How the Far-Left is Destroying Progress

Today, I was called a fascist for attempting to help someone get an ID card that matched her name, which she had recently legally changed. I was called a fascist by her and her friends, amongst many other things which included “alt-right supporter,” “unsafe,” and someone who “needs to be removed.” Let me be very clear, I am a 20 year-old gay male Democrat who spent hours of his life actively campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Florida. I grew up in a rural town where people in my high school wouldn’t stand next to me on the bleachers at basketball games because somehow my “gay” might be contagious. I know first-hand what discrimination feels like. So, to say that I’m an unsafe alt-right fascist who needs to be removed, is the equivalent of saying that anyone who’s one degree short of being a social communist also needs to be removed.

Now I’ll be upfront, I’m by no means on the left end of the Democratic party. I would openly categorize myself as a liberal-leaning moderate. I believe in robust protections for freedom of speech, especially speech that we don’t agree with and forms of speech that individuals label as “hate speech.” I have an open disdain for campaign finance regulations, as I find them impractical and detrimental to voter turnout. At the same time, I believe the federal government should have complete oversight of public education, and you bet I love taxing and spending. However, I also think that robust political debate, a spread of ideology, and compromise is necessary.

But this is where I and, as I’ll call them, the far-left seem to differ. The far-left are destroying progress in our society, and they’re doing it in ways that are deplorable and abhorrent. They cut against the very grain of what a democracy stands for, and they do it in the name of spreading equality. They weaponize equity to destroy those who disagree with them, even when those they’re destroying are trying to help. They’re unproductive. They’re destructive. And they’re engaging in four main practices which hinder the possibility of any progress.

  1. The need for perfection over progress.

Progress isn’t always at the break-neck speed we desire. For instance, it took 19 years between Romer v. Evans and Obergefell v. Hodges for the Supreme Court to go from striking down bans on protections for gays and lesbians to making them equal before the eyes of the law (and there’s still a lot of progress to be had on that front). Progress is imperfect. It stumbles, it takes steps backwards, and every once and a while it flat out fails. However, even when progress is moving at a snail speed, it’s still moving. Things are still changing, and life is improving.

For the far-left, gradual improvement is unacceptable. If the perfect goal isn’t achieved, nothing should be achieved at all. Progress is a zero-sum game to them, where either we get it all accomplished at once, or nothing can happen at all.

That kind of mindset is dangerous. First of all, throughout the course of the entire human history, progress has taken millennia. After all, the Dark Ages are the Dark Ages and not the Dark Year because they lasted, you guessed it, ages. Progress is slow, but because it’s slow it creates a better world. Things that are made hastily and rashly are apt to break and fail. If you build a car in a night, it’s not going to run beyond noon the next day. The same goes for societal progress. If you try to drastically change every feature of a society in one day, the recoil from that change will be so drastic as to undo any progress you’ve made. Now, this isn’t to say that some progress shouldn’t come at a faster pace than others, but even when it’s going slow, it should still be allowed to proceed.

Getting in the way of progress because it doesn’t fit your exact plan or your exact wants doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t move us forward, it only stalls the society and creates tension and animosity. Continuing to demand perfection will be the equivalent of ending all movements before they have a chance to get off the ground. It has to stop and it needs to stop now. We need to embrace change when it happens, and embrace those making change.

2. The alienation of supporters.

Attacking those who are trying to help is never a way to accomplish anything. Ally’s make mistakes, and sometimes people who are trying to do good are actually being counter-productive. However, alienating those people that are trying to do good doesn’t get you anywhere. Every movement needs outside support, and when you call out every single person who you believe has made a mistake, you’re not bringing them into your movement, you’re forcing them out.

From a psychological perspective, calling people out and publicly shaming them does not endear them to your cause. It alienates them, it turns them off, and, if anything, it hardens their resolve to do things that may be counter-productive. When we get so caught up on finding flaws, we never take time to look at the people around us who are just trying to help.

