Sticks and Stones

Right off the bat, I did not vote in this election. That's a separate discussion unrelated to thoughts I have about the results. My vote was not worth 42 votes in the electoral college, so spare the non-voter/3rd party shaming. I am simply offering some thoughts I had while trying to understand what caused such a stunning upset to take place.

 

While looking out over the smoldering ruins of last night's election predictions, I was struck by the realization that words don't matter after all. For most of my lifetime, and at an accelerated rate over the last decade, we've been told how powerful words are. Because they're so powerful, we've been told that we need very well-educated people to carefully sift through all the words and tell us what we're allowed to say and to whom we're allowed to say it. Any speech that deviates from allowable opinion is now defined as racist, sexist, homophobic, or nationalist and anyone engaging in such talk has been branded accordingly. I think this final step is where the foundation was laid for Trump's victory last night.

Is a world where we avoid hurtful words so that nobody ever has to suffer taking offense or being triggered something to strive for? Yes, I believe that it is. However, I disagree with the notion that someone's words mean more than the actions that they take or what's in their heart. In recent years though, we've been told that no, a person's words are what determines whether they are a racist or sexist and they need to answer for them and be punished accordingly, no different than if they had firebombed a church or hit a woman rather than simply said something politically incorrect. I think that over time this attitude alienated a huge swath of rural America.

You can believe that this group of people is still privileged by virtue of their sex and/or skin color, but you cannot deny the fact that they have been left behind both socially and economically. Instead of discussing ways to help people in rural America understand and cope with the social and economic changes that are taking place, you have an establishment media made up of coastal elites that consistently, and with increasing vitriol, labelled these people as rednecks, racists, and various other forms of "deplorable". After years of being treated like social pariahs, I think it's easy to see how many in this group would be drawn to someone who doesn't kowtow to the politically correct status quo.

Trump is a truly unique phenomenon. He broke all the rules set forth for a Presidential candidate by the establishment and yet he still won in a landslide. This proves that more people than anyone realized were deeply fed up with being told in what ways they are and are not allowed to express their frustration with the changes taking place all around them. Do you really believe that 1 in 2 Americans are deeply racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, or all of the above? I don't. More and more people are open to change than ever before, but it's a slow process that takes time and it won't be sped up by labeling those who can't keep up with ever-changing definitions of acceptable speech as awful human beings. I think many of the people who voted for Trump felt they had no other way to express their fear that life in America as they and their parents and their grandparents knew it was going away faster than they were ready for. 

Americans have always despised being told what to do and last night a large group people, who felt left behind by the speed at which our society has changed over the last decade, said enough is enough and put the brakes on the whole thing. Trump said many hurtful things during his campaign, but I think that his supporters looked past his words and personal impropriety because they were angry that the establishment saw him as nothing more than a hilarious caricature of their underlying fears about social change and the economy. I would suggest that one consider this before unleashing more anger and finger-wagging over the fact that Trump won. If you try to understand how a Trump voter could possibly feel that siding with him was their best choice, I think you'll find that it's not because they hate women or immigrants, but that too many people told them it's where they belonged.

This too shall pass though and while it stings for many that the country as a whole may not be as far along as the progressives would like, it doesn't mean that social change is going to be thrust into reverse and take us back to the dark ages as many have been forecasting this morning. While Trump was winning electoral votes, the legalization of marijuana in various forms recorded a clean sweep wherever it was on ballots. Look beyond the president; society is becoming more socially liberal and accepting of change by the day and that's not going to stop because of Donald Trump. American society doesn't change based on who's voted president. The only effective action you can take to make the world a better place is to focus on your sphere of influence. Be a good person to your neighbors, do good things in your community, and focus on raising your kids to be the people you want to see in the world. Do that and it's guaranteed you'll be on the right side of history.