On my post about how to address (insofar as I know anything) out national case of the DTs, I got a comment from a reader calling themselves "Wretched". I drafted my response but before I could post it, the comment was deleted. But since it pressed me to do some more thinking, I am posting some of it here -- without, however, quoting the words which the writer chose not to post. "Wretched" pointed out and voiced a legitimate fed-up-ness with trying to accommodate or understand racism or other forms of institutional or plain old personal hate, exploitation, and resentment. They were (acknowledgedly) angry; also eloquent, respectful, and -- though we didn't see things the same way -- certainly not wrong in any simple sense either. I sat for a while letting the discomfort and defensiveness pass. And upon thinking about it and continuing to read and think, I noted (what I ought to have predicted) that the account of the downtrodden white working-class coming out for DT is already being appropriated for the purposes of apologetics and normalizing. I want nothing to do with such trumpery. While I have seen all too clearly the unbecoming liberal disdain for and disconnect from what's being called "flyover America" (Seattle, where I live, is rife with it), I am wary of how this moment of breast-beating over this will be leveraged into a story that effectively minimalizes the real role that white fear has played and is likely going to continue to play in the next many years.
The exhaustion with "listening and understanding" is endemic, and small wonder. I'm at pains to distinguish (and I'm doing it clumsily) what I'm saying from calls to be patient, or put up with anything. The actual encounter I am speaking of would be something like Truth and Reconciliation, but it'll have to be far more informal; and as to whether it would even work -- well, I could be mistaken; we may "as a nation" be waaay beyond the time when any genuine listening was possible. Even if it is not too late, I do not believe that there is any way -- any good way -- to hurry anger, or frustration, or had-it-up-to-here disgust, off stage. It's got to be looked in the eye, both by those who have caused it and by those who feel it. I get, in a small way, why this is scary. I have a conflict-avoidant streak in me that I strive against. But I strive against it because it doesn't work.
This is a blog about philosophy, and philosophy, I hold, cannot be conflict-avoidant. Philosophy strives to apprehend the whole, and this means all attempts to keep emotions at a safe distance or under "laboratory conditions" are misguided. But it also means that philosophy cannot be run by emotions. Indignation is intoxicating, and that can make for a great high, and for a tremendous and seemingly unanswerable ferocity. To those on the receiving end it's sometimes upsetting, even terrifying, but it's awfully tempting, is it not, to ask: So what? Why should I care? Well, my own path doesn't have to be anyone else's. But I think there are reasons to care, that have nothing to do with protecting white fragility or accommodating injustice. I'm with Cornel West, who said with regard to HRC's characterization of DT's supporters as a "basket of deplorables":
I don’t like comments like that — that any person is thoroughly irredeemable. I mean, maybe it’s because I’ve got a Christian sensibility. We’ve all got gangster proclivities and all of us have the possibility of being transformed and changed, but I don’t like the idea of a huge slice of America just irredeemable. If they’re xenophobic, you call them xenophobic, but they can change. ...I don’t mind her saying that a significant slice of brother Donald Trump’s social base are deeply xenophobic and racist and misogynist because they are, but that’s just the truth. The truth is not static. It’s [not] stationary. People can change and be transformed, absolutely.Now, one can ask whether it's reasonable to expect such a "change" as West decribes. One can ask whether it's even relevant to talk about this on the scale of voting blocs rather than individuals. (West's examples were all indivuduals: George Wallace, Lyndon Johnson, Malcolm X). Perhaps this is one difference between politics and philosophy, between playing the game and looking beyond the endgame. But I hold that the only battle that really matters is the one that transpires within "that individual" (as Kierkegaard named them). And it is an unending battle.