Perhaps it’s better to have unpopular views debated in public rather than simmering unspoken ones.
WHAT a time to be an American. If the United States had a motto, it would probably be “you can be anything you want”, and nobody is making a better case of that than presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Despite being a divisive figure, at times even a satire of even himself, recent polls estimate that just over a third of Republicans in the country support “The Donald”.
This support is set to rise further after his successes in the primaries last Tuesday, making him the outright favourite to be the Presidential nominee for the Republican party. ( Primaries are preliminary elections to select candidates for the presidential election.)
This success has come despite the outlandish remarks he has made about foreigners and immigration. When he first launched his campaign, he said that Mexico is a source of problems for the United States, saying “They’re sending people that have lots of problems.... They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”. ( To his credit, he also said that “some, I assume, are good people”, although he was unclear how you could tell one from the other.)
Another prominent target are Muslims. He said that the United States should prevent Muslims from entering the country because “our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life”. Nothing was said about Muslims who are able to believe in several things concurrently.
Anyway, why on Earth would anybody support somebody as divisive as Donald Trump? Well, probably because they agree with him.
A poll from the Pew Research Center – a nonpartisan think tank – last month revealed that more than a third of Republican supporters say that the teachings of some religions promote violence, and when they are asked which religions in particular, almost all say “Islam”.
These supporters also prefer a president who will be blunt about the issues and attack problems head- on – even if this means discriminating against all Muslims. And, surprise, surprise, those who prefer the blunt approach favour two Republican candidates in particular: Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
It seems Trump’s biggest advantage is that he is willing to say very controversial things that many think but do not say. To them, he is the one who is brave enough to speak unpopular truths truths.
A survey by the Rand Corp ( a nonpartisan body that researches and analyses US public policy and decisionmaking) that interviewed a sample of 3,000 Americans found that “Trump performs best among Americans who express more resentment toward African Americans and immigrants and who tend to evaluate whites more favourably than minority groups”.
So Trump is representing a segment. A racist segment. I don’t what else you can say about people who judge others based on race. Then again, this segment is probably a minority that just shouts very loudly.
The thing is, I’m all for making sure that minority groups have a voice. Although democracies are based on officials voted in by the majority, one of the most important things a democratic government can do is to take care of the minorities.
For example, only governments can make sure that buildings have access for the disabled, even though the disabled are a small minority of the whole.
For a country to understand the needs of the disenfranchised, the minorities need a voice and rep-rep resentation. Along with this is the right to express points of view, to highlight issues and to offer solutions, all as part of an informed debate.
However, it is obvious that the speech must be constructive. It cannot be hate speech that demonises a group to create a false wedge between “us” and “them”.
But is it obvious? Seriously, why not let the haters speak, especially if they’re gonna hate, hate, hate anyway, regardless of who is listening?
The problem when you tell people it’s illegal to express an unpopular view, is that it doesn’t mean they will stop expressing it. What they do is go underground and say it privately among themselves. And you end up having a subculture of people saying some pretty terrible things – but because none of it is spoken out loud, nobody stands up to contradict any of it.
Would you like an example? There are people in Malaysia who are convinced that Malays are racists who can only succeed by pulling others down. Now, this isn’t something that is generally published in the papers and shouted from the rooftops.ro But I know people say it. I knowk why they say it. But they rarely y say it in front of me.
They live their lives assuming MalaysM are out to get them or their fa amilies or friends. In the process, th hey become the very people they cr riticise – those who stand in the way of others because they are the wrong race.
How I would love it if this conversation was out in the open. That I could stand up and say: Not everything done is because of “Hidup Melayu”, or not everything is about “putting people in their rightful place”. There are gaps between rhetoric, reason and reality, and they are complex.
At least in Trump’s case, there is now some effort to show that not all Mexicans entering the country are criminals, and some discussion about how many Muslims in the United States are at risk of radicalisation. And yes, discussion takes time because the issues are complex. But at least it’s better than leaving things unsaid and allowing resentment to bubble underneath.
Others are more generous than me in reading Trump’s motives. They say he is a “territorialist” who believes that America can be great and self- sustaining on its own. In that sense he is optimistic about what his country can do – a wonderful trait. But I have a simpler reading: Donald Trump is a racist. And I’m glad this presidential election has allowed the man to show his true self.
Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician- turned- scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions.