The Failure to Listen: Conservatives vs. Liberals

I don’t know how the world got to be so divided. I don’t know how attempts to destroy binaries like ‘white vs. black’ or ‘men vs. women’ has instead resulted in creating an entirely new binary: ‘conservatives vs. liberals’.

And I won’t lie; like most people, I take a side in this binary. I am not an American, but I am very liberal. I believe that all people, regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, whatever it might be, deserves the opportunity to live their fullest life and receive every right that they are entitled to as human beings. This is something that I believe in with all my heart. This is something that I am more than willing to fight or die for if need be. But at the same time, I also believe that every perspective needs to be listened to and understood. I believe that sweeping another person’s perspective under the rug as simply wrong is reductive and unfair, and this is something that both sides of the binary are guilty of right now, and it is creating so many problems.

From the liberal perspective, conservatives are uneducated, stupid, and hateful. From the conservative perspective, liberals are attacking their rights and threatening their freedom to support an agenda that they don’t agree with. From either perspective, the other side of the binary is dangerous.

I have spoken to liberal-minded people who have said that they like talking to conservatives because they’re curious to know what it’s like to be “so wrong.” The problem with thinking like this though is that it’s instantly reductive: you aren’t listening to them because you want to have an actual conversation and make progress between the two of you. You are listening to them to mock their beliefs, leaving you both in the exact same position that you were when you started talking. You haven’t grown. You haven’t learned anything. You just leave them thinking they were an idiot, and they leave you thinking you were a jerk.

And I’ll admit, I have been at fault for thinking this way in the past as well. I’m not perfect. Sometimes, it is really hard for me to see someone verbally abusing a woman who wants an abortion, or telling transgender people that they can’t exist in certain spaces because it makes them uncomfortable. When I see that, it’s very difficult for me to see anything other than blatant ignorance and hate. In order for me to see beyond that, I need to really think about things from their perspective. I need to take the time to remember that this is a person who honestly believes that abortion is murder and transgender people are mentally ill or transgressive from nature. Whether I think they’re wrong or not really doesn’t matter; they think they’re right, and that is important for me to remember if I’m actually going to have a conversation with them.

And the same thing can be said from the opposite perspective as well: it is just as important for conservatives to remember that liberals might have a reason for believing the things that they do, because it is really frustrating for me to have a conversation with someone where I am trying to explain my beliefs and yet I am constantly being told that I’m wrong and that my beliefs are dangerous to your way of life. Maybe I’m not wrong. Maybe you’re not wrong. Maybe the path toward progress can be found somewhere between the two of us, and maybe the only way to find this path is to listen to the other.

The problem nowadays is not liberals, and nor is it conservatives: the problem is that we don’t listen to each other. We are so quick to dismiss the other as wrong that we don’t even stop to consider the possibility that maybe there is no right or wrong here. Maybe there are just people who need to be taken seriously and have their perspectives heard. Or maybe I’m wrong. Who the fuck knows at this point, really? All that I’m trying to say is that we aren’t understanding one another, and when we don’t try to understand, then we turn instead to hate, and there is far too much of that in the world already – we don’t need more. I think that’s something both sides can agree on.

A Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

I am not one of your people. I am a Canadian woman, who will only be affected by the laws you pass in an indirect, ripple-effect sort of way. But I have to admit, the things that you have done and the words that you have spoken have caught my attention, and they have caused me great concern, and not just for myself. I am talking for my fellow humans. For the innocent men and woman who you have intentionally attacked, and whose harm will be on your hands.

I am talking for the woman who feels like she desperately needs an abortion. I don’t know her reason for feeling that way, and really her reason doesn’t matter. All that matters is that, if she feels like she needs it bad enough, then it won’t matter if you’ve made it impossible for her to get one safely or legally. She’ll listen to the man who tells her that “he knows what he’s doing”. She might even try to do it herself. She’ll put her own health and life at risk if she feels like she needs it bad enough, and the physical and emotional damage that that woman will face will be on your hands.

I am talking for the people of colour who now fear stepping outside their own homes because you have spread your hate so widely, that there are now regular men and woman who think that that’s not only normal, but perfectly acceptable. I am talking for the innocent black man who will be beaten in the streets on his way home from a friend’s house. I am talking for the Muslim girl who will have her hijab torn from her head. I am talking for the Mexican immigrants who will have their worth and legitimacy as American citizens openly questioned by people who forget that they’re human beings too. And all of that will be done because you, as not only a public figure but a man in a position that is supposed to be respected, showed your support for it.

