This entry is about rhetoric and political beliefs. I think my Trumpeteer friend referenced in my previous post is intelligent; he has several skills, many of which I admire. He’s country, lives in the Sierras. He is politically engaged, a basic tea-party fanatic. For whatever reason, he seems to hate the Clintons and Obama.
So after one of Trump’s episodes (maybe the reports on how much money Trump has been making from his Mara Lago weekends), I asked Bill whether he had figured out yet that Trump is a con man. He responded with the email below.
He has a long way to go to reach the Clinton/Obama mob’s criminal activities. Read Gary Aldrich’s “Unlimited Access”. How about Hellery’s uranium deal? How about the Haitian theft and the Iranian con, etc, etc? The Clinton Foundation is the biggest con in decades. Irv, some of us still want to preserve a Democratic Republic, not a Socialist elitist dictatorship. Your communist dream is a failure. Stick to rhetoric, not politics. You don’t know what you’re talking about. The democrats can only trash Trump, they have no platform for America. Resist what? You don’t have an answer. All you can do is call people names. We’re all still waiting to hear how the Russians elected Trump! What a joke. The demos want to save everybody with gun control, while they advocate the murder of babies. You ought to be embarrassed and ashamed. “Be a hero, save a whale. Save a baby go to jail”. Hell, we can take target practice on a San Francisco wharf, but we don’t have the right to keep some pervert from using our daughter’s bathroom. I don’t remember, do you have a daughter? Hollywood puts out pornography and other trash and lecture the rest of us on morality while they award themselves. What a bunch of hypocrites you all are. I don’t know why I bother typing all this. The only answer you have is an ignorant insult.
Two issues are interesting here. First, I think his response yields insight into why intelligent, angry white males continue to support Trump, no matter what he does. There is a lot of anger in Bill’s
response. I really don’t know where that anger comes from. Bill has had a good life, is well off, probably in the same class category as I am (upper middle class). So I think his response might reveal something of how Trump supporters think.
But second: Bill firmly believes the information he gets (like about the Clinton Foundation—he believes the meme explaining why the CF has folded). Likewise, I believe the information I get, e.g., that the Clinton Foundation is still functioning and is generally corruption free.
My point is that both Bill and I are relying for our beliefs on words. Both of us probably believe that the words we read are windows rather than stained glass into reality. And of course we look for the stained glass windows that confirm our beliefs and hold in contempt the sgws that challenge them. I can never convince Bill to look at my “facts,” nor will he be able to convince me that Obama was born in Kenya. Our proofs are only more words.
PS: I realize that my rhetoric and composition friends might take exception to my having quoted my friend’s words without obtaining his permission. I have tried to contextualize them, but as we all know, context spirals outward into infinity. I also think one can fairly use another’s words without obtaining permission of the speaker. Once the words are out, they are out.
I’m thinking more about communicative failure. A colleague, Amy, replied to this post, wondering whether there is a way to get someone like Bill to understand differently–like be willing to investigate some of the claims (like the Clinton Foundation one) with which he automatically agrees; Amy linked the communicative failure to teachers’ obligations to teach students the teachers’ versions of information literacy. I appreciated her response. I’m not quoting her here because I haven’t asked for her permission to use her words (now that’s interesting). I also twisted her email a bit.
I think a lot about the walls between us (perhaps symbolized by the wall between Bill and me). I wrote in response to Amy when she asked whether there was a way to climb the wall:
Probably not. We are all trapped in our shells. I suspect that the answer is highly specific to the believer: I need to know more about Bill, why he thinks the way he does, just as he needs to know more about me. I am surprised that he is so angry. I think that anger might be the key or at least a path into the labyrinth. and for Bill to talk to me, he needs to find a way into my maze. Actually, I think people expand more when the experience of hearing about other ways of looking is organic, kind of slipping in from the side. I think rarely is anything learned from dialogue and certainly not from argument.
Think about our students: we don’t really teach information literacy, which likely can’t be taught. It can, however, be learned–the way students come into our classes and rub shoulders with (and read) each other. They learn information literacy from each other, not us.