DailyKos’ Xaxnar’s article is worth a read. Xaxnar based the piece on the interview I did with a Trump supporter. I wish more Progressives would see the wisdom of what he is saying.
In short, as difficult as it is, we must have a safe landing pad for those who ultimately make a break, however small, from the Right Wing fringe. Xaxnar understands that necessity and articulates it in his DailyKos article titled “Egberto Willies, The Trump Train Leaver, and the Liberal Reader” that is receiving quite a bit of traction. It is worth a full read. But a few snippets are worth quoting that includes the work of Sara Robinson (her quotes in italics).
There is no question that feelings are running high — and every reason they should. But there’s also the point that people can and do change, so what do you do when a person who has embraced everything that repulses you starts to have misgivings? This is a big problem, because if we are to succeed in reversing the oncoming wave of neofascism, we’re going to have to find a way to accommodate a lot of people.
SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
Sara Robinson addressed this very problem back in 2006 with her critically important series at Orcinus: Cracks In The Wall. I’m going to quote some key passages from it and strongly urge everyone to read it.
From Sara Robinson’s Cracks In The Wall, Part I: Defining the Authoritarian Personality
We need to stop this. We have gone on too long assuming that our right-wing opponents are, in all times and places, unchangeable and unchanging. Yes, their arguments are confoundingly short on evidence and fact. Yes, their logic loops are closed up so tight as to be frustratingly impervious to reason. Yes, they absolutely do mean to do us — and our democracy — grievous harm.
Here’s the good news. That Great Wall that separates our little reality-based community from The Fantasyland Next Door is not a monolith. Nor are the inmates of that Otherworld necessarily locked in there for all time and eternity. There’s evidence — from scientists, from experience, from history — that there are cracks in that wall. They are small and subtle, to be sure (that’s why nobody’s ever noticed them before): at this point, they are mere hairlines, faint traces that are hard to spot without a good flashlight in the hands of someone who knows where to look. But, as someone who’s spent much of her life pacing one side or the other of this wall, I am here to tell you: there are places where it fails. People do cross it, and survive to tell the tale. And, rather than continue to wallow in our frustration, it’s high time we mapped those cracks, find effective ways to widen them, and eventually exploit them to help both afflicted individuals and our larger culture break through the insanity.
She goes on to explain how authoritarian leaders and followers view the world, and what kind of characteristics define them. If you can’t understand where they’re coming from, you won’t be able to deal with them — especially if and when they begin to break free of their world.
From Cracks In The Wall, Part II: Listening to the Leavers
…Taken together, this chorus seems to paraphrase the Bard: some are born authoritarian, some achieve authoritarianism, and some have authoritarianism thrust upon them. Most of us fall somewhere along a wide continuum of willingness to follow authoritarian leadership. Our place on that scale is determined by the culture and religion we grew up in, how our parents treated us, our education and life experiences, and our inherited temperament. These things conspire to make a few of us desperate to follow, and a few others obstinate in their outright refusal of all authority. The vast majority of us fall somewhere in between, open to seduction only in certain circumstances…
This passage is a key observation
…We must never, ever underestimate what it costs these people to let go of the beliefs that have sustained them. Leaving the safety of the authoritarian belief system is a three-to-five year process. Externally, it always means the loss of your community; and often the loss of jobs, homes, marriages, and blood relatives as well. Internally, it requires sifting through every assumption you’ve ever made about how the world works, and your place within it; and demands that you finally take the very emotional and intellectual risks that the entire edifice was designed to protect you from. You have to learn, maybe for the first time, to face down fear and live with ambiguity. On the scale of relative trauma, it’s right up there with a divorce after a long marriage; and it requires about the same amount and kind of grieving.
Robinson looks at the various ways people find over, around, or through the walls they’ve been living behind. It takes real courage to completely rebuild one’s view of the world; we need to keep in mind how hard it is, and look at what motivates people to make that huge adjustment in their lives. Tanya Vojvodic is just now taking the first steps; that feeling of betrayal is forcing her to take a look at the rest of the assumptions she’s built her life on. If we truly believe in our own view of the world, we need to allow people like her the time and the understanding to help them reconcile themselves that they are not where they want to be, but there may be a better place to get to.
I have been a political activist for a very long time. I’ve tried many methods in my attempts to get the other side not just to hear but listen to another point of view, a coherent and logical point of view. It is not easy because one must learn to do a whole lot more listening than talking. It means swallowing one’s pride often to allow the discourse to continue.
But oh, when we earn that respect it gives one a real pathway for communication. Why? That person on the Right Wing fringe suddenly views you initially as someone they have a disagreement with but are open to listening to as opposed to just someone to hate. They won’t make an immediate change, but your words are planted and become a prism to fracture further the information they absorb going forward.
It is tedious. But in my humble opinion, it is the only solution we have lest we continue on a path to a real civil war. Ironically the same forces that are dividing us would benefit from that as well.
Please read the entire Xaxnar’s article and give it a recommend. It is a point of view that more progressives need to be aware of and adopt.
Also published on Medium.