civility?

niceness (or lack thereof) is NOT the problem

TRANSCRIPT

Callie: [00:00:00] Big shouts out to Morrow, Alison. And Wen for becoming new patrons this week. Thank you, friends. Love you lots. My name is Callie Wright and this is queersplaining. I remember this Facebook argument I engaged at not something I used to do a lot. It was a few years ago and it was the most tiring and trite version of the gay marriage conversation.

Evangelical Christian talking points on one side, actual queers on the other. And of course it was getting nowhere as those things tend to. So I decided to try something different. I’d been throwing out arguments and talking points all up and down this thread. Then I decided to change tactics. I decided to try to engage this person’s sense of compassion.

I thought surely if she understood me better, we might be able to have a better conversation. I told her about my religion. Chipless Celese how she loves me in a way that no one ever has before. And how that love changed me for the better and how hurtful it was for someone to say it would be a step up the ladder of morality for that relationship to end.

I thought, surely this would at least give this person pause. Right. Make her stop and think, and instead she asked why we couldn’t just be best friends instead of spouses. And that’s when I checked out. As frustrating and hurtful as it can be. I do think it’s a useful enterprise to work. Toward understanding.

Right. And to be clear, understanding it doesn’t mean we have to get along. I want to understand why people are hateful. That doesn’t mean I want to like them and get along with them, but I also want to be understood. I think there are people who are genuinely ignorant and I think it’s useful to share stories and experiences with them to help them understand.

There are a million ways to go about that. A friend of mine recently wrote about an experience he had in pursuit of understanding around political viewpoints, spoiler alert. It didn’t go super well, but I do think there are lessons to be learned. 

James: [00:02:04] I am James Croft and my pronouns. Are he him and his. My job is the leader of the ethical society st. Louis, which is a humanist congregation in st. Louis, Missouri. And one of my members suggested that we might want to get involved with an organization called braver angels. It used to be called better angels. It’s now called brave angels, but some people might know it by its old name. And I read up a little bit about it and thought it was intriguing enough to go to one of their events, to check out for myself what it was like.

And I had some. Sympathy with what they’re trying to do, which is kind of reduce political polarization and bridge the divide between people of different political points of view, which I think is generally a good thing to want to do. And it’s clear that we live in a very polarized time right now, and that can cause some serious social problems on their website.

They really clearly explain what their, their idea is. That is over time. There’s been an increasing polarization of political opinion in the United States, such that the median Democrat and the median Republican have moved further apart in their political views. So the overlap in the middle has grown less.

And along with that, Over a similar period of time has been increasing animosity towards people from the other political parties. So the percentage of people, for instance, who say that they, they have a very unfavorable view of. People of the other political persuasion has been steadily increasing over the past 15 years or so to the point where it’s incredibly high right now, apparently 91% of Republicans have an unfavorable view of Democrats and some 86% of Democrats had an unfavorable view of Republicans. And that was back in 2016 when they did that poll. So that’s, that’s, that’s incredibly high, right. And it must have got worse since then. Um, and it’s much higher than it was even in 1994 where they’ve got all these statistics from Pew that kind of show this increasing polarization and animosity.

And one of my favorite stats that they have on their website is the percentage of people who would agree with the statement. I would be displeased if my child married someone of the opposing political party in 1960, when they started asking that question, that number was basically 0%. And in 2016, where they have the latest data, it is above 45%.

And for both parties, the Republicans it’s, it’s more than 50% of Republicans in 2016 said that they would be displeased if, uh, their child married someone of the opposing political party. So their goal. Is to, they say they don’t accept this polarization. They reject the normalizing of this extreme polarization.

I’m reading from their website. They, they talk about restoring civic trust in the United States, healing wounds between left and right challenging institutions to be better building community together, discovering what it means. Be American in our time. So that’s their goal. They don’t want people to agree on politics.

They want people to understand the people who hold different political views so that this animosity is decreased. I think,

Callie: [00:05:41] Gosh, there is so much to unpack there. 

James: [00:05:44] Yeah. 

Callie: [00:05:46] Cause I’m like, that just sounds like a fucking Disney movie. 