I am talking for the disabled people who watched you mock a reporter with arthrogryposis, and felt that all-too familiar sinking feeling in their gut as they remembered, not for the first time, that the world sees them as different. I am talking for the disabled people that now have to live in an America run by a man who has made it clear that he not only doesn’t understand them, but he laughs at them – mocks them publicly, and then doesn’t apologize for it. I am talking for the disabled people that find themselves surrounded by people who now think that it’s okay to look down on them, because their president did it, so why not them? You, Mr. Trump, are the cause for their further alienation.

And I am talking for the women who are raped or sexually violated, because the wrong man heard you say “grab them by the pussy” and saw that as an invitation. I am talking for the women whose consent doesn’t matter as much as yours does – you gave the go-ahead to touch women in any way that men want, and while not every man will hear that and agree, too many might. I am talking for the women who are frightened to exist within their own bodies because you have made it that much more difficult for them to do so.

Now that you’re officially in office and you’ve begun your promised work, I have to say that I am frightened. I am frightened for all of the people that you are going to hurt – and you are going to hurt people, Mr. Trump. You’ve already proven that simply by going after abortion. There is going to be blood and tears on your hands, and I just hope that you can live with that.

But who am I kidding? You won’t live with that. You’ll deny that you’ve caused any harm, or claim that you were rightful in doing it. After all, the damage that you’re causing is too big for one man to carry on his conscience.

An Election Based On Fear (My Reaction to Donald Trump Winning)

I had trouble sleeping last night. My dreams were plagued with visions of the dystopia that the world would potentially become if Trump became president.

Of course, I didn’t really believe it would happen. I had more faith in the human race than that, and I (possibly naively) stand by the old belief that love and reason will always find a way to win out over hatred and fear.

Still, as soon as I woke up, I rushed to my laptop, flung it open, and swallowed down the news with greedy eyes.

Trump had won.

I was stunned. I didn’t understand. Right up until the last moment, I hadn’t even entertained it as a possibility. I mean, yes, there were always people who supported his hate-filled speech, his lack of understanding of the world and the people in it, his outright cruelty at times, but still, I figured that they were a minority. I couldn’t imagine that an entire country would succumb to him. I couldn’t imagine that hatred would win out.

So that left me with one burning, terrible question in mind: how was there so much hate in the world?

Because, no, Hilary wasn’t a perfect solution. She was a flawed candidate, and I understand that, but you cannot tell me that she was ever as bad as Trump. She never outwardly mocked people with disabilities. She never joked about and normalized the sexual harassment and objectification of women. She never promoted the intentional harm of people of colour to the point that she received support from the KKK. A vote for her would not have been a vote for hatred – it would have been a vote for the protection of marginalized people. People who are now in danger. People who now have to worry about their president robbing them of their rights.

So why wouldn’t she receive the majority vote? Why did so many American people hate their fellow man (and woman)?

The question threatened to crush my optimistic view of humanity for a good hour or so, until I took some time to think (and, admittedly, a yoga break), and I came to a conclusion: what emotion accompanies hatred more than fear?

I’ve heard a lot of people compare Donald Trump to Hitler, but it truly is much more apt than I ever realized before. After all, the German people turned to Hitler because they were impoverished and afraid, and that is exactly what the American people are doing now with Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter if what he says is logical. It doesn’t matter if what he says is good or kind. All that matters is that he’s promising change, and so long as that’s the case, then what does it matter what kind of change it is?

But the thing is, Hitler didn’t make things any better for the German people. He only made things worse.

So as much as I can’t agree with America’s decision to elect Trump, I can’t hate people for being afraid. I can’t tell them that their fear is wrong either, because fear is an emotion, and all emotions come from somewhere. But I can say that what the American people need right now is not more fear, handed down through the fat, greedy mouth of Donald Trump. What they need right now is to confront their fear. They need education, because “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft). They need love and compassion. Because, yesterday, fear won. Yesterday, fear took good people and made them do a stupid thing. But fear doesn’t have to keep winning. Regardless of the results of this election, I still believe that people are essentially good, and that we are all just trying to do our best in a really confusing world. And sometimes, along the way, we make mistakes, but we can learn from them. We can do better. We can overcome fear.

So instead of asking why is there so much hate in this world, I say that we ask why is there so much fear? We come up with an answer and we try to fight that fear, because with love, compassion, and education, it is possible.