Why This Privileged White Male Refuses To Write About The Election

While enjoying a wonderful birthday lunch for Rene’s brother Nick at a swank eatery in Silverlake, (Cliff’s Edge, check it out) it was agreed upon at the outset of our meal that there would be no discussion of the presidential election.  The thickness of the tension was, and is, still in the air and the mood was to be festive…and nothing like raining on the festive parade when addressing issues that deeply divide us.

Of course we then proceeded to have a discussion about NOT discussing the election…kind of a meta-discussion about the lack of discussion.2016-election-logo

I suppose you can throw this article in that same “meta” basket, as this is an article about not writing an article concerning my thoughts on the election.  I actually have several reasons why I do not believe now is good time to throw my political two cents into the social media world, among other places.

To begin this meta-article, in Communication Studies courses the first thing we teach our students is that the most important aspect of the communication process is knowing your audience. It is impossible to tailor a message knowing little to nothing of whom you are attempting to communicate.

Keeping this in mind, judging by the tenor of social media, personal discussions and general observations of life in general at this moment, my audience analysis tells me this: Shut up. Leave it alone. Don’t go there.

Probably the worst thing you could possibly tell an upset, venting woman would be something along the lines of, “Well, you are just on your period,” or, “I guess Aunt Flo is going to be visiting soon.” I believe the reason these statements are not a good idea is obvious…and right now many of us are most definitely on our post election, president-elect periods.

Many people are upset. Even for those pleased with the election result, they are upset about the upset reaction (protests) of the election.  As I write, many local Los Angeles high school students are marching the streets in protest because they are upset, scared, fearful, etc.

When people are upset they are overly emotional. When people are overly emotional, they tend to listen with their hearts and not their heads. When you think with your heart and not your head you cannot objectively and rationally listen. If you cannot objectively and rationally listen, I have no interest in attempting to send you a message.

Please understand this…I could offer my opinion and you could fiercely disagree with it and that would be fine. Wonderful. No problem.  I would love to engage in that thoughtful and rational dialogue. However if that opposition is fueled with a highly emotional rage, I have found that this is not time for a discussion rather it is time for an entirely different, and completely valid, type of communication: Pure expression.

Now is not the time to reason, it is a time to express.

Pure expression is a very good thing…a great thing in fact. Without means by which to blow off steam, vent our feelings and/or verbalize our frustrations, we would all be dangerous psychotic messes.  Although this is my first presidential election that I find myself steeped in social media, I cannot recall the need to vent ever this strong in my lifetime…and I’m 53 1/2.

Please do not interpret my unwillingness to engage in political dialogue as somehow dismissive nor disrespectful. Sometimes the need to vent “Trumps” (did I really just write that?) the need to sit and reason. There are many, many times in my life that I am simply not ready to address an important issue as my personal emotional context is not quite ready for that discussion, whatever the reason driving my emotional  condition may be.

I suppose the final reason I find it counterproductive to discuss the election at this time is something that has been thrown in my face quite a few times this past week and, apparently, I have committed the greatest evil I could possibly have committed: I was born a straight, white male. They tell me this somehow disqualifies me from uttering any word that remotely implies, “Please do not panic.”

“Easy for you to say,” they tell me. “You are a non-Islamic white male.”

If racism is defined as allowing or not allowing a person a basic human right, in this case, freedom of speech, based purely on racial characteristics, well then, this would be racism.

But I get it, periods can be funny that way.

Hey, I can be pretty self-centered at times though I am definitely not that selfish of an ass that I cannot empathize and feel for those unlike me.

I recently told a very scared and fearful former undocumented student of mine, who was brought to this country as a small child and considers this her only country, that I would engage in the most severe form of civil disobedience in the event immigrants are torn from their homes and deported to a country they know nothing about. Yes, this straight, white, privileged male would stand up for an innocent brown person being threatened with deportation against their will.

Regardless of one’s position on immigration, I would hope most citizens of any color, religion, ethnicity or class, would act as decent human beings and stand up against any perceived social injustice as well, even if that injustice is perpetrated against one of a different race.  And I believe the great majority would.