James: [00:05:52] Their idea is very kumbaya. They want, they really want to reduced affect what they call an effective political polarization their idea is that if we get people into the room to talk personally about why they hold the political positions, they hold we’ll at least understand each other better. And like each other more, even if we don’t agree about politics. So I was kind of sympathetic to the idea, but I was also a little, you know, nervous about how they would approach it.

And. Because I think as we’ll probably discuss, there’s lots of, uh, ways that you could approach that goal and not all of them are good. So I went to this event and the event was what they call a debate on the motion. We should reelect Donald Trump. And the way they set it up was there was a zoom meeting.

There were about 700. They said participants in the zoom meeting, they had selected, I think. About 20, maybe 15, 20 speakers from each side. And each speaker had a very short amount out of time, like a couple of minutes, tell their own story about why they either thought that we should reelect the president or not reelect the president.

And then they took a couple of questions from the people watching that those individuals would respond to. And then they moved on to the next person and they alternated. Pro Trump anti-Trump pro-Trump anti-Trump throughout the day. So that was kind of the basic setup. I’m a humanist, I believe in humanizing people as much as possible and understanding where people come from and why they do what they do, even if what they do is really bad.

So yeah, I’m sympathetic to the idea at the same time. My experience. It has been that a lot of organizations and individuals who talk about the problems of polarization end up creating false equivalences between democratic, contemporary, democratic, and contemporary Republican views, such that we’re kind of being asked to equalize things that are not the same.

And so I was a little worried that this would be. Reasonable rational, considerate Democrats who are trying to explain why they don’t agree with the president’s policies and character. And on the other hand, we have Q anon conspiracy theorists who say that, you know, there are pita fall rings, thrown by Democrats who, um, who are, uh, trying to take our children away and let’s try and understand both sides.

And I don’t want to be part of anything like that. I mean, that seems to me to misunderstand the problem. So that’s where my skepticism comes in.

This whole approach is huge, but once you hear the reasons why someone believes something that you disagree with, You’ll be more favorably disposed towards them as an individual. And that’s obviously not true because the reasons that people believe things, it can sometimes be well because they have a very poor grasp of the issues or because they believe a lot of untrue things will because.

They seem to be a very angry or like a racist person. Right. So, yeah. So you can learn things about people’s motivations for acting or believing particular things, but that doesn’t necessarily increase your respect for those people. And I have to admit that’s exactly that what is what happened? I did not leave this meeting feeling more favorably disposed to the supporters of the president.

I felt more afraid about the future of the country and I kind of. I felt very poorly disposed to them. The more they told me why they wanted to vote for the president. The, I was like, that is a shitty reason, frankly. And it doesn’t make me like, I, I think I understand you better, but I don’t like you any better.

Right? It sounds horrible to say that, but it’s true. There was one person who gave a very moving personal story about. Their grandparents experienced in Soviet Russia and how they didn’t want anything like that to happen again. Um, and they talked about how their grandparents always knew when people were eating their own children to stay alive because there was smoke in the, in the hearth.

And that was the only thing to eat. And. Then they basically said that that’s why they didn’t support Joe Biden because that’s the sort of outcome they could potentially see from the future of a democratic presidency. And that is just so. Disconnected to reality in my mind that I don’t, I have more respect for that person after I’ve heard them express that view.

I felt sympathetic to their family’s experience in Soviet Russia, but for them too. equate that with what might happen under a byte and presidency is so bizarre to me, so disconnected from reality that I’ve respected that person less. I thought even that it was kind of a manipulator that live way to use their family story because it’s so there’s just no chance of that happening.

It was really interesting to me because I, I felt there was a very clear kind of rhetorical divide on display, where the pro Trump speakers were generally very passionate and direct and often angry. They raised their voice a lot. They slam the tables a lot while they were speaking and very uncompromising.

And basically they, they gave a lot of what we would consider Republican talking points about how the media distorts everything Donald Trump says. And we don’t have a true media in this country, in it and everything bad about him, his lies and that, yeah, he’s kind of brash and he has a bad personality, but that doesn’t matter.

They don’t care about that. They care about what he’s done for the country. And he rescued the economy and he helped people. And there was this, that record many times, which was, he stands up for America. If there was a common theme. I think that was it. It was, he doesn’t let America be pushed around by China, by NATO, by anybody.

