Compassion, Empathy as cure of Trumpism
By Osmond Ekwueme
Politics should not be put ahead of national interests nor ideology and hate dominate our thinking over everything. Now I am satisfied with someone being on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me, trying to keep in mind that one side in an argument rarely holds all the truth. However, when some people oppose someone or something and then hate it with virulence, that is frightening. For example, when they talk about Hillary Clinton, they will not acknowledge that she has ever done anything worthwhile ever in her life. This isn’t just about her politics; it is everything about her…. like a yard sign that says “Hillary, living proof there’s need for abortion” What an expression of hate. This sort of hatred gives reasonable people no room to come to any sort of compromise on issues, which you will need in a society that has many competing interests but is run by the consensus of the majority. Indeed, after November we will still have a country to share. We need to resist the impulse to be cynical, no matter how tempting that mindset is. Big difference between criticism and cynicism. One can be productive, the other almost never. In case you missed it. Tocqueville’s comment, “America is great because America is good”. This means our moral credibility gives us the advantage. It is the root of American Exceptionalism. American greatness is not about a moment in time when all was hunky-dory. Rather, American greatness is about progress towards a more perfect union. So, when was America great? It’s been great more often than not, but it was certainly great when it fought and sacrificed so much to end slavery and later, the Holocaust. It was great when FDR brought the New Deal. It was great when JFK inspired Americans to explore space and great when LBJ brought the Great Society. And I’d argue, America does need to get back to being great.
The recently concluded 2016 Olympics in Rio proved it too…White Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans competing together and winning medals for USA. It is not wrong that many Americans feel afraid for their future. The problem here is that Trump channels their fear in exactly the wrong way, towards nationalism and xenophobia, which would only make America lesser. Trump is the expression, not the cause, of a fractiousness and incoherence too deep for one election to resolve. Now he is up against things to which he is averse: facts. Yes, temperate Wisconsin rejected Trump, partly for the reason that one of his weakest performances so far was in the reddest state, Utah, where conservative Mormons flinched from his luridness. H i s a c t … . i g n o r a n c e slathered with a congealed gravy of arrogance, has become stale. Please don’t stop with fear and anger as the force behind the Trump supporter. I suppose it is true that support comes overwhelmingly from white males with no college degree, and I can accept that they are fearful and angry. But what gives the fear and anger oxygen is ignorance. Politicians have stroked and stoked the worst elements of this great nation…made the rest ignorant, angry and on the verge of financial ruin. Thus far, that’s worked. They have been manipulated and willing to capitulate for whatever crumbs you offered to keep them afloat. But now they are in revolt and they love Trump, the “blue collar billionaire” a term that makes as much sense as “dry water”. Poorly educated white males have good reason to fear for their well-being, even if their fear is often misdirected. Denying the struggles of white males helps no one; rather it fuels the anger and misunderstanding that gave rise to Trump.
The only way to cure Trumpism is compassion and empathy, not anger. If they really understood all of the policies and economic forces that got them where they are, they wouldn’t continue to support those who have played them for fools, and convince them to vote against their own selfinterests. Do they understand that they are supporting even more tax cuts for the wealthy? No, it’s not just fear and anger. It is a breathtaking level of ignorance. Elie Wiesel…a Holocoust survivor said: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere” and went on to say “Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must… at that moment…become the center of the universe”. Trump supporters find his well-promoted disregard for facts, logic, diplomacy and basic human decency comforting. They are mesmerized by the “wishful thinking fallacy”. That they WANT to be true, MUST be true. And the more the falsehoods get repeated, the more they see it as accruing, compounding evidence of the “truth”. For those people who call themselves Christian and still believe in the falsehoods, they need to go and actually read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Those four books couldn’t be any clearer about who Jesus expected his followers to be.
Dr. Osmond Ekwueme is a physician and public policy analyst based in Wisconsin