Let me begin with a related aside by saying rhetoric is always going to exist as long as there’s a political divide, and both sides are guilty, but it’s important that we look at what it is exactly that we’re saying. The left wing is by no means an innocent party in this, but I’d like to focus on one tiny piece of Rightwing rhetoric that I’ve found particularly troublesome. Recently, I went on Facebook to see a family member post that Democratic voter turnout during his state’s primaries must have been so high because Democrats don’t have jobs. My first impulse was to respond defensively—to inform this person my liberal husband missed the Democratic caucus in my state because of work. But I knew that kind of response would do nothing but open us up to a fight, so I scrolled on by despite my rising blood pressure and strong desire to engage.
Still, I’m left asking: Is that where the rhetoric has taken the Right Wing? To claim now that not only are poor people lazy, but also all those who would see our country base more of its values on fairness and compassion? To glorify the amassing of wealth—the hoarding of capital—when so many people are struggling just to keep food on their tables?
Trump says, “you can never be too greedy.” Think about that for a moment. “[Y]ou can never be too greedy.” Do you think he’d be singing that same tune if he hadn’t been born into privilege, if he’d known poverty and desperation for even a short period in his life? How hard is it to funnel inherited wealth? To have lived a life in which no one has ever told you, “You can’t have that”?
It’s easy to be selfish. It doesn’t take any strength of character to be greedy. It’s just as easy to succumb to apathy and hate. That takes no personal fortitude at all. Now compassion, takes great strength. It’s a heavy burden to give a shit.
The top 200 highest-paid Americans are “earning” salaries between over twelve and a half and 156 million dollars a year. These figures do not reflect other sources of income such as stocks and additional investments, which are usually significantly higher the wealthier a person is. For example, in 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook made nearly 74 million dollars in stock options alone. How much work can a person possibly do in even a 12-14-hour work day to justly earn 156 million dollars a year? That’s thousands of dollars per hour. Are these executives any less lazy than the people scrubbing their company’s toilets? How much are you personally worth? How desperate for food, clothes, shelter would you have to be to scrub toilets for a living? To flip burgers? To work on a factory line? To work at Wal-Mart?
And yet American rhetoric has somehow deemed people who work these arduous jobs as lazy—but it is perfectly acceptable for CEOs and other high-paid corporate executives to limit minimum wage so, what, they can afford that extra yacht? That fifth vacation home? That tenth luxury car? Pretty jewelry and fine dining? Because they somehow deserve the best simply because they were afforded more opportunities than the people stuck at the bottom? How is it that such inhumane attitudes have deemed these people the good guys and the ones suffering low-paid, dead-end jobs (and lacking the means to rise above them) the bad guys? What have we come to?
And this apathy—or, rather, antipathy—that’s currently being unleashed on a global scale will most assuredly bring jihad directly onto American soil.
I’m not sure how many of you understand how gangs gain and keep their numbers, how they turn innocent kids into killers, or what motivates people to live that lifestyle. I’m going to try to explain it in as simple of terms as possible: poverty, segregation, desperation, resentment, and disillusionment. You go to any ghetto and ask the darker skinned kids if segregation is alive and well in this country, and you’ll receive a resounding yes. Ask them if they have the same opportunities as their white counterparts, and they’ll tell you no. Ask them how many people they know who are affiliated with gangs, and most will know at least a few.
Think of ISIS as a big gang, one that sprang out of political unrest, hatred, and resentment. The more segregation and hatred we send their way, the more fuel we add to their fire. Even more, the hatred we show Muslims who are not affiliated with ISIS and similar movements only fans new flames.
US News shares, “The Islamic State group derives its power from the narrative that the West hates Muslims and that America is actively trying to destroy Islam. Comments like presidential candidate Donald Trump’s, in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, do nothing to improve U.S. national security.” That’s not to say we shouldn’t take action to ensure radicalized Muslims don’t have the opportunity to organize another 9/11; it means we need to be careful about our approach and not inadvertently lean their focus squarely onto us. It means we need to take measures to ensure we are not creating more radicals as the result of our own behavior. Hate begets hate. The choices we make will have an impact on our society. Please, let’s make sure the choices we make are the right ones.
L.A. Times’ David Horsey wrote, Trump’s “appeals to hypernationalism, his scapegoating of ethnic groups, his fear-driven appeals to disgruntled working-class voters and his presentation of himself as the strong man who can fix every problem through the force of his will all have echoes of fascist political leaders of the past.” While I know this might just seem like rhetoric to many of you who support Trump, it is a fear that has come independently to many who oppose him.
Another bit of rhetoric popular among the Right is, “He tells it like it is,” “He says what he means,” and “He’s just saying what everyone else is thinking.” My response to that is: Is it really such a good thing to lack a personal filter? Moreover, is he really saying what everyone else is thinking? What exactly are you thinking? Are you really filled with so much hate you’d be willing to ostracize roughly 23% of the global population for the actions of a few? Or are you not hateful but afraid? I’m afraid. I’m afraid of ISIS. I’m afraid of the current global dynamic. I’m afraid of religious extremism growing and destroying even more lives.
But I’m also afraid of what all this fear is doing to us as a nation, as human beings. I’m afraid quick words, cynical banter, and an appeal to all this fear is going to land us in a political situation that will only worsen our foreign relations. I’m afraid for this country, and I’m afraid that in this whole mess, we are losing who we are—America, the land of the free, the melting pot, the land of opportunity and diversity and the American dream. I see it slipping away just a little more each time I hear someone say, “He says what we’re all thinking.” No, that’s not what we’re all thinking. It’s what the selfish, the careless, and the rash are thinking. He says what the fearful want to hear.
But he has no real solutions. “Bomb the shit out of them”? “Go after the terrorists’ families”? “Close our borders until we can figure what the hell is going on”? These kinds of words might satiate some of our fears, but they have no real-world, practical value. Think about it. Think about a United States that levels entire regions—terrorists and innocents alike. Think about an America that bloodies its hands in a way that will only beg for greater retribution. What do we do once we halt immigration? What then? Don’t we already know “what the hell is going on?”
It’s ugly, and it’s scary, but if we succumb to our fears to the point of hate—to the point of uncompromising banishment or even genocide—are we any better than the fanatics fueling that fear? Where do we draw the line?
I’m not an expert on politics, but I have put more thought into the social and economic aspects than many, so much thought that I’ve dedicated over a decade of my life to writing dystopian literature—speculative fiction that looks at society, the collective choices we make, and the possible repercussions to those choices. The dystopian author in me sees the choices many are making right now; I see a world headed toward chaos. I’m not asking you to switch political parties or even the deepest of your ideals. I’m imploring you to consider the rhetoric you’ve adhered to in these recent months. Look at it carefully. Consider the reasons behind your choice in candidates and ask yourself, “Am I doing this for the right reasons, or am I letting fear guide me into blindness?”
Thank you for your time.