ramblings from a body of somekind

Extending the olive branch

November 14, 2020

  • politics

It is the year 2016, and Barack Obama’s presidency is over. A man who - at least when seen in the media - seemed as cool, calm, and collected as one can be. His administration helped the US recover from a significant recession and introduced a bill that made healthcare cheaper for Americans. But that is not the focus - the real focus is the new presidential elect.

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Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

Hillary Clinton is set to be the next Democratic successor - someone who, at least with some brief US political history would say was a “safe” choice for the Democratic National Committee. Also, the first female US President after the first Black president would be historic.

On the Republican party, all the political candidates have boiled down to one person - Donald Trump. Surely this is a ruse, right? The man is saying incredibly offensive things - it is racist, sexist, ableist - the list goes on. At the same time, it looks like The Apprentice is about to be renewed, so I figure this is some stupid stunt gone incredibly awry. However, the man really believes it - he is convinced he will be the next US President. He cannot be - a man whose words and actions so far have been so insanely cruel and polarising. Surely nobody could vote for this man.

It is the year 2020, 4 years of Donald Trump’s Republican administration.

It has been… chaotic.

The 4 years started off with Trump claiming the size of the crowd on his inauguration was the biggest. That Hillary Clinton rigged the election that he won. Also, some incredible claims about building a wall around Mexico to stop the “illegals” from coming over the border.

The 4 years wrapped up with the largest pandemic in recent times with the US being amongst the top 3 countries with the highest death rate due to Trump spending his time blaming China for the coronavirus disease rather than implementing a solution to control the spread of the virus.

Black Lives Matter
By John Lucia, CC BY 2.0, Link

There was also civil unrest when a black man, George Floyd, was killed due to police brutality. Trump’s answer to the civil unrest? Send more armed police officers. It only made the Black Lives Matter movement even larger, as news media got to see police brutality unfold right in front of their very eyes, and hence the public did too. One mild example (and I mean mild) is a black CNN reporter was arrested on live TV before he was later released.

Lastly, Donald Trump lost the next presidential term to Joe Biden - the Democrat running for president - due to claiming postal voting would lead to fraud. Meaning his voters would avoid voting by postal and instead either vote in another means or waive voting. This also meant that people who wanted a Democrat president took advantage of the postal vote in droves. Trump’s plan was to claim the postal votes were fraudulent and try to use legal action to stop the votes, but it turned out the US judges would repeatedly throw these claims out due to insufficient proof of voter fraud.

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

I have not even talked about the Mueller Report, which talks about Russian Interference in US elections, how his family were directly involved with his government (Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, for example) despite massive conflicts of interest, the constant ridicule against other countries like North Korea in order to start a war, how that wall he kept banging on about never actually materialised because he had to beg Mexico to keep quiet about not funding a wall designed to keep them out, and we have not even talked about the Nazis at Charlottesville, that car attack, and how Trump claimed there were “fine people on both sides”. And that still does not cover everything.

Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, made their official speech proclaiming their victory to become the 46th President of the United States. Lots of things were touched upon in Biden’s speech.

Joe Biden official portrait 2013
By David Lienemann - White House (V011013DL-0556), Public Domain, Link

One of the memorable things was how he made a point to address how the black community helped him secure votes and how he was in debt to the black community. He also made a point to address transgender people in his speech. Both of those things are incredibly progressive, even for a Democrat in America, and it made for a heart-warming moment to see someone in power reaching out to minorities rather than casting them aside.

The other thing that stuck out. It is something I keep hearing leaders say (except for Trump, who revelled in the dissension) every time they win a tough election. He said the following:

But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.

That is a wonderful thought, that. To put away the harshness of the 4 years and try to let the American public come together. Hell, there was even a tweet by @ianbremmer who said the following on the 7th November 2020:

Now is the time for every Biden supporter to reach out to one person who voted for Trump. Empathize with them. Tell them you know how they feel (you do, from 2016). Come up with one issue you can agree on.

Interesting. Note the political direction of the outreach - Democrat to Republican rather than the reverse. And normally, this would make some sense given how Democrats won the election and Republican voters must be feeling pretty upset about it. In a normal political climate, this would make a lot of sense.

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Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When Trump won, the common rhetoric was “Fuck your Feelings” - in fact, you can Google “Fuck Your Feelings 2016” and Google Images will show you an array of different Trump clothing merchandise as well as these two who wore said merchandise to a rally. It says something that one of the search results is a Quora forum post asking ‘What do Trump supporters mean when they say, “fuck your feelings”?‘.

This does not come from nowhere. An article by The Atlantic makes a special point that both Trump and his supporters revel in the acts of cruelty. The article lists quite the list of incredibly cruel things the Trump administration have said and done over the years, and yet it is not an exhaustive list.

If you look at the responses to @ianbremmer’s tweet, you can see they are overwhelmingly negative. It is unlikely you are wondering why.

I lived out in a shared house where each of the rooms were rented off a few years ago. It was incredibly cheap living accommodation and despite a few… characters… it was OK being in a house with 4 other people. One of them was a man who I will call Nigel for the sake of this post.

