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a southern yankee abroad

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echo chambers

Why I’m a Self-Loathing Liberal

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Today, Donald Trump announced (over Twitter, of course) that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. On cue, my Facebook feed filled up with justifiably shocked and outraged responses and reactions from my liberal friends.

To start, I will say Trump’s announcement is disgusting. But we have to remember Trump is just continuing to troll America, the country that unfortunately put him in office. He’s under serious investigation by an independent counsel, his healthcare plan continues to go down in flames despite the fact the GOP controls Congress, and he is under fire for typical brutish remarks to Boy Scouts (is this really shocking though?) So it’s typical that he would rally his base by making such an announcement out of left field—to try to distract by denigrating another minority and throwing them under the bus (kinda like he’s thrown Jeff Sessions under the bus lately).

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Donald Trump, Troller-In-Chief

But I’m tired of all the anger with no solutions. I’m tired of fellow liberals taking the bait and yelling over social media about how angry they are (to be fair, I’m guilty of this too!), and complaining about the outcome of the 2016 election, without strategizing about how we’re actually going to move forward from here.

I am not claiming to have all the answers. But what I do know is that being a “liberal” is not something I’m proud of these days, and the tone of the discourse isn’t going to build any bridges or promote unity in a way we so desperately need.

I’ve found that many of my fellow liberals attack anyone or anything that doesn’t perfectly align with their worldview. It’s true, conservatives are very much guilty of the same (I have a Trump-supporting family member who stopped speaking to me around the time I vocally supported and campaigned for Hillary and views me as “immoral” for my support, so I know better than anyone how closed-minded conservatives can be). But liberals, progressives, left-leaning people, Democrats, or whatever you want to label them (I mean, us?) need to do so much better.

A few recent examples:

Unqualified Vilification 

I posted on Facebook recently about Jeff Sessions. I worked for him in the summer of 2009 in D.C. When I suggested people can change for the better over time (referring to comments he made several decades before), a liberal friend was quick to post “Was his heart in the right place before or after the 1980s?” Everyone is quick to vilify Sessions as a racist without looking at the entirety of his record, and this frustrates me. Granted, I voiced my concerns about his nomination back in January and never thought he was the right person for the job, and I got a lot of pushback for this from moderate and conservatives alike. But this blanket vilification of people “on the other side” will never move the needle, and will only serve to further alienate people instead of getting back to a place of civil discourse. (To be fair, this friend and I had a very productive discussion following the post–we shared a lot of the same concerns about Sessions then and we continue to do so now. And Sessions’ comments way-back-when were and are fair game for legitimate criticism.)

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Disclaimer: I changed my mind about Sessions’ “changed heart” the day this happened

 

Privilege

Also, there’s a huge Facebook group called Girls LOVE Travel (GLT). Obviously, since I am a girl who loves travel, I’ve been a member of the group for quite some time, and it was very helpful and encouraging to me as I was planning my solo backpacking trip around the world last year. I love seeing posts where girls are asking for travel advice, and the amazing stories of girls traveling solo and discovering so much about the world on their adventures.

But this week in particular, there have been a lot of posts about “how to spot the American abroad” and “the fragility of the Western traveler,” among other riveting topics. I get some posts along the lines of the first example may all be made in good fun, and it’s important to talk about how to be a respectful and mindful traveler, but I began noticing so many of the comments were devolving into arguments about “privilege” in a tone that didn’t show respect for others posting.

So today, I posted that I was disappointed in how negative the page was becoming, and that I thought it was supposed to be about travel, not politics. Of course, I was called out for my “privilege” and for not being knowledgeable about the world and the circumstances of others. These people who were calling me out have never met me. I’ve traveled a lot and I understand that I’ll never be able to fully understand or appreciate some of the situations of others, but I don’t need a stranger yelling at me about it on Facebook. This girl loves travel, but she doesn’t love virtue signaling.

I left the group because I really don’t need the negativity. As much as social media can add to our lives (I love seeing pictures of friends on vacations, friends’ babies, reading funny posts and memes etc! And I also think social media is an important means of social activism) it can be extremely dehumanizing, as I think people forget they are talking to someone’s daughter, friend, sister, aunt, mother, or wife when they yell at them over social media about their “privilege.”

I do think we all need to be aware of the various ways we are privileged, and that we all need to work to make society more equitable for all. I’ve talked about privilege until I’m blue in the face, on Facebook with Trump-supporting friends and in person with a variety of people. I protested after Trump’s election. I blogged about travel privilege here, about how colonialism is still an issue here, and about my views on Trump’s America here and here. But I think the term “privilege” is losing its muster–the more angry liberal people yell it at other people without trying to first put themselves in that person’s shoes, the less anyone will listen and the less the term means.

