America in Trump's Image
We all know that there has been so much outrage on both sides in this election, that it's difficult to sort fact from fiction, and it's difficult to curb our emotions and be rational. We ARE heading into uncharted waters with an unqualified leader, but a lot of what we're scared of is trumped up (pardon the pun).
The racism, xenophobia, misogyny, favoritism, and other failings we're attributing to Trump aren't all Trump, even if they exist in more than our indignation. They are America.
We've been coasting along for some time now, especially under Obama's presidency, thinking we're doing pretty well. We're the strongest, richest, smartest, most successful country. Aren't we? Or do we sound just like Trump, puffing ourselves up for our own satisfaction? We are the richest? Aren't we also the most in debt? Trump has a few bankruptcies. How do they compare with us raising the debt ceiling?
Trump treats women like sex objects. Surprise -- so does most of the world. Trump says what he thinks people want to hear. He didn't make up that habit. Trump thinks he can fix the corruption in Washington. Who's to say he can't? He's certainly not the first person to want to do it.
I'm not a Trump fan, and I particularly dislike his use of Twitter to publicize childish comments and opinions. But when I look at Trump, I have to recognize that on many levels, he's an accurate reflection of America. We hate looking at the ugly truth just under the surface in our culture, just like Trump hates being criticized. But if we don't look at it, that doesn't mean it isn't there.
We are racist. We are isolationist. We are wary of people who are different in any way, whether in ethnicity or gender identification or fashion statements or food choices. We want to be right. We want to be best. We want to win.
As much as we demand Trump take a good hard look at himself and start the hard work of leading us with integrity, diplomacy, and fairness, we have to look at ourselves as well, and recognize that we aren't anywhere near as evolved as we like to pretend we are. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Click the image to access source -- a satirical article on the same subject.
Yesterday, a dear friend posted on Facebook that she was angry because Obama was badmouthing Trump and America in his speech in Germany. I looked up the speech and tried to find any negative comments, but the closest I heard was "concern." I'm a fan of Obama and she's not. She voted for Trump and I don't think he's qualified. But we care about each other and accept our different political opinions.
The situation made me wonder, though, whether she was hearing an accurate broadcast of the speech? I still don't know what he said to upset her, and I'm still trying to find out. I'm one of those freaks who digs at an issue until I fully understand it. This may take a while.
Social media is becoming the window to the world for a huge chunk of the population. It's the easiest way to interact and to find out what people are talking about. But it isn't "the news." The ability for anyone to publish anything they like, regardless of truth, is a huge problem facing the education and enlightenment of America. The problem is exacerbated by selective feeds, from social media and from trusted news outlets -- they suggest the news they think we want to see based on our previous choices. (Obama mentioned this is his speech yesterday.)
When I do a Google search, I want to see unbiased information. I want my Facebook newsfeed to show me everything going on in my community and with my friends, not just the stuff I like. But that's not how they work. The result is that we have to question EVERYTHING we read and hear.
Here are some pointers to identify biased, satirical, and otherwise untrue statements, compiled by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts.
Tips for analyzing news sources:
If you're a Chrome user, here's an extension that will notify you when your news is coming from one of the not-always-the-truth sites, including humor, satire, and opinion pieces: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/fake-news-alert/aickfmgnhocegpdbfnpfnedpeionfkbh
Please judge and share news responsibly. It's more important now than ever.
Indignation: anger caused by something that is unfair or wrong.
Righteous indignation: retribution, retributive justice; anger and contempt combined with a feeling that it is one's right to feel that way; anger without guilt.
Dignity: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
I know I'm in good company since the election, feeling anger over the outcome. I would even go so far as to claim righteous indignation, and that's where I need to check myself.
Indignation is important. When we see or experience injustice, cruelty, and blatant wrongdoing, we need to take a stand, speak up, demand solutions. Sometimes that means prosecuting and imprisoning, but other times it may be as simple as an apology and behavioral change. Our country is based on our ability to call one another on our errors and on our ability to try harder and do better. Our system believes we all have goodness and potential and the ability to grow and change.
