December 16, 2016

Reject Post-Election Tribalism

totem
Since news of Donald Trump's "bigly" win in the electoral college broke, I have been accused repeatedly of supporting his candidacy (I didn't), voting for him (I didn't), being an apologist for him and those who voted for him (I'm not), and being a racist and/or misogynist because I'm not participating in the tribalistic outrage of those determined to characterize Trump as Hitler and all of his supporters as fascists. I am not a racist or a misogynist.

I have not been participating in the outrage frenzy because I consider it irrational, do not think it will accomplish anything I'd care to accomplish, and because I worry that the preferred form of expressing post-election outrage (i.e., name calling on social media) is risky to the interests of those of us who would like to avoid violence. My thoughtcrime in this case appears to be one of freethought and one of making a deliberate effort to be rational in the face of a stunning level of irrationality and tribalism. And we all know how tribalism works: if I am not in the correct tribe, I must be "part of the problem."

My core position on the subject of those who voted for Trump in the election is simple:
(1) I believe that people who voted for Trump did so for many reasons, some of which had nothing to do with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or any other form of bigotry; (2) the fact that they elected someone with whom you and I disagree does not make them any more racist/misogynistic/xenophobic/bigoted or any less intelligent than you or I; and (3) labeling everyone who voted for Trump as a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, or bigot is likely to do more harm than good to much of what those making these claims say they value.
I do not think worse of anyone who voted for Trump merely because they voted for Trump just as I do not think worse of anyone who voted for Clinton merely because they voted for Clinton. I do not look down on anyone celebrating the outcome of this election because they are happy, and I do not look down on anyone mourning the outcome of this election because they are upset. I recognize that this seems to be a position held by a small minority, but that makes me no less likely to hold it.

I find it disappointing - if not surprising - to see how quickly otherwise rational individuals will jump at the opportunity to demonize those who dare to disagree with them or vote for a different candidate than they one they prefer. But even here, I cannot claim to think poorly of those who are struggling with this. I've certainly given into these tendencies, and I cannot pretend that I am immune to them even now. Still, I do hope we can try to do better. I hope that those of us who are freethinkers can collectively reject tribalism and model the application of reason. After all, most of us seem to agree that we need more reason in our political discourse.

What exactly does rejecting post-election tribalism look like? At a minimum, it involves accepting the fact that not everyone agrees with us and realizing that those who disagree are not necessarily horrible people just because they disagree. That doesn't seem like it should be so hard, does it?