The world, we are frequently told at the moment, has gone mad. A guy I know posted a pro-Trump Facebook status on US election day. Some of his friends told him he was stupid and suggested that his daughter’s future was at stake for such stupidity.
The status has since been taken down, thus (phew) reinstating the comforting lefty-liberal-elite echo chamber that is my default Facebook page, but it reflects the mockery that continues to play out across social media and reporting of the result.
The same happened with Brexit. The general theme of our left wing speculation being that those who voted Brexit were either too old, bigoted, thick or a debilitating combination of the three.
Like a racist speaking to a fellow white person, we assumed everyone else agreed with us. But some of my best friends (OK, one, that I know of) voted Brexit simply because they reckon the EU is a failing institution. I see their point and I’m not comfortable with writing the other 17,410,741 leave voters off either.
Pollsters ahead of both the EU referendum and the US presidential election got the results wrong. The reason, we were largely told, is that those voting for Brexit and Trump were too ashamed to say so. There, a nice, succinct denigration of the myriad reasons millions of people made the effort to vote. Let’s wipe our hands and get back to our cornflakes, shall we?
The world has gone mad. We have reached a point where liberals are decrying democracy for delivering the wrong results. The masses did it wrong, the silly sods.
While Trump merrily gets to work on his great Mexican wall-cum-garden fence, so many liberals are building their own – separating them and us, drawing lines between us and the dehumanised other, lambasted, without a right to reply, for their otherness.
I didn’t want Trump or Brexit. I don’t even agree with the idea we need to accept the results and stop debating their effects. But we should not allow the principles of divide and conquer to litter our narratives.
In a world gone mad, inclusion is paramount. Which also means thinking before we use words like “mad” as discriminatory terms. Ableist language excludes anyone with mental or physical health differences; we might suggest those who appear ignorant are “blind” or “deaf” to the facts. Something bad might be described as “lame”.
Similarly, women are excluded by job titles like “postman”, men are excluded by job titles like “midwife” and those in the non-binary transgender community are excluded from all gender specificity. People of colour are routinely excluded by terms like “nude” and “flesh-coloured” advertising products that more usually match white skin.
It happened to me the other night. A feminist speaker used the idea of living with an inoperable tumour as shorthand for the Worst Thing Ever. My stomach knotted and I instantly felt excluded – perhaps she didn’t expect someone with an inoperable tumour to be in her audience.
When we use terms associated with health, gender, colour and other diversities we put up walls, offend people and make them feel other.
John F Kennedy is often quoted as saying: “What unites us is far greater than what divides us.” But we should remember to be inclusive of our diversity, too.