Um, and that that’s good. I remember very distinctly one person saying he used to get beaten up and then, uh, a bigger guy came up and beat up the bullies and he didn’t get beat up anymore. And that’s who Donald Trump is the bully beater upper. And that was their reason for voting for Donald Trump. Now, I can’t even say that without laughing, because it’s so obvious that no, Donald Trump was the guy beating you up.

Like you got this wrong. Right. But that’s, so that was like the main thrust on the one side. And then the other side, it was very. I really felt this. I don’t think I’m projecting this. I felt the Democrats were so careful and they were like, I really hear you when you say this thing, but here’s my different perspective.

Like they were doing all this active listening and like trying to rephrase what the Trump supporters had said so that they feel heard. And they were really getting into the spirit of dialogue. And then basically saying. You know, in a nice way, Trump is the worst president we’ve ever had. He hasn’t done any of the things he said he would do.

He hasn’t actually helped the people. He said he would help. He’s corrupt. He’s a terrible human being, you know, all the things that you would expect them to say, but in this wrapper, that was very obviously respectful. And I, I feel that, or explicitly respectful that that actually made the whole situation really worse because I was sitting there thinking, Oh shit, Like we’ve got these really forceful, direct emotive.

Like we need Trump cause he’s going to save America and he’s the only guy can do it on the other, on the one hand. And then on the other hand, it’s like, yeah, I hear you. But here’s a different perspective you might want to consider. It was like, you sound so weak. Like even, even I feel that sounds weak.

That’s not a good luck. This is, this is a disaster like this. And, and it was so interesting that this kind of wrapper, they had put around the discussion enabled this. Difference in rhetorical style to come out really clearly. And it, it just. I felt total despair. Cause I was like, Oh no, we we’re kind of losing this.

Like, even though it wasn’t even a debate that you could win or lose. I I felt like in terms of just the directness and force of the arguments that the people. Arguing against the reelection of the president. We’re kind of losing, even though everything they said was true and accurate. And many of the things that the president’s supporters said were just not true.

They were false.

It was useful in that it helped me crystallize a set of feelings I’ve had for a while about how political discourse is happening often in, I I’m trying to. Find a way of saying this, that it does not play into kind of right-wing narratives about the press, but I want to say something like elite liberal media establishment, right?

There is a, uh, a narrative about politics in America right now that says something like. The problem is we are deeply polarized and hate each other. And what we really need to do is find common ground and come together as Americans that hate each other a little less and hash out our disagreements and return to reasonableness.

And the best way to do that is to. Be very understanding towards the people who voted for the president and find ways to kind of mollify them and probably put forward a very moderate democratic platform. That’s kind of in the middle, cause there’s this big middle where everyone agrees and we can reclaim that.

And I, I associate that with them sort of David Brooks’s of the world, this sort of elite liberal media commentary yet. That’s kind of really. Obsessed with the civility of politics and with the kind of how the, how politics is conducted. Um, and I think that this initiative, the brave angels initiative comes from that mode.

Right? It makes sense to me when understood in that way, it’s a kind of attempt to reclaim political civility and to get people back into being United country again, and, and. And I actually think that that analysis of the problems in us politics is, is fundamentally wrong. And I felt that for a long time, but this event really helped me kind of clarify my why.

I think it was, it is wrong so that it did help me in that way. 

Callie: [00:16:57] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so that, you know, that leaves us with this. I mean, it’s the eternal question, right? If we could answer it, none of us would be doing it, what we’re doing now, because I, I do tend to think like, you know, there’s the strategy on the right seems to be nothing matters, but winning. Right. It doesn’t matter. Principles consistent, see morality, none of that matters only winning matters. And you know what we call the left in the United States, which is not really the left seems. Just so married, just like you said to this idea of like, you know, civility and, uh, and norms and, uh, just like clinging so deeply to that as if it’s going to solve problems, even though it’s obviously not.

And so. You know, the question is, is do I mean, do we become the leftist version of that? Is that what we have to begin? Because for me, obviously, I mean, I think anyone who knows me knows that I, I don’t, I don’t think civility is the problem. I think civility is, uh, well actually I do think civility is the problem, but not in the way that a lot of people do.