I have never, and will never, pretend to know what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. I will never know what it is like to be a woman and experience objectification or admiration, or a black person in a white neighborhood, or, hell, even a Hispanic in the grocery store. I have no idea of the verbal or nonverbal treatment I would receive. The glares and stares or lack thereof. I have no clue what it is like to be you. And, guess what? That is correct, you have absolutely no idea what it is like to be me.

But, alas, who is really thinking with their head right about now anyway?  I am quite certain that even in this very vanilla blog, someone will take exception with something. Which is why this privileged person will just shut the hell up…for now. And when thine ears are ready to be taught, a teacher will appear, post period of course.

 

jimmysintension

9 Comments

  1. Interesting. My argumentation professor and I just had an extremely long 1v1 talk and this blog sounds a lot like it.

  2. Hey Jimmy,
    I completely understand your stand on this issue. I too have chosen to stop talking about the election. There is way too many emotions flying around right now to have an educated conversation at this point.
    As a product of illegal immigrants, I am somewhat biased on the immigration issue, although I believe I too would just stand up for what’s right regardless of my racial identity. I think white people really get the short end of the stick, when it comes to race. Not to say there isn’t privilege that comes with being born a white male in this country, there are also challenges that I can’t pretend to know on a personal level. I do know that growing up in an area where minorities are the majority, white people always need to be more careful with what they say, as to not be considered racist.
    I’m Mexican American, but I don’t have brown skin, I have colored eyes. Most people who don’t know my last name think I’m white, I haven’t personally experienced racism for being Hispanic. I have however, racism because my kids are mixed with Black. Mostly from Hispanics! And most of these same Hispanics would talk horribly about Trump for being a “racist.” (I’m not going to state my opinion on whether he is or isn’t.) But isn’t this the kettle called the pot black? I believe people need to cut white Americans some slack, not all are ignorant to ignore human injustices. We really need to reflect on what we’re doing as individuals rather than blame politicians/police/government, for all the bad, and more empathic toward different people and their points of views.

  3. Abraham Lincoln one said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Yet we live in a society that has an insatiable appetite to divide individuals and communities for political gain. And it feels as if the country has become more divided than ever. However, we have overcome countless insurmountable challenges over the past 238years as a nation. That being said, we should strive to live the law of reciprocity, which is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. The election is over, and as Justice Sotomayor cautioned “We can’t afford for a president to fail.” And though my vote was one of protest against both major political parties this election, I feel it’s important to not rush to judgment or emotional pander to the fears of our most vulnerable for political or personal gain. In the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” As a father of biracial children I hope that they are permitted the opportunity to grow into a society that is not based on discord and divisive rhetoric because of their race, religion, or their sexual identity, but one that is built on a foundation of impartiality.

    “The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity – or it will move apart.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

    • Great points Beau…yet I believe in the emotional frenzy that is currently taking place even your kind and benevolent words of peace will still fall on emotional deaf ears. Any words that remotely suggest “we can do this” is seen as somehow supporting racism, blah, blah, blah. This is why I believe, unlike many others, to shut up IF it is reasonable and rational dialogue you are looking for. To follow your pattern and modify Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, “Now is NOT the time….for dialogue.”

  4. I too kept out of engaging Facebook friends in political dialogue, debate, argument, etc. Some of the things I saw posted where blatant lies after looking into them and like you, I felt that if the person posting such things felt strongly enough to post such politically charged content, especially if untrue, then reason would likely not prevail (I based that not just on one individual post, but also a multitude of them, sometimes many in the span of just a few hours). Fortunately that type of poster, or “Facebook friend” was the exception and not the rule.

    I’ve been following politics for the past few years, this being the third presidential election I followed closely. From a political standpoint I too have my views and opinions, but do have an understanding of why the “other side” saw it differently. Different folks have different concerns based on their geographic location, religious beliefs, values, socioeconomic status, etc. In-fact I agree with some things from both major political parties but unfortunately this division did not start this election cycle, and I’m afraid it will not end any time soon.

    Working together politically is easier said than done. Some of the same folks calling for that now, did not follow their own advice 8 years ago, and likewise, some of those calling for unity 8 years ago, are now looking to oppose. Politics is a dirty process which brings out the worst in some people, including those seeking the presidency.

