Closing Thoughts on 2016

[Originally posted on Facebook]
1. After all of these years of dog whistling, especially on right-wing radio and Fox News (which are always on wherever I go in the Ozarks), I don’t know why I was so surprised by the outcome of the elections. After all, the misogyny, racism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism and crony capitalism that Trump represents has been valorized and maintained through subtly coded rhetoric (public and private) for as long as I’ve been an adult, and probably before, especially among the twin voices of far right Christian nationalism and right-wing authoritarianism. As a freshman at a Christian college in 1992, I remember Rush Limbaugh’s radio show being blasted on loudspeakers throughout the student union area of campus, both inside and out. It was inescapable. The far Christian right has lacked so much moral clarity for so long now that for the most part it’s become an utterly nihilistic enterprise, so much so that we shouldn’t be surprised that its unvarnished thirst for power and domination has put it in bed much more with white supremacists and misogynists than with lovers of democracy and equality and, I suggest, of Christ. The unwavering hegemony that the far right Christians seek has become a god; they’ve traded their birthright for a mess of pottage. I remember reading Bonhoeffer and Arendt in grad school; I didn’t expect their writing to become so pertinent for 21st century America. 

2. For those who keep trying to pitch the narrative that Trump’s success is due more to “white working class” economic concerns, and less with sexism and racism, please note that black and brown working class people also have economic concerns, and even whites in rust belt states who said the economy was their chief concern voted more for Clinton than Trump. I also submit as anecdotal evidence the ubiquity of Confederate flags and Trump bumper stickers that seem to go hand in hand. 

3. With that said, there are a lot of people I know who voted for Trump who don’t wish to hold the same kind of racist or sexist views for which he’s become known. And some of them rightly understand there’s a responsibility to speak against such views, and I’m grateful for them. Other Trump supporters may tacitly support a sexist candidate without explicitly endorsing the same beliefs (as was the case with Trump), but this can only be supported by either (1) the disavowal of said beliefs that comes with the candidate who believes for you, so you no longer have to feel guilty about believing such things yourself; or (2) thinking that supporting a candidate who acts in sexist ways is somehow not supporting sexism. I understand that in politics it’s always about the lesser of all evils, but lesser of all evils still means less evil, not more evil (and here I direct you to my comments about moral nihilism above).

4. Still others say they only voted for Trump because of the Supreme Court. But as I’ve written on several occasions, and has been documented in numerous studies, voting for GOP candidates (even during the age of Scalia) leads to more, not less, abortions (see my blog post at philsnider dot net for links). That’s not to say that Dems don’t have a long way to go in formulating a much better pro-life position, they do for sure, but supporting Trump from a pro-life perspective is myopic, naive, ill-informed, and disastrous (I will engage in dialogue about this if you take the time to read my post about this at my blog).

5. History is watching us, and all of us will be accountable for our actions. History does not look back kindly on those who aid and abet injustice. Nihilists may reject the judgment of God, but history will still recall their stories.

6. There’s lots of work to do, and always more justice to come. It would certainly be preferable to sit on the sidelines, but as MLK once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people…. It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.”

7. Which reminds me that there are lots of good people in this world. As J.K. Rowling writes, “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” It’s never too late to act on the good. Let us hope that history remembers us well.

8. “So ring the bells that still can ring; forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

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