I read this really good Vox article about American authoritarianism and the rise of the Cheeto today instead of cleaning the house. Because the internet is infinitely more interesting than chasing dust bunnies and hanging up wet clothes, y’all.
TL;DR–Authoritarianism is driving the bigotry we’re seeing–it’s inherently prejudicial, because it stems from a rhetoric-driven fear of the “other” and a fear of change.
Dumb version: someone tells you you should be afraid of X, and so you freak out and look for hard-line solutions to protect you from X.
This is fascinating from a psychological standpoint. However, it actually illustrates a huge problem: people stop thinking at hearing about X and don’t look deeper to see whether it’s actually a threat to them. A good example is the vaccination scare–one incredibly flawed and eventually discredited study created a panic. As a result, people (children!) got sick from preventable diseases because everybody freaked out and stopped vaccinating their kids.
Understandably, the study’s conclusion alarmed other scientists, and they took a good hard look at the data. They found a whole lot of junk, poor procedures, and nothing to support the study’s conclusions.
The vaccines were not the threat–the panic was.
Same thing here. One incredibly flawed and repeatedly discredited person (Trump) played on a latent fear of change and has fed a new, destructive, and frightening political demographic. Not created, mind you; it’s been there, lurking, and that’s even more scary.
It remains small and ineffective (we hope) at this time, but now more than ever, our future as a free nation depends on our willingness to embrace change. I’m worried about this election. I probably won’t be able to relax until it’s over, and if it goes all pear-shaped, I’m not sure I can or want to stay here. Because as a writer, I know that words have power–and if his can, mine can. My voice would join those of other dissidents and we would be in danger for speaking the truth. Our veracity would have little sway over people who cannot or will not use their critical thinking power and who hold such a vital skill in little regard. And it’s more important to me that I could continue speaking out than remain silent. If I have to seek asylum elsewhere to do it, I will.
So what can you do? Listen to the words you hear. Think about them. Dig deeper. Do so with an open mind, not one attuned to unrelated nuggets you can use to support your position. Hear all positions. That’s what we’re supposed to do during an election. So do it.
This article, though aimed at college students, can help you exercise these vital processes.