If you’re surprised about what’s happening in the US Government, you’re part of the problem. The reason we study history, as my favorite writer Yuval Noah Harari stipulates, is to free ourselves from it. It is in ignorance of the past that we guarantee its repetition. This isn’t even my favorite Yuval quote. The idea that we must, “never underestimate human stupidity,” strikes me to the core. This is exactly what we did in the 2016 elections. I do not look down on anyone from a high horse as I say this. We are collectively stupid. I speak of the human race as a whole.
The nature of history is that it repeats itself. Human beings have, are, and always will be, susceptible to the same sentiments and behaviors when placed under certain specific circumstances. One could argue that this is not the case; that many have risen above the influence of misdirected fear and anger throughout the course of history. Though this is certainly true, the presence of fear and ignorance has the power to permeate a society and profoundly impact it regardless.
Issues of politics and social justice — of life in general — are far more complex than the terms “good” and “bad” indicate. The people who voted for Trump exist, and their decision was influenced by an experience that is clearly not uncommon. Circumstance is a major factor that is not to be ignored in these situations. I often ask myself how I would have voted in this election had I been raised in an atmosphere governed by ignorance and fear; in a world in which my education taught me to oppose anything that was different than what was familiar to me. Had I lived in a part of the country that was still largely segregated, had I never truly interacted with a black person on a personal level, would I have been able to identify the presence of systemic racism in this country? Had my community enforced a belief system rooted in prejudice for the entirety of my life, would I have the knowledge to rise above it? We have very little control over over the identities that are thrust upon us at the very moment of our conception, and clearly these factors; the very aspects of ourselves that we have absolutely no control over; profoundly influence our actions and outlooks.
The individuals who voted for Trump are not evil. Neither were those who similarly supported Hitler early on in his political rise (before shit hit the fan, I mean). Again, it is far more complicated than good vs evil. People certainly do evil things, but whether we like it or not, they are usually done for inherently human reasons. We are influenced by a full range of emotions, including anger and fear. And when these feelings take over, logic becomes scarily irrelevant. This is something we have all experienced. It is part of being human. Though I believe we have the power to rise above our petty emotions, this takes work and patience, and I highly doubt that there will never be a time in which everyone on this planet simultaneously learns to do so.
Conflict is not going anywhere any time soon. It is an unavoidable part of human existence. Not only is everything in this earth cyclical, it is also completely balanced. I often tell myself that life is both 100% good and 100% evil. 100% beautiful and 100% ugly. One cannot be without the other. I do not intend to justify violence and hate and all that Trump represents. I am simply doing my best to make sense of it, because we cannot deny that these forces are a part of our existence. They always have been, and I dare to say that they always will be.