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Resisting Our Worst

06 Mar 2017

It would be a major understatement to say that the first month of the Trump administration in the U.S. has been rocky. Whether you’re someone who voted for him, voted against him, stayed at home, or currently reside in another country taking in the daily barrage of news overseas, we will all likely feel the effects of this administration for years to come.

But there’s also been a development that’s just as disturbing as anything on U.S. presidential advisor Stephen Bannon’s agenda: The Liberal Left starting to devour itself instead of coming together in a cohesive unit. On the heels of what many would call an incredibly successful protest, the Women’s March exposed the division within the political Left and the temperament of those who claim to want equality for all, but reveal intentions that speak otherwise.

Add to that the hubristic taunts of Hillary Clinton supporters who felt the need to goad, belittle and harass anyone who dared to claim that Clinton was “just as bad as Trump” prior to the election, and you have a fractured Left attempting to create a resistance movement that may be stalled before the opposition even has time to fashion a “list of enemies.” For the last few weeks, on multiple social media networks, I’ve seen countless bitter Clinton supporters in the U.S. verbally attacking anyone who dared to express a dislike for Clinton, vote for a third-party candidate, or not vote at all. Some of these critics have been highly visible celebrities like Trevor Noah and others have been social influencers with a large online following who often set the tone on how many will interpret the events of the day.

The sad truth about this behaviour is that not only is it immature, unproductive and short-sighted, but it exposes a deeply troubling mindset: if those who claim to fight for the rights and freedom of the disenfranchised engage in bullying, harassment and public shaming to make sure rights are used only in their favour, can we truly consider them allies and “saviours”?

And that word has been thrown around a lot by the Left as of late — saviour. Some of us saw the widely circulated photo of a black woman holding a sign during the Women’s March that claimed “Black women tried to save y’all.” Who else was going to save us? Not Hillary Clinton it seems. Nor the down-ticket Democratic and Independent candidates running for Congress that went all but ignored because most media attention for the last 8 months was focused on the race for the Oval Office.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen white liberal feminists take umbrage at women of colour for exposing their absence at protests supporting Black Lives Matter and the water protectors’ movement against the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Some of those white feminists felt so insulted that their knee-jerk reaction was to claim that they’ve seen more white women at BLM protests than black men, effectively engaging in a smear campaign implying the old trope that black men are absentee in their community. How’s that for an intersectional alliance?

Add to that the insistence on boycotting any artist who agreed to perform at the presidential inauguration and the caustic uproar over a notable performer who supported Trump that’s now set to receive a spotlight at one of the largest entertainment events in the world, and I see a Left treading dangerously close to engaging in the exact same behaviour they claim they wish to denounce. If the adage is true that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it, then I see the days ahead having more in common with the more destructive side of the 1960s’ protests in the U.S., U.K. and France than those beautiful moments of collaboration to create effective change.

I’ve heard many who lived through the period describe the current political environment as similar to the 1960s, but let’s not romanticise our past. The sit-ins, the marches, and the Woodstocks were also accompanied by frequent bombings, intersectional bigotry, and countless lives destroyed. I can’t help but wonder how much of that destruction could have been avoided if members of the Left had listened to each other more, respected varying opinions and set egos aside.

If we hope to avoid imploding before the fight has even properly begun, members of the Left need to recognise that there are many levels to dissent, varying strategies to protect the disenfranchised, and a myriad of political candidates worthy of alliance. This also means acknowledging that your favourite candidate does not represent all of us, accepting that there’s no one way to resist the opposition, and actually listening to those of us who disagree because perpetuating a fear of dissent makes us no better than those we insist are the problem. If we’re shunning others on the Left any time they disagree with our statements and retaliate by insisting any disagreement with our opinion is akin to sympathising with the Right, lacking courage to do what’s necessary, or attempting to start an “unproductive Twitter war,” we sound more like the people we have committed to oppose. And that’s a slippery slope that should concern us all.