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Reconciliation or Resistance?

I recently listened to an NPR program on TED talks that dealt with “reconciliation.” The gist of the four presenters was that there are ways to reconcile differences between groups, even when those differences are deeply ingrained and reflect longstanding suspicions, dislikes and different viewpoints. All the speakers agreed that problems between or within groups, including countries, cannot be solved when sides refuse to try to understand each other.

When it comes to the problems presented by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, many editorials in the media and opinions expressed on sites such as Facebook express the opposite point of view. They call for unflinching resistance not only to any action taken by the president-elect, but also to acknowledging his legitimacy as the country’s leader. Those who support Trump are labeled as “racist” or “ignorant and uninformed.” Any plea to understand their point of view is called “traitorous” or “spineless” or “immoral.”  The point of view that is offered is that one is either unequivocally against Trump, his policies, and his supporters, or else is on their side and has become the enemy.

The reactions of many Americans to the recent election have reached hysterical and malignant proportions. But underneath these reactions is a basic question for those who believe that Donald Trump’s election is likely to do extensive harm to our country’s freedoms, to our poor, to our education and healthcare systems and to the environment— what is the best way to fight against the changes that threaten our country? What most of those who unalterably oppose Trump and his policies fail to realize is that their opinions and their passion are not shared by the majority of their fellow Americans. This means that the first thing that needs to be done to mount a successful opposition movement is to change the minds of people who either agree with Trump or at least don’t disagree with him. Neither insulting those people nor haranguing them with accusations about their role in bringing about an apocalyptic demise of the country is likely to bring them over to the other side.

Too many people are living in echo chambers of escalating hysteria that engender nothing but panic and anger. They listen only to each other and react with self-righteous horror to any arguments that counter their beliefs. The fact that there is a substrate of truth to their fears and predictions gets lost in the exaggerations that they insist must be subscribed to in order to join them in their opposition to real threats to the country we now live in. Their very stance refuses to allow anyone who is less adamant than they to join them. This is not a recipe for building a coalition of reasonable people who examine what is happening in the country and react with constructive opposition of the kind that can actually reverse the course the nation seems to be taking. To do this, it’s necessary to understand what needs many people feel are likely to be met by the promises Donald Trump has made to them. Only by such understanding can anyone convince them that there are other, more democratic, more environmentally sound, more egalitarian ways of meeting their needs. Accusations and name-calling are not going to do it.

Reader Comments (2)

I agree. I've never convinced anyone by shouting at them. Part of the problem this time is that one group does not have "a substrate of truth."

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterWarren Bull

I'm grateful for the checks and balances structure of government we have which prevents any President from ruling as a tyrant. Besides that I'm sure every move Trump makes will be publicized, criticized, and probably opposed by the Democratic party. It's not like we're going to wake up in 2017 and find out he's abolished the Constitution and declared war on Australia or something. No doubt there will be some large scale conservative programs and laws initiated in the next couple of years, but I don't see a need to panic and throw a fit right now. If the Trump administration does act against people's best interest down the line, the subject should be debated calmly when there's a specific issue at hand. He's probably going to be the most closely scrutinized President in history--before, during, and after he decides how to lead our country.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobert L.

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