It’s Election Night 2016 in America. By the end of this evening we will know whether our country stood #WithHer, wanted to #MAGA, or did something crazy and sent this race to the House. While others offer you their insight on the close of this campaign, I offer you the following civics lesson on civility.
The spiral into the hole that currently surrounds our divisive political climate began approximately twenty years ago. It’s a sickness that permeates our current political climate in the form of words like “diversity,” “inclusivism,” “tolerance,” and “equality.” The great joke to all is that none of these ideals are attainable goals, nor should we expect them to be.
Each successive measure of change is always influenced by one of the above words. They’re powerful methods of persuasion for those who don’t want to be on “the wrong side of history.” There’s another strong phrase most won’t give credit, as no one wants to be on “the wrong side of history.” Those who are get labeled as “behind the times,” “archaic,” or worse still, one of the big terms: “racist,” “sexist,” “bigot,” or otherwise. So every successive step towards normalizing deviant behaviors becomes something a little more “inclusive” or a push towards “equality.”
Those who understand the realities of the world understand “equality” is a delusion as we know it and see it. “Equality” is a feel good term, an ideal that can never be achieved. Men and women will never be “equal.” That doesn’t constitute a negative. It’s a moment of life to be celebrated.
I will never know what it’s like to bring a living, breathing human being into this world through a complex biological process designed to create human life. I won’t know what it’s like to carry a child for nine straight months inside my body. That doesn’t make my self-worth less than a woman’s. It’s just an area where we are genetically unequal.
Most people won’t know what it’s like to try a case before a judge or jury. Most people won’t know what it’s like to stay up late hours the night before trial, sweating the details. Most people won’t know the pangs of unease that come when a judge proclaims a client “guilty,” or the adrenaline rush that comes when you win one and get the “NG” your clients want to hear. That doesn’t make most people any less deserving of self-worth than me. It’s just a difference.
This holds true for so many different areas of life. Our experiences during our lives shape us into unique, different individuals. We are never meant to be equal, and we shouldn’t strive for equality. Rather, celebrate the differences that make us all interesting and worthy of merit on our own terms. Equality is just a vanilla word designed to make everyone the same, and sameness is boring. When we are all the same, no one strives for greatness.
But we want to be equal, and no one wants to be seen as intolerant. Those who wish to push a certain agenda, regardless of its merit, simply needed to use the terms “diversity,” “inclusion,” or “equality” to make their point. If someone disagreed, or tried to push a more nuanced view of the situation, then they just needed to throw out the big labels no one wants to be called. That was the easiest way for a person or group to get their way: advance a point and say “if you disagree with me you’re [insert nasty name of choice].”
Civility was considered a value during the early days of the downward spiral for our discourse, so the other side would quietly capitulate and give the offended party that which he or she desired. Capitulation didn’t always come with the greatest set of rewards. Those who weren’t able to articulate their own position felt as though they were being silenced. They didn’t get the chance to present their own views or even have them examined as valid. That form of discrediting a person’s ideas inevitably leads to one scary spot, and that’s called anger.
Those who won the day with their ideas didn’t choose to say “thank you” and move on, or even acknowledge the other side’s graciousness in defeat. Rather, the temptation to laugh at the defeated became too much for some to bear. This horrendous attitude developed into an unbearable smugness many of the defeated couldn’t tolerate. The smug, self-righteous attitudes developed by the “elites” were seen as unbearable by those whose values weren’t seen as worthy, or their ideas considered meritorious. It was always “stupid,” “uneducated,” or people “on the wrong side of history.”
Meanwhile, people were silenced. And the anger intensified.
The silencing, shouting down of ideas with which others disagreed, and continued ignorance of areas without a Macy’s or H&M coalesced into a group larger than most thought. These would later be called “deplorables” by someone with a preference for pantsuits and no concern for the welfare of others beyond herself, and lumped in with white supremacists, real racists, bigots, and people who were truly unwilling to listen to the other side’s ideas. They just needed a voice, and a reality TV star businessman turned out to be that voice.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States, many laughed it off as a publicity stunt. I remember listening that night to the winner of the first “Apprentice” season on the Herman Cain Show discussing the move. Cain asked if it was a publicity stunt. Bill Rancic said “I don’t think people realize just how serious he is about this.” At that point, I knew this was no joke. Trump was in this, and was ready for the battle that comes with Presidential elections.
No one save a select few, like Mike Cernovich or Scott Adams, could predict Trump’s ability to manipulate outrage culture into free press. Few thought he’d win the primary and become the Republican nominee. Yet these predictions proved true, and now those who were “deplorable,” “poorly educated,” and silenced had their voice in a New York businessman who pulled no punches, attacked, never apologized, and kept energizing those who felt disaffected from the elites who abandoned them.
This scared the hell out of those with the power to shout others down. They worked hard to push Donald Trump into categories no one would ever accept or even condone. They called him a misogynist first. That didn’t work, even after the Billy Bush audio leaked. Then they tried to make him a racist. That didn’t work either. When Peter Thiel cast his lot with Trump, the homophobic card dropped, so the last resort was to paint the Donald as Hitler.
Not even that worked. People saw the bullshit for what it was, and cast it aside.
If the Donald reaches the presidency, does that mean our discourse returns to civility? I argue yes. I say that identity politics implode. I say we see a cultural push back of epic proportions if he wins. If the nation goes #WithHer, it’s more of the same, and we lose our ability to actually speak honestly about any issue.
When we look back at this nationally historic event, we will know whether we favored the ability to say and do as we please, or whether we want to continue policing our language and seeing the world silenced.
But it all started with the opposition discarding civility.