Politics  •  February 6, 2017

How Trump Shattered Our Sense of Self

Just as we internalize the values of our parents, we also internalize the values of the dominant cultural discourse that we grew up with. From that perspective, Trump’s victory is a paradigm shift. Because we all have no choice but to adapt to whatever environments we were born into, in order to construct our own sense of self, we must assume certain cultural and social values to be fundamental, permanent, and/or absolute. After all, in order to build anything, we have to choose a fixed foundation; we cannot build anything on a continually shifting foundation.

Trump violates a few of these values that many of us assumed to be permanent fixtures of what it means to be “American,” like religious tolerance, racial equality, and gender equality. This is true particularly for those of us who are 50 and under as these values have been quite stable for us in our lifetime. The shift in foundation necessitates people to rebuild many parts of their self-image. It’s like a massive earthquake that damages the supporting structures of their homes.

The irony here is that many of these sacred liberal values were the products of Deconstructive philosophy which warns against assuming any values to be fixed or transcendent. Most people embraced the products without understanding the philosophy that produced them. So, now their ideas of themselves are shattered, and they are not ready to rebuild them because they never thought they would ever have to.

For those who have lived the Deconstructive philosophy, not just theoretically understood it, a paradigm shift in our foundational values comes as no surprise. They simply get to work fixing and adjusting their homes that sustained some major damages from the earthquake. It’s not an emotional or psychological problem but a pragmatic one.

For the rest, this is a lesson in what it means to be truly “tolerant”. Theoretically accepting tolerance is easy, especially when our own self-image is not under threat. The true challenge is in fighting for what we believe in while still respecting the differences in our fundamental values.