Here’s the second round of Savage Minds Reader Letters! We asked our readers to share their thoughts about anthropology in the Trump era for this round, and we got some great responses. Thanks for sending your letters, and keep an eye out for the next call. We need more letters!! –RA
The descent into incivility?
In your “Call for Reader letters:” you reminded us to “recognize that when you are critical of people’s ideas, you are also ultimately being critical of them as well.
Donald Trump was not only critical of the ideas of Democrats but was particularly critical of Senator Elizabeth Warren when he taunted Democrats by saying “Pocahontas — his insult of choice — is now the face of your party“. From an anthropological perspective, Trump is changing the rules of discourse among civilized people developed in Greece and China hundreds of years ago to avoid conflicts.
Rules of discourse are a part of civility. Civility can be confused with disengaging from others so as not to offend, which Trump disparages as “political correctness”.
Trump’s 140 character tweets are mostly used to influence with mocking, ridicule and “alternative facts”. In a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) survey teachers said schoolchildren are adopting Trump’s overall tone of more hatred for more people. (3)
Civil discourse generally requires agreement on a common set of facts. Modern communication tools, like Twitter, however, mean anyone with access to a computer has access to a megaphone to broadcast their unquestioned, “alternative facts”.
During a hard fought presidential campaign John McCain praised Barack Obama for a terrific speech that “comforted and inspired the country” and performed an important service by encouraging “every American who participates in our political debates to aspire to a more generous appreciation of one another and a more modest one of ourselves.” (4)
Senator McCain was almost prescient, asking Americans to aspire to a “more modest appreciation of ourselves” when one of the most immodest men in history is now President of the United States. Hopefully anthropologists will not look on 2017 as the year America began a descent into incivility.
-William M. Smith Continue reading