  5. Professor Jimmy, like you I have decided not to bring up politics on social media or in personal (face-to-face) casual conversations. I adhere to the wisdom of not talking about religion or politics at the dinner table or when with polite company.

    Your blog gives me an opportunity to briefly speak of the unspeakable. So here it is.

    There are very strong emotions on the polar opposites of the political spectrum where the irrational reside. I believe that most Republicans and Democrats are somewhere closer to the middle. Are we then truly a nation divided? I say no. There are certainly relevant concerns about the unknown but the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is neither an impending apocalypse nor a second coming.

    Simply searching Google and YouTube will find you a plethora of Hispanic and Black supporters of Donald Trump. Wouldn’t that more reasonably explain how he won the electoral college? This is not the phoenix rise of the Confederate States of America from the ashes. This is not the reinstatement of Jim Crow laws. Nor is it the ascendancy of the KKK into power. Simply the majority within the majority of States popularly elected Donald Trump. Including Black and Hispanic voters. That is how it works. Only ethnocentric Californians, Illinoisans, and New Yorkers would believe that only the Popular Vote should count. Get rid of the electoral college? Do you want to get rid of the Senate too? That way our states will always get our way by virtue of being most populous.

    I’m not a “privileged white male” so I’d like to say it… everyone “please don’t panic.” For or against Donald Trump, everyone please stay calm.

  6. Re: angry young liberals: Essentially what we’re dealing with is what happens when the first generation of kids raised almost entirely on the self-esteem movement, participation trophies, and an “everyone’s a winner” attitude, who’ve spent the last eight years being told by the White House, the mainstream media, and leftist academics that they’re perfect, can do no wrong, and the sun shines out their ass, finally loses in the real world.

    Of course, to the surprise of no-one some of these protests have turned riotous, and that’s obviously a problem, and of course these young leftists should obviously be able to peaceably assemble- it’s one of the most cherished rights safeguarded for us by the constitution, right up there with free speech and the second amendment- but essentially they’re not actually protesting anything President-elect Trump has done; how could they? He’s not even been sworn in yet! They’re protesting the fact that he was elected at all. I’d just like to point that there weren’t thousands of republicans storming the streets in 2008 or 2012 simply because Obama was elected. We waited until there were actual policies that could be protested. But there’s one thing that’s glaringly, breathtakingly obvious to everyone but the young protesters in question: the kind of crap they’re pulling is exactly what cost them the election in the first place.

    It’s really just the latest iteration of the kind of petulant, hysterical, overreacting, holier-than-thou toxic leftism that’s been growing steadily more prevalent and exponentially more obnoxious since shortly after the end of the Bush administration, and it’s left us with a generation of left-leaning teens and twenty-somethings who thought -who actually thought- that they didn’t need to argue with the other side in good faith. They honestly believed that all they needed was the kind of smug, intolerant political correctness where they could slander to hell and back, without evidence, anyone they disagreed with and they would win, and not have to face any consequences.

    Well it turns out that in reality, screaming “agree with me now, or you’re a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot!” isn’t really a compelling argument in the best of times, and even less so when that agreement means staring down the barrel of one of the most corrupt, most schoolmarmish, and most gratingly PC candidates the democrat party has ever nominated. So now the consequences have finally arrived, and the left has been defeated at every level. They’ve lost the white house, failed to take back the senate or house of representatives, and stand a good chance of the supreme court being out of their reach for a generation.

    The amazing thing is that in the face of all this, a large number of them have learned nothing. They’re actually doubling down. There was a chance, for a split second, for the left in this country to do some introspection, to look inward with some serious critical self evaluation, and maybe, just maybe, change their ways and make the national conversation less toxic- and they totally blew it! If I sound at all frustrated by this, I’m really not, because it turns out when the left acts like this, it winds up being great for republicans. So the next time I encounter a sad, angry young liberal, I’ll encourage them to keep on keepin’ on, hopefully right on up to the midterm elections, and if I’m really, really lucky, they’ll ride the crest of their own backlash right off a cliff.

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