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Illiterate Politics

Illiterate Politics

It’s hard to find love for people who voted for Trump. It’s hard to find love for people who just don’t care either way. It’s hard to stand in front of those friends, family members, and neighbors, who chose the demagogue. We know that they haven’t physically wounded us, but it sure does feel like it. It is hard to speak. It is hard to speak to those who chose to disengage, detach, disconnect, throughout this whole process because they believe it’s a sham, it’s all rigged, or they chose to not let it affect them. It’s hard to face those who have chosen to not “burden” themselves with politics.

“The personal is political” means that the issues that are talked about in government are deeply personal and affect our lives. We all have freedoms in this country, some more than others. If you are someone with great privilege (white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, conventionally attractive) then you have a huge responsibility to use your power, your position of privilege to educate yourself and help those around you in whatever way you can. Each of our choices generate negative externalities, meaning that our choices have an effect, whether it's who we vote for president, what products we buy, or the news sources we read. It is deeply troubling that many choose not to burden themselves with politics. We are all responsible for seeking thorough information. So much of our humanity rides on these events, and as humans living on this earth we are indebted to show up for it.

But how can we show up for the earth and our humanity if we are not given the proper resources? We live in a culture that encourages television and social media as primary news sources. The odds are stacked against most of us for thinking critically about anything. Our lives have turned into reality TV shows where we are bought and sold by advertisements that play into our emotions. Most people do not thoroughly research the products they buy, like household cleaners or the yogurt they eat, let alone, examine textual information in regards to who they elect for presidency.

Our country has become reliant on television to inform us about the world. Television is curated for entertainment and exists based on ratings. This means Americans are fed skillfully manipulated images and the masses have become dependent on this. There is no denying that a person who actively reads will develop and maintain strong analytical thinking skills. Our world of multi-tasking, jumping from Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, monitoring our smartphones, texting with friends, watching television and flipping through the channels, and the jarring nature of the news, completely hijacks our ability to focus. We aren't able to reflect. We're given no time to do so. Reading is the practice of concentrating on fine details and absorbing the information. It requires reflection. Illiteracy is embedded in our culture and it has come out full-force throughout this election cycle.

The Literacy Project Foundation found in a study that illiteracy has become such a serious problem in our country that 44 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children. 50% of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level. 45 million are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level. 44% of the American adults do not read a book in a year. 6 out of 10 households do not buy a single book in a year. Approximately 50% of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels[1]. Yikes.

When the illiterate vote they are not voting based on textual information. According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of people get their news from television. Applying this to political campaigns, we see propaganda that provokes pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation.[2]

It’s no surprise that 47 percent of Trump’s votes came from those with a high school education or less. Without higher education this group of people are working lower wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, and they want a candidate who will pay attention to their struggle. This demographic, white working class people, are resentful towards the system in which they feel has not cared about them. Trump has tapped in “politics of resentment” and gives the people something to blame – what everyone keeps calling the status quo.

Trump won because of his style and story, and because he caters to an audience that feels uneasy about their economic situation in life. The majority who voted for Trump, white working-class people, have legitimate grievances: wages for low-skilled work are decreasing, and no longer can a man with a high school education expect to work in a factory his whole life, support his family, and retire in comfort. Upward mobility is shrinking and it’s because our society has historically prioritized the desires of the white and wealthy. The working class is irate for good reason because they have been withering away, but they can’t see through Trump’s simplistic, childish narrative to look beyond it.

Our world is stepping into a new era, one that does not take into account history, but makes their decisions based on emotions and knee-jerk reactions. A great number of the population are educated by the television and the entertainment business – the business of irrationalism and charlatan preachers.

Electing Trump means an upsurge of our economic crisis. His policies on taxes, government spending, immigration and international trade indicates a substantial increase in the federal debt, benefits the wealthy disproportionately, and actually pushes unemployment up, according to Moody’s Analytics.[3] If voters had the skills necessary to think critically about his platform they would have found that Trump’s proposals are doing no favors for the working class. Or anyone, for that matter.

[1] http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/community/statistics/

[2] http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20081110_america_the_illiterate

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/07/29/moodys-where-trumps-economic-policies-might-spark-recession-clintons-could-boost-gdp-and-lower-unemployment/#2405045b2348

 

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