When I start writing this, it is the morning after the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. If you are like me (a young university degree holder with mostly liberal/leftist political views), there is a better than zero chance your social media feed looked more or less the same as mine before, during and after the election results came in: a general denouncement of Trump, all he said, the Republican Party in general, and anyone stupid enough to vote for him, because surely you would have to be stupid to elect such a man? No, I argue, and the general attitude of this young, self-styled politically conscious audience, to which I admittedly belong myself as well, showcases a serious issue with my generation: extreme political arrogance and contempt.
A fair warning to all who are still reading this, rather than pounding on the comment section of this article to denounce me as a fascist, populist or right-wing nutter. Controversial things will be said, and this is on purpose. I fully expect people to disagree with me, be offended by this piece and thoroughly explain why they think I’m dead wrong in the comment section. But to incite a flame war is not the point of this article. The point of this article is to make the reader ask questions of him- or herself. Mostly, after reading the whole of this opinion piece (and, as the author, I do hope you take the time to do so), whomever read this should consider the following: “Did I personally engage in this behaviour and if so, do I think it’s really as arrogant and problematic as this bloke makes it out to be?” If the answer to either of those queries is “no”, then please feel free to call me out on my idiocy. You’d have certainly earned it after reading the whole of this article.
Perhaps some examples are in order at this point to better illustrate what I mean by “arrogance and contempt”, since I by no means mean to insinuate that everyone below the age of thirty with an opinion shows this kind of behaviour. All of the following examples are directly taken from my personal social media feed, although the writers will remain anonymous. Leading up to the elections, several German acquaintances of mine shared the following Reddit image: . Likening Trump to Hitler is dangerous, historically inaccurate and an ignorant attempt to not address his more valid points in and of its own right.
However, perhaps the most telling and galling aspect of this pamphlet is the self-righteous, sarcastic, better-than-thou tone of “What could possibly go wrong?”, followed by that awful, and frankly offensive, #beentheredonethat. Considering the age of the people happily sharing this piece, I sincerely doubt these people were actually there. Because you hold citizenship of a country where your great-grandparents lived through the greatest atrocity in modern human history, you are in a position to say: “Been there, done that”, and advice another nation who to vote for? And yes, some have perhaps only shared this link as a joke, but like the men who catcall women “as a joke”, humour is not an all-proof defence, nor does it make the pamphlet itself less arrogant.
Another examples of what I can sadly only describe as arrogant ignorance and contempt include people who are 100% positive they can predict what the next four years will look like: “He’s going to repeal all immigration reform, Obamacare, everything in women’s health and rights, all environmental progress is at a halt. With a republican house, senate, and president, the US is going to step backwards nearly a century. Actually though. The last time this happened was 1928. What followed was the Great Depression.” “The W….r will cause a war talk about Hillary eat dick must be eating one himself no respect for woman what so ever and as for all the yanks that voted for him shame on yous so here’s to world war 3 hope somebody takes him down ASAP.” Others I know have had the arrogance to loudly exclaim that they know 100% certain that this would not have happened had Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primaries, sharing pictures of Sanders with such captions as: “All this could’ve been avoided. Thanks for Nothing DNC!” If these people are truly so intelligent and clairvoyant, I do hope they’ll let us in on the joke next time a natural disaster occurs.
Are these reactions spur of the moment decisions? The outing of raw emotion on the internet while people are still genuinely frightened and shocked and haven’t fully accepted the situation yet? Are they merely humoristic coping mechanisms? Perhaps, but these are but a few examples in a litany of cases where leftist/liberal twenty-somethings have not shirked away from calling entire halves of countries idiots for exercising their democratic rights in a particular way. The same behaviour could be witnessed in Europe after the Brexit referendum, when some even demanded that the result be reversed on the basis that the Brexit vote had been decided by the vote of the elderly. They claimed that they would have to live longer with the decision since they were younger, therefore their votes should have a greater impact than the votes of those who had already worked sixty years for their country. The utter contempt for all who voted in favour of Brexit was palpable, democracy and equal voting rights be damned. Not only is such behaviour as arrogant as I would claim, it is also dangerously undemocratic. In my opinion, there is little doubt that the general atmosphere of disdain towards Trump and Brexit supporters from these “fine young liberals” partly laid the foundation for these electoral upsets.
Let me finish by saying that I hold no love for Donald Trump, nor any of his proposed policies and I do believe that, should he try to bring some of his more heinous proposals into reality, he should be stopped at every possible turn. However, the self-righteous response of some of my generation has been nothing short of sad and embarrassing. To antagonise those who chose to vote for Trump is a response that betrays the same lack of empathy and respect for democracy, which the very same people who engage in this behaviour accuse Trump and his supporters of themselves. Perhaps the people who truly believe they know best, no matter what, and that the legitimate votes of others ought to be scorned and ridiculed because they’re not theirs, should look themselves in the mirror and ask: “Who is the true megalomaniac here?”
Image by Gage Skidmore.