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From Differing Views to Fear and Vilification

Sam Taylor

Posted on November 13, 2020 03:25

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Disagreement, even fervent argument, is the foundation of democracy. But a problem arises when this disagreement unduly translates into fear and vilification.

While scrolling through Apple’s “News” app, I came across an article published by The Lily: “11th Grade Girls Talked About Kamala Harris in History Class. They Have Their Own Expectations for Her.” It was a well-written piece, explaining the political experiences of several African-American teenagers, especially their cautious exuberance at the ascent of the Biden-Harris administration—seeing it as a step towards racial equality, though remaining skeptical of the breadth of its impact. 


But there was one aspect of the article which I found disturbing. Recounting the experience of seeing a man dressed in a MAGA shirt and Blue Lives Matter hat, one of the interviewed 11th-graders said, “I was just kind of on edge because I didn’t know what he was going to do… Did he come in there with an ulterior motive?” The 11-grader also described witnessing Trump signs as “scary.” 


Before I proceed, let me make one thing clear: I don’t know what it’s like to be a black, teenage girl in Georgia (my experience being limited to that of a white, teenage boy in Utah). I’m not privy to the encounters this girl’s had with the Georgian subset of Trump-supporters, nor the interactions she’s had with police. This fact I acknowledge freely. 


Nonetheless, I can’t help but be unsettled by her recounting, owing to its display of an equally unsettling fact: that many Americans vilify and fear those with views different than their own. At first glance, it may seem this fact is nothing new—political factions have always demonized their opposition. But this glance is superficial: it’s one thing for parties to deprecate the platforms of their rivals, but it’s another for ordinary people to be scared of each other on the sole basis of differing politics—particularly when those politics don’t entail violence or oppression.  


Unfortunately, the latter suffuses our society. As a result of divisive rhetoric and exaggerated narratives, many are beginning to fear their peers, demeaning them as violent white supremacists or destructive, socialist ruffians. For instance, just before Election Day, my school had to accord with numerous students feeling unsafe only because three individuals decided to wear Trump flags as capes.


Perhaps in some limited sense, these fearful outbursts are justified: civil unrest brought about by political contention has been a problem, verging on catastrophe last summer. But these incidents are relatively sparse and, frankly, don’t justify the rampant defamation of ideological opposition we see today. Indeed, most Trump-supporters, even vehement ones, aren’t seething racists— neither are most Democrats rioting Marxists. 


I sincerely hope that we can come to terms with this fact and, thus, realize that wearing a MAGA or BLM shirt doesn’t imply sinister intent. But alas, I doubt that hope will be realized in a political climate permeated by avid vilification, one which turns simple disagreement into fear. 

 

For another TLT with a similar perspective, see “How Can America Fix its Problems with Civil Discourse?

Sam Taylor

Posted on November 13, 2020 03:25

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Source: KSTP

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