As this year comes to a close, and an election year looms, I’m expecting life and social media to get pretty heated. And as I listen to the opinions from The Right and The Left, I hear a common thread in the conversation: they’re always talking about someone else. The Right talks about The Left, and The Left about The Right. The chatter on social media reflects that as well. They’re always telling someone, “You need to change.”
And I think “you” is an interesting concept. It implies that the problem is entirely external. It implies that we ourselves are excluded from responsibility for whatever issue. And in my not-very-humble opinion…
We aren’t excluded. We are very responsible.
Let’s take politics as an example. Heck, let’s get specific and take Donald Trump as our example. Now regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump will have to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. If that’s your cup of tea, you’re probably riding Cloud 9 right now. But if you view that unfavorably, you’re likely asking questions like, “How did things get like this?”
And that’s simple to answer – they got like this because we let them.
Regardless of our opinion of him, Trump is not a dark horse candidate. He didn’t appear out of nowhere – he’s been a media figure for years due to his show “The Apprentice” (which has 15 seasons). And if you think that being a celebrity doesn’t mean you can win a political campaign, then you weren’t paying attention to when Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected as governors and Ronald Reagan became president.
Trump is a businessman-celebrity who’s spent the past 15 years or more cementing himself as a Brand in American culture. It’s no wonder that his campaign is doing well right now. Regardless of the politically incorrect statements he makes, he seems incapable of derailing his campaign. It all seems like he’s just being more of The Donald. And the chatter I hear from opponents of Trump is something along the lines of “You (Trump-followers) need to pull your heads out of your asses.”
But it’s not their fault he’s become the political powerhouse he currently is. It’s our fault – all of our’s.
The poet Shane Koyczan has text in his poem “Shoulders” that I feel articulates the point of all this so perfectly that I dare not try to paraphrase:
We are facing crisis.
We dismiss the truth not because we can’t accept it, but because having to commit ourselves to change is a scary prospect for anybody.
The most alarming part of the statement ’we are facing crisis’
Isn’t the word ’crisis’,
It’s the word ’we’.
Because those two letters take the responsibility away from one and rest it squarely on the shoulders of everybody.
The situation with Donald Trump – or any situation – is not one of the exclusive “you”. “You”, the others, are not the ones that need to change. “We” do. We are the ones who need to change.
We sometimes talk about this world as though we’re not a part of it – as though our actions and decisions have no bearing or influence. Today I’m telling you: they do. They will. Today I’m calling people out on this: you, me, us – everyone.
Don’t use the exclusive “you”. It feels powerful, but it’s not. It’s fearful and frantic. It’s peacocking and scapegoating. It’s doing everything it can to deceive us into thinking that the sources – and therefore the solution – to our problems are others.
Instead, use the inclusive “we”. This is where the real power lies, because by accepting that we have responsibility for our place and situation, we also acknowledge that we are capable of bringing ourselves here. And by asserting that, we also have to acknowledge that we have the power to change things – to make them better, if we so desire.
Trump got to where he is because we spent 15 years watching his show on TV. We spent 15 years supporting him through various means – though both action and inaction. If he is a monster, he’s one we have made.
But that means it’s within our power to change things. Even if he becomes one of the final candidates, we can vote for another. We can protest. We can rally. We can call him out on his shit, and let others know. But we cannot sit back and ignore him and hope he goes away. It wouldn’t work if this were a romantic relationship, and it won’t work in a political relationship. We need to stand up and do something about this situation, and we do have the power to make positive changes in ourselves and the world.
We can do the same thing with global warming and climate change. We can do the same thing with racism, with sexism, with classism, and elitism. We can do the same with any and every problem we are facing as a people and as a species.
We can do this. And I want you to repeat that, not just for emphasis and effect, but as a reminder.
We can do this. We can do this.