Monday, November 14, 2016

Why I Won’t Wear a Safety Pin (Warning: SL)

If you’ve followed my posts over the last few months, you’ll know I never had any intention of voting for Donald Trump. You’ll know I despised his race-baiting, fear-mongering demagoguery, and that I was appalled at the degree to which his voter base ate it up. And you’ll know I believe his Administration will be utterly disastrous.

But I won’t wear a safety pin. To me, safety pins are for diapers. And now, they’re perfectly emblematic of the infantilization of American politics.

You’re Part of the Problem

The people who know me already know I’m safe to be with and talk to. If people need me to wear some sort of badge or tchotchke to figure it out, then I’m doing Catholicism wrong. But if all you care to know is that I’m a white Christian male — and you hate or fear me because of those facts — then you, my friend, are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

You’re part of the problem because, in your own smug, superior way, you’re just as much a bigot as any group in your heroine’s “basket of deplorables”. You’re part of the problem because you rationalize your bigotry with stereotypes, demon-terms, and sanctimonious blather about “privilege”, certain that you’re justified in doing so because you’re fighting for the oppressed. You’re part of the problem because you discount or shout down any opinions contrary to yours. You’re part of the problem because you treat a large chunk of the American population as backward, “low information”, mouth-breathing hicks who don’t deserve any consideration or representation. You’re part of the problem because, being on average marginally more intelligent and educated than conservatives, you wrongly think it means that you’re wiser, that you have better judgment, and that your reasoning is more rational and less biased, and that you are therefore more qualified to decide what should be done. You’re part of the problem because, for all your self-congratulating chatter about love and inclusiveness, when faced by opposition or disappointment you become as hateful and intolerant as those to whom you hold yourselves superior.

That’s Adult Life

And you’re part of the problem because you’re shocked and angry to find out that those people you diss almost compulsively didn’t just give up and accept Hillary Clinton as their next President. You were so arrogantly certain Clinton would win that some of you didn’t bother to vote to make sure it happened. You blinded yourself to the many people who wouldn’t have voted Clinton for dogcatcher, just as you blinded yourself to her personal flaws and political baggage, assuming that only “misogynists” would not vote for her when the only other “realistic” option was Donald Trump.

And now you’re upset to learn that nobody is entitled to win an election. You’re upset to learn that shutting critics up doesn’t shut the opposition down, that calling people names (like racist, misogynist, ableist, homophobe, whateverist) doesn’t make them change their minds or hearts. You’re upset to learn that there really is a real world outside your heads, and that shutting yourselves inside “safe spaces” and epistemic bubbles won’t keep it out forever. Most of all, you’re upset because you’ve learned that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your desires, that you don’t necessarily get what you want simply because you want it. That’s adult life, kiddies; if you don’t think it’s fair, tough shit. Grow up and get over yourselves.

Of course, some of you are calling Clinton’s defeat a “whitelash” — which illustrates in one word your latent bigotry. Come on, more black, Hispanic, and Asian voters went for Trump than they did for Romney in 2012! And when Trump lost women, they went to Johnson; Hillary still lost a few. Hillary lost 15% of Obama’s under-$50k vote; the ones who went for her were the $100k-plus voters, especially those who believed things were better for them now than four years ago. And this is after the Clinton campaign outspent the Trump campaign by a margin of 5:1 or better and the mainstream media practically conspired with the Democrats to show Trump in the worst light possible. To portray the election as a white backlash is stupidly oversimplifying; it misses half or more of the story.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

“I was confident [about Hillary Clinton’s likelihood of election],” wailed feminist Purdue professor Roxane Gay in the New York Times, “because I thought there were more Americans who believe in progress and equality than there were Americans who were racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic.” Noted Wonderful Things’ Thomas L. McDonald on Facebook, “[Gay] compresses into one sentence the insufferably smug hatred from the self-styled elite that led to Trump. ... This attitude towards ordinary Americans is what created this moment.”

No, the fact is, almost as many people found Clinton an unappealing candidate as you did Trump; almost as many found her dishonest and untrustworthy as you found Trump. No, the fact is, the quality that mattered most to voters was which could bring change; those voters overwhelmingly went to Trump. Experience and judgment mattered less, and the sense that the candidate “cares about people like me” the least of all.

No, the fact is, there are many people in the US, largely white but many not, more of them men but plenty of them women, some of them college-educated, predominantly but not exclusively suburban and rural, who are poor and consider themselves worse off than they were eight years ago, who believe America is on the wrong track, and who think things will be worse for the next generation. And Hillary Clinton offered them nothing; the Clinton campaign and the Democrat Party were too busy reassuring you of your moral superiority to deign to take notice of them.

No Epistocracy For You!

The idea for the safety pin came from the aftermath of the “Brexit” vote in June, which featured the same displays of shock, dismay, and anger from the self-selected, self-absorbed elite. In the most searing analysis of the election I’ve read, Brendan O’Neill, writing in the British venue The Spectator, runs through several examples of the anti-democratic sentiment of the liberal elite, from Jason Brennan’s call for an “epistocracy” (literally, “rule of the wise”), “who might decide political matters for those of us who are ‘low information’ (i.e. stupid),” to George Monbiot’s fretting over whether democracy ever has and ever will work.

The anti-Brexit anti-democrats claimed they were merely opposed to using rough, simplistic referendums to decide on huge matters. That kind of democracy is too direct, they said. Yet now they’re raging over the election of Trump via a far more complicated, tempered democratic system. That’s because — and I know this is strong, but I’m sure it’s correct — it is democracy itself that they hate. Not referendums, not Ukip’s blather, not only direct democracy, but democracy as an idea. Against democracy — so many of them are now. It is the engagement of the throng in political life that they fear. It is the people — ordinary, working, non-PhD-holding people — whom they dread and disdain. It is what got Trump to the White House — the right of all adults, even the dumb ones, to decide about politics — that gives them sleepless nights.

Why the hell would I want to wear the badge of a class of people who consider themselves superior to me? Why would I want to wear the emblem of a class who disrespect me and my own for being white and Christian? Why would I want to show any solidarity with people who ignore the economic woes of a large chunk of the population and sneer at our relatively lesser education, yet have the effrontery to call us “privileged”? Why would I want to identify with hypocrites who lump me in with racists, sexists, and homophobes, yet have the chutzpah to complain about bigotry and stereotyping? Why in God’s name would I show any empathy for elitist snobs who don’t want me and mine to have a vote or a voice in the public square?

And why should I feel the least bit sorry for people whose reaction to losing an election is to riot and hold cry-ins? Take those safety pins off your shirts and put them on your diapers where they belong, buttercups. Better yet, put on your “big kid” britches and take ownership of your mistakes.

A Slice of Schadenfreude

You are one reason I didn’t vote for Clinton against Trump. You are one large reason why Trump won, why the American experiment is failing in my lifetime. You weren’t entitled to win; you didn’t deserve to win. Thanks to you and your identity politics, America is truly and profoundly fucked — no other word for it. Nobody gets a participation trophy out of this mess. And while I’m perfectly sickened at the thought of what the next four years will bring, God forgive me for it, but I can’t help but feel some dark satisfaction, a modicum of Schadenfreude, to see you reap the reward of your smugness.

God help us all.

Postscript: The combox will be deactivated for this post.