Mr Trump: The Hope Offered is not Worth the Hate Confirmed

In a recent thread, I expressed that I had growing concerns that my Jewish background would become a liability in a country run by Mr Trump. The numbers of people who have joined the ranks of white supremacy groups and the number of hate crimes perpetrated have climbed markedly in the last year, as this article from the Southern Policy Law Center notes. One can say that with a son-in-law and daughter who are religious Jews, Mr Trump poses no threat to me — in fact a recent exit poll in Israel notes that absentee voters there seem to favor Mr Trump. But, even if Mr Trump is not coming for me, he is calling for the disenfranchisement of someone else — that is equally unacceptable.

The response I received in this thread was that unless people were actually at my door, I was being unrealistic.

The KKK newspaper — The Crusader — has explicitly endorsed Mr Trump and he has done nothing to discourage them. Previous conservative candidates have been offered the KKKs endorsement and they have flatly rejected it and additionally reinforced the inappropriateness of the KKK. Ronald Reagan, was offered the support of the Klan in both 1980 and 1984. “Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse,” Reagan said in 1984. “The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood." The New York Times noted in the 1920’s that “[The Klan] is already weakening… But it shrinks and dissolves most rapidly where men and women are bold enough to fight it openly.”

Jews have their own consepts of “superiority” to grapple with — the idea of being God’s “chosen people.” This has been interpreted many ways by many people over the years, but it has always made me uncomfortable. The idea that one group of people can be considered “God’s favorites” seems to lead to hubris, conceit and chauvinism. But, you don’t need a phrase from your holy book to belong to a group that feels this way. Many groups, deep down, feel they have the right answers, and that solutions to their problems lie in excluding others who do not share their group status. Groups of humans can have fabulous and positive results — they can organize and care for each other, they can band together for collective defense. Empathy within a group appears to lead to morality, fairness and justice. However, the same mechanisms which drive cooperative behaviors inside a group can drive bias, fear and immoral behavior towards individuals outside a group. As Jean Decety, a prominent neuroscientist researching empathy and group morality at the University of Chicago, notes:

However, empathy is not always a direct avenue to moral behavior, and this may come as a surprise to the reader. Indeed, at times, empathy can interfere with morality by introducing partiality, for instance by favoring in-group members.

While proud of my Jewish heritage — and inescapably aware of the suffering that has befallen my people through the years — I cannot accept the legitimacy of anyone being chosen, of being above others, of using privilege to legitimate the exclusion, disenfranchisement or unfair treatment of others based on their group identity.

Currently, supporters of Donald Trump are passionately engaged in resistance against what they have felt for years is a hostile political system that not only does not work in their interests but actively denigrates their point of view. I respect that, one must stand up and advocate for what one thinks is right in the world. The problem is that Mr Trump has given us no indication that he has the inclination, intelligence or ability to accomplish this. He has stoked hatred, fear and exclusionism. In short, he has said that our problems arise from others not like us and the solution is to keep those others out — music to the ears of white supremacists. His supporters have shut their ears to reasonable information, decrying ALL information as essetially biased. But the Republican candidate is at least as saddled with controversy as Clinton is — and while many of the Clinton cases involve suspicion and shadowy links, many of Trump’s are fully documented in court cases and legal proceedings. This level of blindness to reasonable fact, this level of willingness to impose threat on others because they feel they are in danger themselves — I can respect this. This is what groups of people do when they are scared, threatened and feel they have no recourse. We MUST respect it so we can peacefully dismantle this reality and replace it with something fairer. The alternative is violent conflict — already intimated by Mr Trump as many others working in his campaign — we are obliged to take this seriously, we are obliged to respect it. Violence does not work well in terms of conflict resolution. As the 2012 winners of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order found in their research: non-violent campaigns to effect political change succeeded twice as often as the violent ones — even in the face of brutal repression. Violence is wasteful, destructive and often leaves conflict wounded, but able to heal to create future conflict.

But if we are to live together, we must consider under what conditions. It seems to me that conditions described by the “veil of ignorance” are a good start. In 1971 John Rawls, a political philosopher, released his book A Theory of Justice in which he outlined that our current society is patently unfair. His solution: ask people “what is fair?” before they know who they will be. A rich white male on Wall Street? A single asian mother with two jobs? A 25 year old African American man living in Compton? You won’t know — until you decide FIRST what is fair; then you land where you land.

I respect those who have nominated Trump to represent them. They have made clear their dissatisfaction with our current situation, that they fear for their children’s future and that they have lost faith in America’s ability to provide truth and justice for all. I absolutely believe that if we take some time to de-escalate our political rhetoric and find a place where we can sit and talk, we can work out what is fair and work towards creating that fairness. But if you cannot see that your current course of action is creating a world in which those who do not share your ethnic, religious, socioeconomic or any-other-kind-of group will be excluded and potentially harmed then it isn’t your dissatisfaction with our current state of society that will define you in the future. It will be that you failed to stop the hate and fear which can so terribly undermine a society.