude, bad, or threatening. I like to think of disagreements as an opportunity to learn more. Learning more doesn’t mean I’m going to necessarily switch my position (although it might if someone helps me better understand an issue). It does mean I’m going to learn what it’s like to see the world from a perspective that differs from mine.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of being present for this private Bernie speech about Israel and Palestine. Sanders started the speech by expressing his love for Israel. He referred to himself as both an ally and a friend of Israel. I was a bit nervous to hear this, thinking about some of the extreme and appalling violence it has administered. I side with Bernie on nearly everything, and I’ve been impressed by his ability to demonstrate non-dualistic thinking. (If you are unfamiliar with non-dualistic thinking, please read The Huffington Post’s wonderful interview with Father Richard Rohr).
Sanders went on to talk about how true friendship requires holding one another accountable and speaking out on areas of disagreement. He spoke of the violent acts he disagreed with, and he talked about wanting to hold Israel accountable. He did so without condemning all of Israel, acknowledging the complexities fueling violence on both sides.
For the speech, I was only three rows back. I even made eye contact with him at one point. I loved being so close to him. I could see his actual humanity. He sounded tired and gruffer than I expected. Still, I saw his passion, integrity, and fire shining bright in both the private speech and his speech for the entire rally. He is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and I am even more amazed by him after having seen him in person.
I love Bernie, and I appreciate the camaraderie amongst his supporters. The respect and politeness I saw amongst his supporters on both Friday and Monday provided a lovely antidote to the violent videos from Trump rallies. That being said, I’m frustrated to see so many Bernie supporters denigrate Hillary Clinton. I confess to having said I don’t trust her. But I realize now that my distrust is not personal. It’s systemic. Like so many people, I’ve struggled maintaining faith in the broken state of our democracy and all of the inadequacies of a mostly two-party system. The two-party system presents a trap, making it difficult not to fall into dualism. It helps us demonize one another while distracting us from some of the actual individual issues going on.
A friend of mine was a lobbyist at the recent Utah Legislative Session. She said how she went in excited and to use her words—bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She spoke of the heavy disappointment she felt after witnessing just how deep the corruption runs.
While I disagree with some of Clinton’s decisions over the years (and I certainly appreciate this SNL video poking fun at her desperation), I don’t want to ignore the double bind she has been faced with in her entire career. She has made a career as a powerful woman in politics, and that’s no easy task. I can disagree with some of her policies and approaches, but I also respect her endurance and strength. I can’t imagine the moral dilemmas she’s been faced with in order to maintain a career in a corrupt game stacked against her. She’s given hope to little girls who now dream of running for president. The thought of that brings me joy.
I can’t pretend to know about what happens behind-the-scenes in politics. Most of us can’t. I can say that I’ve met enough insiders to know that I don’t trust the media. The media is mostly focused on distraction and fear. It works. It helps control the masses. Don’t give into the easiness of trusting others to do the work for you. Research issues individually that matter to you. Research differing sides. Check the credibility of the publication and the writer. I’m writing this as a writer with little credibility to my name. Most folks haven’t heard of me. Please check my facts. Read more of my work to determine my biases. Contemplate these words. If I have done nothing with this post except start a dialogue about why you agree or disagree with me, then I’ve achieved my goal.