by Fernando J. Contreras
I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win easily, and the day after the election I discovered my impressions were based on the fact I hang out with a bunch of liberals.
It’s called ‘confirmation bias’: the act of surrounding yourself with only those ideas you already believe to be true. When we like only what makes us feel good and push away the rest, our worldview is distorted through a thick ideological filter. The Chinese government imposes a filter on its citizens through censorship. We do it to ourselves, freely.
It’s bleaker than that, actually. This confirmation bias, amplified by technology, widens the gap between groups of people who have different beliefs, making concessions harder to reach.
So the night of the election, as soon as Florida and Wisconsin went red, I was blaming people I don’t know and will never meet. In order to facilitate my cursing, I grouped them into bunches: toothless hillbillies, rural simpletons, Christian hypocrites, Nazis, racist pieces of shit, misogynist fuckers, Earth killers, viruses of the world, and so on. My insults lost a few degrees of sophistication after that.
I blamed so many people I think I got all of them. And if you presume that at any point I came to my senses and placed some of the blame on myself, you’re wrong. I was, and still am, deeply disappointed at conservatives, liberals, red, blue, black, latino, white, everyone, which comes to show you that I don’t discriminate.
But that also makes me a hypocrite, a man that swiftly chose hate the second things didn’t go his way. How can I claim to be an introspective man, a defender of education and critical thinking?
On the other hand, does that mean I have to accept this terrible outcome if I know better? Because I know better! That’s why I went to university all those years. That’s why I read mountains of books. I’m the one who promotes tolerance and equal rights for all. My values advocate for peace and the advancement of civilization. Why can’t you see that?
If I’m so bright, why can’t I start a constructive conversation with Trump supporters after they voted into office a lying, sophomoric, misogynistic xenophobe? I feel that the second they open their mouth, I’ll revert to a child and scream at them, “WRONG!” just like Trump did to Hillary during those embarrassing debates.
I’m stuck in this loop, and I’m afraid it renders my work as a writer irrelevant, since it only entertains those who already agree with me. I ask myself, What is the point of art then if it only appeals to art lovers? Isn’t that also how we’ve been taught to find friends, by surrounding ourselves with like-minded people (who add just the right amount of discord to make it interesting)?
As I struggle with these ideas, the chants coming from the red states grow louder: ‘Sore Loser!’, they say, which is what we said when Obama beat Romney, except we said it with a full set of teeth in our mouths.
Cheap shot. I apologize. It’s the anger.
I keep contradicting myself, but this is why I’m really upset: I simmer in anguish and sadness at the thought that there won’t be enough time (after this imbecile leaves office) to deal with climate change. Other problems are important, but this is the pressing issue of our time. Animal species are dying, the ice caps are melting, temperatures are shifting, all while the topics of overpopulation, pollution, and exploitation of natural resources are being ignored. And now, here comes Trump and his deniers from the Middle Ages.* Thank you.
* To be fair, I doubt Clinton would have made the sacrifices needed… but at least we wouldn’t be stuck with this tweeting orangutan!… I’m sorry. This is so frustrating.
As I look into the past, I’m reminded that our surviving ideologies have spread through war, which is not a big endorsement for humankind. Violence erupts when a government fails to foster channels of understanding between contradicting views, and to create opportunity for its citizens. This election (politicians, the media) has made it seem like only two types of people exist, the red and the blue, and that the distance between them is wider and more unforgiving than we thought. Two angry sides is all you need in a fight, so the next four years will be remarkable if they do not lead to one. It feels like a war of any kind would be redundant, though, since we have all lost already.