FOWC: Making Assumptions

The word for Fandango’s One Word Challenge today is assume

I think many of the conflicts we have with others, and the rifts between large swaths of society in the U.S. today, are due to the assumptions we make about each other. When we assume things about others, we create or reinforce stereotypes. Here are some examples: 

  1. “I assume he is a racist because he supports Trump.”

Although it is hard to understand why a person who is NOT racist would support Trump, there are many people like this. Perhaps for them, racism is not a central issue. I mean, there are even a few Blacks who support him (that I really cannot understand!). While we may think such people are stupid, ignorant, or supporting a president whose policies go against their own interests, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are racist. Many Republicans hold their noses and put up with Trump because they want to stack the courts with conservative judges or they want abortion to be further restricted or outlawed altogether.

2. “She is college educated, graduated summa cum laude, top of her class. I assume she would never vote for Trump.”

Wrong again! Can you believe there are smart, college-educated women who vote for Trump? We assume the profile of a Trump voter is a person who is ignorant, not well-educated, racist, unintelligent, probably disgruntled white male. While many (perhaps a majority) Trump supporters may fit this profile, we should not assume all of them do.

3. “My son’s friends surely will vote this year! They didn’t in 2016 and look what happened. After living through four years of this moron, they’ll be willing to wait for hours in line just to vote him out of office.”

Once again, we should not assume that turn-out in November will be huge. We assumed Hillary Clinton was going to be elected in 2016, and look what happened. Part of the problem was low voter turn-out. I do not understand why citizens would not exercise their right to vote, one of our rights guaranteed by the Constitution. If Trump is re-elected again in 2024, we will most likely have fewer rights than we have now. Our democracy is already flawed; four more years of this corruption and ineptitude would put democracy on very precarious footing. 

However, the mid-term elections of 2018 did have a record high turn-out, causing speculation among liberals that this was an indictment of the Trump administration. And aren’t there millions of young people eligible to vote for the first time registering? What about the kids who were passionate to end mass shootings? What about all the American counterparts of Greta Thunberg? Climate change is an existential threat, and so is Trump.

I can tell these things to people until I’m blue in the face, but it doesn’t guarantee they will get their asses off their couches and go to the polls on a nasty cold November day. If we assume that people are going to vote according to their interests, we will also be disappointed. People vote against their interests all the time, whether they know they are doing so or not. Voting is not an objective process – it is most often quite subjective. People vote according to what they feel, not necessarily based on knowledge or facts.

Bob Englehart / Cagle Cartoons

And looking at this from the other side, what do Trump supporters assume about liberal Democrats?

Don’t assume we are all left-wing or socialists. Some of us are, but most are not.
Don’t assume that when we protest, we encourage violence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Don’t assume we want to allow anyone to come into this country, including criminals, drug pushers, and rapists. We simply want an immigration system that is humane and respectful to those who seek asylum.
Don’t assume we are all in on some insidious plot to ultimately overthrow the U.S. government.
Don’t assume we all want to take away all your guns. 
Don’t assume we want to encourage voter fraud by allowing people to vote by mail. 
Don’t assume we want to “discriminate” against white people. I am white, why would I want that? We just embrace the ethnic diversity that our country has undeniably become.

I think most assumptions we make about “the other side” are based on our own biases and often are “projections” (saying that ‘the other side’ is doing whatever nefarious deeds that in fact your own leaders are doing). 

What we need to do, instead of pushing people away by making assumptions about them, is to communicate with each other. Engage in a dialogue. We will certainly not always agree, and probably won’t change others’ minds about most things, but we can at least understand each other. We may even end up liking each other, sometimes.

5 thoughts on “FOWC: Making Assumptions

  1. I really like what you have to say, but in reality, I think we are too divided to even begin to understand each other or to even want to try. At least that’s what I assume to be the case..

  2. I’ve actively “not voted” (i.e. I spoiled my ballot) a few times. I did that because I don’t agree with the electoral system here, let alone the candidates. But latterly I’ve decided that I should choose my “least worst” option, and start from there. In the same vein, I’d probably say the main priority of the USA now is to get rid of Trump. Put a monkey up against him, but get rid of him.

    1. I used to vote for 3rd party candidates, or left blank the presidential candidates. But as you say, we really need to get rid of Trump, who represents an existential threat to this country. Besides, I realized a long time ago that my idealism could not be applied to voting, and that I had to pick the BETTER of the two choices, because we only really have two choices.

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