Part 3—Learning to loathe all the way: We humans!
We've always loved to loathe The Others. It's one of our greatest joys.
It lies at the heart of our many long wars. Once we've learned to loathe Those People, it only makes sense to kill them.
Within the modern political context, we the liberals are quite sure that only The Others behave this way. Only The Others loathe The Others! We're much too high-minded for that.
Do we liberals loathe The Others too? Actually yes, we do. And our love of loathing was quite clear in last Friday's New York Times.
We refer to three letters from fiery liberals that day. The letters were written in response to Nicholas Kristof's offensive column, which had appeared in the Times exactly one day before.
In service to a puzzling logic, Kristof had said that we liberals shouldn't describe all 63 million Trump voters as "bigoted unthinking lizard brains."
We liberals found this suggestion offensive. The very next day, the Times published three letters rejecting Kristof's advice.
In fairness, it was only three letters. There's no way to know what kinds of letters the Times chose to discard.
Still, we thought these letters portrayed the way we liberals routinely reason and think. We even thought they might help us see The Way We (quite frequently) Are.
We liberals! In the past ten years or so, we've lost local and state elections all across the country. Last fall, we even managed to lose a White House election to the craziest, dumbest person who ever sought the office.
Plainly, we're among the least effective political players in history. At this point of ultimate defeat, we thought those letters might help us see The Way We (quite commonly) Are.
What are we liberals actually like? Good God, how we love to loathe!
In his column, Kristof gave three reasons why it's a bad idea to say that those 63 million Trump voters are all just alike.
The very next day, his reasoning was soundly rejected. Name Withheld, the first correspondent, started his letter like this:
FIRST LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (2/24/17): It’s hard to disagree with Nicholas Kristof: Stereotyping is indefensible; demonizing the opposition feeds the dysfunction; and name-calling will win no votes. But it’s also entirely possible that Mr. Kristof has it backward: President Trump is not the true enemy; his voters are.As you can quickly see, this writer just isn't real sharp. Or perhaps it's just his primal instincts, which dull his intellectual skills and lead him on toward loathing.
Donald Trump is an unabashed bigot, a baldfaced liar and someone who bragged about groping women. But as nightmarish as it seems to have those qualities in the White House, sooner or later his presidency will come to an end. And when it does, we will be faced with the true American nightmare: that almost 63 million of us, knowing full well who Donald Trump was, voted for him anyway.
They will not be smarter than they were in 2016—they will have spent the interim being lied to constantly—and they will not be less angry, because the Trump presidency will certainly have failed them. As all reasonable people know, trashing trade deals won’t bring industrial jobs back; building walls won’t make us safer; and market forces won’t deliver health care or educate our children...
He starts by explicitly agreeing with Kristof's three points; he denounces stereotyping, demonizing and name-calling, the three practices Kristof denounced. Having fulfilled this obligation, he turns to stereotyping, demonizing and name-calling all through the rest of his letter.
He calls the biggest name of all. He says it's "entirely possible" that all 63 million Trump voters are "the true enemy," presumably of Us.
As you can see, this fiery liberal just isn't especially sharp. In fairness, his greatest shortcoming is ancient. He assumes that his own perceptions and understandings are shared by everyone else.
He says that all 63 million Trump voters cast their votes "knowing full well who Donald Trump was." Presumably, that means they shared the writer's assessments of Trump—for example, they knew him to be "an unabashed bigot," just as the writer believes he does.
Obviously, it would be very stupid to assume that everyone shares the writer's assessments. In an unintentionally comical turn, the writer moves directly to the Standard Liberal Claim: The Others just aren't very smart!
From there, he lists the various things "all reasonable people know." You're right—it's hard to get much dumber than that. And yet, this is (quite frequently) Us.
By his fourth and final paragraph, this self-assured New York City resident is semi-contradicting himself, much as Donald J. Trump routinely does. His arrogance here is enthralling:
"So while Donald Trump is certainly the enemy of both reason and compassion, I’m much more frightened of the 63 million people who either didn’t know they were voting against everything this country stands for, or didn’t care."
All of a sudden, Trump's voters may not have fully understood what they were doing. Tied to that hint of a self-contradiction is the arrogance of the belief that the writer can define "everything this country stands for," as if this were a question of fact.
