This post is an attempt to process my own thoughts about recent news and my reaction which has been to shy away from any mention of ‘Trump’. Perhaps it’s just fatigue, but perhaps that fatigue is partly my own doing?
Read the news, pick your flavour.
Trouble is what news? And are you getting the differing flavours and view points you need?
Social media pulls us towards people who share our viewpoints, sure we all have a few dissenting voices here and there but those are largely filtered by our choices at the outset. Because of that the opposing views that seep into my social media bubble are far removed from what I believe and all the more shocking for it, yet to others the very views that shock me are the norm, and my liberal leanings are as shocking, bemusing, and downright offensive to them.
Today, with the spectre of Brexit waiting in the wings, America has a man viewed by many (and myself) as wholly unfit to hold the position of President Elect of the United States of America. Was Hillary a better option? Perhaps not, but democracy always comes down to a choice; Trump or Clinton, Europe or not. To the Democrats who didn’t vote because Hillary wasn’t ‘popular’, shame on you (notable stats from those who did vote, Trump won because of white, middle-class votes).
Social media also makes things like the US election much more vivid for those of us not involved. Step back in time and ask was Reagan a good president? When Bill Clinton was elected, did he say things that were questionable? You’d only find answers to those questions if the facts were filtered to you through your news outlet of choice; pick your broadcaster or foldable media (newspaper), either way there was a professional journalist acting as a filter somewhere in that stream of information.
Such filters have always existed but as we now control our own we are free to seek out the truth, however we want to perceive it, regardless of how it is framed we can extract what we choose. That’s all well and good but what seems to be missing, the obvious next step, is any accountability (hell, even a realisation) that we, as global citizens*, have to take some responsibility for how we react to the news we choose to receive.
Outrage can be a powerful force if it is considered and qualified.
For example, I don’t react well when I read about shootings in America. We don’t have a gun culture here in the UK, and I just don’t understand how you can defend gun ownership at all. It would be easy to wade in, spouting hatred at all gun owners, and ridiculing all of the USA for their perceived stupidity for not having dealt with this issue. I could start tweeting the victims saying that they must’ve deserved it, and perhaps they are lucky that they got a quick death. I could fall into the mob led chants and actions that seem to make so much noise, regardless of how many are involved. The hate filled bile that bubbles up in some newspapers.
But I’m aware that my culture and social history isn’t that of an American, so whilst I have an opinion, I’m not going to wade in and add another angry voice (and one that is white and male) to the cacophony. I’m also aware that I am well educated and have enough life experience to have calmed my teenage anger and angst. So I avoid adding to the hate and turn to understanding and, if I can, I look for a compassionate view or a way to find a balance between the opposing views, no matter how far apart they are.
Unfortunately before a balance can be found there needs to be a common ground, a platform within which it is safe to have heated discussions on opposing viewpoints, to share opinions without fear, and from which everyone can leave with a greater understanding and, hopefully, a better solution.
This is all sounding very utopian because right now that platform feels very far away. But if we don’t fight for it idea of it, we will never take one step towards it. We need to be active, we need to be vocal and oppose and act on our beliefs accordingly, with respect, and with an open mind.
And it’s here that I falter. How? How do I make a difference?
Well a few things spring to mind. Attend protest rallies/walks, peacefully. Amplify the voices who SHOULD be speaking on topics, get out of their way and support them. My demographic gives me power in todays society, and I am starting to see the ways I can let others use that. My voice is not important (he says, spouting forth in a blog post), and I should not be speaking to matters of race, gender classification, disability, misogyny, and all other prejudiced minorities.
The past year has made me realise I’m much more politicly minded that I previously thought. Although perhaps it isn’t so much politics that has me pondering my place in the world but the way so many people have been reacting to political events.
From the Scottish Referendum to Brexit to the US Election, there is an undercurrent of hate. It manifests itself in different ways but the effect is the same.
Of course, as you’ll rightly note, my perception of these events might be colouring my view. Things might not be as bad as they seem, or they might be worse. My social media bubble is pointing towards the latter but who knows what future lies ahead of us? A decade from now, will we look back with disbelief at the volume of ire and hatred that was generated, given the impact Trump had as a President, or will we be looking back from a world we don’t recognise, a dark and scared place.
Regardless of the views I absorb, the facts around Trump speak for themselves. How a man who has committed the crimes he has, and holds the views he does, is now the ‘most powerful man in the world’ is beyond my ken. But the fact remains, he is President Elect.
The world feels very dark, but that’s all the more reason to fight, to not stand idly by, and to hold up a light for others.
* Not a great term but my premise is, if you are on social media you are a global citizen, even if your own bubble doesn’t extend that far.