Hey, Russ in Nebraska and Russ in Texas, yes, it’s true—I unfollowed you on Facebook after the election. There’s something about posts from my friends named Russ, one of which once told me, “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” that was really hard to stomach after Trump won. But it’s 2017 now, both friends have been un-unfollowed, and we’re all putting one foot in front of the other, heading deeper into the new year with every breath we take.
So where is 2017 taking us? Lord, I wish I knew, but here’s what the general consensus on Facebook tells me is going to happen:
From the Liberals: Trump is going to drag us back to 1953, when the LGBT community stayed in the closet, women knew their place (in the bedroom or the kitchen), and we were piling up enough atomic bombs to destroy the world ten times. And that would be a bad thing.
From the Conservatives: Trump is going to take us back to 1953, when the LGBT community stayed in the closet, women were happy to be in their place (in the bedroom or the kitchen) and we were piling up enough atomic bombs to destroy the world ten times. And that would be a good thing.
From the Libertarians: Trump could possibly destroy our political system and hurdle us into anarchy. And that would be an awesome thing.
It all reminds me of the gun lobby, which was telling people for eight years that Obama was going to rip their guns right out of their hands, and, rather than adjust their rhetoric when that never happened, just cut-and-pasted the same lines into the anti-Hillary campaign. Never mind that Obama never said he wanted to take guns from law-abiding citizens or that Hillary was pretty much lock-step with Obama’s moderate gun regulation polices. Never let an obvious truth get in the way of a good lie. Especially a profitable lie, as the NRA made millions off scaring firearms owners and those millions made their way into the pockets of our representatives and senators, ensuring that regulation would be written to serve the unrealized fear that our guns could be taken away and not the very real threat that on any random Saturday a terrorist could walk into a gun show and buy a high-powered rifle. Or someone with serious anger issues could shoot an email to the guy in St Charles who has a Spikes Tactical AR 15 with two 30rd magazines for sale. I found that listing online after about 10 seconds of Google research and confirmed with a few more second’s research that no background check would be required to complete a private sale in my state. It’s pure honor system.
Apparently fear is an excellent fundraising tactic, but there’s also a pesky little thing called facts, and, if you don’t wait for them to show up before locking in your opinion, they have a way of sneaking up on you anyway and banging on the door, begging to be let in. Poor little facts. This week Vox published a study explaining why most of them are going to be left out in the cold. Apparently once we’ve filled our mental inside space with our own weird little mix of real news, fake news and political upbringing, the brain reacts to conflicting information with a firestorm of stubbornness. Scientists proved this after they stuck 40 liberals into MRI machines, fed them inflammatory statements about immigration, the environment and the like, and watched the parts of their brains responsible for memory and identity light up. As did the amygdala, the part of our brains responsible for getting good and mad. Since most of the inflammatory statements were exaggerations or lies, I’d like to think the liberals were just reacting to their unwavering affection for truth, but that’s not how the scientists saw it, especially when non-political exaggerations elicited much milder responses from the liberal brains.
So here’s my plea for 2017—let’s all open the door to facts. Toss out all the one-sided memes and make room for detailed, well-researched explanations of political issues. Tell your amygdala to quiet long enough to really hear the other side’s position and consider if maybe—just maybe—there might be a tiny bit of truth in what they have to say. Be watchful, hold tightly to your core values, but unblock your Facebook friends and keep your ears tuned to the scratching at the door. You might even peek through the keyhole once or twice, just to see what facts could be shivering out there in the cold.
In other words, I’m still clinging to some hope that hell won’t descend on America as soon as Trump is inaugurated. That hope weeps a little with every cabinet appointment he makes, but these are people after all, not the villains in a Batman movie, and it’s more than likely that they want what’s best for America. Trump’s bromance with Putin? A leader who reportedly has his political enemies killed? That has my brain cells screaming, but hush, hush, sweet brain cells, lest you lose your voice too early. We’ll need all the voices we can get if and when our fears turn to facts.