“Play the ball, not the man.”
In a world gone somewhat mad, I’m seeing a lot of people imploring each other to respect the opinions of others, even when they don’t agree. To respect other people, even though they have a (sometimes wildly) different point of view on some really important, world-changing issues. Play the ball, as it were. Hold a different point of view, by all means, but remember that opinions are (apparently) sacrosanct.
“We are all different, after all, right? That’s what makes life interesting! It’s not right to disrespect someone because they voted differently to how you did or would.”
What I’m taking away from this is that it’s basically acceptable to criticise an idea or an opinion. But apparently, we must do so without criticising the person that holds it. Maybe this is true when the opinion is a minor one; a matter of personal taste that effects no one else. What about when it’s bigger than that?
Opinions Speak Volumes.
A person’s ideas and opinions colour how I see them. Especially when they involve rejecting evidence and reason. This is where it gets difficult for me to “play the ball”. No one likes to be wrong, but it’s through being wrong and making mistakes that we learn. When you refuse to take new information, evidence or reasoned argument into account, you’re essentially choosing to keep an opinion or idea that you should be leaving behind because you now know better. And that can be dangerous.
Ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. Holding or supporting terrible views has a flow-on effect. In Australia, for example, Pauline Hanson rose from the ashes of the ‘Asian Invasion’ rhetoric to become a senator 20 year later. How? She rode the waves of anti-Islamic sentiment to form a new attack on the Muslim community. She made her views known and even spoke at a “Reclaim Australia” rally. Consequently, the racists and bigots flocked to give her 9% of the vote in Queensland. By some logic, I am supposed to separate the people that put Hanson in a position of power from their views.
I’ve been wrong more times than I care to admit.
For example (and I am utterly ashamed to admit this) some years ago, I didn’t understand why Aboriginal Australians were given certain benefits and programs. I thought it was some sort of misguided attempt at reparation by the government for the things our ancestors did two centuries ago. I read an article that made me wonder if perhaps I had no fucking clue. So I read up on the inequities still faced by Aboriginal people today.
It turns out, I was 100% correct; I had no clue. In my ignorance, I had not known that Aboriginal people are the most economically and socially disadvantaged group in Australia. I changed my views and made sure to educate myself. I’m no expert but I’m willing to learn.
It’s horrible to find yourself on the wrong side of any argument and I think it takes some level of courage to admit you were wrong, especially publicly. However, that’s no excuse not to do it. If you are one of these people dead against refugees, for example, because you legitimately believe they get more welfare payments than the elderly plus a free car from the government, fair enough. When you are shown that none of that is true, you should be changing your tune. If you refuse to, you are choosing irrational hate over evidence and reason. What does that say about you?
The Trump Card.
America played it. Donald Trump: President of the USA. A man known for his racism, misogyny, ignorance and bigotry. I would like to say I was shocked but I wasn’t, really. Trump exploited a fear of what is “different” (brown skin, sexual orientation, women in power) to win a bunch of fearful people over. All bigotry comes down to some kind of fear. If you appeal to fearful people and promise them their fears won’t be realised, it seems they’ll support you with single-minded fervour. It doesn’t matter how vague your slogan is.
I have seen lots of people on social media reminding everyone to respect Trump supporters and their opinions even though one might not agree with them.
“They just exercised their right to vote, right? No doubt they had their reasons! People shouldn’t call them out for their terrible choice. We can disagree with their views while remaining respectful, right?” …Bullshit.
The thing with respect is that it’s a two-way street. Were Trump supporters respecting other people when they put him in such a powerful position?
There Are Consequences.
If you voted for this man, you voted for the man that wants to build a wall to keep Mexican people out of America and wants to ban Muslim people from entering the USA. This same guy wanted to ban abortion, which is a great way to also kill women. You voted for Trump, even though his history of sexism is well documented and there are multiple sexual assault allegations against him. Trump wants to repeal marriage equality, leaving LGBTIQ people with lesser rights yet again. The Ku Klux Klan endorsed Trump and are apparently planning a rally to celebrate his win. That should be a red flag in itself.
People have elected a man whose rhetoric breeds violence and inequity. Within days of his election win, there have been reports of racial attacks perpetrated by Trump supporters in public and online. It’s Brexit all over again in so many ways.
There are people saying they voted Trump even though they don’t necessarily agree with his racism or his sexism, but by giving him their support, they’ve still endorsed those views. The effects of electing Trump aren’t only being felt in the USA, with predictions that people may well become more comfortable airing racist and bigoted views even here in Australia. I could go on and on but what I’m getting at is that this is a dark time for many people. The concerns expressed are proving valid.
What Can We Do?
One thing we can do, according to writer and academic Tobias Stone, is to get out of our own echo chamber. It makes sense to want to stick to a crowd that feels like you do. I know, I get it because this is totally me. I literally removed people from my social media and my life because I was sick to death of beating my head against a brick wall of willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance. However, aside from solidarity, there’s little point in preaching to the converted. Instead, we have to throw our support behind those who need it and challenge the people who support racism, sexism, bigotry and other forms of discrimination.
I refuse to respect bad opinions or the people that cling to them while ignoring evidence and reason. While I may not respect people who hang on to those crappy ideas, I also don’t abuse them, no matter how frustrating I find them. It just doesn’t help. I don’t imagine many people let go of years of racist thinking, for example, because someone on the internet called them a ‘fucking idiot’. My advice is to skip the name calling, keep it civil and go right for the facts and reason. You might cop some heat, because people don’t like their dearly held beliefs challenged, no matter who they are. Will you change their hearts and minds? Maybe; but probably not.
Hold The Line.
What you will do is send a clear message of support to those who need it and bring balance to these discussions. There are people who support the likes of Trump, Hanson and worse. There are people who support imprisoning and punishing asylum seekers. Some people support banning people from practicing their religion. Others might support restricting a woman’s control over her own body. Arguing that we should respect these opinions and these people for holding them makes no sense to me. Call it out when you see it. Throw your reason, logic and empathy out there.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- you never know who is reading along and forming their own views. For them and for those that need us to, as J.K. Rowling has said, we must hold the line.
We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalised. We hold the line. https://t.co/ro9AkRSc9Q
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 9, 2016
When human rights and lives are at stake, it’s too late to “agree to disagree”.
#IBOT @ Capturing Life.