Political Pacifism, the Alt-Right, and Us

In navigating through post-election grief, a fair amount of us have already given into the depressing result. This consists of a lowering of the head, admitting defeat, then hoping to forget, and continue life—posting memes and scrolling through reaction photos on Twitter; pretending friends never supported Trump, and for that matter, that the election never existed; and in general, keeping politics out of everyday life, accepting the new higher governance and hoping it will leave people alone while they survive. That, to me, is ridiculous. The concepts of facing reality and succumbing are two entirely distinct things, and to understand your new president exists is not necessarily to silence yourself and revert to survival mode. That, I believe, is the root of this debacle. When people self-censor, they allow society to progress in a direction that excludes them. If anything, the whole moral behind this election is that political opinion deserves to be heard, and taken seriously, from different cultures and ideals. And it is impossible to be heard if you do not speak.

What is more, it cannot be simply ignored that half the country disagrees extremely, on a very fundamental level, with the other half. Whether that is due to the reasons in our preconceptions, or it is justifiable through unseen reasons, is to be determined. But to exist in silent conflict is a sure way to change nothing. We owe it to ourselves, and the opposing party, to understand their decision from their culture. This understanding may reveal similarities, in which case we need not be silently averse to each other, or unnegotiable differences, so that government may be reshaped in such a way that both parties’ needs are individually met. We will not have much opportunity for either, however, if silence is practiced, so that a dialogue cannot be shared. I believe it should only be of interest to verbally remove politics if what is wanted, as said, is to exist silently aversely to one another—although, this too, comes with consequences aside from the obvious implicit discomfort.

The silent culture in fact is a key contributor to feelings of powerlessness, and with powerlessness comes the intense desire for radical action. In this context, it was particularly the white working class that felt neglected, and it was Trump that was the radical action. Of course, the same trend is seen in multiple other contexts, because I think it is universally evident that with desperation come extreme measures; it is something evident in ISIS, which recruits its ranks from those who feel powerless, or in a more grounded view, it is a feature of radical social activists who riot when sensing an existential threat. The problem in all of this is although Trump supporters felt powerless, they were terrible at articulating their opinions, in my view. They induced their own irrelevance by not speaking up beforehand, but instead becoming that silent majority we feared. There is a simple, although not entirely easy solution to this powerlessness and the resulting radicalism. You guessed it: it’s voicing political opinion so that it is possible for others to be receptive and help meet your needs. We may hope, in this way, to steadily and constantly address issues, and not all at once release pent-up anger, manifested because we repeated their failures by refusing to speak.

That said, I understand the sentiment behind simply accepting defeat and hoping to forget. In some ways, it is a form of denial, understandably reactionary to the extreme bizarreness that has become our future. In others, it is a way of gaining control through a perceived sense of maturity. Or it may be that we have well learnt to not be sore losers, but have misconstrued acceptance to mean giving in. Actually, it is entirely possible to be realistic while not giving in, and it is something I encourage us all to do, for the reasons mentioned. It is also possible to be decent while dissenting, and I encourage that too. But I do not encourage us to give into what we see as misogynistic, racist, irrational, cowardly, and in general, plain backward. So long as we disagree, we must voice ourselves, to shape politics and not lose faith in each other; and if we agree on new policies, we should say that too, so it is known we are not innately rebellious. We have a voice to stop this from happening again, by first conversing with those who voted against us. Hopefully, we will all come out stronger for it, but if not, we will find new ways to better satisfy our separated needs. But we need not repeat the failure of the alt-right in staying silent.