Character Flaws: Democrats
I’ve been a liberal for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I remember my parents telling me that we are Democrats and that we believe in helping people. This automatically set the narrative in my head as us being the 'good guys' and the Republicans as the 'bad guys'. I always assumed everyone around me had to be a Democrat and the first time I met conservatives, I looked at them as callous and evil. Not that I thought they were bad people, I had always had friends I knew were conservatives, I just thought their mindsets were primitive and that they’d eventually come around to my side.
This was amplified when I went to college. Going to a school where even though ethnic and cultural diversity was plentiful, the majority of the student/faculty body was liberal and any conservative voices were met with criticism and disdain. I remember being in seminars and discussion groups, and hearing powerful messages regarding race, sexuality, and gender, followed by the affirmative snaps that left-leaning peers that let you know that your position was correct. At the time, I thought I was being enlightened. I thought I was learning things and becoming more accustomed to the real world. I thought that by dealing with people who looked and acted differently than me I could find common ground that so many people had.
After college, I discovered something pretty crazy.
While traveling, reading, and listening to many lectures, I realized that every group that holds an idea or belief, has the same kind of peers and affirmations that I had going through college. I realized that white supremacists have the same kinds of networks, same kinds of affirmations, they even have what they believe is a logical sense of righteousness.
However, liberal righteousness has gotten out of hand. Where as those on the right would simply dislike anyone who disagrees with them, liberals will often vilify allies and silence people who would otherwise join them, because of the sensitivity of what they believe they are defending. Being this quick to attack people not only turns people off to your cause, it undermines your message and makes people wonder if your just the proverbial 'boy-who-cried-wolf'.
Take racism for example.
Racism is a problem in America, both for individuals and systemically. However, the groups like Black Lives Matter lose credibility when they keep white people out of a Philadelphia branch meeting. There is actually a huge problem with sentencing disparities and the rate of police homicide amongst black people, which kills them at a much higher rate and even more so when you see how many of those people were un-armed. But it damn sure doesn’t mean that a millionaire/superstar athlete like Lebron James has a tough life in America because some racist criminal decided to tag his house with an ethnic slur.
This brings up the Left’s use of the term ‘privilege'. While I do believe in privilege and I believe that certain groups of people are less likely to experience certain hardships than others, the Left has found a way to take it off the rails. By my senior year I heard people saying that because of the “power structures”, all men are sexist, all white people are racist, and all cisgendered people were transphobic just because they live in America.
Now just imagine how many cisgendered white men you’ve just alienated because you wanted to feel right?
To be clear, you are not automatically racist, transphobic, or sexist if you are either white, cisgendered, or a man. That would be like saying you hate Muslim people because you're a Christian since Christians are the dominant religion in this country. It’s just false.
Many believe this is why Donald Trump won, and many see this as the initial stepping stones to an emboldened, intolerant America. That these ideas will now be brought to the forefront.
What do I say to that? Good.
The reason so many people are against feminism and Black Lives Matter has a lot less to do with people thinking certain groups are equal, and a lot to do with criticism of any of these movements being labeled as hate speech. “I think men and women are already equal” A man would say. “Well you’re so caught in the patriarchy you just cannot see it,” Which not only eliminates the conversation, you’ve just given that man an anecdote without providing any tangible evidence that such an issue exist.
All this can be a little difficult to hear given that social justice culture since late 2000's onward has become mainstream and for most people, especially minorities, there isn’t much of a reward for challenging such beliefs. Why would you ever go against something that showed empathy to your identity and causes that benefit you? The moment I asked myself this question, I soon realized this was the exact reason so many white people during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow era were so reluctant to pass civil rights legislation. To be fair, I believe this is the reason social justice movements remained in place. The feminist movement was initially aimed at Capitalism and the ways Capitalism and systemic corporate environments stacked the deck against women. Once economic justice had been established, or at least as much that could be achieved legally, the movement didn’t have much way to move up, so then it targeted a patriarchal power structure which could only be justified by pointing to out-of-context figures like the wage gap and the amount of women who will experience rape in their life. This is not to say these aren’t problems, they just don’t stem from a historic oppression of women in this country.
The same could be said for Islam. People of Islamic faith experienced a level of vitriol after 9/11 that was unfathomable, even though many of them were just as outraged as their American counterparts. Thus, in order to curb the hatred, we labeled any criticism of the faith as 'Islamaphobic'. People like Bill Maher or Sam Harris were considered bigots because they would say accurate statements like “Islamic theocracies oppress women". Which they do, but all people like Ben Affleck could use the typical straw man and say “Not all Muslims!” which no one argued to begin with.
This may come off like I am no longer liberal or that I think these people are terrible but it’s quite the opposite. I consider myself a liberal in the most classic sense of the word and I want to the Left return to those values and ideals. I believe the intention is good, yet the methods have become antiquated and authoritarian. I think if we can get the ball rolling and actually talking with people we disagree with, we will be in good shape.