We haven’t spent a lot of time on this blog talking about Trump. I can’t speak for Jamil, but in my case, there are plenty of reasons why I don’t write much about him. The primary reason is that I find Trump detestable and repulsive. I’d rather write about things I like than things I hate. I’m also not sure what I have to add to the conversation. Anyone who’s paying the least bit of attention knows that Trump’s a horrific president and a terrible excuse for a human being. I’d just be repeating the same things everyone else is saying. But I have this nagging feeling that I should be talking about him. I decided I should look into that and try to decide if the feeling is worth listening to.
What is it that happens if I talk about Trump and what happens if I don’t talk about Trump? Realistically there isn’t much of a difference. It’s not like I have a major platform or following. My best posts only reach a few dozen people. And I’m pretty positive that those people already agree with me on most issues. So it’s not like I’m changing anyone’s mind by talking. I suppose talking about Trump could be therapeutic on some level. Although that’s balanced by the trauma that is avoided by staying quiet. The one thing I’m sure talking does is signal to my in-group that I’m part of the club. Likewise, being quiet might leave it ambiguous what group I’m part of. I’m sure that’s not where my feeling comes from, though. I’ve always been comfortable being a loner and never really tried to fit in. So it’s not anything that my talking might do.
It might be peer pressure. People in progressive circles like to say things like, “Being silent is being complicit.” I think that’s where the feeling that I should be talking about Trump comes from. I’m constantly being told to speak up. I don’t want to be complicit. So I better say something. I’m not sure that line of reasoning holds up to scrutiny, though.
How does being silent make a person complicit? The only way that really makes sense is to mean that by being silent, you are allowing something bad to happen. And by allowing something bad to happen, you become at least partly responsible for that bad thing. That’s fine in and of itself, but it assumes that you have the power to prevent the bad thing from happening. That’s a problem. Most people do not have the kind of power, in most situations, that can stop bad things from happening just by speaking up.
In those few situations where a person has the power to speak up and change something, of course they ought to do it. But for most of us, those situations are confined to parenting or our jobs, not issues of national and international importance. I could talk for ages about how bad Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is, but it will have literally no impact as to whether he is approved by the Senate or not. How can I be complicit in something that I cannot affect? And how does saying something completely ineffectual clear my guilt? It’s like saying that those, “Don’t blame me, I voted for. . .” bumper stickers actually have the power of absolution.
After giving it some thought, the feeling that I should be talking about Trump probably isn’t a feeling I have to pay attention to. I’d rather do the things that can actually make a difference. Things like letting my Senators, Representatives, Governor and Mayor know what I think about the issues. Things like voting, in both the primaries and the regular election. Things like teaching my daughter right from wrong. These are things that are in my power, in most people’s power. Therefore, these are the things we ought to be doing.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why people do talk about Trump that have nothing to do with complicity. I think it’s mostly to make themselves feel better. If it works for you, then go for it. Just realize that those people who choose to keep quiet instead are not blameworthy. We all just have different ways of dealing with things. And I promise that if my situation changes, if my voice somehow gets amplified, if I become influential, I’ll get over my reticence and start talking about Trump. Until that happens, I might talk about him and I might not. We’ll have to see if the mood strikes me.