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In my view, this is a good way to call out privilege

Don’t get me wrong…there are so many who are getting the messaging right, particularly guys like Trae Crowder and crew, and I still think the editorial section of the New York Times is on point these days.

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But as a self-identified liberal (probably more moderate these days), I am calling out my people for being a self-righteous bunch. We all need to have a bit more empathy for each other.

 

 

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Echo Chambers in the Age of Trump

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I live in two Americas. I am a daughter of the South but a citizen of New York City. In the last two days, the divide that exists in this country has ripped open even further, and I have found myself struggling with the national cognitive dissonance I am observing playing out on Facebook and other social media. The realization hit me yesterday (like a load of bricks) that I uniquely have a foot in both worlds. Many people can open Facebook and see only the views that “echo” their own playing out across their Newsfeed. I see views from both rural and urban America, views I agree with and disagree with. I recognize now that is a special position not shared by many of my friends in both worlds. I also take personal responsibility for not engaging those who don’t share my views more.

Whether you are a member of my right-leaning or left-leaning sphere, I want to ask that you keep an open mind not only as you read this post, but as you work to unify our country. As you read this post, please just assume that those who do not share your political beliefs are not inherently bad, just for the sake of argument.

In full disclosure, I enthusiastically supported Hillary Clinton, but I also truly believe we all need to listen to President Obama’s call for unity. For all of our sakes, I am praying that President-elect Trump is not the hateful, prejudiced, loose-lipped, undisciplined, ignorant leader that so many of us genuinely fear he will be. His words, actions, and beliefs have already affected the faith many of us have in this country in the last few days. If you supported Trump, I ask that you please not shut down after reading that. Please know I am not trying to “win an argument” with you. Please know that, from what I am reading on Facebook, many of you out there are truly not aware how genuinely afraid people of color, religious minorities, LGBT people, and victims of disease and violence are right now. I simply want to make you aware. Please accept this assertion as true.

Trump’s views really upset me in a visceral, I-feel-sick-in-my-stomach way. That being said, I want to point out to those of you in my left-leaning sphere that most Trump supporters I know are not racist, misogynist xenophobes. My struggle in the last 48 hours has been dealing with this disconnect—how can people I love and care about condone the beliefs and political platform that embolden actual racist, misogynist xenophobes who are out there? I ask this honestly and respectfully, without trying to provoke or denigrate anyone. We all as people are broken, but not irredeemable.

One realization I have come to is that many people overlooked these horrific qualities because they truly believe that the election of Trump will directly lead to millions of lives saved because of his stance on abortion. Please do not roll your eyes or laugh…that will get us nowhere. Please, for the sake of argument, try to understand where these voters are coming from. In full disclosure, I am pro-choice (my personal views are best expressed here). But please know that many people truly believe abortion is murder and that Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe v. Wade. I think these voters don’t realize that Roe was decided by a conservative court, yet they are putting their hopes about this issue in this basket. Also, it doesn’t matter that Trump used to be pro-choice and (somewhat conveniently) changed his mind to get Republican votes. To these voters, President Trump = saved lives. If you have these deeply held beliefs about abortion, it is hard to let any other issue sway you.

That being said, the fear that Trump’s message is causing is real. I can’t tell you how many Facebook statuses I have seen from privileged white men in the South (who are my friends) that talk about how happy they are that that the election is over, that life will go on as normal, and that the dramatic social media posts will soon stop. I love y’all as people, but y’all are speaking from a place of privilege. Speaking from my own position as a female, I have felt particularly devalued in this election and by the outcome Tuesday night. I also humbly admit I don’t know what it feels like to be a person of color right now in a country that elected a KKK-endorsed president 8 years after it elected its first black president, but it really, really upsets me that it happened. What I do know is that we all need to recognize that this election really is unlike anything we have seen in our (millennial) lifetimes. We need to commit to protecting one another as there are so many unknowns with what’s to come in the next 4 years.

I am still soul-searching and grappling with what this election means for our country and for me personally. One solid conclusion I do have is that we all need to listen to each other. Safe spaces are important. It is important for someone who is passionately pro-life to have a place they can talk about their views and not be made fun of. You will find this in many churches in the South. I grew up in the church, and you will find many good people there, despite what the election Tuesday may make you believe. It is also important to have a community where you can express how afraid this election has made you feel, because you are a woman, a person of color, a minority, or a white man who cares about these groups, without being made fun of. I have found this community at NYU Law and among many friends from both NYC and back home in the South, and I am so grateful for this.

Safe spaces are important, but we all need to make sure we are stepping out of our own echo chambers. Trump is our president-elect, but we can all still reject racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. I want people in both my “worlds” to know that I am here to engage with you in a non-judgmental way. We all have to stop writing each other off just because we don’t share the same political beliefs.

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