In his recent speech at Trinity, David Cameron made the point that as our society has continued moving forward, we have left some people behind. Those on the left, who have been left financially, and those on the right, who feel their values have been marginalized. Looking back, there should be no surprise why this election gave rise to two very extreme candidates. Society is evolving rapidly, and unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have not been able to keep up. If this nation is going to keep moving forward, we have to help them catch up. The discourse I observed in the comments of Dr. Singh’s Overheard at Trinity post was extremely far from helpful. There is a massive communication problem happening between liberals and conservatives (not confined to this campus), and the messages are not getting relayed. When making their arguments, liberals are relying very heavily on facts, despite conservatives relying heavily on emotion.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love facts and science, but for those of you who have ever tried having a rational argument with someone who is highly emotional, whether that emotion is anger, sadness, happiness or fear, you know how difficult that is. For example, as a vegan, I can give you a ten-minute presentation on how eating meat is accelerating climate change, but I can’t really compete with someone whose response is, “Yeah, but bacon.” Bacon is to vegans in the exact same way as religion is to pro-choice people and those who support equality for the LGBTQ community, as climate deniers are to environmentalists or as institutionalized racism is to supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. I cannot talk to a meat eater about the implications of his or her choices when he or she refuses to see it as a bad thing, in the same way BLM activists cannot talk to All Lives Matter proponents. It is stopping us from engaging in real conversations. It’s stopping us from entertaining new ideas that may challenge what we’re comfortable with.
We live in a world where you can easily find anything online that will support any opinion that you have. Social media alters the content you see and interact with based on a calculation of what you’re most likely to enjoy. Conservatives are surrounding themselves with a lot of bacon because they are literally terrified. Terrified of extremist Islam. Terrified of people who are different from themselves. Terrified that we are going to spend ourselves into a new Recession. So they are stocking up on soundbites, memes, Tomi Lahren videos and alternative facts. And yet, none of you seem to get that. I see very few liberals who are actively trying to see the world through the eyes of their conservative peers.
If we want to see America continue progressing, we have to reframe our arguments. We have to make the economic argument for investing in renewable energy. We have to explain how loving our Muslim neighbors, not banning them and dropping bombs, will lead to less radicalization and a safer America. We have to explain how equality and personal freedom will benefit them. All this at the same time as they have to figure out a way to explain why a 35 percent corporate income tax is driving American jobs overseas and creating off-shore tax havens without sounding like someone in their family works on Wall Street. What we need most right now is to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. What America needs most right now is less sympathy and more empathy.