Part 1- Don’t Box Me In!

“We become captive to the opinions and fears of others. Rather than the mind connecting us to reality, we become disconnected and locked in a narrow chamber of thought. The human that depended on focused attention for its survival now becomes the distracted scanning animal, unable to think in depth, yet unable to depend on instincts.” Mastery, Robert Greene.

As I stood in utter silence, his three fingers were closed and his thumb was pressed hard against his index finger, only inches away from my face, his gesture trying to beat me into submission by forcing me to understand that I had supported another Hitler.

He believed that I had become a racist, a bigot, and an islamophobic by voting for Trump. In his eyes, I had become a “Far-Right”. I understood his intention of trying to warn me, but he didn’t seek to understand my reasoning, he never even gave me a chance to speak.

He’s liberal, or even ultra-liberal. It doesn’t matter. He represents a sentiment, and one that is shared by many people I might add, in the American society.

The day I publicly supported Trump among my friends, on social media, and in my blogging, a few people de-friended me on Facebook; I also received nasty comments on LinkedIn when I shared my pro-Trump blog posts. From my views, I was a victim of political bullying.

Even when I was being set up with an Assyrian-American girl by a friend of mine, she googled my name before our date, found out that I had voted for Trump and changed her mind. I had become toxic.

Liberalism has started to feel like a cult to me, like a religion that persecutes all those who do not follow its doctrines. I felt Hillary’s supporters wanted me to fall to my knees self-flogging with Roman style scourge, in maudlin sorrow, asking for forgiveness, to the point where I had to vote Democrat for the rest of my life to exonerate my Trump-vote sin.

I have to admit this post is coming late in the game, I should’ve written it immediately after Hillary’s comment labeling half of Trump’s supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic,” and “Islamophobic” and called us a “basket of deplorables”. Her contempt, empowered by a marketing campaign of “’Stronger Together’”, prodded her supporters to go out and pummel Trump supporters. It felt like the bad old days in Iraq, when I witnessed people coming out of theaters after watching a Bruce Lee movie, all charged up with Martial Arts adrenaline, beating up pedestrians who were just passing by.

I associate myself with the American Assyrian community from the Middle East where the majority voted for Trump. I believe many people share my thoughts. In my defense and in defense of my community, I strongly denounce “Far-Right” sentiment and any association with it.

I have met and continue to meet people who are aggressively anti-Trump, even probably on the edge of hate. When I find people like that, it worries me to see them holding positions in HR departments or as hiring managers. I know I cannot prove it, but when I witness their hostility and read their remarks on social media, it makes me wonder if they would discriminate against individuals only for having opposing political views.

I’m dumbfounded to be seeing things on TV, and experiencing things in my own life, that make me stop and question if I should be careful about letting my political opinions be known for fear of retribution, up to and including my finances and livelihood. It is not only against the law to discriminate in the job market based on political views, it’s also Saddam’s Baathist regime policy – it is, in fact, the beginning of Fascism. When I lived in Iraq under a dictatorship, people couldn’t enter a university or obtain a government job if they were not in the Baathist party. University students didn’t have a free political platform to express their opinion. Universities couldn’t host public speakers and authors, like atheists or religious reformers, who disagreed with the general sentiments of the government. Did I leave Iraq twenty years ago to come to America and start feeling like I’m in Iraq again? It certainly has started to feel that way.

In addition, I feel it is very important to express this, because I live in a liberal city and if I want to find a job, all major companies are increasingly concerned about their political image, especially the Tech companies in the lovely liberal Silicon Valley. 

The day you vote is not like the day you reach legal age, and cross that line, reclassifying you from a child to the age of consent at midnight. There are borderless boundaries between Republic and Democrat, and I don’t agree fully with either side.

Any attempt to create labels like “Center”, “Left”, “Right” or anywhere else in between “Far-Right”, and “Far-Left” seems to be a semantic exercise in futility. It is misleading to everyone to label someone based on certain views, liking a fan page, book recommendations – or their vote. And it is a dangerous trend for a society to accept or condone.

The science of Neuroplasticity shows that our brain changes every second. Just because I said something a day, a month, or a year ago, it doesn’t mean I have to stick to it as if it were a Bible verse, and be responsible for it for the rest of my life. Since I started to write this post, I have changed. I’m a different person. People change. Communities change.

I like to share a germane story from my Assyrian-American community. The irony of it may serve to put some of this in context.

A friend of mine had put a barbed wire tattoo on his arm. The moment his conservative mother saw that she screamed “Kalba bron it kalba” in Assyrian, which means “You’re a dog son of a dog.

He had to think quickly on the spot, so with his back to her, hiding the smirk on his face – “Mom! Don’t say that. It’s Jesus crown of thorns!” he jokingly riposted.

Oh sorry, come here let me kiss it.” The mother replied.

The mother bought the joke, and he just remained silent. We looked at each other and smiled.

Why did I mention this story?

There is a diachrony at play here. I mentioned this story because it shows a relevant fact about Assyrian cultural liberal progressiveness. It shows that with time and every consecutive generation, our community has come a long way from their Middle Eastern conservative views where something as simple as a tattoo had serious repercussions. Now, even religious jokes have become common among our people who once found them to be completely unacceptable. Some even considered them an insult. I know. I was one of those people who couldn’t tolerate any anti-Jesus jokes. I despised any comedian who made fun of Him.

I came a long way, but I still have to be cautious with people from that region when I joke about religion.

Let me get back to where all this has started – an argument about my Trump’s vote. It was a friendly discussion that got escalated on one side, and had me facing a screaming man, who was accusing me of supporting another “Rising Hitler” and becoming a “Far-Right”. I’m not only against any form of bullying in real life or in social media life, but against any form of political labeling.

The problem with all these labels is not only that people change over time, but there are common grounds between all these labels: Liberal, Socialist, Conservative, Populist, Reactionary, Centerist, Right Wing, Neoconservate, Right  Wing Populist, Leftist, Progressive, Neo-Progressive, Left Wing Populist, New Deal Liberal, Alternative Right, Alternative Left. Where do you draw the boundaries between all these labels? I read a little bit about all these labels, and I find myself belonging to all in some respects. So what am I “Mr. Expert”? I cannot keep up anymore.

People tend to vote for a certain candidate based on the important issues that affect their lives. One of the many reasons I voted for Trump is that I liked his Middle East foreign policy. Trump agreed to keep Bashar al-Assad as president in Syria. I couldn’t trust Hillary’s foreign policy. She could’ve destabilized the Middle East by removing Al-Assad’s regime. I’m part of an Assyrian-American community that has large family ties back in Syria. And the lives of those Christian families would be at high risk. Assyrians have skin in this game.

My father who is on the later side of his seventies, continues to say, “Life experience has taught me what books have not taught me.” People learn and change through time and life experience. Someone who has experienced a war, can understand what it feels like. And, can understand the impact of war policies, because he or she has skin in the game. A woman who has an abortion, can understand the impact of abortion polices. Someone who goes through the immigration process, can understand the impact of immigration policies. And the same logic goes for social benefits, tax cuts, regulations etc… People can have a change of heart towards policies when they are intimately connected to the results of those policies; they become more sensitive to things that others might not have noticed.

And that will be the topic of part 2.

* Please take a minute to comment what you think.

Feel free to share to anyone!