By Dan Calabrese
This is one of those columns that’s instructive insofar as it represents what almost all liberals think, but most believe it’s too perilous to actually express publicly.
Not Leonard Pitts. He’s had enough of pretending to see his ideological adversaries as members of the human race, and he sees no reason not to go ahead and strip off the veneer.
There’s no reason to try to “understand” any of you, because, well . . . I’ll let him say it:
Don’t get me wrong. Thinking people will always try to see past their own ideological blind spots, to put themselves into the shoes of those they disagree with. That’s an admirable trait. In normal times it’s a trait I would applaud with enthusiasm.
But these are not normal times. Indeed, sometimes, I wonder if we appreciate just how abnormal — how fraught with danger — they really are. Under Trump, American laws, news media and mores are under assault, to say nothing of American democracy itself.
And I’m sorry, but I don’t think “understanding” Trump followers will ameliorate — or even address — any of that. Besides which, is there really so much left to “understand”?
Not from where I sit. Long before Trump even existed as a political force, many of us noted with alarm the rise of a backlash among right-wingers deeply angry and profoundly terrified by the writing on the demographic wall. Said writing foretold — and for that matter, still foretells — the declining pre-eminence of white, Christian America. As several studies now show, a sense of alarmed displacement among white, Christian America is the soil from which the weed of Trumpism grew.
The idea that we must “understand” those folks carries with it an implicit suggestion that in so doing, we might find some ground for compromise. It would be a great idea in normal times. But again, these times are not normal.
No compromise is possible here for a simple reason Trump followers seem to understand better than the rest of us: You can’t compromise with demography, can’t order numbers to stop being what they are and saying what they say about the coming tide of change. But what you can do is seize the levers of power and change the rules of the game in hopes of blunting the force of that tide. That — again, look at the studies — is what Trump supporters elected him to do.
Got that? Oh sure, it’s normally admirable to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes and try to empathize, but darn it, these are not normal times!
Fittingly, we see in Pitts’s column the fruit of his refusal to understand. American laws are under assault? Because the president wants to actually enforce them? The news media are under assault? Because they’re called out when they’re biased and inaccurate? American mores are under assault? What does that even mean?
And democracy itself? How is that, exactly? As far as I can see, all the usually scheduled elections are going on as per normal, and both the president’s supporters and his critics have to win those elections to stay in office. I suppose maybe he’s referring to the whole “Russia stole the election” thing, which if true is only further proof of his complete disinterest in understanding anything whatsoever.
But the core notion that Pitts is sure he understands is actually his biggest misunderstanding of all. He’s convinced that people who voted for Trump did so because they are all white and Christian, and can’t stand the thought that all these coloreds and heathens are multiplying and taking over. That’s why he continually refers to demography. And this is what most liberals think as well. They think the biggest concern of conservatives is that the scary minorities are taking over and we want protection from them.
If you tried to explain to Leonard Pitts that we really just want the chance to live our lives and earn a living without having our earnings confiscated, or our lives threatened by a refusal to enforce basic laws, or we’d like to make our own choices about things like our health care . . . well, there’s no point trying to explain anything to Leonard Pitts. He isn’t interested in understanding.
Which is why he doesn’t.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!