That letter was extremely dumb, as is so much of our "liberal" work. The second letter was shorter and less bombastic. For better or worse, the writer cops to a puzzling incomprehension right in her opening sentence:
SECOND LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (2/24/17): I don’t understand why Nicholas Kristof encourages us to be magnanimous to Trump voters. Yes, they are clearly not all bigots. Still, they elected to the highest office in the land, and arguably the world, a man who ginned up his campaign crowds by encouraging racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, vilification of the press and violence.This writer starts with a strange admission. Perhaps it's just a manner of speaking, but she says she "doesn't understand" why Kristof made his offensive suggestion about the 63 million.
Many of them purposefully set their consciences to sleep and pulled the lever for a man I suspect that they know is morally bankrupt.
If Donald Trump continues to be the president he has been thus far—one who makes up facts, hires his cronies from Wall Street, refuses to vet his cabinet nominees even as much as immigrants are now vetted, rails against the press and shoots from the hip on some of the most delicate of the world’s problems—will they take responsibility for their votes?
Perhaps it's just a manner of speaking! In his column, Kristof listed, and even numbered, three reasons for his offensive suggestions. He even cited the claim with which she says she agrees—Trump's voters aren't all bigots.
Can we talk? It wasn't hard to spot Kristof's three listed reasons. The first letter to the Times started by rattling them off.
But this writer seemed to say she had no idea why Kristof had made his weird suggestion. And sure enough! In her second paragraph, she basically proved this claim.
According to this omniscient narrator, "many of" the 63 million people in question "purposefully set their consciences to sleep" when they voted for Trump. She doesn't say how she can know such a thing, but she proceeds to make a second claim:
She says she "suspects" that some or all of these "many" people "knew Trump is morally bankrupt."
"Many" is an imprecise term; it doesn't even mean "most." For that reason, only in the dull-witted world of the tribal loather would a writer think that these assessments contradict what Kristof said.
Unlike Hillary Clinton before him, Kristof didn't state an exact percentage of the racists and deplorables numbered among Trump voters. But he clearly said this:
While some of those voters are probably racists, some of those voters aren't! He said we liberals should try to win those winnable votes. In what way would the writer's claim about "many" Trump voters contradict what Kristof said?
(Personally, we'd advise omniscient dreamers to leave the indictments of racists to God. But what would make this fiery liberal think that she was disagreeing with Kristof?)
As she ends, this writer delights herself by imagining that Trump voters won't "take responsibility for their votes" if Trump continues to engage in such outrages as "railing against the press."
Will Trump voters renounce their votes if Trump does something vastly destructive? Presumably, some of them will, and some of them won't! Some already have!
Some of them may change their minds about Trump; that was one of Kristof's points. But tribal loathing is built on a prehistoric belief:
Those People are all just alike!
Kristof said they aren't all alike; early on, this second writer seemed to agree. But alas! People like these letter writers are sunk too deep in the joy of loathing to grasp so simple a claim, even to be able to hear that this is what Kristof has said.
The third letter was the shortest. In some ways, it was the most interesting. For that reason, we'll leave it for tomorrow.
We'll warn you—some math will be involved. And as Professor Wang has helped us liberals learn, math and logic are hard!
Tomorrow, we'll review that short third letter. For today, let's consider a final obvious point, a point which slid right past the repellent certainty of Writer One and the incomprehension of Writer Two.
Writer One was appalled by the thought that Those People voted for Candidate Trump even though he's "an unabashed bigot, a baldfaced liar and someone who bragged about groping women." Due to the thickness of his head, he doesn't seem to have considered what many of those voters believed about Candidate Clinton!
Many of the 63 million thought that Clinton was "a baldfaced liar" too, perhaps even more so than Trump. Many of the 63 million thought she had spent decades attacking women who had been groped by her husband, or perhaps had been flatly raped.
The paper to which he wrote his letter had encouraged these ideas in an appalling, front-page news report quite late in the campaign. Did the writer write to protest that? Or was he too busy stroking himself?
Many of the 63 million believed she was a liar too! (And an abuser of women.) They'd heard these claims for several decades. They believed those claims last fall.
The arrogant dimwit who wrote that first letter doesn't seem to know that. Perhaps he's just writing his own pleasing tale. Complications needn't apply.
He won't question the liberal gods who failed to challenge, or even advanced, these claims down through all those years. He didn't challenge the Times itself, which has spent the past twenty-five years spreading such thoughts all around.
It's a great deal like what Sinatra said. When we liberals loathe you, you know that we'll loathe you aaaalllll the way.
We'll swear that only The Others do that. Our claim will be dimwitted, wrong.
Despite our vast tribal self-regard, our work will be ugly and dumb. More and more, with awful results, The Others can see how we are.
Tomorrow: The greatest loathing of all