For the past few weeks it has been hard to breathe.
This blog post sharply diverts from the usual theme, tone, and message of my blog. But, as a writer, this is how I try to make sense of what I feel shifting in the air. Thank you, in advance, for reading.
I believe a painting is attempting to be crafted right in front of all of us.
But just like all great works of art, when you are too close you do not see it for what it is. This? Well this is just a playful splash of red paint. And that? That there is simply a delightful use of black and gray shades.
Sometimes we are unable to see clearly what the entire picture is showing us because we are afraid to step back and look. While I am afraid of what I have seen in the past few weeks, I’m even more afraid of (to use a phrase that is already becoming stale) certain rhetoric becoming normalized.
The problem is that we are internally at war with ourselves. We were raised to be empathetic, compassionate, and critical thinkers. We were taught that no one person can be “all bad” and no one person can be “all good.” Shades of gray cloak us all.
So, of course not every individual who supports Trump’s rhetoric is racist. Of course they are not all misogynists, anti-Semitic, against woman’s rights, in denial of global warming, etc. We are taught that labels, blanket statements about individuals, are usually incorrect over-generalizations.
And I believe this.
I believe this as firmly as I believe family members had to have difficult discussions with children and grandchildren in the shadow of World War II, trying to explain how certain members of their bloodline wore swastikas on their arms. How good people did terrible things and how this shouldn’t be a commentary on their own seemingly predetermined path in life.
But just as we hear voices of former Germans saying they didn’t know at the time, they didn’t know, how could they know, well maybe we suspected but if we had known, of what Hitler was up to, what he was capable of…and we hear echoes of it today. Give him a chance. It can’t be that bad. We have checks and balances. Things take time. There are reelections in a few years.
When I was a teacher of English and composition at the college level my fellow instructors and myself saw a sharp disinterest in the written word. Students did not understand why they were required to take a writing course. And though I emphasized the importance of critical thinking, of questioning what we are told, of being able to clearly communicate our own perspectives in a clear and respectful manner, few students seemed to enjoy my courses.
Today I feel more grateful for my liberal arts degree than ever before. I am thankful I had teachers who shared with me stories from history. I am thankful for the novels, poetry, and paintings that emerge from shifting political landscapes and political pain. I am thankful I learned about The Milgram Experiment, which looked at the ways people can do horrible things in the name of “obedience.” I am thankful for The Stanford Prison Experiment showing us how power, authority, and deindividuation can escalate more quickly than we could ever imagine.
I do not believe every individual who voted for Trump is evil. This is not possible. We are all humans who are doing our best to listen to our hearts.
But I do believe this:
I believe his rhetoric is evil.
I believe his rhetoric pulls from a historical echo chamber of relying upon fear.
I believe his rhetoric thrives on the feverish hunger of lies.
I believe his rhetoric is allowing others, others with harmful rhetoric, positions of power.
I am afraid.
Let us work.
Let us not be the frog who doesn’t realize he is being boiled since the water is only changing temperature ever so slowly around us. It’s really not that bad, we might tell ourselves. After all, for right now, I’m still able to breathe.