Tom Brokaw, with his years of experience and expertise, had this wise words to say about the ideas of presidential candidate Donald Trump. And I want to take a moment to address something as a communication scholar and as a human being.
First, as a communication scholar trying to teach people to become better at creating and critiquing persuasive messages: If you think his words do not matter or are wrong in some way because they are coming from NBC News, perceived as a “liberal” news organization, then your argument is built on a fallacy — perhaps more than one — by attacking the messenger rather than the message.
If you think the analogies made by Brokaw are false — that is, you believe his reasoning in his argument (i.e. the message) is faulty — then give your evidence to back up your claim. What do you see to be the proper comparison and why?
For me, the reasoning works because the comparison comes in the ideology behind all of these different actions. Here, again, the communication scholar in me speaks (but also the human peeks through). An ideology is a set of beliefs a person or peoples may hold that help frame to them how reality works and makes sense. In this case, that ideology is the belief that a class/race/group/section of humanity is different/dangerous/sub-species/causing the problems of the rest of the population of humanity and must be shunned/incarcerated/interned/killed to protect the rest of humanity. Such thinking is inhumane and always is overturned once people’s fears are allayed and they realize how foolish their thinking has been.
Any person who supports this type of ideology needs to step back and reflect on why they do. Why do they think a whole section of humanity needs to be treated differently than the rest of humanity? If the answer(s) derived is always about ‘them,” then you are missing the point, because you are still thinking in this “us vs. them” mentality that this ideology supports.
I am not saying there are not bad individuals out there, and sometimes those individuals group together and do bad things. But that happens with any type of category of humanity you would like to create. There is more variation among people within one demographic category than there is among categories. That means, for example, that there is more variation among Muslims than there is between Muslims and Christians.
Now we get to the human part of me (while still having the communication scholar peek through): We are all humans. When we approach each other and engage with one another not based on these demographic categories but as individuals, then we find out we have more in common with one another than we might have thought — because we thought one another would represents these preconceived notions, these stereotypes, that are assigned to categories. If you approach another person based on how that person looks (which is often linked with demographic categories like race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and class), then you are more likely to approach that person and engage with that person with these stereotypes and assumptions we have about these different categories.
We need to scrub those schemata, those stereotypes, those assumptions, those beliefs, those ideologies from our minds. We need to engage with one another free of these things that shape how we communicate and act towards one another. Entering into communication situations this way, we learn how we all share the same hopes and fears, longings and griefs, laughter and tears. The only thing keeping us apart of these assumptions we have about one another that over time can become hardened and destructive. They become sexism, racism, colonialism, homophobia, theism — all these things that put up barriers between people and, when at their utmost worst, cause war.
Any person who supports Trump is supporting this ideology, this tendency to only see one another through these categories, and they may be doing it unconsciously because of various reasons, the primary one perhaps being because they are afraid.
And I get that. I get what fear can do. But fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering (say what you will of the prequels, that is still a damn good Yodaism). Your fear is only hurting yourself and those around you. Trump is capitalizing on your fear to further his goals, not yours, and not humanity’s.
This time of year with all of holidays of all the peoples of the world is meant to remind us of that. Link arms with the rest of humanity. Band together to fight fear. Band together to make a better world. Band together to stop the Trumps of the world from spreading messages of fear and division and insularity and selfishness. This is the holiday season. Embody it’s messages and be something better than fear.