Nov 8, 2016

US Presidential Election - A Storyteller's View

Early voting has been going on for a while now, but today's the day the majority of American voters will make their choice. I said on Facebook this morning that I haven't been so attentive to a vote since Ireland voted on equal marriage. And like that vote, I've been vocal about my belief that Donald Trump is the worst possible candidate for the position. My views on Hilary Clinton have shifted over time, from the common "lesser of two evils" opinion, all the way to know believing she is genuinely the most qualified candidate for the last several decades.

Note, I still think she's a typical politician, and I don't generally like politicians. I think she'll do a good job, but she's no Obama. She's no hero.

And that's what I want to talk about here. Not get into a political debate, but to talk about heroes and villains. And why we seek them out, even where they can't be found.

Storytelling is my best trait. It's my calling; the thing I was put on this Earth to do. So I've trained myself to watch how narratives unfold, and I like to think I've become quite good at it.

Human beings crave story. Like music, story is an intrinsic part of human nature. I'm aware of only a single tribe, of only 310-350 members, that tells no stories, and that appears tied to the limits of their language.

So when we have a decision to make, we instinctively look for the story; the hero and the villain.

Conservative voices insist that they want to protect, or resurrect, a certain way of life. But consider that all too often, that goal seems undeniably tied not to providing or protecting something, but denying people something they need. Suffrage. Marriage equality. Civil rights. There are certain issues you can debate and try to figure out the right way to solve, but consider how certain attitudes are depicted in stories.

You see, stories have long served as a way to understand our place in the world, and as tools to guide people towards a better future and a better way to live.

My friend Shevaun Frasier posted about this subject on Facebook.

There is a reason why the alt-right, ultra-conservative viewpoint isn't expressed by today's heroes.

Despite having grown up in the 1920s and 1930s, Captain America doesn't object to black people and white people using the same swimming pool, drinking fountain, or sharing a seat on a bus. Despite being an alien from a highly advanced world, Superman doesn't judge someone for their religion. Nor does Thor, who is literal proof that the notion of a single god is wrong. Batman doesn't judge people because of their gender, or whether they're attracted to people of the same gender. Iron Man doesn't stand idly by while his company's weapons are used to kill innocent people. They give of themselves, sacrificing their wellbeing to protect those who can't protect themselves. They make sure people can live freely.

Because they're the good guys.

And there's a reason why the Red Skull is a supremacist. Why Biff Tannen and his gang use racial slurs and try to commit rape. Why William Stryker abducts children who were born different and locks them up in cages.

Because people like that are the bad guys.

We're not supposed to want to be like them. We're supposed to want to be like the good guys.

It's easy to assume you're rooting for the hero, to get swept up in the frenzy. But perhaps its time to stop hinging such important decisions on the search for a hero who'll solve all your problems for you. Because sometimes there is no hero. But you can bet any time people are scared, or suffering, somewhere there'll be a villain eager to profit from that.

Look at your candidates, your elected officials, your leaders, and listen to the language they use. Ignore what the other side says about them for a moment. Look at their goals. The promises they make. The way they treat people and speak about the people who most need help. Now take their words and apply them to the villain of any story you like. Do they fit? Could you see that character saying those things?

If so, you might just be rooting for the villain.