Most of the people I’ve come in contact with in the last two years have told me that they are tired of all the bad news littering their news feeds.
“It’s all too much!”
“The world is surely coming to an end!”
“I’ll sooner die than hear the last of all this terrible news!”
And, of course, the bad news has yet to stop. It’s ironic that the anchor-person on the nightly news wishes you a “Good Evening” and then proceeds to tell you why it isn’t.
I, too, have felt the sting of all of the bad news, and part of me wishes that it would cease – even for just a day – so that we can sit back and enjoy all the nice things in life, like NYFW, and puppies, and tropical fruit.
But most of me also remembers what happened the last time I chose to “block out” all of the tumultuous worldly happenings.
Trump was elected in 2016, much to my (and many others’) dismay, but it was also to my (and many others’) surprise, which it shouldn’t have been. America has had a long tradition of racism, segregation, and injustice, just like the rest of the world. So why, then, was his election such a surprise to so many people?
I want to maintain that the surprise was solely due to ignorance. I was a perpetrator of this blissful ignorance in that I felt that if I wanted to alleviate myself from all the atrocious (and, quite frankly, ridiculous) happenings surrounding the US Presidential Election, I might as well brush it off and make a joke out of it than take it seriously.
And to most people, Trump is an actual joke: his easily caricatured demeanour and features, paired with his oftentimes hypocritical ideologies, made him out to be a laughing stock among many people around the world (I travelled to Asia and at the mention of the name “Trump” they started to giggle and roll their eyes).
But we forget that many of the people who could actually exercise their right to vote did not necessarily see him as a laughing stock; in fact, Trump’s proposed policies and solutions were exactly what many people in the USA were either hoping for or misinformed enough to follow, and this encouraged the exponential growth of the problems we are seeing today, including the cuts to the national education budget, the white supremacist rallies, and most recently the repeal of DACA.
Being able to brush it off as a joke was such a privilege that I didn’t realize I had. And it got me to think about exactly what I was doing when I was “blocking” all of this important (but awful) stuff from entering my conscious mind.
Think about it this way: when you encounter problems in any relationship, whether it be with a partner, or with a friend, or perhaps with a parent, the healthiest solution is to find time to sit down and talk about the problem, and propose a solution that works for both parties, rather than ignoring it and letting it muster. So why should our relationship with society work any differently? Although you’re not having an intimate relationship with everybody in your community (and less so your national community), you are still part of it and thus have some level of social responsibility as well.
Or perhaps this way: I once had a teacher that hinted that reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf would turn me into a Nazi. Whether it’s true or not that me becoming a Nazi would be the case, the problem lies in the “blocking” of Hitler and his ideologies entirely. Part of the reason that we still study Mein Kampf in particular is not to incite a new generation of Nazis, but rather (for example) to point out the rhetorical unification tactics used to create a common identity among people who possessed similar, anti-Semitic beliefs.
This can be exemplified as such: perhaps, one day, you have a child, and you want them to be a decent human being (obviously/hopefully). So, in order to do this, you feel that not teaching them about racism is the best way to combat the act of racism because if they don’t know about racism, how will they ever possess racist ideologies? Even if it is the case that you manage to teach your child that everyone is the same and that they are of the same value, this idea of “sameness” might also lead them to believe that saying the n-word is okay because “everyone is the same” and because they were sheltered from the concept of racism and what it means to be racist.
I am not saying (obviously) that people who voted for Trump actively teach their kids to be racist. But what I am saying is that simply removing yourself from an unpleasant situation just because you don’t like how it makes you feel is contributing to the problems that, frankly, the world is facing. While there are many other reasons why Trump got elected (ex. institutionalized reasons, such as lack of access to higher education, elitist systems of governance, the dependence on capitalist structure, etc.), these reasons are often pushed further due to people ignoring the problems right in front of them that they are able to help mitigate, but do not out of their own interests.
To sum up my argument: blocking will never be an effective form of coping with reality. The fact of the matter is that if you are able to ignore a problem – especially a pervasive social issue – then you are in a position of privilege and thus have a social responsibility to aid movements towards peace and (at least) societal wellbeing. The momentary discomfort of the privileged is nowhere close to the suffering that so many people must endure as part of their everyday lives.