I think society is the problem and that we’re obsessed with it. And we think that it’s not good and necessary. Um, And, and I think that’s, you know, I have problems with the media for that exact same reason. Um, but you know, I guess the question is ultimately like, what do we do with that? What do we do with that knowledge?

How do we take that and use it to fix our problems? 

James: [00:18:48] Yeah. I. I’ve been thinking a lot about sort of what we do with all this since going to this event, partly because to their great credit, some of the people who have been working with braver angels reached out to me after I wrote a bit about my experience in an ask, talk with me about what I felt and asked my view on certain things.

Um, and so I, it made me think even more about kind of where do we go from here and what can we actually do that might help? And what, what is this thing about civility and what does that mean? I first think that it’s kind of important to, to understand why this narrative about civility and meeting in the middle and developing relationships is wrong.

Like what is wrong with it? And I think what is wrong with it is effectively that for, for a number of years, for actually quite a long time, primarily Republicans have been playing a different political game than Democrats have been playing in the, has that kind of. Generally, we would expect to define democratic discourse in a democratic nation, like the United States, which is exactly the game that you talk about what you said there about winning and thereby.

They’re actually not just about winning for Republicans, but actually about beating Democrats, right? Yeah. Winning for them means defeating Democrats. And that. This is evident in many concrete things they have done. I think that this is a kind of factual statement, how Republicans have conducted politics in the last many years.

And one of the, the incorrect assumptions of braver angels, I think is that everyone’s really trying to play same game. We just hate the people on the other side. And actually, I don’t think particularly Trumpism and Trump supporters and his way of doing politics is the democratic game. I think it is a.

Well authoritarian populous game. It’s certainly a game that doesn’t care about the truth at all, and very clear how that infects so many errors, politics. I mean, we saw the vice president. Who’s usually considered to be at least a little bit more truthful than the president repeating the president’s lies in the debate recently.

Seemingly quite unashamedly. Um, and we see that all the way through Republican politics is that people feel like to be close to the president. They have to repeat his lies, right? So it’s infecting the entire body politic on that side. And I think Democrats have been too slow to realize that Republicans just playing dirty, but playing the same end game.

They’re playing a totally different political game. And if you’ve got one side, that’s trying to play by the rules of normal. Politics. And one side that has given up on those rules and is just trying to defeat the enemy any way they can. Then you can’t have a, a sick, what civility looks like in that context is different.

It’s not speaking nicely to other people and understanding other people’s point of view. It’s I think civility becomes defending. The democratic process from this attack, from the, the virus that is infecting it. Right. So it would mean. Saying actually no Republicans, you can’t gerrymandered districts in this outrageous way, actually.

No, you can’t prevent people from voting. You cannot say that you might not give up power if you lose the election. I mean, think about this. This is a really good example of this is that there is a letter. That brave angels is trying to get people to sign. And they’re asking people to sign the letter to commit that whatever happens in after the election, they, people will try not to demonize the political opponents and that they won’t castigate other people as individuals.

And they give up all election related violence and no excuse making for anyone on either side who’d commit or tolerate violence as a means of influencing an election. And the whole letter is framed in this very neutral way where they want Democrats and Republicans to commit together, to respect the result and not be violent, regardless of what happens and no way in their letter.

Do they say, by the way, The people who have threatened, literally not to give up power. If they lose the election, the people who have not committed to the fundamental principle of a peaceful transition of power. Is the president and the vice president, right. They are the people who are threatening the ultimate act of political violence, which is not to leave.

If the people vote you out there, they’re threatening a coup essentially. And this letter doesn’t say that. And I wonder to myself, well, if that is, if, as they say in the letter, democracies, North star is peaceful, political transition, then surely they have to call out the people who are explicitly refusing to say they will follow that North star, but they don’t.

And I think the reason why they don’t is because they understand that if they said that. Repo many Republicans wouldn’t be willing to participate in their program, but that should be a signal to them that something’s gone wrong. So fundamentally in our democracy that this is not a strategy we can perceive, they should be putting their energy towards saying.

