The recent political situation has made me think a lot about judging. There is so much unhealthy judgment going on--judging candidates, judging issues, and judging other voters whose opinions differ from our own--that I had to stop for a moment and remember that judging is a basic part of the human experience.
From the moment we come out of the womb, we start to interpret sensory signals. This starts out very basic: the sound of voices, the sight of food sources, etc. As we grow older, we start to collect these things and begin basic judgments about what is good or bad, safe or unsafe, familiar or unfamiliar. These types of judgments are part of the basic instinctual impulses that help us preserve our safety.
The problem is that as we grow older, our judgment is filled with more complicated messages. Our parents teach us what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable, for example, and these things are not as important to our physical survival as to our social survival. And what we often fail to realize is that these things are not concrete--they are relative to our culture, our demographic, and our own family. Children generally accept these things without too much question because of the basic trust relationships in their lives. Even when we lie to them, they accept it. If not, why would anybody believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy?
Our judgment becomes a compendium of all our life experience--the people who have influenced us, the things that have caused us pain, the TV shows we watch, the news stories we read. Because of this, no two people experience the world in exactly the same way. No two people can read this blog article and understand it exactly the same way.
The reason I really hate political talk is that people seem to get so zealous about their own viewpoint that they forget: that's just their viewpoint. It's relative to their life experience and their judgment.
Your viewpoint is not right overall--it's right to you. My viewpoint is not The Correct One--it's my correct one, and only I can fully understand why it's correct for me.
In an ideal world, politics would be an open discussion about trying to understand other people's viewpoints. Instead, it's the opposite: it's trying to force our viewpoints on each other. It's about trying to convince other people that This One Opinion is The Only True Opinion.
This brings us to the subject I hate speaking about the most: Donald Trump. Talking about him is like fanning the flames of a fire that was built on steer manure. Unfortunately, everyday Americans cannot afford to stay silent anymore. We have to speak out because unhealthy judgment is tearing this country apart. The Trump campaign is built on rhetoric that appeals to a very specific crowd and the judgments they hold.
Before I get carried away, I have to re-iterate: this is my personal truth. I believe my judgment of this situation is correct, based on things I have read and heard from Trump, and on conversations I've had with people I respect. However, labeling him and judging him will never solve the epidemic of labeling and judging. He is merely the symptom of a disease that has swept across our country.
What is the disease? How could our country simultaneously be choosing between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who represents the opposite extreme of love, acceptance, and rights for all? Our nation seems more divided than ever, and I think the basic problem is fear.
Fear is a strong emotion that overpowers the more logical parts of our brain. For example, heaven help anybody nearby when I see a spider. My heart starts pumping faster, my body freezes up, and the adrenaline starts rushing. All logic is gone. I forget the fact that I'm hundreds of times bigger and more powerful than the spider. All I think is ONLY ONE OF US WILL SURVIVE THIS EPIC BATTLE, SPIDER.
The moderate Americans and moderate politicians are currently losing the battle to fear. What do the American people fear? It's fairly simple to guess what Trump supporters are afraid of by looking at Trump's hate speech. They're afraid first and foremost of people who are different from them. They're terrified of Muslims, Mexicans, and anybody who doesn't fit into their mental stereotype of "safe." They are so terrified that they are willing to forget the things they remember in other parts of their lives: kindness, love, respect, etc. Something about these minorities triggers that fight or flight response that makes them say: ONLY ONE OF US WILL SURVIVE THIS EPIC BATTLE.
The answer, obviously, is not to build a wall or ban the world’s second-largest religious group from entering the country. The answer is in education and acceptance and un-teaching some of the judgments that have been created throughout the years. That's not a very sexy answer, though. People don't want to be told: Hey, maybe you are just wrong. Who would want to be told that? What they want is somebody to tell them: I WILL KILL THE SPIDER FOR YOU. Unfortunately, killing the spider doesn't kill the fear. It accentuates and validates it.
In other words, Donald Trump is like crack cocaine for people who are living in fear. He's giving them exactly what they want and none of what they need. He’s perpetuating their fears, drawing them out, and encouraging the exact opposite of what will help them conquer their fears.
I don’t personally know of any friends who are Donald Trump supporters, so my friends and I talk a lot about how to stop this dangerous path that America is on. The media has awakened us to the dangers of his hate speech. But people are combating his tactics by using his own tactic of fear-mongering: telling us that he is the modern Hitler, telling us that he’ll destroy the country, telling us what a horrible human being he is.
Let me be clear here: I BELIEVE ALL THOSE THINGS. But saying those things will only serve as confirmation bias for people who already dislike him. Telling people to fear Trump still plays on fear, not acceptance and mutual understanding.
Yeah, that’s not a sexy answer. I love to watch the comic portrayals of Donald Trump as much as anybody. It’s so much more fun to deride him and get worked up into a frenzy of: ONLY ONE OF US WILL SURVIVE THIS EPIC BATTLE, MR. TRUMP.
That only serves to make us feel better about ourselves. It doesn’t solve the problem. The solution is in bringing people together and helping them learn not to be so scared of different opinions, different attitudes, and different colors of skin. And that is just not as easy and not as fun.