Trump talk

Per­haps it’s bet­ter to have un­pop­u­lar views de­bated in pub­lic rather than sim­mer­ing un­spo­ken ones.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES -

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 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.

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