Righteous indignation takes all that a little too far. It ignores our own part in a problem. It lays blame without offering solutions or compromise. It adds to divisiveness. It doesn't require any constructive action. I think when I choose righteous indignation, I may be choosing the lazier path.
When we feel conflict and observe injustice, we have to remember that our power to effect change lies entirely within ourselves. Throwing tantrums and blaming others achieves nothing. Our responsibility is to stop, think, and adjust our own actions to facilitate societal growth.
I would love to say that Trump represents everything that's wrong with this country, but that's irresponsible. Trump is a consequence of what's wrong with this country. I don't like the man, I have no respect for him, and I'm embarrassed that our country's role in the international community has gone from benevolent powerful leader to insensitive bully. Trump has a fundamental inability to care about people, and that defies our identity as a nation, an identity that it was already pretty tough to maintain.
But I can't afford to sit back and bash Trump and say it's not my fault. It IS my fault, and it's yours, and we have to change our own behavior to keep this from getting any worse. I consider myself an activist, but I don't always know who all my elected representatives are. I don't go to many government meetings. I write a few letters, but that's not enough anymore. We have to start putting our backs behind our convictions. It's time to get involved.
This is the time, more than ever, to read up on our government representatives. It's not OK to sit back and think if we elected someone in our own party, everything should be fine. We have to follow the path of each piece of legislation. We have to research who is putting money into each fight. We have to know the voting records of our representatives -- federal, state, and local -- and we have to let them know when we support them and when we take issue with their opinions.
Indignation, when it is an active stance against injustice, a hard-working commitment to effecting change, is a positive and important part of our society. But when it becomes self-righteous, violent, blaming without accepting complicity, it only makes wrong worse. To preserve the dignity of one another, to create a more perfect union, we the people have to act. We cannot afford to simply claim that we the people are free. We the people have to own, nurture, build, and fight for our freedom. Being we the people is not a gift. It's a privilege that requires maintenance, vigilance, and work.
The Cake Metaphor
Enough of politics -- we voted, we need to trust the people we elected to do the right thing, and we're grateful for a system of checks and balances. But what we've learned about our society is a whole different ball of wax -- or slice of cake, to create a segue.
I'm a baker, so let's talk cake. In the late 1700s, some strong people with strong opinions about government fought the establishment cake of England and baked their own cake. They didn't have all the fancy mixers and pans and ovens that England did, but they put together a pretty decent cake, all the same.
For a hundred years, people worked on that cake, adding good stuff to it, adding bad stuff to it, messing with it in any number of ways. After the civil war and as we neared the 20th century, they started adding icing. The industrial age came. America became the land of opportunity. Cars! Airplanes! The bold, adventurous American spirit iced that whole cake and made it look beautiful. There were some nasty bits underneath, but it LOOKED good, and we were proud of it.
Another hundred years later, and there are some thin spots where the icing has been licked off, and you can see that the cake underneath isn't just kind of nasty, it's actually quite rotten in some places. But we did a big, bold thing. We elected an African-American president. It was like dumping a whole new batch of icing on the cake. With sprinkles. It looked great! We were quite smug, even though we knew, in that back of our minds, that there was something rotten underneath.
We got a woman candidate. Women all around the world felt proud and empowered. She wasn't just any woman. She was a highly qualified, strong woman with potential to keep that cake looking good. She was the pretty pink icing roses. Not everybody likes pretty pink roses, but many of us thought she looked great on top of that cake.
Then we got a knife. Some people think the knife is shiny and good and it's going to rip open that cake and show it like it is, good or bad. Others think the knife is dangerous. It has no respect for the icing. And if we didn't entirely believe that the icing would make the cake good, at least we knew there was something sweet going on. But he has no appreciation of the icing. He wants to expose the cake and throw away all the icing. Some people even see the knife as a gun, and believe he's going to just shoot the cake into smithereens, and we're all doomed.
The problem, as I see it, is that once exposed, the cake, already in pretty bad shape -- worse shape than we could see because of all that nice icing -- will rot and fall apart a lot faster without the icing. The icing of tolerance. The icing of women's rights. The icing of respect for one another's differences. The icing of a nation that welcomes "your wretched refuse, yearning to breathe free." The cake, without icing, is crumbling. It has nothing to hold it together. It becomes chaos.
