I’m writing this during the 2016 election campaign. However, it’s a concept that has been a long time coming and — quite frankly — the potential for violence scares the hell out of me. Stop and let that sink in for a moment … violence professional … expert on the subject of violence… scared of the degree and intensity of violence we’re potentially heading for.
That’s qualifier #1, qualifier #2. I need to say this so you can really stop and consider the point I am about to make: I am not a Trump supporter (nor, in fact am I fond of any of the leading three candidates.) So there is no political agenda underlying this post. (I’m registered ‘independent’ and identify myself politically as a ‘pragmatist.’) Having said these two things:
What seriously concerns me are the conditions that have given rise to Trump’s popularity.
And part of that popularity can be laid at the doorstep of self-described liberals and their aggressive behavior. Now before you get defensive, I fully acknowledge that conservatives do this behavior too. But
A ) If a behavior is wrong, then it is wrong no matter who is doing it.
B ) Screaming they do it too doesn’t help fix the problem (a.k.a. help everyone stop doing it).
The point here the rise of the popularity of Trump — and it has a lot to do with anger of his supporters. Why are they angry? Well start with the liberal position has kicked that dog one time too many. People who — often in the names of their feelings, compassion and superior beliefs — insist on insulting, condemning and giving themselves permission to spew hate speech about those who dare think differently than they do. The scary thing is how often ‘anger’ is used as justification for kicking that dog that is now growling and baring it’s teeth at the kickers. They don’t realize that dog (Trump supporters) are about to bite.
Here’s part of the problem, the kickers are lying to themselves about it.
See one of the more interesting aspect of tribal behavior, is you need an ‘enemy’ to help identify who you are (and why your tribe is superior.) Your group is ‘right’ and those evil rotten horrible bastards deserve anything you do to them. What’s more is your status in the tribe is not just confirmed but increased for kicking that dog. In other words you get Brownie Points — inside your tribe– by shouting out what stupid, ignorant hateful, greedy and evil bastards those other are.
Which hey, if you were truly isolated in an echo chamber wouldn’t matter. But you aren’t. That signal is getting broadcast and others are receiving it — including those you are spitting on.
Yet at the same time, we’ve been conditioned to believe bald faced hatred isn’t a good thing — especially in this giant (supposedly non-tribal) egalitarian, super-tribe called the United States. Great idea, except that is not how the primitive, tribal part of our bigger brain works. This leaves us in a bit of pickle. On one hand huge amounts of our self-identity is based on embracing open minded egalitarianism at the same time, we’re wired to be tribal and bigoted against ‘outsiders.’ And that is what political polarization is, tribalism 101.
The challenge is to work — hard — at overcoming the hateful, bigoted part. And it’s a hard challenge because it’s so easy to slip into that simplistic primitive part and use rationalization and self-justification to deny we’re there. How do you feed that part (spit hate and venom) and still self-define yourself as ‘not a hater? Here are some of the more common ways: You rationalize your behavior and justify it using rhetoric, cherry picked facts to support your beliefs. You use (and pass on) limited and selective sources of information that pander to your primitive, tribal hater. And you do this pretending that you’re being intelligent and informed in your contempt for those who think differently than you do. It’s not hatred, it’s a legitimate and rational response to what those rat bastards have done…
But let’s look at the associated behavior. Not the reasons why you think it’s justified, but the behavior itself. First you convince yourself that dog deserves to be kicked. Then you give yourself permission to let fly. You ignore the pain you’re inflicting. But, more than that, you’re not ‘abusing that animal,’ you’re showing others what’s wrong with how it thinks and behaves. You’re going to beat that animal until it learns the error of its ways. And you’re surrounded by people who are cheering you on.
Well, to quote Rooster Cogburn “Drop that switch, LaBoeuf. Put it down, I said. You’re enjoying it too much.”
Now in case you missed the True Grit (1969) reference, those lines were spoken with a cocked pistol aimed at the fella with the stick. Now being as the story of True Grit takes place in late 1800’s, no matter how angry and self-righteous as LeBoeuf was in his attack, he realized he would indeed be shot if he continued his behavior. That’s an idea many people who give themselves permission to attack and spew hatred about those disgusting others, have lost sight of.
Indeed their anger is far, far more important than the anger that their actions are creating. Or, to go back to the original analogy, it doesn’t matter that the dog has turned around and is baring its teeth, keep on kicking.
See those teeth? You might not want to keep on kicking it. Or even if you want to, stop. If you don’t, what’s going to happen is not just pretty predictable, but obvious to everyone else except you.
I am truly and deeply concerned by the growing potential of a backlash. I see Trump’s popularity — including it growing every time the media plays favorites, protesters shut down a Trump rally and hateful articles are posted on social media — as a serious growl. A growl that people — who have long used their anger as justification their kicking that dog — are ignoring.
Speaking as a violence profession, a person who has spent over five decades studying and trying to understand violence, I ask you. Hell, I implore you…
Now I’ve long made a distinction between liberals and progressives (I liken the difference to the same between Catholics and Inquisitors.) I have many self-identified liberal friends — who themselves are often victimized by progressive zealots. The problem is that growling dog doesn’t. The often passive support of zealots by more moderate liberals (and this includes not standing up to them from fear of being targeted by them) makes you smell the same as the abusers; at least to that dog that is about to start biting.
Please, stop throwing kicks. Stop encouraging those who are throwing kicks. And most of all, don’t be silent when someone is abusing that dog. Don’t let these folks keep on kicking the dog because — even if you claim you aren’t doing it (or you only do it a little bit) — if that dog starts biting you’re going to end up in its jaws.
And yes, I also encourage people of a more conservative bent to go out and do the same about the barking moonbats of their ‘tribe.’ Acknowledge they’ve been kicked 27 times too often, but the consequences of giving in to that anger are too dire.
Am I singing kumbaya? No. Not really. We as a nation have forgotten that you have to fight to stay in the middle otherwise the extremists of your side will take over and get you into fights with other groups.
At the very least, quit posting hater stuff on your social media wall. If you feel real strongly about it — knowing that you have to fight to stay in the middle – try standing up now and then to the extremists in you own ‘tribe.’ You’ll discover first hand why those other dogs are ready to bite.
I don’t know what the backlash will be, nor can I predict how far it will go or what measures will be put into place to quell these issues. But I assure you, none of them will be good. I’ve lived through riots of self-righteous angry people and they are not fun. But long before things get to that point, there has been stewing and carefully nursed anger building. You may think that anger makes you powerful, but when that smoke in the air is your city burning it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s kinda too late.
(And yes, I speak from experience about coughing from that kind of smoke.)