I acquired a new facebook friend who is a conservative Trump supporter.
He differs from many Trumpanzees in that he is an atheist, but in many respects we have the same conversations that would take place with other Trump supporters. These have been surprisingly cordial and informative, once we get past some of the assumptions we BOTH have about the other person. We are similar in age, but very different in employment background, most areas of interest, and especially in education. W. is an excellent example of the white, blue-collar, male supporter of Donald Trump.
Over the weekend, the conversation wandered from a shared enjoyment of certain poetry (to my surprise) to the topic of race and criminality. W. is convinced that black people are “crack-head animals” who are more inherently criminal because of their race. But W. is convinced he is not a racist, because he likes a few of the “good ones” [black people] he knows personally So in his thinking, acknowledging there are a few exceptions to the racial rule, like Condi Rice, or Colin Powell, or a few people he personally has known or worked with, excludes the possibility that his views of a majority of black people are racist.
W. does not really understand that the concept of race he holds is faulty, an artificial construct that does not really encompass much less explain human similarities and differences that he believes defines race. W. regularly messages me for example with instances where someone commits a road rage shooting to assure me that while no individual had yet been identified, the shooter was certainly going to turn out to be black. I refuse to believe anything about the shooter one way or the other; I’m comfortable waiting for that identification, without making those same assumptions. W. further asserted with strong conviction that were the shooter to turn out to be white, because the victim was black, that there would be widespread looting (he used the word “shopping”) by African Americans.
It is a fact that some statistics show a larger number of black Americans responsible for crimes generally and for violent crime particularly. However there are also problems with the statistics inadequately covering rural areas where there are more white people. The numbers are not definitive, and any interpretation of those flawed numbers that also involves a false understanding of both race and genetics cannot come to a valid conclusion.
For presuming to differ with W. I was of course called names, like a “deluded liberal” among others. The legitimate objections I hold to his faulty conclusions, which include a practical and applied understanding of genetics and genetic inheritance was blithely dismissed as elitism and a compulsion to be politically correct. Any science which rejected his conclusion was denied while anything which was rejected by science that bolstered or supported his bias, no matter the quality of that source, was embraced.
I have two problems with the racism that I have encountered with conservatives, one is the “don’t try to confuse me with the facts” response, and the other is the “I know it because I’ve seen it” response. W. disparages black people for supposedly still using crack cocaine in large numbers, which statistically is not the problem it was at one time, from the mid 1980s into the early 1990s. At the same time W. unrealistically minimizes the dangers and illegality of a close white friend who snorts cocaine on a regular basis, and whom he admits is an addict. W. even claimed not to be aware that it was possible to overdose on coke, or that it could cause heart attacks and strokes which might not be fatal but could certainly be massively debilitating. No, the white guy shoving coke up his nose was — in his estimation — nothing like those animalistic black people.
I consistently see not only this failure of information as a recurring problem with conservatives, not only W., but a very superficial level of understanding and analysis. Beyond that however I have seen a serious and recurring problem with applying a double standard to the conduct of those they like and those they don’t like. For example, W. has no problem with any of the well documented issues with the Trump charity, but is convinced that Hillary Clinton should be in jail for some vague misconduct that he cannot specify and for which he cannot cite a single statute, and believes that there is no benefits from the operation of the Clinton Foundation.
The stark reality of course is that the Clinton Foundation has done a broad range of public good, both in the US and overseas, and that while both Bill and Hillary Clinton have prospered during the existence of the Foundation, there does not appear to be any illegality involved so far. The same cannot be said either for the benefits from the Trump Foundation, or the credible accusations of fairly blatant illegality, and Donald Trump has clearly benefited from an entity that spends other people’s money (NOT his own) on toys like autographed footballs, on egotistical portraits, and on legal fees from Trump’s for-profit businesses that run afoul of the law.
Pointing out those acts of misconduct by Trump elicit complaints that “Trump won, so I need to get over it”. They elicit complaints that I am a “poor loser” and that there is nothing wrong with what Trump did because he is “a smart man”.
This blatant denial and the gleeful application of double standard, not only to Trump but to so many, many more issues and people, and the enormous accumulation of false information combined with the utter denial or disregard for anything that does not support the blind illusion and delusion of expectations about Donald Trump deeply concern me. The failure of facts to persuade deeply concerns me because when facts are denied or rejected, there can be no finding of common ground, no meeting of the minds, and no reality based on the grasp of cause and effect. I see a pattern of emotional thinking that deeply concerns me because it actively rejects logic and rational critical thinking.
As frustrating as these engagements with conservatives like W. are, I see value in continuing them. There is some hope that if W and other conservatives decide they LIKE me enough to at least listen, to at least consider briefly before rejecting facts, that it will be possible to make gains in finding common ground. And it serves to remind me to make a concerted effort not to dismiss the thinking of conservatives as bigoted without listening to why they feel the way they do. It is by addressing the why of their feelings rather than the ways those feelings are wrong or invalid that we find any future reunification of the factions of this country.
But dear God, it is not going to be easy to find that “meeting of the minds”, that common ground. And if one more low information low education Trump supporter tells me to sit down, shut up, and relax because now the “grown ups are in charge”, I might throw up.