You know, democracy, North stars, peaceful political transition. The president and vice president of both refused in public debates to say that they will give up power. If they lose the election, this is an outrageous attack on all Americans. They need to join that bandwagon because we need to protect the fundamental processes before we can stop talking about how nice we can be to each other.

I mean, at least that’s my view. The thing I want to say to these people is sometimes the problem is not polarization. Sometimes the problem is one side in the discussion, right? Sometimes they’re actually just wrong and they’re undermining the conditions under which civil political agreement can occur.

And when that’s happening, you have to be like, if you’re for civility, you have to protect the conditions under which that can occur. You can’t be like, let’s be civil when the whole thing is on fire. Right. 

Callie: [00:25:04] And so. I mean, you know, that leaves me with, we just had, I have to fight them with every tool at our disposal.

And, uh, cause I think this was something that somebody said in a comment on your post. And I feel like it’s a, it’s an idea that I’ve jumped around in discussions a whole bunch, but I’d never heard it quite so clearly. Distilled is that in order to have a discussion like that, there has to be a fundamental, shared reality between the people who are engaging in the discussion.

And that is happening less and less. And we can’t just ignore that. 

James: [00:25:41] Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. That, that we have to actually live. In a shared reality, governed by some reasons, rules of reason and rationality and respect for evidence. If we’re going to have any real political discourse, like, I guess you, you can have some aspect of what brave Rangers want, which is you can listen to people, explain why they believe what they believe.

And understand it better, but as you can pointed out that doesn’t make you necessarily respect them more and it doesn’t make you respect them more particularly if the reasons they give us so manifestly bad well, so false that not capable of being respected. Right. So. You have to have a commitment by everyone in the discussion to be like responsive to evidence.

So if someone says, Oh, the president’s never promoted, fake Corona virus remedies, someone has to be able to say, actually he has numerous times on this date and on this date and on this date. And if you want to be part of this discussion, you have to accept that because it’s a fact. And one of the most interesting things that has come out of this for me, Was a response by one of the braver angels volunteers to this big, long discussion we’ve been having about this.

Um, when they said, well, in some of their debates, some of their discussions, they do have a mechanism for checking facts. Cause someone can call free point of fact, if they think that a patent falsehood is being presented and then that will be adjudicated and they weren’t using that that evening, but they did note that I’m quoting from what they said in all likelihood.

The examples you cite such as the reality of climate change or whether Trump has promoted coronavirus, conspiracy theories. Would not rise to the level of a point of fact in a braver angels debate. 

Callie: [00:27:39] Wow. What. 

James: [00:27:41] Right. The reason for that. Is that, that they’re too controversial right there because a large enough group of people has decided to ignore those facts.

This organization is not willing to enforce them as facts, right? They’re literally allowing people who are denying the reality of like the massive scientific consensus on climate change. For instance, to determine what is even considered an adjudicatable fact. In their events. So what, there’s this phrase in journalism called contortion to balance, which is when kind of journalists feel compelled to present both sides of an issue, to the extent that they present the reasonable, like scientific view of whatever of a, of a, a point and then some ludicrous frame theory to seem balanced on the other side.

Callie: [00:28:33] Right. 

James: [00:28:34] And there’s been a lot of discussion in journalism over the last few years over how that’s not the responsibility of journalists. The responsibility is to the truth, not to perpetuating a false notion of balance that elevates obvious falsehoods to the level of well-established. But this is like the civic conversion of contortion to balance, right?

They are really trying hard to keep Trump supporters at the table to the extent that they won’t call them on their toes, total bullshit. And that, that really. Frankly it, I don’t know if I can say it fucks up political discussion, but I would say you can bleep it out if you need to, but it really does mess up  discussion entirely.

If you are willing to say, well, as long as enough people believe something, we can’t even call it out for being untrue. I do. As I said at the beginning, I, I still think we should. We should. Those of us who are absolutely opposed to Trumpism and everything it involves. I think need to understand why it happened and why it still maintains a lot of support, because if we don’t understand why it’s happening, we are not able to fight it most effectively.

And I particularly want to say this, not to kind of committed activists, but to kind of mainstream liberals in America who may totally fail to understand what’s going on because I do actually think. That some of what’s happening is a response to the failures of mainstream liberal politics and that some of what’s energizing support for people like Bernie Sanders is the same as some of lot’s energizing support for people like Donald Trump, like major.

