Opinion

Fearing for a loveless world: Thinking about the North American political situation

I look at what’s going on in the States, and I see an increase in decisions being made by the public based not on the merits of a candidate’s policies, not on the strength of their history insofar as policies are concerned, but rather whether or not they sound like the guy next door.

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By Martin Castro (The Cascade) – Email

Over the weekend, Jeb Bush bowed out of the race for the Republican nomination — and that’s cause for alarm. I look at what’s going on in the States, and I see an increase in decisions being made by the public based not on the merits of a candidate’s policies, not on the strength of their history insofar as policies are concerned, but rather whether or not they sound like the guy next door.

Enter Donald Trump (who, by the way, won Saturday’s South Carolina Primary). The man should have been laughed out of the first debate he stepped into. But he wasn’t.

The scary part is that every day, Donald Trump seems more and more like an unfortunately accurate reflection of what a solid chunk of people in the U.S. apparently believe, not just an anomaly like Rand Paul was. Among other things, Trump’s would-be policy proposals, which are more soundbites than anything else (“I’ll bomb the shit out of ISIS!”) have honestly put things into perspective for me.

As Canadians we can’t by a long shot claim to be bastions of social and political enlightenment. The amount of people in Canada who are somehow still convinced that all Muslims are extremists is still staggering, and our willingness to be open, caring individuals has been besieged by an overwhelming sense of anxiety and self-importance.

In the wake of the 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, one of the resounding messages floated out to the public was: don’t let this polarize you, don’t give in to hate. That message needs to change. It needs to change not because it’s not good advice, but because the reality of the situation is that generally, hate prevails. The message needs to be to depolarize yourself. Or, perhaps more simply, to love.

We desperately need to love.

We bicker like children over political labels, over policies. We call out our current prime minister not because of policy decisions, but because of personal characteristics, or ideological ones. When did giving shelter to displaced people become a question of weighing pros and cons? I’ve never seen the ideological gap between the left and the right so dramatically amplified. This is the first time I’ve felt that, even in Canada, the prevailing stance is one of “us vs. them,” and not one of balance, of cooperation. And this amplifies my fears of a Trump presidency, one ushered in by a hateful, uninformed reaction.

Ignorance has never been so apparent to me, or so apparently damaging, as it is now. We have all the world’s knowledge and wisdom at our fingertips, and somehow we still can’t inform ourselves about the world we live in before making brash generalizations.

It’s times like these I envy Kurt Vonnegut’s ability to laugh at the absurdity of it all, instead of despair. Here are some words we all need right now:

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies —

God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

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