By Leah Jones, Features Editor
In preparation for an article I wrote for the previous issue of The Current, I was given the opportunity to speak with some educated, intelligent, and passionate people about the Women’s Marches on St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Both marches represent stands on important issues that cannot be ignored. Although I was personally excited supported the march and those who opposed it for various reasons. I wanted to ask questions about this dialogue and whether or not the march would actually be able to affect political change, or if it would amount to nothing more than a wasted Saturday afternoon of consolation and commiseration, after which people would return to their daily lives, having changed nothing.
In my experience, various prejudices are easy to see in other people but even easier to overlook in ourselves. A while back I studied on Long Island. Despite witnessing a plethora of Islamophobic slurs and insults there, one of the first things that most people asked me about Missouri, “People are really racist there, aren’t they?” This type of thinking permeates how we think about ourselves and our prejudices towards others. Nobody wants to admit to not being inclusive or ignoring others’ viewpoints, but at the end of the day, since many of these prejudices are encoded into laws and practices, we all participate for the march, I wanted to form the least biased opinion on the matter. I wanted to hear from both those who in the systems that perpetuate them. The point here is that, inevitably, we all hold some prejudices towards others. The only way to really come to terms with these beliefs is by talking to people of other positions and including those different voices and perspectives on your organizing board for events on inclusion and diversity, such as the Women’s Marches across the country.
This leads into the second issue that persistently plagued me while I wrote the article. I say that we should talk to each other, as did pretty much everyone else that I spoke with about the event. But as divided as we have become, that proved very difficult. I tried to find people who might oppose the march but, as with after the election, I realized that I do not have many friends or people to whom I can reach out and talk to who are of the opposite ideological and political persuasion. I know some people with opposing beliefs, but we do not talk about those beliefs. And this is a problem.
In one particularly disappointing exchange, I asked my roommate to get in touch with his boss, a Trump supporter and somebody who opposed the women’s march. I was unfortunately unable to pursue this exchange since my roommate did not want me to publish an article using his boss’s name. If people found out that his boss opposed the march and supported Trump, he reasoned, his business might suffer.
This sort of anecdote demonstrates some of what is causing the divide in our nation. Some people are so entrenched in their own beliefs that they come to their conclusions before actually stopping to think through their beliefs. However, even the people that are willing to look at the reasoning underlying their beliefs often feel threatened by potential reactions from opponents. People do not want to say what they think or talk about their beliefs or political opinions because they fear the repercussions. We cannot talk about things that people are too afraid to acknowledge. And this is a problem.
At the same time, I understand the urge to react impulsively. As a woman, a vote for Trump feels like a vote saying that it is okay for men to grope me. A vote for Trump feels like it devalues me personally. It feels like it says that I, and my safety, security, and well-being, do not matter. Though I cannot speak definitively for other groups, I would imagine that those whom Trump demeaned with his rhetoric feel similarly. It is difficult to generate a real conversation about important topics when it feels like the other party has no regard for me as a person. It is hard to talk to someone to whom I do not matter. Like my roommate’s boss, I feel threatened coming to these conversations.
Even if I get over my own personal feelings about not being valued by the other speaker, the other thing that I must deal with in these conversations would be the other party’s acceptance of hatred and bigotry. I could talk about policy, economics, and the like with the other side, but I think that an acceptance of the Trump administration is also an acceptance of the hateful rhetoric used in the past election cycle.
I think that the sort of solidarity shown at the Women’s March should not prevent conversation with the other side. This is difficult, however, given the level of animosity that exists between those of opposite political viewpoints. Quite frankly, this scares me almost as much as the incoming administration.
With all of that being said, if you do support the current administration, I would love to talk to you and get your viewpoint on things. Please feel free to reach out to me through The Current.