The Millennials’ Guide to Surviving the Trump Presidency

The other day, my friend and I were comparing our post-election experiences as millennials. He described to me falling into a kind of funk after Trump defeated Hillary. He was depressed to discover that the America that he thought he was a part of wasn’t real. The election manifested a dissonance between ideal and reality in a profound way that caused him to lose faith in the country. He talked about considering giving up on his dreams and moving somewhere else. As for me, I hadn’t seriously entertained the notion of a Trump presidency until about halfway through election night. It seemed so far removed from possibility that the thought was amusing more than believable. He and I had been so certain of the inevitability of Hillary’s victory, of the forward march of progress in our country, that to have the opposite realized forced us to drastically reconsider our perspectives.

I suppose I’ve always been wary of the idea of a “bubble” in the our information technologies. In other words, we’re inclined to only allow ourselves to receive information from sources that reinforce our beliefs. Social media and internet technology has made this easier than ever, as our “likes” and even Google searches are cached to create a digital representation of ourselves, and the Internet automatically responds by presenting us with information to please that profile. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — an intuitive interface that can anticipate our wants and needs sounds like the stuff of the future. But when it comes to understanding and recognizing reality, this technology has no imperative to present information that is true or correct. It only recognizes what we like, and we like the stuff that says we’re right. Unfortunately, we all thought we were right, until a national election told us that we were wrong.

But what were we wrong about?

Republicans and conservatives at the moment are hooting their victory, proclaiming that everything we thought was wrong. A wall needs to go up. Obamacare needs to be repealed. Women’s reproductive rights need to be restricted. Tax breaks need to go to the wealthy. If you don’t think these things, you’re wrong and the election proved it. But that’s not necessarily true, is it? The election didn’t establish the truth or incorrectness of any of these ideas, merely that, at best, a majority of people in the exact right states shared some or all of these opinions. All the election proved was that not as many people shared our opinions — opinions that we were convinced were self-evident or obvious — as we thought.

We’re told that there’s an infinite number of perspectives in the world, and anything can be interpreted in any way. We, as millennials, through the power of technology and echo chambers, have been looking at the world through a lens specifically designed to please us. We have to make an effort, a sometimes uncomfortable effort, to reach outside this bubble to understand the people with whom we disagree. On the other hand, though, I really believe in an absolute truth. Sometimes it’s hard to understand or find, or perhaps impossible to reveal, but somewhere out in the ether, there is a story of the world that is true — what actually happened and why. Collecting a variety of perspectives is certainly a way to get an idea about what this truth might be, but there’s a danger in compromising this truth with flawed perspectives. The truth may be somewhere between here and there, but the middle isn’t always correct. Here’s what I mean: if I say the sky is blue, and he says the sky is yellow, you don’t necessarily need to conclude that the sky is green. Sometimes, a perspective is wrong.

So how do we tell the difference between truth and unreality? First off, we have to consider our sources. Always be cautious of anything that tells you exactly what you want to hear. Secondly, we have to, as I said, be willing to make an effort to understand those with whom you disagree.

“Understanding” in this case doesn’t mean agreeing. It might even mean understanding how or where exactly someone went wrong. But too often millenials (or any one, for that matter) mock and disregard out of hand the dissenting opinions. Lastly, our opinions should be formed after looking at a great amount of information. I saw a picture on Facebook the other day of a Tumblr post that explained the electoral college, and I thought, “How gross that this little paragraph is probably going to form the total of some person’s understanding of this complicated subject”. It’s not like a cursory understanding of the world is a new problem; soundbites and out-of-context quotes have been used for decades, at very least, to sensationalize disinformation, but it’s easier now than ever.

So here’s what we’re going to do on this blog: we’ll take a look at the news or opinions of the day, and try to figure out what’s true and what’s not. More than that, we’re going to be trying to figure out the methods that we need to use to figure out how we feel about that information, independent of being told. But let me be clear: I don’t consider myself some grand discerner of veracity — I don’t think anyone is. But there is an immutable truth, and we have to try to find it.