I’m not usually an open letter guy but geez
Rich Lowry is the editor of the National Review. This letter is a response to his response to the post-election protests.
I’ve been an avid listener of the Left, Right and Center podcast since the start of the primary season last year, and felt compelled to write after some comments that you made on last week’s post-election episode. First, a little background on me to give some context. I’m a 32 year-old straight white male from the safe suburbs of NYC. I have a BS in Engineering from Northwestern University and have worked mainly in the startup/tech world since graduating a decade ago. I identify politically as a progressive (support addressing climate change, eliminating systemic racism in our criminal justice system, making higher education more accessible, regulating free markets, etc).
And I was one of those “stupid kids” marching in the streets last week.
I’d first like to challenge your broad characterization of the protesters as “…smashing windows and throwing things at cops.” Over the course of several days last week, hundreds of thousands if not a million or more people took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the election outcome. Out of this vast population, an overwhelming majority exercised their first amendment right entirely peacefully. Only an isolated minority resorted to violent acts. These acts are not in any way to be condoned, but I find your characterization unfair considering the scale of the protests and the relatively minor incidence of violence.
Second, and more critically, I’d like to challenge your use of the label “stupid kids” to describe the protesters. To be candid, at first I was skeptical of the need for or productive purpose of these protests myself. They seemed petulant and reactionary, nothing more than a visceral outcry triggered by an undesired outcome. It was only when I walked alongside them that it became clear there was so much more to it. Yes, this was anger and frustration, but this was also an expression of solidarity amongst a very diverse group (across race, gender, sexual orientation, and age) who have historically been disempowered and disenfranchised by the prevailing social and political structures. It was a coming together of people who are afraid — in my opinion understandably so — of the unknowable future actions of a president-elect who has targeted them both explicitly and implicitly in his rise to power. It was a brace for impact.
It is impossible for you or me to experience this vulnerability firsthand, and therein lies the problem (one which exists across the political spectrum). To make any sort of lasting social progress we need to stop othering those who look, behave and believe differently than ourselves (including across the age divide). As soon as this vast, diverse group gets stamped with the “stupid kids” label, they are flattened from a complex and dynamic set of people — and their beliefs and desires and experience — into a monolithic other. Your rhetoric here is just as counterproductive as liberals pointing their collective fingers at the tens of millions of Trump supporters and screaming “racism” and “misogyny”.
It’s time for us to look at those acting out (on all sides) and try to understand why they are doing so, instead of immediately admonishing them. And this is doubly important for those of us in especially privileged positions — economically safe white men — who have never and will never fully comprehend the reality of those who are oppressed.
I welcome a discussion if you’d like to engage,