Extremism and Resistance

Donald Trump is an abhorrent excuse for a human being. He’s impulsive, easy to manipulate, and dangerous. His actions and policies will be bad for the country. That being said, his level of extremism has given us one good thing – it’s galvanized people to push back and become much more aware.

Over the past few decades, the United States has become increasingly conservative. It’s always been a country that considers non-American lives unimportant. It’s a country of great wealth and enormous inequality. A country that’s spent a huge part of its existence involved in wars around the world. A country where PoC, immigrants, and women have had their rights under constant attack. And yet nothing has caused as many people to unite against something as this election has. The reason for that may be distasteful, but it’s still clear – it’s because Trump is an unpresidential, deplorable caricature. It has even more to do with who he is than it does with what he’s doing.

In a way, it’s a good thing. Had any other person been elected, the complacency of the general populace would have continued. There would be far fewer calls to Congresspeople and Senators. The number and value of donations to various non profits that do incredible work would be much lower. There would be significantly less of a push for the Democratic Party to take a stand beyond a safe middle ground.

Right now, people are engaged. People are angry, and rightly so. People want to see this country move in a positive direction, and are ready to resist the attempts and tearing down every inch of progress that’s been made over the years. It’s essential that we don’t waste that.

Politicization of Morality

I am not a Republican. I am ideologically liberal. I am not a Trump supporter. I didn’t vote for him, and I find the overwhelming majority of his views, positions, and actions abhorrent. But I’m not a Democrat, either, and a lot of what I’ve seen over the course of the past few weeks, months, has made me wonder about the state of our ethics in this country.

Perhaps this is a cynical perspective on life, but right now, I can’t help but wonder if the main, if not the only, reason for the outcry of opposition and protest we’re seeing right now is that Trump presents himself like a cartoon villain. He’s so easy to mock, and he’s so easy to object to him, that people do it now because it’s so clear, and not so much because they really care about the issues they profess to.

Obama’s drone strikes, mass deportations, expansion of the surveillance state, extra-judicial killings of American citizens – these things all absolutely merited a response. They were all undeniably unethical. But he was presidential and articulate and capable of expressing compassion and most importantly, a Democrat, so Democrats – the people that are supposed to care about these issues – didn’t criticize him even close to enough. The ACLU challenged him multiple times, but the contrast between how much attention/money they’re getting right now and how much they got during the Obama administration is extremely stark. Of course the attention and donations are good things – they’re doing very valuable work – but it seems to add up to people willing to ignore unethical governmental actions and civil rights violations until they’re so blatant it’s impossible to pretend they aren’t there.

The US has a long history of causing instability throughout the world, then avoiding accepting any responsibility for it. This includes both Democratic and Republican administrations. On non-domestic issues, the Democrats really don’t have much of a leg to stand on. But partisanship in this country has gotten out of control. It goes beyond politicians from one party opposing actions, bills, nominees from the other for no reason other than that it’s something coming from the other party. It’s at the point where criticizing a member of one’s own party is considered an attack on unity, traitorous, a sign that you’re siding with the other.

Something that comes to mind right now is the accusations that flew around a while ago toward people like Glenn Greenwald and Shaun King – that they were “Kremlin stooges” for things like criticizing members of the Democratic Party and pointing out that it’s probably not a good idea to repeat information disseminated by the CIA uncritically. They don’t support the Democrats unquestioningly, so they’re clearly responsible for the Trump victory. One or the other. It can’t possibly be neither. All of this has resulted in a situation where I can’t trust any politician to stand up for what’s right. It seems that to most, morality only matters when the immoral action is coming from the opposing party, because party loyalty comes first.

I’ve seen similar issues when it comes to Canadian politics. I tend to support the NDP over the Liberals, but I was still very happy when the Liberals won a majority in 2015, because it meant an end to the near decade of conservatism. I frequently object to the actions of the LPC, but whenever I do that, people tell me I should be happier that the Conservatives aren’t still in power because Trudeau is much better than Harper. Is that true? In some ways, sure. In a lot of other ways, not so much.

I’m not saying it’s bad to protest Trump. Of course I’m not. I think it’s absolutely right to. But I think it’s also important to consider why the public outcry is nowhere near the level we’re seeing when it comes to anyone else.