God Bless America

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God Bless America… With Trump being in power the Americans need this blessing more than ever. Since the US became my second home, I want to make my thoughts about the election result known. With the following words I especially attempt to show how Trump could get so much support, even though he first seemed like the clown of the election campaign, who was just having a little bit of fun with this. Yet, more were rolling their eyes than actually laughing about this.

Metaphors often are suited to make more abstract incidences more easily understandable. Therefore I want to begin with a short metaphor. Let’s imagine, that society is a soup and the citizens are the majority of its ingredients. Whoever has made soups by themselves knows, that spices are essential and many different kinds of spices, more exotic ones or rather a wide range of any kind of ingredients makes the soup even more tasteful. The soup doesn’t need a huge amount of spices in order to give it flavor, but, even though it is not a lot, the difference without it sticks out. This means, that each ingredient of the soup has its own important and indispensable part. Keeping the analogy in mind and looking at reality again, the current situation of society shows, that due to different reasons certain ingredients (citizens entitled to vote) cannot see their function in the soup (society) anymore and that this function, if it exists, even gets valued and appreciated. The globalisation, standardized exams and procedures as well as anonymity made it harder for Americans to see their place in society, in this soup, anymore, let alone seeing their place valued and secured for the future. The image of the soup has already been used for decades in the term of a melting pot or as Harvard political scientist Professor Samuel Huntington puts it: “the reality of American history is best described as tomato soup: the blending of new ingredients adds spice without compromising the essential character of tomato.”[1] Well, maybe the time has come where the soup has actually changed their essential character.

“Who actually is voting for Trump?!” – is a question that many Europeans asked, and a question that cannot just be asked rhetorically, but rather has to be questioned more in detail. 63% of white men[2], 62% living in small towns and rural areas and 50% with an annual income of $50,000-$99,999[3] voted for Trump. Generally speaking we are talking about white men with a moderate income, a house in the suburbs and living a modest life. For those people a lot has changed since the onset of globalisation, and many may feel as if they are swimming in the soup they do not feel needed in anymore. Looking at the statistics again published by the New York Times we can see that immigrants and the present economical situation in the US were decisive factors for the citizens who voted for Trump. Neither do the people of this group see a place especially provided for them anymore, nor can they hold on to the old dream to go from rags to riches.

Feelings tend to be underestimated; we are talking about “sloppy sentimentality”. The stronger the feeling, the more likely people decide to actually act regarding to their feeling. Feelings need to be separated; yet they are not opposites. Thanks to the Enlightenment we live in a (more or less) rationality-led world, self-determined and without metaphysical determinism. In doing so, the Enlightenment did not intend to fully ignore feelings. Only if we became aware of our feelings can we then reflect on them and ask ourselves if those feelings are reasonable, which in turn causes us to consider what impact they have and how to deal with them. To follow up on ones feelings, whether they now be reasonable or not, means having the possibility to reasonably adjudicate and decide about ones feelings, situation and following actions.

The idea of living in a post factual era nowadays has developed quickly in recent months and years. It is an era in which facts are not crucial for opinions and actions of the citizens anymore, a factor replaces by the communication of feelings. In my view, the post factual era, however, cannot be seen as a justification that people only follow their feelings anymore, insinuating that all angry and disappointed Americans made the right decision to vote for Trump. Children already can be well aware about their feeling – lower lips and crocodile tears send their regards. But children cannot reflect about their feelings as I expect it from adults entitled to vote. In this so-called post factual era we regress in human history; we become children, taking actions making decisions lead by emotions. Moreover, it is so much more convenient to not reflect on ones own emotional state, first of all, because “to think about something” is way too demanding, after all we already make significant efforts in school and at work. Second of all, that moment would be a rather unpleasant situation, in which one realises that the own feelings might have not been as reasonable as assumed and first and foremost people tend to avoid undesirable situations.

So what does all that have to do with Trump? Well, Trump is not the cause, but the symptom of the post factual era. All the descriptions about the post factual era refer to Trump as well; he is part of this new, post factual development. He reacts specifically to the people’s feelings and would, according to his own statements, act more instinctively and without reflection. Furthermore, he uses the distance to facts in order to not only bring out and emphasise feelings, but also to create new ones e.g. anxiety, anger and disappointment towards the “Establishment” and “the Other” (minorities, immigrants, feminists etc.). As I have mentioned above, the more intensive the feelings are, the more one is convinced about doing a certain action or having a stronger attitude. Trump has lied more than any other former presidential candidate – probably a main factor why he won. His behaviour of no reflection and primarily saying and doing things that are loaded with emotions endorses this tendency to not reflect upon ones feelings and actions as well as to renounce facts. This perception of non-recognition from the government and the feeling of being lost within society, and the convenience and comfort of dealing with ones feeling and the attitude and ignoring facts have led American citizens to vote for Trump as their next President.

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4931534.stm

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/09/white-voters-victory-donald-trump-exit-polls

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html?_r=0

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