Surely all of us are feeling suasion whiplash after reading 4000 post-election think pieces. It was the party’s fault, Hillary’s fault, racists’ fault, liberal elites’ fault, fake news on Facebook, Russia and James Comey, and pandering to immigrants… The first few days I felt guilt (alongside crushing despair and grief) for falling into the trap of thinking that Trump was too preposterous to ever win, instead recognizing the power of his various anti-establishment, anti-civil society narratives to the downtrodden white middle class. I tried hard to sympathize and understand how they could feel left behind and angry enough to vote so destructively. But when I found myself potentially nodding along to an article that suggested that it was the Democrats’ focus on “identity politics” that galvanized whites into feeling like minorities and lost all of us the election, and that going forward we should be less focused on diversity messaging, I had to take a step back.
One of the best things about being a liberal elite is that I take “political correctness” (spawn of “identity politics”) as a given among my friends. I love it. I fucking love it. Now more than ever. It makes me feel safe and cared for and caring. It opens spaces for dialogue that provoke insight and push us forwards towards greater empathy and understanding. It means that I have to think hard about value judgments and what my statements might imply. It means that sometimes I realize I am prejudiced and have to address it. It means sometimes my friends call me out for things I say. It means I actually have to work on myself.
Consequently, I struggle to find people who argue against “political correctness,” who say that we’re all too sensitive and it stops people from speaking the “truth” – and let’s be clear that what they’re arguing against is really just making an effort to be inclusive of others and not undermine them based on factors outside their control like gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc. – as anything other than lazy and selfish.* Maybe they also lack imagination. Kim and I were discussing this the other night, the lack of imagination issue, since law school collects those lovable white bros who think that we’ve made progress and now it’s going too far, or maybe it’s just not totally necessary you know? … Are they really unable to recognize their privilege? Do they really think women or minorities can go a day without trying to understand the world through the position of a white male? Or maybe the issue is an abundance of imagination and they believe we’ve achieved gender parity and ended racism??
I shouldn’t put white men on the spot like this – Trump’s election is almost assuredly the patriarchy’s fault (and economic inequality didn’t help). We’re all human and hurting and we all need to work together to build a more compassionate, open community. It’s idealistic, but I’m not willing to give it up – especially not in the face of white nationalism. And there is some comfort in knowing that Hillary won the popular vote and there are millions that agree. In my dejection two weeks ago I was scoffing at all the #love posts but I guess that’s what it’s about at the end of the day, although it’s a complex love, that is forced to reckon with personal shortcomings and the challenges of living next to one another.
It feels more imperative to be open and sincere generally (#love). It’s the best we have. “Post-truth” is more terrifying to me than Trump. I don’t know how we recover from it. It gives me no comfort that John Herrman, my favourite writer of the internet dystopian narrative, was predicting fake news years ago and is now saying it misdirects from the real issue, that there is no trust in “real” news. Honestly, I’ve been disappointed with the NYT coverage lately; I don’t want to see a front page article on Hamilton tweets – now is the time for substantial pieces. They hyped their meeting with Trump so much, and for what? He just pandered to them like he panders to everyone else. I have no solutions for coverage, but this clearly is not it. The Washington Post seems to be doing better – doing actual investigative reporting instead of reacting to social media posts. I shouldn’t be so hard on the Times, but like, now is not the time for click bait. Click bait is the problem. Click bait brought us to fake news.
In an effort to intellectually engage in something non-election related this week (ok, ok, it’s election-adjacent), I re-read Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (published 1928), which implores women to put their writing out into the world. I couldn’t have been more delighted by how gently she calls out several centuries worth of mansplaining. So sensitive and yet so firm in her conviction for what women need in order to write and write well. I got to the end though and I couldn’t help but think of Marie Henein’s brilliant op-ed in the Globe (published two weeks ago) regarding the visibility of women needed to ensure we one day get a female Prime Minister or President. Eerily they end the same way. Virginia writes: “As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born…she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.” Marie writes: “This is what I would like you to tell your daughters today: engagement on every front is the only answer. It means that young women must participate. I do not care where. I do not care what view you take. I do not care what your political stripes are. I do not care whether I agree with you or not. What I care about is that you are seen. In every boardroom. In every school. In every C-suite. In every political party. Engineer. Artist. Judge. Politician. Doctor. Until you cannot be overlooked. Until seeing you in the highest office anywhere is as normal as breathing. The sky is not falling. It just feels a little darker right now. She is out there. I know it in my core. In some school. On some playground. In some boardroom. She may not even know it yet. And our collective job is to light the path so everyone else can find her.” 90 years and the fight remains.
*Like foragers! Tragedy of the commons is real y’all and this time we’re talking about collective human dignity and casual acts which diminish it!
From the London Review of Books: Is this how democracy ends?
From Foreign Affairs: The globalization of rage
From Mother Jones: Van Jones: “Hope for the Best, Expect and Prepare for the Worst”