Now icing people want to make more icing. But the cake people don't want to be iced. They don't want to be pushed together or hidden or limited. And no matter how much icing the icing people make, they can't get it to stick to the cake again.
Please don't read partisan politics into this analogy. Icing people of both parties and non-parties want to heal the cake, or at least keep it together. The cake was fundamentally good, but there were so many rotten bits hidden in it, that are just now seeing the light of day, that it was dying inside while we were looking at the pretty sprinkles.
We may have to do some serious kitchen cleaning and revamp this whole cake thing. We may have to go all the way back to the original recipe (constitution) and build another cake. Some people are talking about making different sizes and shapes of the layers. We can do that if we have to. We're still America, and America was, and still can be, a really good baker.
I've taken a stand to represent the marginalized in the Portland area -- the hungry children, the runaway teens, the victims of sexual predators, the homeless, the hardworking-but-illegal immigrants, the sexually different, the non-Christian, the brave people who live with integrity outside of the main stream. So it's important that I stay positive, that I focus on the job at hand, that I express hope and courage and faith in the basic decency of humanity.
But honestly? I'm discouraged this morning. I know some people voted for Trump because they believe he will do a good job leading our country, but I also know a lot of people voted for him because they believe the many lies expressed in this campaign, and that hurts. I'm discouraged that a public servant of 30 years, the most qualified candidate we've seen in a century or more, a woman who has worked for equality and fairness her entire adult life, fell victim to dramatic rhetoric, mob mentality, and a blatant disregard for truth.
The sun came up this morning. The sun will rise again tomorrow. I'm thankful that our forefathers designed a system of government that divides power and includes checks and balances. America will carry on. But honestly, I'm terribly disappointed we let this opportunity slip through our fingers -- the opportunity to elect an extremely qualified candidate, to make history with our first woman president, to place decency and respect over personal glory, to continue a democratic trend that provides opportunity and support to those who need it most.
Honestly, though, I also have to remember that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. That we are free to make mistakes as well as to succeed. Honestly, I'm encouraged by Trump's acceptance speech that contained no judgment, no racial slurs or disrespect toward any group, no lies, no drama. His speech last night was the first responsible thing I've seen him do.
Honestly, I still have hope, courage, and faith in the basic decency of humanity. We still have the freedom to care.
I'm a member of a secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation. It started as an idea to wear pantsuits on Nov. 8th in support of electing our first female president. I guess the group isn't all that secret, because in less than two weeks it has over a million members.
I'm not writing about this group to proclaim a political stand (although I do support Clinton and abhor Trump). I'm writing about this amazing support and celebration of women.
Women are posting their stories of abuse, of rape, of being passed over for men, of being seen as sex objects first and capable humans second. Stories of marriages in which, after nearly 100 years of having the right to vote, women are still expected to stand beside (or behind) their husbands. Of being unwanted children because their parents valued boys more. Of being blamed for their abuse because of their dress or attitude or naivete. Of having to work twice as hard for less money at the office, while also being responsible for the home and the family.
Women are sharing stories of voting with their grandmothers, of the history of women fighting for equality, of daughters voting for the first time and casting that vote for a woman. Sharing the history of women's suffrage, of the nearly 70 years of fighting, being jailed, being scoffed at, being called un-feminine, being treated like criminals because we believed we're as important as men and should have a voice.
This Facebook group is a voice. It's pride and courage and support. It's love for one another and a common cause. It's shared pain and shared joy and a shared vision for a future in which women's priorities shape society -- community building and families and education, peace and freedom and equality. It's women of all ages and ethnicities and backgrounds, and even some men and some Republicans. It's everybody who believes that staying positive and hopeful, and that banding together for the common good, will help us create the future we dream of.
Pantsuit Nation, a secret that we all hope won't stay secret, is the very best of social media. If you're a Hillary supporter and want a positive, supportive, uplifting community, let me know and I'll invite you into this group. But shhhhh ... it's a secret.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.