Rant: Respecting the ridiculous views of Donald Trump and Anti-Vaxxers

This is a rant. It is not a thesis; it is tangential and confounding and confusing. I hope you either love it or hate it so long as you read it.

One of the core beliefs that I (try to) maintain always is that every person has equal value. This means that each person has equally valid beliefs, different from mine as they may be. This, of course, causes me a great deal of cognitive dissonance. Do I truly believe that this is true, or is it some self-serving phrase meant to portray a fictitious altruism all doctors purport? While I am challenged daily to live this belief through actions at work, nothing has tested it more recently than the rise of Trumpism in America, and to a lesser degree, the rise of Ford Nation prior to the late mayor’s passing.

Let me start by saying that I am friends with people who think Donald Trump is the answer to all of America’s problems, and that Rob Ford was the answer to all of Toronto’s problems, and in this phrasing, for those of you who don’t know me, you can tell where my bias lies. And yet, if I am truly to believe that we are all beautiful human beings of equal value, which I think (no, I know… I think) that I do, our respective perspectives also hold equal value (though not necessarily equal truth).

While avoiding a discussion about morality and how my own morality is but a construct of my environment, and is thus nothing more than a set of thoughts applicable only to me, it is important in the discussion of Trump and Ford to at least respect opinions I do not agree with. The challenge comes not so much from the ideological gaps between “left” and “right” (which I could sum up, quite unfairly, as “we are one” and “I am one” respectively) but from the failure of both sides (but mostly the right) to accept evidence counter to ones ideology.

And now I am getting to my first point. Recent controversy over an anti-vaccination film scheduled for debut at the Tribeca film festival highlighted the oddly-present mainstream question of vaccine use. The world is a better place because vaccines were invented and implemented as a matter of public policy and medical marvel. The fact that Trump (and, quite shockingly, pediatrician Ben Carson) feel that the science of vaccines is somehow a subject of question, is beyond baffling.

Yet, I don’t quite put my foot down here. Free speech is something I very much value. If someone wants to screen an anti-vax film, go ahead. For the record, I think that person is an idiot with idiotic views, but, and I understand if you aren’t following me here, those idiotic views are equally valid to my own. See, I like vaccines because I grew up in a household that valued vaccines, with parents who believe in vaccines, and then (skipping ahead) I became a doctor and was taught that vaccines are medical marvels. In other words, I believe in a construct. Now, I believe very strongly in that construct, as do nearly all Canadians, but if you don’t I can’t rule out that your construct is right and mine is wrong (although I’d bet good money that you’re construct is wrong, and mine is right).

The millions of Americans who are supporting Trump have a perspective that deserves respect; Trump himself has tapped into a group of people deeply committed to his cause (which, to be honest, is a bit unclear but certainly involves wall-building). Ford had so many supporters who felt disenfranchised by the political body that runs Toronto he got elected as mayor. And these people, who include friends of mine (who are not stupid people by any stretch), are to be heard.

But here is where I must put my foot down (my second point):

If I am going to respect your values, you had better not be lazy about forming them. Mr. Trump and Mr. Ford were populist; catch phrases and ball caps and bobble heads triumphed, but the very right to free speech I try to respect was clubbed to death at the slightest hint of disagreement. Journalists, whose public good cannot be ignored, were shunned and devalued. Public discourse disintegrated. The word “politics” was made to sound vulgar. Authoritarianism and fear reigned.

If you are going to vote for Mr. Trump because you want a wall built along the Mexican border, vote for him. I’ll try to respect your values. But if you vote for Mr. Trump because you believe he will make America great again without any plan articulated, without any shred of vision, because he yells the loudest and fights the toughest, my cognitive dissonance will overwhelm me and I just might end up joining the “I hate politics” camp that you must be in right now.

But, and here is where I am really just writing a letter to myself, we can have politics or we can have a dictatorship. We can have debates about our “leftist’ and “right-winged” values, or we can have someone else’s values shoved down our throats. We can compromise on a solution, or end up with a problem.

Politics isn’t perfect. But the alternative, what Mr. Ford brought to Toronto and what Mr. Trump is selling to America, is far worse. Rob Ford popularized the very worst in us: misogyny, racism, homophobia, and the general belief that government is nothing more than a drain on personal wealth. His legacy, if one can call it that, was to uncover our own ugliness, revealing it starkly in the mirror, revving internal mechanisms in each of us to simply rise above what is now known as Trumpism and care deeply for one another.

So to all of my dear American friends:

Think the way you want. Vote the way you want. I’ll respect it. Just as long as you put a little bit of thought into the values you hold dear.

 

 

2 Replies to “Rant: Respecting the ridiculous views of Donald Trump and Anti-Vaxxers”

  1. I’m having trouble with your premises: “This means that each person has equally valid beliefs”. Imho neither our intrinsic worth/value nor the “validity” of our beliefs is universally acknowledged but culturally conditioned and hence not necessarily so universal. Take what ISIL or the remnants of the Taliban do and try to square that with either of your premises and they fail. You or I may hold such beliefs, but that doesn’t make them right/valid in the eyes/minds of everyone else on the planet. A border wall aside, I believe it’s hard to contend that free trade in the US and Canada has not cost us manufacturing jobs, and Trump is consequently taking a positional against free trade, with the concurrence of many of his countrymen. This can be argued to be as well a reasoned view as that competition will bring prices down, or for that matter that the old HEPC in Ontario did a fine, low cost job of generating and delivering electricity.

    If we’re all to be given the credit for being able to arrive at these kinds of opinions, there has to be some kind of cultural value factor in the equation that accounts for our differences, beyond just “me”/”us.” But then who is going to make the relativistic/moral distinction between them? And on what authority.

    Love your thought provoking material.

    J.

    1. So lots of people have called me out on use of the word “valid” and I’m happy to admit I don’t like it either. But, it’s valid to them – that’s what I’m trying to say. They feel justified in whatever it is they believe, because of their context and blah blah blah. But you’re right, “valid” is not the right word to describe someone else’s delusion, even if they don’t think they are delusional. My goal was to allow for some sort of respect such that my side might influence their side. We have the tendency to stigmatize and reject the other side for their way of thinking, which I don’t think is always the approach that promotes the most change (unless you have the ability to link trade embargos on the other side, then maybe you can call them all idiots and expect them to change anyways).

      As for who makes the moral distinction, that is the whole point of my rather scattered rant: I have no idea. But probably not me, so I have to recognize my own bias (even if I’m right). Authority is a whole other matter – and one that touches on most people’s personal belief systems to begin with. Which, again, could be argued to not really be a universal authority at all. Depending on, well, everything about a person.

      Thanks to everyone who sent messages encouraging me to further articulate this poorly articulated idea that idiots, while stupid, think they have a point, and exploiting this is more likely to change their points of views than calling them plain wrong.

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