Trump and the Rise of the Uninformed Expert
I got some hate mail last Thursday.
It was a voicemail, actually, from an old friend. He said he’s cutting his ties to us because of my husband Mark’s recent suggestion that Syrian refugees be admitted into our country.
Boasting an extensive knowledge of Islam (he owns a Quran), this “friend” scolded Mark—over my voicemail—for inviting an influx of crazies who only want to “put black sacks over women” and “distort their genitals.”
Then on a conciliatory note, he gave Mark a pass because he is a victim of “Mormon Whiplash,” a label this man (who has never been LDS but owns a Book of Mormon) invented for the blanket of former Mormons who (in his mind) always do the exact opposite of what the Mormons do.
Gosh, I loathe black and white thinking. But it seems to be all we get these days. Thanks to the rise of Trump and the alt-right, people like our friend now feel free to express the hatred they’d kept hidden for so long, and in a recorded message, no less. What used to be a dog whistle is now a bullhorn.
Does our former friend read the news? Okay, so maybe he thinks it’s all fake. He still goes to the grocery store though, right? Does he really believe that the friendly kid in produce wearing the “Muhammad” nametag dreams of mutilating women? How does one reduce a worldwide population of 1.8 billion into such a narrowly drawn, repugnant, and false stereotype—one that is so easily disproven?
Likewise the less ambitious “Mormon Whiplash” analogy. I’m actually quite familiar with this stale theory, having heard it time and again from the black and white thinkers at church—“People who reject the gospel ricochet into washed-up losers who booze it up in front of the porn channel.” Or maybe even vote Democratic.
Again, the false stereotype that is easily disproven—starting with Mark who, upon leaving the LDS Church over two decades ago, “whiplashed” out of the Republican Party just last year when it nominated Donald J. Trump for president. But he still hasn’t started boozing it up or looking at porn—so there!
Besides, how is kindness to refugees an example of so-called “Mormon Whiplash?”
I’ve written extensively about the Mormons, on this blog and elsewhere. Much of my writing has been humor aimed at the culture and much of it criticism leveled at the church’s exclusionary policies and practices. I believe all religions deserve scrutiny, especially those that claim exclusive access to God and salvation.
But after years of being told I was “offended and wanted to sin,” I’ve steered clear of drawing the same sort of uninformed conclusions about practicing Mormons. After all these years, the false stereotypes still get under my skin. For example: “all Mormons practice polygamy” or “Mormons perform kinky, satanic rituals in their temples.” The ever popular “Mormons aren’t Christians” or, hat tip to our former friend, “all Mormons are bigots”—a good thing, according to him.
Our nation’s newly embraced bigotry exploded in violence in Charlottesville over the weekend, the ultimate example of black and white thinking. An event egged on by, I believe, an increasing lack of civility in our public and private discourse, a tone set by our commander-in-chief. Even now, President Trump refuses to blame the white supremacists for this terrible incident, his true colors showing in his boorish tantrum before the press yesterday.
Mormonism is neither as large nor as steeped in history as an ancient faith like Islam. However, we still defy stereotypes, especially when our spectrum is broadened to include the fundamentalists on the right and the post-Mormons on the left. Hopefully, we can reject the national trend and keep our discourse civil. Latter-day Saints like to say they’re “not of the world.” This would be an excellent time to live that example.
And as long as I’m on a tear over the ignorant hate mail, I’ll conclude with a lesson that was impressed upon me as a child. One that I, in turn, impressed upon my own children: You don’t display your expertise by boasting your thin resume.
Imagine Dr. Kissinger prefacing his remarks with, “I have an extensive knowledge of the Middle East. I own a Quran.”
But then, since our national tone is set by a guy who insists he’s really smart because he went to Wharton Business School and had a hit reality show, I see more ignorant hate mail and hollow boasts in our future, leaving the critical thinker to go on calling out the hatred while stubbornly sticking to the facts.