Systemic failures in our political system have caused many people to feel left out and unheard, and like the culture’s moving in the wrong direction and that the economy isn’t serving them and the humongous inequalities of wealth have just been exacerbated by coronavirus and the racial injustices, et cetera.

I mean, I can understand why people can feel totally outraged at the political system in general, and look to someone outside of it to try and solve this problem. So I think that it’s important. To try and get into people’s heads and understand why people think like they do, even if it’s abhorrent, because then we can fight it better.

And I do worry sometimes that by not taking the time, even to understand why people think, what they think, we come up with strategies to respond to it that are actually either ineffective or even counterproductive at the same time. I. I do think I’m more convinced now that we’ve moved into a sort of post liberal political mode where we need to realize that the rules have fundamentally changed and we are, we are on an emergency footing and we need to defend the fundamental structures of democracy from this attack that they’re receiving.

And that, that is actually more important in the long run. Or at least right now, then making good relationships with people. Uh, uh, I think that right now I would do everything I could to make sure the Democrats win massively in this election. Even if that means. Presenting politics in a very us versus them way to engage as many Democrats as possible.

And then after we have done that and secured some sense of political. Security. We will be in a better position to try and figure out what went wrong and fix it because I don’t, it certainly won’t go away after the election, whoever wins. So we will  with this fundamental problems are still there.

But I think that right now we just have to, we just have to win and then we can think about what to do afterwards. I don’t know. What do you think? 

Callie: [00:32:32] God? Um, I think. Part of the problem is that so many people bull think that our system is fundamentally broken and our system is not fundamentally broken.

What we are watching is the logical conclusion of the system working exactly as it was designed to work. Um, in that it’s about consolidating power for the people who already have the most of it. And. What I’m becoming more and more convinced of is that I think, Mmm. I think mainstream liberals in the United States have a very backward view of what winning and what success looks like because.

What I see so often is this emphasis on voting and voting in the right candidates. And there’s obviously, there’s a, there’s a pushback against that from the far left in the United States, talking about the systemic problems that we have and how, um, you know, voting is just like feeding into the system and blah, blah, blah.

And it’s like, That is true, but it’s also a fundamental denial of reality. Act like a voting and politicians. Uh doesn’t cause, and, or solve at least some real problems in our society. Um, voting in the right political candidates, I don’t think is ever going to be the solution to our big societal problems.

And so for me, What I am kind of fundamentally annoyed with is this idea that voting is the most important thing that we can do civically. Um, I actually tend to think it’s one of the least important things that we can do civically. I do think it is important. And I think, I mean, I, I plan to vote as soon as early voting opens in Kentucky.

Um, I think it’s important to do, but I think the biggest problem is that. We have invested so much into if we use the system correctly, good things will happen when we have an opposition on the right. That knows how to use the system in ways. Uh, To consolidate power and to subvert what the ostensible goals of the systems are in order to win.

Um, you know, we, we see that in, you know, Mitch McConnell refusing to even have a hearing on one judge and then getting ready to push through a hearing for another, right? Like those things obviously have real world consequences and, um, And that, and I think it’s silly to act like, you know, voting in a Democrat instead of Mitch McConnell wouldn’t make a significant difference.

Um, but I don’t think it’s going to be the difference that solves, uh, you know, any big systemic problems in our country. And I, I don’t know. I agree with you. I think it is important to. Get Trump out of the presidency, uh, with dispatch, but you’re right. I mean, the fundamental underlying problems, like Trump is just kind of a logical conclusion of the way all of this has been going, right.

He’s not an aberration. He’s like the conclusion. Um, and I, I don’t know what to do about that because I am more and more convinced that there just aren’t enough of us who see things the way that they are. To affect real broad systemic change. Like most people in the United States, I think consider themselves somewhere in the middle, on the United States political spectrum.

And I think that. Is a result of the sort of rugged individualism that we teach people growing up and that’s like fundamental cultural problem. And I don’t know how we solve that. Um, because I think that’s kind of at the root. Of so much of what goes on is that we are taught that we as individuals are the most important thing, my rights, my security, my safety, as opposed to our rights, our security, our safety.

