Monday, March 21, 2016

Let's Get Real About What "Politics" Is and What it Isn't

I do not write about politics on this blog. Let me say that again: I do not write about politics here. If you're a regular O.H.M. reader you might dispute that statement, but let me explain. 

Two recent conversations led me to this conclusion. The first was at a party last weekend. I was talking to a woman who, like me, works in a job where it can be ill-advised to express a personal "political" opinion. The second was with one of my best friends, an American living in Switzerland. She told me that all of Europe is on edge watching the 2016 election in the United States, specifically the "rise" of Donald Trump. She pondered what if anything there was to "do" about Trump, and noted the powerlessness of the average citizen to "stop him." She analogized the current American zeitgeist to Germany's after World War I, when that country was fatigued by sanctions and primed for a populist leader who would validate its national pride. 

I don't know that I totally buy the whole Trump-is-the-next-Hitler thing, but he is certainly the closest America has come to such a figure in a long time. And I do think he is an incontrovertibly dangerous person. Which led me to think about an important question: What is politics, and what really isn't? 

To me, politics is stuff like tax policy; how we develop our natural resources versus how we choose to conserve them; how we make decisions about legislative and executive priorities in a given governmental administration. To be sure, these decisions have an impact on people--often a disproportionate impact on historically marginalized groups of people. But they are fundamentally political decisions and choices.

Politics is not, in my view, so-called "social justice" issues. Politics is not fighting for gender or racial equality and parity, or even reproductive rights or so-called "immigration reform." To me these concepts bleed over rather distinctively from traditional political concepts into issues of human rights that we in our collective humanity should acknowledge as fundamentally different from "politics."

As my friend in Switzerland observed, Hitler's rise to power in Germany was aided and abetted by regular people. People who stood by and said and did nothing to stop him. People who decided to just keep their heads down and go along to get along. Any student of the Holocaust knows this.

Well, we saw where that got the world. 

That's why I have absolutely zero misgivings about using what little, tiny sliver of a voice I have beyond the ballot box to write about misogyny, anti-Semitism, Black Lives Matter, and similar so-called "political" or "social justice" issues on this blog. Not for one minute do I consider these writings to be an expression of a "political" opinion, and frankly, any insinuation that these are political beliefs trivializes their gravity.

Even if he never gets the nomination, even if he never becomes President, when we tell ourselves that what Trump is out there doing is simply political, as opposed to what it is--trafficking in hate--the more we can consider ourselves his accomplices. American corporate media (PBS, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc.), by whoring itself out for ratings rather than taking a hate-monger to task, is probably Trump's greatest asset. With a few notable exceptions, the media is committing what is quite possibly the greatest abdication of journalistic integrity most of us have seen in our lifetimes. That abdication is shameful. It's dangerous. And it has already had profound consequences.

I am a Jew. I am a woman. I am an American citizen. I consider myself an ally of LGBT people, immigrants, and people of color. But fundamentally I am a human being, just one of 7.2 billion on the planet. And I cannot in good conscience just sit down and shut up about Donald Trump and his so-called "political" agenda. Because that's not what it is. It's not "politics." It is hate, plain and simple. And it's a grave threat to human rights. Not just here, but all over the world. 

Anyone who says or thinks otherwise either accepts that and/or endorses it, or is lying to themselves.

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