Over this last week, and indeed year, we have had reason to question our faith in humanity, and question the decision making and moral compass of our fellow human beings. On Wednesday November 9th, something that we never thought would come to pass was realised, the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States – a man whose campaign was littered with policies and statements that were racist, misogynistic, abusive, discriminated against disabilities, advocating of war crimes and demonstrated a general intolerance of anyone who was not similar in every way to the Donald. Should we be shocked at Donald Trump for holding such views? Probably not – he represents a way of thinking that used to fly back in the day, and Donald is a hangover, an embarrassing reminder of the norm of a bygone era that we are proud to have moved away from (or so we thought).
However, should we be shocked that the people of the United States (of which 51% are women) elected a man who jokes about touching women’s genitals without consent, mocks people with disabilities, and suggests that if he shoots a person in the ghetto that he won’t lose a single vote? Yes, that is surprising.
The old, angry white man is a thing – it’s fortunately dying out, but it’s still a thing. The casually racist, homophobic, “get women back in the kitchen” type of man does exist, but fortunately not in numbers large enough to single-handedly elect the next leader of the free for white men world. For this to happen, for Donald Trump to become leader of the free world, other people had to vote for him too, including the very people to whom he demonstrated contempt and disrespect during the campaign. Women voted for Trump, the working classes, the middle class, people of different cultures, religions. Why? Because Trump was an anti-establishment candidate. People have grown tired of the status quo, and want change for changes sake. He has campaigned on the promise of change, and change is exactly what America (and the rest of the world) is going to get, for better or for worse. He also was a beneficiary of the outdated electoral college system which effectively gives someone from Wisconsin 4 votes for every Californian’s single vote (to name one example). This system definitely needs to change – if we truly believe in equality and democracy, then we owe it to everyone to fix this. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, by a 1,000,000 margin out of the 100,000,000 who voted or a 1% win over Trump. This shows a country that is deeply divided, with almost half the country voting for Trump, and slightly more voting for Clinton, but neither being the clear victor.
Let’s give Trump the benefit of the doubt for a moment – let’s make an assumption that he is going to take this new responsibility seriously, and genuinely do his utmost to be an inclusive and rational President who calls for peace and calm (something which we have no assurance will happen, and evidence to the contrary). Despite assuming this, we still have a United States that is deeply divided – an “us” and “them”.
There’s all of “us” – the people who wanted Hillary Clinton and/or anyone who wasn’t Donald Trump to win. We wanted someone who values diversity of gender, culture, sexual orientation, spirituality; someone who respects and understands how diversity enriches our society. We want someone who values socialism and working collaboratively with other people for the greater good rather than for individual capitalist gain – we’re the people who like things like state healthcare, welfare and education. Then there’s “them” – who we can have a tendency to see as essentially everybody else. It can be hard to accept that so many people do not appear to share the values that we feel are not only morally right, but also common sense, and we can have a tendency to tar everyone with the same brush and see people who voted for Brexit and for Trump as bigots, and feel that our sentiments of love and inclusion for humankind are a minority view (which I actually don’t think they are)..
Of course, some of them will be bigoted, and it can be hard to change these people’s minds, but I would suggest that most of the people who voted for Brexit and for Trump are actually fairly ordinary people such as you and I who didn’t think through the fact that they were endorsing bigotry when they voted Brexit/Trump. However, unlike you and I, they have succumbed to fear from the constant rhetoric that people who are different to us pose a constant threat to our well-being and our way of life. People who had a higher level of education did not vote in a way that suggested they have succumbed to this fear, for education encourages one to think for oneself and to challenge what we see and hear. Similarly, younger generations voted for inclusiveness and diversity, as this is how we have been raised and live our lives – we see our similarities, and we celebrate, not fear, our differences. That’s not to say that all those in the older generations don’t see it too – after all, our parents generation raised us this way so they should share in the credit too. This also gives me a lot of hope, that after a generation of politics, we will begin seeing leaders come through that are more representative of how younger people voted as we become older, raise responsible offspring and take office. Let’s not get disheartened by the state of affairs globally and in doing so, lose our passion for people and desire for leadership that reflects that. From a New Zealand perspective, should we not begin to see that leadership come through at the next election in 2017, with greater emphasis on achieving equality (not only for gender, but across the board), increasing healthcare, and reducing the things that create hardship and division such as poverty, then, I will give serious consideration to running for elected office myself in 2020.
Which brings me to my main point. Love. Let’s not lose faith in humanity, let’s demonstrate our love for humanity. The vast majority of people are good people – there are always a few people who have selfish motives, but I believe these are far outnumbered by the people on our planet who have an innate desire to love one another and co-operate with one another. Yet some of these people have been sucked in by propaganda and genuinely fear the world is out to do them harm, and they have naively sought to protect themselves by voting for Brexit or voting for Trump (a move which coincidentally will do little to protect them from what they fear). It would be easy to lump these people in with those who demonstrate genuine hate for other people, but would be wrong to do so – fear and hate are two distinctly different emotions. It’s sad that we’ve reached a point in our history where people feel such fear from their fellow man and woman that they vote for a government that seeks to close borders, and seek to establish monocultural nations – it’s happening in Britain and the States, it had an influence on Australia’s general election this year, with France and Germany seeing far-right politicians poised to be serious contenders for office in 2017.
Let’s fix that. Let’s take stock of what’s happened, understand why it’s happened, but then we need to dust ourselves down, and continue to demonstrate our unfaltering love for one another. We’ve already seen this week in New Zealand how acts of love trump acts of hate following the devastating earthquake in the early minutes of Monday morning. People innately began to co-operate with one another, and were quick to admonish and express their disgust at those who lacked compassion by looting people’s homes. One family had many of their possessions stolen and their house ransacked whilst they evacuated it during a tsunami threat. The community responded with love – people generously replacing items that had been taken and perfect strangers donated their own money to the family. These acts of love and kindness far outweighed the initial act of hate, and demonstrate that love is all around, particularly when the going gets tough. To quote Selena Gomez, we need to kill em with kindness. Show people who are fearful that they are misguided, by just being yourself – a loving, inclusive, welcoming human being. As for those with genuine hate, again demonstrate love. They will most likely still not like you, in fact, they will probably still despise you, but there will be little escaping the fact that they are in the minority, and that they are in the wrong and at odds with most of humanity, and with a bit of luck, the angry white man will be an endangered species very quickly.
Perhaps once that happens and that they realise most people don’t actually agree with their values, and that they have no mandate to dole out hate, rather that people voted for the same candidate as them for a vastly different reason (propaganda-induced fear), perhaps then, we will finally be ready to convincingly elect the most suitably qualified man or woman for the job who seeks to unify and pacify one race – the human race. Love will trump Trump.
Lots of love,