Right. Um, and, and I, I don’t. I don’t think that we’re going to have any big time solutions until that fundamental cultural shift happens. And I have no fucking clue how to do that. And so to be honest, I’ve been getting a little more and more pessimistic about our future. And, uh, I just don’t know what to do with that.

Um, I think like so many things, it is fundamentally easier to look at the way we’re doing things and unpack all of the ways that it’s wrong. It is much more difficult to construct what the correct version of that would be. And I think like there, there, there has to be a massive cultural identity shift and given.

How much time and effort it’s taken to even get really small things. I just I’m finding it more and more difficult to have, to have big time hope. Um, and I feel kind of an increasing sense of despair about that and wedge agrees apparently. 

James: [00:38:09] Well, I think I agree in a sense that I, I don’t know that I feel particularly hopeful, partly because.

Uh, my, my guess is that Biden will win this election and probably will win it quite big. And that w that I think is definitely better than the not. And at the same time, I agree with you that that will not solve the problems which gave rise to Trumpism. I mean, Sometimes societies do go through cultural changes relatively rapidly.

And I think that what we’re seeing with the change in opinion, regarding black lives matter, I mean, it’s amazing how different the cultural conversation is now compared to what I remember immediately after the Ferguson uprising happened a few miles away from where I am right now. And if you look at the attitudes of younger people compared to all the people, they they’re much different or many of these key issues, I guess.

What I haven’t seen yet is the translation of that into a political program and real political power. And I think we do have to be skeptical. I don’t think anyone has the answers to this. And I do think that there’s a sense sometimes in which. The activist community of which I’m part kind of presents a rather simplistic narrative of it’s all the fault of these old politicians, these Republicans, these all Democrats, they’re all the same.

We need to sweep them all away and have a political revolution in this country. And everything will be better. It’s like, no, actually the track record of any kind of rev revolution is very bad and. Creating real stable political change that actually serves the people it’s meant to serve is really difficult.

And there are, there are not many examples of it happening on a large scale in the history of the world. And no one actually has the answers to this. We’re all kind of groping in the dark here, but I think something that came out of the discussion, this braver angels discussion was that many people remarked on the fact that.

They heard a lot more about what was wrong with Trump than they heard about what was good about Biden and the Democrats offering. And I think that, that, that was true. I think it’s partly because of the way the debate was framed, but I also think that it was because it’s easier to say right now, we do not want all this crap than to agree on what we do want.

And that that is something. At some point we have to turn our emotional energy to. What do we want to create? But that’s why I think winning these elections is very important because when you reduce the sense of, of, of imminent civic emergency people can. Channel some of that energy towards envisioning a better future.

I don’t have that energy right now. Cause I’m so afraid of what might happen after the election. But if Trump loses, I’m going to be able to feel like, okay, I can, I think are you can probably work a little easier with a Biden administration than with the Trump administration. In fact, I know they will be able to, and so more possibilities open up than were possible before.

And I think that that will create a difference in political environment. I hope.

Callie: [00:41:30] Thank you James for sharing his story and perspective. And thank you friend for listening. I’m interested to hear from anyone who’s had a positive example of this kind of conversation. I’d love to hear from you and maybe make an episode of the show from that. Have you ever been part of a conversation where you convince someone to come around to a better way of thinking?

My email is callie@queersplaining.com and I’d love. To hear from you, if not for an episode of the show, for my own sense of hope and optimism for the future. I’m also interested in hearing from anyone with queer or trans related story. They want to tell on their show I’m way open to ideas. So shoot me an email and let’s talk.

I can’t promise everything will end up on the show, but I really do want to hear from you right now. I’m thinking about doing another episode about using costumes. As gender exploration. So if that’s you, I definitely want to talk, but I want to hear your other queer and trans stories too. If you want to help keep this thing happening, please consider heading to patreon.com/queersplaining and making a per episode donation to support the show.

You can also we’ll do a share or shout out on your social media, your platform of choice. That’s super helpful too. Before I go, I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared. Do you feel like no one cares and no one understands you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you.

Cares for you knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please, don’t be afraid to reach out. Until next time friend. My name is Callie Wright, and this is Queersplaining.


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