A Cautionary Tale

Casting a Vote. Image by Lenny Ghoul.

It can be bad form to write only about yourself but please hear me out as I work through some self reflection.

Now the election drama is over and all is said and done I need to get something off my chest.  For the past five years I have scoffed at Trump supporters.  Plain and simple, I have viewed them with amusement and scorn for their adherence and commitment to nonsensical propaganda.  Like many, I have been incredulous at their ability to justify and repeat simple untruths based solely on the word of a perpetual liar.

Condescendingly, I would listen to Trump supporters’ claims of deep state conspiracies and smugly say “do you have any evidence?” before laughing at them just loud enough to remain within earshot.  Ultimately and unfortunately, I have alienated many that I should be close to by my approach and delivery.  Please know, this is generally not who I am but I became extraordinarily frustrated by the damage that these followers were doing.  Honestly, I was also hurt by their resentment as they chided me and they were hurt by my condescension.  People who I wanted to respect were supporting racist lies and I was pained to be confronted with the side that I had never seen.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I am smarter or better than my friends and family.  As an individual I have a small modicum of accomplishment. I was not born with extraordinary God given talents.  My strength is not innate ability, rather strains of reason and tenacity that have been my guide.  Data and an undying curiosity have been the pillars of my intellectual growth and I use them everyday.  For these reasons I never felt superior but often felt more grounded and informed.

Many times my radicalized associations have made jumbo claims of injustices by some ethnic or “deep state” group inflicted on “We The People.”  In this day and age there is almost never a moment that I don’t have immediate access to the internet and I would fact check in real time.  Almost always I would debunk the claims on the spot through a quick Google search.  Confidently, and at times arrogantly, I would hold up my phone as if I just caught a big fish and thrust it in their face to flash the article or source.  The conversation would devolve with their attack on the mainstream sources that I used and we would both leave emotionally empty.

As the election approached and propaganda intensified these confrontations increased.  With each passing debate I was unwittingly being pushed further in my bubble of reality and I found a conspiracy of my own to propagate.  Leading up to the election I became convinced that the Trump campaign had plans to sway the election by rigging the voting machines. Relentlessly I came on this comment board and Twitter warning of this certain impending iniquity.  I had some intriguing theories but no proof.

My concern was not completely unfounded.  I was disturbed about the Senate withholding funds for election security.  Also, I saw the five person governing panel in the Federal Election Commission being removed and eliminated.  Considering that any rules changes or investigations needed approval by a three vote majority I became outright scared when the panel was reduced to only two people with no plans for replacement.  Other factors such as unseemly personnel moves in the FBI, little effort to mitigate Russian influence and the dismantling of the USPS to affect mail-in votes had me posting my own conspiracies throughout my frequented places on the internet.  Without knowing it I was becoming the same kind of kook that I regularly disparaged.  

Although, based on recent events, I still firmly believe that the ex-President would have stolen the election if he could, the events after the election have changed my position and have proven me wrong.  Through the exact same erroneous claims on the other side I have learned that voting machines are more secure than I expected.  I learned that there is a solid election infrastructure of individuals who work tirelessly with a commitment to make sure that elections are fair.  Through all of the court cases, appeals, vote counts, vote recounts, vote re-recounts, canvassing and re-canvassing I learned that the vote totals did not change regardless of the test.  I also learned that the judicial system was able to stand tall in supporting our democracy.  Additionally, I learned our system of government endured the worst onslaught that we have seen in our lives and in the end everything turned out as it should.

Most importantly I learned that the radicalization I have so often chastised is not so far away from any of us.  I spread the same type of evidence-free propaganda that I resented from my counterparts.  In the end, my tumble down the rabbit hole was short-sighted, shallow and selfish.  For this I was hypocritical and wrong.

It seems that reckoning is now all around.  My experience has certainly opened my eyes.  The chief propagandist has been banished from the White House and has been eliminated from social media.  Qanon has imploded and the remainder of the politicians who encouraged the Big Lie are being shunned with the potential for prosecution.

My confession to you is a cautionary tale.  Emotions and truth can sometimes conflict and you must always know when to separate them.  Also, if you see someone struggling with who to trust and how to believe, rather than looking at them askance, treat them with the patience, respect and kindness that we all deserve.  Misplaced faith and anxiety is not a personal defect but an element of being human.     

Thank you for hearing me out.  I think I have some relationships that I need to re-adjust and a few fences that need mended.

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