Before we can get to empathy, let’s get real

How are we supposed to come together and find common ground if we operate in different realities? And by different realities, I mean one that is real and one that is fake. Am I saying that every single Trump voter is living in a fake world? No. But this is not an isolated phenomenon. None of this is hyperbole, or arrogant, or condescending, or elitist, or out-of-touch. It is the matter-of-fact, simple truth.

re·al·i·ty rēˈalədē/ noun: reality

  1. the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

There can only be one reality. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to pick your reality. On CNN, I watched a group of Trump supporters smugly believing that Trump would have actually won the popular vote if 3 million people had not illegally voted in California. The host was gobsmacked. And so am I. You generate a lie on a conspiracy website, repeat it enough until it catches wind of our incoming president, he tweets about it and then it’s as good as gold. This is just one example of countless falsehoods spreading as facts.

And don’t worry, if you think this is exaggerated, Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump aide, actually clarified for us recently on Fox News that facts no longer exist. Facts are now really just a matter of opinion. And if Trump declares it so, a lot of people will believe it so. She also states:

“And so Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd — a large part of the population — are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and that there are no facts to back it up.”

My fellow Americans, we must reject this with all of our being. Every. Single. Time. We can agree to disagree about policy, about the way forward for our country. But I refuse to debate reality, and will continue to do so for the next four years. Please join me in resisting this propaganda.

And sure, we live in our “echo chamber” bubbles, but that does not mean they are equally rooted in misinformation. I reject the notion that the “liberal bubble” must “stop whining” and “accept things as they are,” as Tomi Lahren opened in her interview with Trevor Noah the other night.

Two things there, for now:

  1. Before we “clear the streets” and “accept things as they are,” let’s agree that we have a real problem that we’re facing right now: the propagation of lies as fact, resistance to which is seen as liberal bias. Fact and bias do not operate in the same realm. The mainstream media can be labeled many things, but calling out of lies does not equal partisanship, ever.
  2. Empathy and unity are not solely the responsibility of those that voted for Hillary Clinton or against Donald Trump. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so eloquently put it,
“The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity.”

I am ready to talk to Trump voters and to try to really understand why they voted for him, to set aside the unfair notion that they are all sexist, racist, prejudiced against Muslims and disabled people. However, I will never set aside the notion that they were at least tolerant of those things, when faced with other priorities that were more important to them. A vote for him by definition is tolerant of those things. This is not an opinion, it is a fact, as uncomfortable as it may be.

I am ready to listen and to find that sense of humanity that I believe exists in all of us, to see if we can find a common ground for moving forward.

I cannot accept bald-faced ignorance of reality. I hope you won’t, either.