On Responding to Hatred, in a Time of Political Insensitivity and Division

Ben Barsky
Jul 16 · 3 min read
Credit: Glenn Ligon

While scrolling through my Twitter feed, shortly after waking up on Sunday morning, I came upon the President’s ruthless — and racist — attacks on Representatives Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Tlaib.

First came anger. Then came sadness.

And finally, as my heart kept pounding, I wondered about the voter’s role in the upcoming 2020 elections, fearing, perhaps more than ever, the risks of having the Trump Administration remain in power for another four-year term.

Coloring this fear was, of course, the recent media footage of Vice President Mike Pence’s recent visit at the immigration facilities on the U.S.–Mexico border during the past week.

The salient and brutal images of Pence separated by a fence from dozens of people seeking legal asylum — many of them children — made for an apocalyptic depiction of the administration’s political will.

But it also, most importantly, demonstrated the lengths at which President Donald Trump — along with his political allies — will go for voter support.

Shocking is the notion that, for some, these images were flat-out repugnant and unrebuttable evidence of callous human rights violations while, for others, the administration’s treatment of vulnerable people was a moment to celebrate.

Since my interests in politics have formed, I’ve always dreamed up of ways to build coalitions between people of different backgrounds, assuming that, with reason and some hard work, unthinkable alliances are possible.

But this dream is, as of right now, but a dream — far from attainable and far from realistic.

In all likelihood, the great divide between Democrats and Republics will remain — and the American people, along with the rest of the world, will continue to witness how absolutely distasteful, disrespectful, and bigoted some human beings can be.

What are, then, the means through which voters can keep this administration accountable?

For one thing, reaching across the aisle has proven far from effective.

Trump’s success, in many ways, depends on a deeply divided political structure, leveraging the hatred that his base has toward so-called un-American people — a term now used to designate people of color and minority ethnic origin.

Merely hoping for bipartisanship flies in the face of practically every significant political action since the beginning of this administration.

Perhaps deeming this hope as irrational is taking things one step too far — but I see no deserving reason why such designation is not, in fact, the case.

Moreover, putting too much faith in the next presidential election might cause more harm than good.

No one presidential hopeful has established themselves as a sure winner, and this fact will likely not change between now and November 2020.

If anything, the Republican base is strong.

Sadly, it’s so strong that, everywhere around me, family members, friends, and foes unequivocally believe that Trump will accomplish a landslide victory.

I resist their opinion, as I have faith that, when the time will come, people will decide against racism, xenophobia, and hate — and opt instead for a vision of the world that is better and sufficiently in line with the pressures of our time.

But they sure have good reason to think, in turn, that I’m wrong, and that all Democratic supporters better stop believing because, when the last ballot is counted, the result will have been predictable all along.

So, turning back to my initial question — to what exactly should be done — I think that, at a minimum, people should find ways to speak up.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms may not be the best ways to do so — particularly in light of the professional pressures on younger people to keep their political opinions for themselves.

But other, better ways to do exist.

When having conversations with loved ones, one should not shy away from facing uncomfortable and, sometimes, divisive conversations.

One should not shy away from taking a position, even if it comes with the potential price of being shunned by other folks.

Now, more than ever, is no time for complacency, nor is it time for silence.

The show will go one, whether we like it or not.

So, together, let’s be apart of it.

The slightest gesture counts.

Ben Barsky

Written by

Fier d'être québécois. Penn Law graduate. Committed to making the world a healthier place. Family and friends first. Love, freedom, and progress, in that order.

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