Sunday, November 13, 2016

(A Rambling) Profile in Cowardice

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I used to be a True Believer. Now, however, my view is that we shouldn't act or advocate based on ideology or purity, but on incrementalism and pragmatism. I believe we should avoid words and ideas that are viewed negatively by the general public, and we should honestly evaluate the numbers and studies and learn our lessons to help us determine the best way forward. With per-capita animal consumption at an all-time high, I think it is clear we need a new approach.

Thaddeus Stevens, played in "Lincoln"
by Tommy Lee Jones.
I understand that others think this attitude is entirely wrong-headed. I've accepted the attacks claiming “immoral,” and I expect more in the future.

But while I understand the desire for purity, and the elaborate and endless arguments for only demanding in full everything we want, my reading of history reveals that actual progress comes about in herky-jerky increments, led by compromising individuals.

I've been a fan of Al Gore's since his first presidential run in 1988. Not to sound arrogant, but he reminded me of me — a somewhat awkward nerd who worked hard and cared a lot, but was not particularly popular or inspiring. It pained me to watch him lambasted with ridiculous made-up stories (Love Story, the Internet) while a bumbling fool got away with outright lies (“the vast majority of my tax cut goes to the people at the very bottom”). But what brought me actual agony was so many people who refused to vote to Gore, because he wasn't “pure,” because he wasn't “inspiring,” because he wasn't promising to deliver everything the Left wanted.

So we got a war that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands. Deregulation leading to economic collapse. And right wing justices on the Supreme Court who oppose equal rights and civil liberties.

And since we refused to learn from history, we were doomed to repeat it. Again, a hard-working, deeply-dedicated individual was slandered with made-up stories, while the son of a millionaire spouted nothing but insults, hatred, and lies. It hasn't even been a week, but the attacks and assaults are already well underway.

But while I am fine with standing up for incrementalism and pragmatism in terms of animal advocacy, I have been a coward in terms of politics.

In 2004, I had two tires slashed because of my anti-Bush bumper stickers. Since then, I've not had bumper stickers. I didn't wear political shirts or hats because of my fear of physical repercussions. I didn't stand up to slanderous attacks on Hillary, because I just couldn't bear the relentless onslaught from the Left and Right.

And the attacks — an intentional form “voter suppression” by her opponents — worked, with many millions of Obama voters not voting for the best candidate this time.

This is a long and rambling way to get to the link that prompted this post: “The Guilt and Pain of a Clinton Supporter.” I ask that you read the entire thing, but here is the passage most relevant to me:

“It’s my fault because during the long months of the primary and the general election I didn’t tell anyone how strongly I felt about Clinton. I didn’t put a sticker on my car, I didn’t put a sign in my yard, and I didn’t wear a T-shirt. ... It’s my fault because when I ran into people who were voting for Trump—at the grocery store, in the gym, in my neighborhood—I changed the subject because I didn’t want to get into an argument.

“And it’s also my fault because when I did support her, I did so in a provisional and caveated way. I said things like, “I realize she’s not a perfect candidate” and “I’m not arguing that she isn’t flawed.” And every time I said something like this I affirmed that there was a need to apologize, I singled her out as somehow different from other candidates (in both parties) who were worthy of unequivocal support, and I created the space for the impression that she was critically flawed. I did this nearly every time I spoke about her, and I saw this language in dozens of articles and editorials and statements of support. [But] I don’t remember seeing this type of language in the editorials written for any of the similarly flawed men who have run for president over the past twenty years. And this, I think, is the thing I regret the most.”

I know that my form of regret is shallow; as a straight white male, the brunt of the horrors won't fall on me. But I can promise you this: Knowing that doesn't make me feel any better. And I will regret this with every new horror that comes down the pike for all the years to come.

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