Nov 14, 2016

False Equivalences, and The Deals You've Made

Let's talk a bit about something which will become very important for the next few years.

Imagine two men, we'll call them Ted and Bob.

Ted punches Bob. Then Bob punches Ted back. Ted insists that Bob had no right to hit him, and that Bob is just as bad as him.

This is a false equivalence. The argument that similar actions, undertaken in different circumstances and with different context, have the same impact and justification.

Our example is highly simplified, but it should get the point across. Bob was reacting to having been assaulted. He was defending himself, and letting Ted know that he wouldn't allow a further assault to continue.

So when we see protests against the Trump presidency, in the light of the rise in racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic attacks taking place, and those protests are decried as being "just as bad as the other side," that is also a false equivalence.

These protests show us rage. Yes, they're marching through the streets. Yes, they're disrupting traffic. Yes, they're burning flags and effigies. But this rage is not based on hate.

It is based on fear.

Fear that basic human rights might be taken away. Fear that alt-right extremists have been emboldened by a president-elect whose rhetoric supports their beliefs. Fear of people being targeted by those same extremists, or by people who would never consider themselves racist or sexist or homophobic, but who have had their own fears stoked by lies, misinformation, and a cultural bias against those who are different.

And this fear is not unfounded. It has happened. It keeps happening. Internment camps during World War II. The fact that more Native Americans are killed by police than any other demographic. Slavery. Segregation. There are people alive who would have seen "Whites" and "Blacks" drinking fountains, swimming pools, seating areas. Who would have witnessed, or experienced, the consequences when those rules were broken.

Now I'm not going to deny that the protests and other outbursts against Trump will leave some damage. And I'm not going to condone kicking and stomping on someone while they lie on the ground, no matter if they voted for Trump or not.

But what I will say, is that there is a difference between violence committed out of hate, and violence committed out of fear or the instinct to protect someone.

So before you judge people based on a 30-second video clip, stop and ask yourself what you're not seeing. What happened before the recording? Was there anything the camera missed? Think about history, and the times we've been here before, and what so many people are afraid will happen.

If you're white, straight, and cisgender, then whether you like it or not, you've benefited all your life from a system built for you. Even more so if you're a man. And that system is now poised, on both sides of the Atlantic, to be turned against anyone who's not like you. And not for the first time.

You have no idea what it's like to live in that kind of fear. By voting for Trump, or any figure who builds their campaign on promises to harm minorities, regardless of the justification, then you've cut a deal. You've traded their safety for the promises made to you. That means it's on you to hold your elected leaders responsible. And it's on you to prove, by your actions and not your words, that you are not a danger to those minorities.

I guess what I'm saying is that, as always, I don't condone people resorting so easily to violence. But this time, I can damn sure understand why they do.

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