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Why We Need Empathy in the Age of Trump

Arlie Russell Hochschild is a sociologist from California who went to the state of Louisiana to try establish what led to the rise of the tea party after the election of Obama and consequently has led to the rise of Donald Trump. Louisiana’s working white people were one of the major supporters of Trump.

Here is an analysis of her much discussed book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right to help us understand why America is divided and what we can do about it.

Why many people view Trump as a hero

Hochschild points at these people didn’t view Trump as a hero at first.

However, as time has gone on, they have become more disillusioned with the “American dream”. Their wages haven’t increased, and at the same time they’re watching white collar workers on wall st taking in more money.

Trump arrived and told them the truth: They are waiting in a line for the American dream but it isn’t moving anywhere, while other people are cutting the line.

Trump articulated this feeling, and even though he hasn’t provided any solutions, this was enough to believe that he will be able to stop the line cutters so their line can start moving again.

There is more to it than just racism

Most of the people Hochschild interviewed confessed that they are not racists and that they do not hate blacks or immigrants. One of them said that they look forward for a time when color will be a non-issue and he believes we are halfway there. They just feel that they deserve one more than they are getting and the line cutters need to be stopped.

What liberals need to know about what is happening in America

A group of people who felt silenced now have someone to speak for them and give them magical promises. The big problem that can arise is if the promises fail and people become even more disillusioned.

The Democratic Party is the party of the working person but it is now hemorrhaging so many of its workers. We are afraid of digging deep into issues in fear of being racist or sexist. It’s time we to reach out and listen to others and understand them without changing who you are.

What I learnt from reading this book

It’s clear that the democratic party fell out of touch with the working person. They weren’t listening or providing solutions and consequently Donald Trump was elected. He told them what they want to hear and whether or not he delivers will remain to be seen.

The main takeaway is that we all need to make an effort in understanding each other. There is a huge divide in America right now and empathy is the only way forward.

Continue the conversation

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