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Photo by Hernan Lucio on Unsplash

Nigel was in his 80s when he lived in the same accommodation as me, and he was a nice person. He was a bit of a character in his own right, but nothing that would be offensive, mean spirited, or dreadful. He mostly had a good chat with housemates just to keep himself entertained and kept himself to himself.

It was 2017, and the UK was about to have a general election. This was because the Prime Minister at the time - Theresa May - had took on the job after her predecessor - David Cameron - put a referendum to the country to decide whether the UK should stay or leave the EU (i.e., Brexit). You may be aware at the results of that election. You may also be aware at how well Brexit is going as of current writing in November 2020.

At the time, it was summertime, and it was close to election time. As much as I liked my housemates, I had two rude habits - closely following politics, and talking about politics to anyone who was close to me. This often meant I would talk to my housemates about politics.

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Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

One day I told Nigel my fears at how many people were seriously going to vote for the Conservatives that election given how they really mismanaged the whole Brexit thing, and that Brexit was going to be this unsolvable nightmare (just how does one go about tear apart 30 years of rules, laws, and special benefits and have a replacement to the EU in a year or two?).

Like you dear reader, Nigel twigged that I was not a fan of the Conservatives and that I might vote Labour (for anyone who has trouble following, the Conservatives are like the Republicans, and Labour are like the Democrats). He seemed nervous to speak as he did not really see things that way - from his point of view and the newspapers he read, it seemed Theresa May was ready to get us this Brexit we were offered. But once he got his first point across and noticed I did not fall on the floor and smash into a million pieces but instead was curious about his explanation, he did not mind explaining his points.

He explained that when he was a young man, before the UK was in a coalition with the EU, the UK had trade deals with Australia which he would like to see come back and be strengthened like it used to be. He also mentioned that he would like to see stronger trade to places like India and China.

Now, I am far too young to know if the above is true or not, and I am far too lazy to verify if it is true, but on a surface “in the moment” level, it like seemed and felt genuine point he wanted to raise. Unlike many others who I had read about and heard on the radio, here was a man who genuinely wanted to get out of the EU so the UK could strengthen its trade with other countries.

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“Theresa May visits Al Madina Mosque” by UK Home Office is licensed under CC BY 2.0

And then he admitted he did not really believe either parties are honest, but the Conservatives were speaking his language more than Labour did, which was “let us have a second referendum to really make sure!!!“. For someone who wanted to get out of the EU, that was not a very compelling argument to him.

I am not so naïve to believe much of the UK who voted for Brexit voted purely because they wanted to strengthen trade. Lots of people in the Brexit camp did it for incredibly awful, racist reasons. After the EU referendum went to Brexit, there was “record levels of hate crime” in the UK with even Wales had experienced racism post Brexit. Some people codified it under “immigration” thinking that once immigration laws in the UK tightened up, then the immigration police will come in a van and rip “non-British” people out of their homes and deport them, leaving the UK land to British White people. But others have used immigration to mean something else.

At the same time, there have been a lot of people who have been suckered in with false lies and promises in the media who have now started to realise that Brexit is not all what it is supposed to be. There is this call on a public radio called LBC in the UK where a man calls in to apologise and breaks down crying doing so after realising the consequences of his actions. It is a heart-breaking moment as you realise this man genuinely thought he was doing some good, but he realises very quickly that it is the complete opposite. And he is not even the first person to have this realisation.

There are obviously great parallels between Brexit and Trump winning the US election. I would wager a fair number of people from the Trump/Brexit bandwagon are in situations where they are facing great hardships and are just lashing out at a system that they think is stacked against them and/or the people they love.

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Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Regarding the point about immigrants being a scapegoat for something else - a video about Brexit opinions in Lincolnshire by The Guardian shows something incredible - the first thing the people you notice is that most of the people who voted for Brexit are the elderly. Secondly, they start of talking about Brexit in terms of the usual talking point - but as soon as the conversations start to unfold, there are some key things that become known:

  • These people feel like theirs, their children, and their grandchildren’s living standards have dropped drastically.
  • A lot of these individuals are concerned with how their children’s/grandchildren’s career prospects have diminished over time.
  • They feel like their children/grandchildren’s career prospects are due to immigrants coming over and taking jobs that their children and/or grandchildren could have, while the younger generation clearly have no qualms about immigrants and see their jobs as the kind of labour work they have little desire to partake in.
  • In one moment in the video, a man mentions about how he feels like Londoners are taking away a lot of British people’s facilities and prospects while living in their own world.

Once you strip away the whole immigration thing and get to the root of the argument, it does not really become this racist/sexist tirade but actual genuine qualms with the way the country is being run and the fears and worries about their children’s future. Immigration seems like the solution due to everything that is printed in tabloid newspapers - the fast food of news and journalism.

And when the Brexit campaign was filled with promises of giving the NHS money, reducing immigration, and “taking back control,” is it any wonder why these people voted in the masses to leave the EU? These people are rarely ever heard but are often vilified by the media when things do go wrong. Why would they trust the establishment after everything they go for? If only there was a political party that was run by someone who did not seem like a London elite, but a person who you could meet down the bar and have a cigarette with, but also has a simple solution to all your problems… oh wait.

