Trump & Tolerance
Unfortunately I don’t have much time to write further at the moment. House full of sick kids, multiple doctor appointments, and so forth. I do want to make a couple more remarks in light of my logorrheic piece about Trump and civic empathy.
One of the reasons that I did not vote for Trump, and said I wouldn’t vote for him, was this graf from a column Ross Douthat wrote on October 29 (N.B., I agree with the entire column, but I want to highlight this):
The second peril is major civil unrest. Some of Trump’s supporters imagine that his election would be a blow to left-wing activists, that his administration would swiftly reverse the post-Ferguson crime increase. This is a bit like imagining that a President George Wallace would have been good for late-1960s civil peace. In reality, Trump’s election would be a gift to bad cops and riot-ready radicals in equal measure, and his every intervention would pour gasoline on campuses and cities — not least because as soon as any protest movement had a face or leader, Trump would be on cable bellowing ad hominems at them.
I believe that we are going to see this. I hope I’m wrong, but everything we’ve seen from the Left in the past week tells me that they’re going to push themselves this far, and that Trump and his followers will not be able to resist egging them on.
I also believe that it has been difficult to discern (absent video, or reliable reporting) when there have been serious instances of racist, sexist, or other violence or insults in the past week, and when it has been exaggerated, or a hoax. The fact that people are claiming on social media that this has been happening is not confirmation. To be clear, I am sure that it has been happening in some places. When and where it has happened, it ought to be condemned, and those engaged in it punished. What bothers me is that to many on the Left, this only goes one way.
Speaking as a conservative and a Christian, I believe that people like me have a special obligation to speak out against Trump and his followers when they engage in racial abuse, and the like. A (white, female, conservative) Christian friend emailed this morning to say, quite rightly, that orthodox Christians are not alt-right racists, but we can easily be seen that way if we fail to stand up to the alt-right racists. Again: she’s right about that. I’m going to write something about this later, after I get back from the orthodontist with one of my kids.
What frustrates me so much about the left, especially the campus left, in this moment is that they are fulfilling, and doubling down on, my belief that practicing left-wing identity politics calls forth the same thing from the right. Alan Jacobs speaks to this from a slightly different angle in this post about the damage of postmodernism:
The academic left interrogated the discourses of “truth” and “reason,” revealed the aporias thereof, exposed the inner workings of the power-knowledge regime, all in the name of social justice. I remember vividly Andrew Ross’s insistence, twenty-five years ago, that it was actually perfectly appropriate and consistent for a would-be revolutionary like him to have a tenured position at Princeton: “I teach in the Ivy League in order to have direct access to the minds of the children of the ruling classes.” It turns out that the children of the ruling classes learned their lessons well, so when they inherited positions in their fathers’ law firms they had some extra, and very useful, weapons in their rhetorical armory.
In precisely the same way, when, somewhat later, academic leftists preached that race and gender were the determinative categories of social analysis, members of the future alt-right were slouching in the back rows of their classrooms, baseball caps pulled down over their eyes, making no external motions but in their dark little hearts twitching with fervent agreement.
It seems that we’ve all now learned the lessons that the academic left taught, and how’s that working out for us? The alt-right/Trumpistas are Caliban to the academic left’s Prospero: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse.”
People are correct to be vigilant against the kind of thing Trump has called up in many of our fellow Americans. What they had better be careful of is an overcorrection, such that anyone who questions the progressive Narrative is seen as one with the alt-right. A reader of this blog who is a friend living in Massachusetts sent me some material her kids’ high school principal sent out to parents and faculty. It is the same kind of thing we’ve been seeing from school authorities everywhere this week. The friend, who is Catholic, said that her children’s experience at the school over the years has featured frequent slurs against Catholics and conservatives — slurs that nobody in authority seems to notice because it confirms what they already accept as normal. I don’t know if my friend voted Trump or not, but what she reports is the kind of thing that sends people toward Trump without apology.
This is a very difficult needle to thread, standing between the SJW left and the alt-right, but I don’t know where else to stand. The middle ground in this country is fast shrinking. Cucked if you do, cucked if you don’t…