Imagine for a moment…
On one dreadful day you find your mother and father hanging for their lives on the edge of a cliff. You are able to save only one of them, who do you choose to save and in doing so, allow the other to plummet to certain death?
Okay, set that aside and now picture this…
One day, to your horror, you wake up in the hospital with a deadly disease and the only treatment options available to you comes at either at the cost of your eyesight or your hearing. Do you choose to give up your hearing or eyesight to save your life?
And now imagine this…
Suppose you were miraculously granted the ability to eradicate either corruption or bigotry from this world, which one would you choose to eradicate? Corruption or bigotry?
Now that you had a moment to think about your choices in the face of these scenarios, consider the following… Would your choice of either your mother or your father mean you did not love nor care for the other? Would your choice to save either your eyesight or your hearing indicate you held no value in the other sense? And if you chose to eradicate corruption or bigotry, would this mean you condone and advocate the other?
Any reasonable person would identify all three hypothetical questions above and agree that choosing one over the other doesn’t mean one has passion for one while complete disregard and apathy for the other. Making a selection may merely indicate a slight but nearly insignificant bias.
With this in mind, let’s reexamine the debacle that was the U.S. presidential election 2016… Depending on whom you aligned yourself with, one of the candidates represented corruption and the other bigotry (among other things…). This post isn’t here to argue the merits of either claim or position but to point out the two dominating negative opinions of Clinton and Trump, the two primary candidates.
Many voters voted for one candidate because they felt strongly against the very negative thing the other candidate represented (bigotry or corruption) and vice versa. However, this is not to say the voters did not feel strongly about the very negative thing their selected candidate represented. If anything, this may be only an indication that perhaps the voter felt more strongly towards one of the negative traits than the other.
This means that if you voted for Clinton, you perhaps felt more inclined to fight against bigotry in our nation but that does not necessarily mean you condone corruption. And on the flip side, if you voted for Trump, you perhaps felt more inclined to fight against corruption in our nation but that does not necessarily mean you support bigotry.
Just like the hypothetical examples mentioned at the beginning of this post, you felt compelled to choose one evil trait (corruption vs bigotry) and your choosing one does not mean you condone the other. Choosing one evil trait (over the other) also doesn’t mean your value system isn’t against that very evil (that your chosen candidate represents within the context of this conversation).
How you make that choice ultimately comes down to how you prioritize those two evils within your value system – much like how you had to make the difficult decision on prioritizing your mother or father in the first example above. Again, it’s important to stress that choosing one doesn’t mean the other h9ld no importance.
So what influences our “priority list?” How do we shape our moral compass in a way that dictates whether we vote for corruption (thereby fighting against bigotry) or for bigotry (there by fighting against corruption)? I believe a big part of this has to do with our identity and our personal experiences.
For the first time, I felt strongly in a presidential election. I was caught up in the drama, outrage, frustration, sadness, and anger. I felt myself pandering towards one candidate (Clinton) and in doing so, seemingly aligned myself with what she represented to so many others – corruption. But I aligned with her (let’s not bring third parties into this conversation) so I can do everything in my power to condemn what Trump stood for which was “bigotry.”
Now does this mean I condoned corruption? Absolutely not.
But why did my value system and moral compass dictate that I fight against “bigotry?” And in doing so, in essence ignore “corruption?”
It’s because of my past first-handed experiences with bigotry. As an immigrant to this nation, I know what it is like to be discriminated against; to be treated differently simply due to the color of my skin; and to feel disempowered because of my ethnicity. I have experienced hate-crime and still bear the psychological scars (along with the chip on my shoulder).
And it sucks. Not to mention having witnessed my family and friends of varying backgrounds going through their scarring run-ins with “bigotry.” As a result, fighting against bigotry ranks high on my personal value system and moral compass.
I wager that for many other minorities, their own scarring first-hand experiences with bigotry contribute greatly to their personal value system rankings.
Our increased sensitivity makes us more prone to lash out against it more passionately than other negative traits such as say… “corruption.” But while our experiences compels us to speak out and fight against bigotry, this doesn’t mean “corruption” is also something we condemn – it may just rank a bit “lower” in priority when forced to make a choice between the two.
But can you blame us?
Now, let’s look at it from a different angle – one that doesn’t come from a minority immigrant. What if the person in question is a white male born and raised right here in the States who’s never experienced hate-crime? He has nothing against people of different race and culture. But perhaps he has felt injustice in his life that has created hardship for him and his family and blames it on corruption (in the White House).
When examining his moral compass and value system, it stands to reason that while he may abhor bigotry, he detests corruption even more and as such, prioritizes fighting the latter over the former.
Can we blame him?
Can we put him on trial for being “insensitive?” If so, then we are just as inclined to put me on trial for being “ignorant.”
The fact of the matter is, when placed in this difficult position of choosing one evil or the other, it is our past experiences that dictate the priorities within our value system which then guide us to our choice. Choosing one candidate, and therefore defaulting to one of the evils, does not mean we condone that specific evil, it can simply mean we condone the other evil “less.”
We need to stop labeling each side as supporters of the very evil trait that we condemn – this means Hillary supporters need to stop labeling Trump supporters as racists and bigots while Trump supporters need to stop labeling Hillary supporters as corrupt and liars.
While we may never truly understand what the other side may feel, we should at least give them the space and freedom to express their value system prioritization.
The only people whom we should denounce are the actual haters and the vile – being a supporter of either Clinton and Trump does not automatically cast us as one.
(Image courtesy of the talented Loren Fishman.)