The title of this article is intentionally provocative. Of course, the crying child in the picture is an illegal immigrant, and the majority of Trump voters are against illegal immigration, to the point of creating situations such as the one that makes this child cry. So, what do I mean by that?
I want to suggest that you think this picture might actually be a pretty good representation of the mental and emotional landscape of Trump voters. Vis-à-vis immigration, they see themselves as victimized and powerless. They see immigrants as all powerful, relentlessly invading the country to steal their jobs and attack them. In this context, the fantasy of “The Wall” is like the walls that the Roman empire built to stave off the invasions of the Barbarians, who eventually succeeded in toppling the empire.
In other words: All of this does not come from a place of strength, but from an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. The “Other” is not a human like us, but an all-powerful monster that is in the process of annihilating “us”. What applies then is the logic of primal fear: The priority is to do what is takes to survive.
Of course, saying that Trump voters feel victimized and scared, see themselves as the powerless child against the all-powerful “Barbarians”, does not in anyway condone behaving like a Barbarian to stave off that perceived threat. And, of course, we need to make our voices heard so that the collective voice of the country reflects that a majority of us wants to behave humanely and honorably.
But it is important to do so without demonizing the Trump voters, which would only result in perpetuating the cycle of victimization and exclusion.
We are against oppression, against victimization, against exclusion. We are at our most effective against oppressors when we do not behave like them, when we embody our values. We need to avoid the knee-jerk reaction of tit for tat, that of dehumanizing people who dehumanize others. We need to stay focused on healing the underlying conditions that cause a sense of victimization and exclusion. We need to stay focused on a vision of mutual respect.
When a conflict is difficult, it is tempting to see the other side as a boulder that is blocking the road, and needs to be blown away. It is much more difficult to come to terms with the idea that there are different perspectives that need to eventually be reconciled with a sense of mutual respect. Actually, it is excruciatingly difficult to do so. But is there any alternative to doing so? We certainly don’t want to be drawn into the fantasy that the end game is to “cleanse” the country of all the people we experience as cruel.
So it is important to remember that we are not just fighting against one instance of victimization and exclusion. Through this instance, we are trying to move a little bit further along on the path of fighting Victimization itself, and Exclusion itself. We can only do so by remembering that the endgame is about creating a healing sense of mutual respect. This is definitely not a short-term goal, but keeping an eye on the long-term goal imbues what we do with a larger sense of meaning and purpose.