America’s Cultural Paradox
By Harvey Rifkin
The election of Trump in 2016 was not only about greed-driven economics for the wealthiest of Republican Americans, but really about a great cultural divide perceived by many working-class Republican Americans. Trump has done little to prop up economic life for working-class Americans, his tax cut went primarily to the uber-wealthy and corporate CEO’s. Trump got into office primarily on the backs of White older working-class males with many of their White wives following along dutifully. Many privileged working-class, less educated White males have not adjusted to economic and human rights improvements that have benefited women, people of color, to some degree the poor, and LBGTQ persons since the 1960s.
People are primarily influenced in their decision making by fear-based emotions and many times by naïve acceptance of disinformation. Most people have opinions that in many cases are not supported by verified evidence and facts. The fact that many Trump supporters can blindly overlook the documented fact that Trump has either lied or misstated information almost 9,000 times speaks to human irrationality and blindly loyal tribalism.
The concept of Political Correctness, which is nothing more than having empathy and sensitivity for those on the margins has been a bitter pill to swallow for many White men who have been culturized to be crude, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, intolerant, and hyper-macho. When one is in the habit of being insensitive to the feelings of others for decades it becomes a culture shock for them to have to correct their poor behavior. The anecdote for having to become a sensitive person is to have a license from an overtly crude, vile, racist, xenophobic, misogynist leader such as Trump.
I find it very paradoxical and hypocritical that some mostly Conservative Americans believe it is not politically correct or patriotic for a Black football player such as Kaepernick, who are protesting police brutality, to take a knee for the singing of the National Anthem, or are rebuffed when someone makes a constructive criticism of “Dark” U.S. behavior, but will easily make insensitive remarks about people on the margins and laughing off a responsibility to act with human Political Correctness and sensitivity. Some men even view Political Correctness as a weak female ‘mollycoddling’ trait. I would hope that more men in this modern society could rise to the level of increased humanity and compassion for others.
We are living in an age of advanced technology and looming Man Made Climate Change disaster, but a certain segment of our society, primary the evangelically religious choose to elevate the ideas of thousand-year-old religions above modern science. The present administration has attempted to bury the findings of 13 government agencies that Man Made Climate Change must be immediately mediated in favor of special fossil fuel interests.This looming and fast advancing Climate Change issue is seen as another cultural division point.
While trade and world interplay have increased, our present administration has continued to alienate other world leaders and has led a certain segment of our society to believe that America is superior in all respects and can exist as an isolated nation in the world. We are now 19th on the World Happiness index, lag in education, healthcare outcomes, and infant mortality, but some choose to live in a fantasy of “American Exceptionalism”.
The cultural divide in our country will continue to impede our progress in many ways in America. My hope is that the upcoming generations who are better educated, more culturally inclusive, and see our country for who we really are, will change the political calculus to continue to hopefully move us in a more progressive ascending trajectory. The increase in women, LBGTQ, and people of color in all levels of our government also leave me with an optimistic outlook for our complex nation.