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“Nigel Farage” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The past four years has been exceptionally tough on lots of people. No doubt that people who align themselves left-wing politically like me found the past four years absolutely excruciating.

But at the same time, I am sure there are others who pride themselves on their politically conservative opinions who found the past 4 years as rough as I did for their own personal reasons. There are people who do not really care about politics, but they felt like the party could help their family out, regardless of the baggage. I can imagine some are ashamed of speaking out, and they really would like that olive branch to extend and to just feel like a person who is equally frustrated with the current situation like we all are.

It is especially frustrating when it is always people on the left who is left with the responsibility with extending the olive branch out to the people on the right - and it is always the people on the left who must take the high road of decency. But then again, if I were not politically inclined and voted for someone who I thought was saving the economy but ended up having tantrums on Twitter and boasting about crowd size, I think I would be too embarrassed to tell anyone who I voted for. Hell, I would live in a state of denial for years.

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Photo by C Drying on Unsplash

It is tough, because it is hard to gauge whether the person who voted for Trump (or Brexit for that matter) is someone who had misplaced enthusiasm for the movement vs someone who actively thinks less of the “other” - whoever the “other” is - to such a radical extent.

I personally cannot and will not speak to anyone who thinks less of another human being based on their race, their sexuality, their religion, their creed (or lack of), their political position, country, or quite frankly any other metric like that. We are all human beings, and we all deserve to be treated with a basic level of respect.

Cancel culture is a phrase that has been talked about by many in recent years, but I can attest to my shitty teenage years that it was always a thing. Or, more accurately, it was people refusing to interact to me to avoid my shitty behaviour.

For years, I would wonder why people would stop spending time with me. I used to keep thinking back and thinking to myself “no, I did not do anything wrong. People just cannot take a joke.” Always a variation of excuse to slot in that missing gap inside of me, hoping it would make sense. When I only had myself and nobody else to reach out to, all I had were my thoughts and my memories - as distorted as they were from receiving backlash.

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Eventually the penny drops after reading, listening, and seeing other people and their experiences. Things start to click about how others feel and how my actions affect others, and I start to grow as a person. I now try to be very wary about how others are feeling and think about how what I say could affect them, because in the end it is not worth offending others just to get a kick, and I barely get a kick from seeing others being hurt by what I say. It is not a good feeling to have.

None of this would have happened if people carried on and acted like my behaviour was okay. If my friends pretended what I was doing was okay, I never would have taken the time to evaluate my behaviour and force myself to change. And I should make it clear that this revelation was not overnight - it took years, and I had a lot of internal baggage to fight through to see things clearly, but it was worth going through to be the person who I am today. I am exceptionally proud of the person who I am today, but at the same time I know there is always room to improve.

I would strongly encourage others to avoid speaking to others who show the abusive behaviour mentioned . The whole notion that “this is cancel culture” and that “you are going out of your way to silence important voices” is complete crap. Especially when that voice is the singular voice of intolerance, chipping away at other people’s rights. Intolerance does not deserve its place on the table.

Who knows, maybe the person on the other side will grow from the experience. Maybe not, but that is not on you. It is on them.

My issue lies not with the average person who was involved in the electoral process. For better or for worse, they took part with their own beliefs, wishes, and fears. My biggest problem is the institutions that actively encourage and encourage the division amongst the people - that encourages this sort of tribalism that pits us against each other.

Media sensationalism by pundits trying to make a few bucks by saying outrageous stuff for higher clicks which in turn means higher ad revenue. Social media, who actively make money through ads (seeing a pattern?) from keeping us in a state of constant infighting and drama. Follow this stuff enough and you could believe your fellow person genuinely hates you.

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“Daily Star on immigration” by secretlondon123 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I have seen comments on social media that people who voted for Biden will absolutely refuse to extend an olive branch for Trump supporters. Their reasoning is often the said “Fuck your feelings” and “owning the libs” mentality which made it incredibly frustrating, upsetting, and non-constructive for people to extend the olive branch.

Like I said, it is understandable and reasonable for those people who exude the “fuck your feelings” attitude to not have an olive branch set out for them, at least until their behaviour improves.

However, there are people whose political institutions are failing them, and by not digging deeper hearing those voices we are going to run into the same political problem that we have been running into often. Someone in a political position can say enormous amounts of lies, but if they say the something that emotionally resonates and looks the part, those unheard people have no choice but to vote the person who are at least attempting to listen to the unheard voices. Even if they eventually get politically played against their own interests.

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

The olive branch needs to be done mainly by politicians and activists, and they need to strongly consider going across parties, extending olive branches, and listening to everyone’s voices if they want to avoid any more disasters.

But if we make the effort to try to understand each other, then there is also the possibility that we can fight for each other and raise voices for others that might go unnoticed.

A blog by rootfs.ext2.gz. He has opinions and things. Maybe follow him on Mastodon or Twitter? But, you know, only if you actually enjoy any of this.