3. Picking fights instead of picking solutions.

Going on flaw-finding missions is a waste of time. Going back to the story at the beginning, I offered to help this woman navigate bureaucratic processes and create new policy to help her get a new ID. This was after I told her that the current policy wouldn’t allow for it. Now I empathize with the anger and frustration that comes from having policies that are not sympathetic to your existence and to a bureaucracy that is impossible to navigate. However, it was quite clear to me that by the end of the conversation the anger wasn’t about the process, but it was just anger directed toward me. It was unfounded anger. It was anger that just wanted a release, and I was destined to be its target. So, she picked a fight. She lead others to call me names, degrade my existence, and attack my morals, all because I had tried to help her. In essence, she chose fighting over a possible solution.

This happens all the time on the far-left. Instead of choosing productive methods of discourse, they choose anger. They choose to be angry even when there is not reason to be angry in that moment. They choose to be angry when individuals are doing everything they can to help them. They choose to be angry instead of choosing to do something about the problem. Once they’ve latched onto that irrational anger, they take to their keyboards to cyber-bully those that tried to help or those who they picked to target that particular day. They take up the weapons of language and names and they hurl them at individuals in an attempt to gain some sort of upper ground. Meanwhile, their problems aren’t being solved.

Choosing irrational anger is unproductive. There is anger that can drive you and guide you to be better. There is anger that can act as a stimulant to addressing significant societal problems. But that anger is not the anger they’re engaging in. Their anger is anger for its own sake. It’s an anger that’s bent on dividing and alienating people instead of bringing them together.

4. Dividing us into labels, instead of bringing us together.

Hillary Clinton’s message was Stronger Together. Regardless of your opinion on her, or the actual implementation of the message that she campaigned under, the phrase itself is correct. We, as a human population, as a society, as a nation, and as college students, are indeed stronger together. When we work together we can change the world and address issues that affect everyone, as well as the issues that affect our most under-served populations. So why is it then that we are choosing to rely so heavily on what makes us different.

There are a lot of nuances to this argument. On the one hand, certain populations of individuals (people of color, LGBT+ folks, immigrants, etc.) all have very specific needs. Those needs have to be addressed in a manner that recognizes that they are specialized and require specific attention. Concurrently, diversity is a strength. Interacting with those different than us broadens our horizons and makes us better people. Yet, on the other hand, pointing out how we’re different will never bring us together.

Our modern society is a divided one, and there are two groups of people to be blamed. The far-right and the far-left. Polarization breeds division. It breeds distrust and, most egregiously, it breeds an unwillingness to compromise. When we cannot compromise, on anything — not just politics, we will always fail to find our common humanity. The far-right uses fear to divide us into groups, and it’s wrong. However, the far-left divides us into groups willingly. They actively choose to place labels on individuals based on their skin-tone, their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender, and so on. While you can carry many labels (and intersections of those labels), before the eyes of the far-left, you’re expected to only take into account those specific labels that make you different. You cannot be a student at a university studying political science who happens to be gay. In the eyes of the far-left, you must be a GAY student at a university studying political science. You are reduced from being a whole being to being the labels that make you different.

This kind of division has to stop. When we continue to push each other into pockets of society, dividing up ourselves amongst our different communities, what we’re really doing is shutting everyone else out. We’re preventing ideas, art, culture, and customs from changing hands. We’re stopping ourselves from taking in our world around us through multiple identities and focusing only on the ones we’re told to focus on. We’re trampling diversity of experience and thought for quotas of labels.

We can come together and still celebrate that which makes us unique. However, we have to center community and shared experience over division. We have to reject those on the far-left who tell us we have to be our most oppressed identity first before we can be anything else. We have to step-away from the notion that we aren’t one society, one human culture, and one species sharing in a common experience. If we continue to look for ways that we are different, we’ll never solve the problems that affect us all.

As someone who identifies on the left-end of the spectrum, let me be the one to say that the far-left are destroying our society. They’re preventing progress from moving us all onward. They look for fights instead of solutions or supporters. They find what divides us instead of what binds us all together. The kind of thinking they put forward is one that needs to be turned away from. The causes that many on the far-left champion are just and noble, but the tactics they use to achieve societal equality are counter-productive. If we ever plan on solving what plagues us, we must solve them as a collective, not as pockets of individuals. We must call together those who are unaffected to help those that are affected. We must choose paths that are productive instead of those that result in unnecessary fighting. Most importantly, we must always choose progress over perfection.