By Dan Morrison
I’ll start off by saying that this idea is partly stolen from points made by two friends on social media- two friends with more at stake from a Trump presidency, might I add. I’d like to think their anger helped me articulate the forthcoming ramblings.
If somebody put a gun to my head and asked me where I stand politically, I’d have to say something like “leftyish you know sort of left-wing, ach, I don’t know, why does this matter so much that you’ve put a gun to my head?”
I have greatest sympathy for the beliefs and practices of folks centre and left on the political spectrum. But good lord can the left be maddening, with a lack self-awareness that makes whatever high-horse position they’ve taken redundant.
One pocket of this is the crew that respond oh-so-originally to some political catastrophe with the ‘don’t mourn, organise’ line. Each time it is the same spiel about ‘standing together as one because racism and sexism and homophobia are bad and immigrants are actually good people’- no shit mate.
Trite and pointless, it amounts to a collective pat on the back verging on a reach-around in the showers amongst the ideologically pure opposition, but it doesn’t really say anything new, practicable or actually interesting.
It is the other bit that is worse, though- ‘don’t mourn’. Really??
Or sometimes there is the ‘today we can mourn, tomorrow…”’.
Gee how kind of you to tell me I can mourn today. How dare you try to police anybody’s emotions?
I once made a pronouncement which was mildly similar to the one I’m criticising. I was wrong to not sufficiently emphasise that it is okay for people to be upset and angry.
From my standing, screw you for telling me how to deal with what’s going on. Trump’s election, Brexshit and each aftermath are a severe kicking for the beliefs that you and I whole dear, about how society should be and people should be treated. I am going to worry about the many ‘isms’ and phobias that seemed to have been unleashed- racism, sexism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, homophobia etc.
More importantly though, the past year of politics presents what verges on an existential threat for a lot of people, in particular Trump’s election, but also the rise of Europe’s far-right. In the UK post-Brexit a Polish man was beaten to death and in Trump’s America vast swathes of the population are now targets for his followers. African-American churches have been daubed in white-supremacist graffiti, for example, and the Ku Klux Klan has been increasingly active.
But yeah, you can have a little while to mourn or whatever, but then you better get organised.
Really, it is no better than those on the right telling people “to get over it”.
Those centre and left on the political spectrum take their positions feeling they have taken a more moral standing, whereas vast portions of the respectable right do not make such claims. They say “this is just how the world is”. This is a main differentiating factor.
But when fellow progressives and lefties come out talking about organising against discrimination, in a verbal-cholera that starts with the line I am attacking, their reasoning is prone to deeply offensive conclusions. It is baffling they don’t see this.
As mentioned, there is the ‘don’t mourn’ bit. Mourning is an important emotional response to sad events, tragedy and trauma and is a completely understandable, even recommended, reaction. It allows us to properly explore what we are feeling and come to terms with our grief. There is no limit on how long this should take, and indeed mourning never really ends in some cases.
It is healthy.
Equally problematic is the tendency to blame everything on racism or sexism. Sure, it was a massive factor, but it is not at all the whole story. Some folk will have voted out of anti-Clinton sentiment, others out of a leftist anti-trade motivation. And of course, racial minorities voted for Trump.
According to Pew Research, 8% of African-Americans voted for Trump, which is a 2% rise on the last Republican nominee. 42% of women voted for Trump.
In debates on Israel, there is the deeply offensive notion that Jews who oppose Israel are “self-hating”, which is also applied to Jews who might vote for somebody who is ostensibly anti-semitic. By pressing all the emphasis on discrimination, not only is it overly simplistic but it is deeply offensive too. The implication is that if you are a woman or a racial minority voting for Trump, you are “self-hating”- this article in Israeli paper Haaretz is worth pondering. 8% of African-American voters is a lot of people still.
Having tried to take the moral position, you end up at least indirectly attacking the people you suppose you are standing up for.
And to go with all this, they are really annoying (probably a bit like this article).
Expressions of solidarity are good. They remind those at risk that they are not alone and are a middle finger to those trying to be oppressive. If we make these expressions, folks should really think through what they are saying and make some attempt to improve understanding of what is actually going on. Simplistic moralising does nobody any good.
If you want to organise for a society that works for “everyone”, first reach out beyond your political tribe and have a conversation with somebody that disagrees with you. But that’s a whole different article to write.