January 09, 2020

Trump, Politics, and Instagram Yesterday

I disabled comments on a post on Instagram yesterday, something I don't do normally. I had posted an anti-Trump item and specifically said that anyone bothered by our disapproval of our national embarrassment is welcome to unfollow, but that I wasn't interested in their comments on the matter. Naturally, the handful of his fans who are following us on Instagram felt compelled to comment anyway.

Having no interest in hearing from them, I turned off the comments. One of them complained that I did it due to a lack of "bravery." No. I'm not afraid of hearing from Trump's fans; I'm simply not interested. There is a difference. If I were terribly concerned about Trump fans unfollowing us I wouldn't have posted it. Even this post isn't for them. If you're one of them and reading this while mentally composing a rebuttal, just move on — I'm still not interested.

I know it might seem like running an online business selling graphic goods is fun and easy, but mostly it's stressful and difficult for reasons I'm not going to get into here. The best part of the job is connecting with like-minded people and putting out a product that makes them feel seen and understood. When I post creative content with this brand I'm saying "I feel this way, and if you feel this way, too, let's be a community." I don't do it to raise the ire of people that don't share my worldview.

If I had my druthers I wouldn't devote all this mental energy to what's really a national crisis. I want to make art about sarcastic cats and cute devils, but my creative output is a direct result of what's on my mind, and my mind is on what a problem we have in the White House.

I was plenty anxious and depressed before the Trump situation developed, but I didn't wake up every day living under past administrations — of any ideological strain — thinking the occupant in the White House was probably going to get a lot of people unnecessarily killed while he uses the office for selfish personal gain. The world already has so much bad in it; we don't need a leader who recklessly and needlessly makes it worse.

I'm also troubled by the number of people who are okay with any of this. I refuse to even engage with the premise that this situation is at all acceptable. I don't particularly enjoy these arguments that devolve into personal insults. If anything, I'd rather have a reasonable exchange of ideas with people who share my idea of basic decency...but the fact is that you can't be reasonable and decent and still support Trump.

Note that I don't say "vote" for Trump. We've all made mistakes before — we're human beings, after all, and making mistakes is kind of our thing. We should all acknowledge and accept that we all deserve a mulligan now and then, and there are plenty of Trump voters who are no longer Trump supporters, so it's important not to paint with too broad a brush when we talk about this amongst one another from the center-right through the far left of the political spectrum. If you're a working class or middle class voter who voted for Trump in 2016 out of frustration with the status quo or disdain for Hillary and in the heat of the moment made a glaringly obvious error in judgment and now regret the turn our country has taken since then, guess what? You can do something about that in approximately 11 months.

On the other hand...if you're still 100% behind your guy and wish he'd pull an Emperor Palpatine and dissolve the Senate (and House, and Supreme Court) ahead of election day and rule indefinitely as an authoritarian autocrat? I'll defend your First Amendment right to that stance, but that does not mean I have to listen to your misguided, profoundly racist whataboutism and equivocation, especially when you comment on my posts and ads. Despite social media's clear role in the erosion of our political discourse over the last decade, you are precisely why the blocking of accounts and the deletion of comments exist as features on those platforms.

To wit: here is just a sampling of a few of the bad faith comments on my post before comments got disabled, along with my responses to them:

"You're capitalizing on hating Trump."

Right, because I'm a sneaky, low-key, cynical capitalist hypocrite, is that it? Look, I'm "capitalizing" on my creative output because I'm an artist and that is what artists do when they are trying to make a living as professional creatives in a capitalist system. My creative output is influenced by my life experience, and my country being turned into a total shit show is my current life experience. Implying that I only pay lip service to regulating capitalism because I live and work in a capitalist system is completely unfair. I want a heavily regulated capitalist system. I don't want to live in a country where CEOs make 312 times the average worker's wages. I want to live in a country where all of my fellow citizens can afford healthcare, child care, time off, housing, food, electricity, etc. I want to live in a country where every working adult is guaranteed a living wage and the ones who can't work are still afforded basic fucking dignity and security. Because I believe in being the change I want to see in the world, I have made it a priority to pay living wages to my team, and I am happy to decrease my own income to do it. So no, I'm not secretly a craven money-grubbing cynic who just claims to hold these values because it's profitable and that profit is all I care about.

"If you hate capitalism, move to Venezuela or Scandinavia."

The situation in Venezuela is much more complex than communism vs. socialism vs. capitalism. I largely agree with how Scandinavian countries are run, but I live here. I want my country to be better, and so do most Americans.

"What you do isn't art, it's bullying Trump."

I can't even begin to respond to this ludicrous claim. I mean I could, but I won't because any remotely reasonable person reading this understands why it's not even worth it.


Fine, good, unfollow. No need to announce it. I don't care. If our creative content isn't for you, that's fine. Go find something else to follow. I'm guessing you followed us because something you saw in our creative output spoke to you. If you don't like that the person making the art you find interesting has thoughts and opinions that may not always align with your own, you're going to have a tough time as a consumer of creative content.

Artists have thoughts and opinions, and we express them. That's our whole thing; that's where the art comes from. As a group we tend to lean left politically. To even be the kind of person that's capable of a lot of creative output, by definition you'd have to be open to new ideas that often challenge our preconceived notions — in other words, progressivism. Conservatism isn't necessarily the opposite of new ideas — it has its time and place, both in politics and out — but by definition it denotes slowing forward momentum, so it's not really a worldview that's very compatible with creativity and exploring new ideas with an eye toward a better, brighter future. Sure, still life portraits of fruit have their time and place — dental office waiting rooms need a pop of color, too — but for the most part, capital-A Art is inherently political and always has been. If you want to consume creative content, you have to accept that it comes with the creative people who make it.

I know I'm largely taking aim at Trump supporters here, but my fellow progressives aren't off the hook, either, because you have left me plenty of trolling comments too — mostly claiming that I'm not progressive enough. This shit needs to stop. We are on the same side. Sowing division with people who mostly agree with you is not productive or helpful. Being a purist won't get rid of Trump. If you want the world to be more to your liking, you get out there and support whoever the fuck gets the Democratic party nomination — whether they were your first choice or not — and you do the same damn thing all the way down the ticket. No staying home and pouting, no voting third party, no making write-ins for pie-in-the-sky fantasy candidates (as much as I'd love to support a John Waters/Dorothy Parker ticket). Joe Biden isn't my first choice, but if he gets that nomination I am going to support him without reservation.

You also need to stop talking shit about how artists like me aren't "real" progressives because I don't donate 100% of my income to charity or my customer-submitted photos don't have enough diversity in them. To the latter point, they are literally photos sent to me by customers. I can't force them to be an exact equal breakdown of gender, race, disability, body type, gender identity, etc. If you want more people that look like you in my feed, buy a goddamn shirt, snap a selfie, and tag me with it! You need to stop harassing other progressives on Twitter just because they support Warren and you prefer Bernie. Neither candidate is perfect; no one is. Every serious contender for the nomination has baggage in their wake, but they also represent a major improvement over the status quo.

I'm not a perfect progressive, and neither are you, and neither is Bernie or Jill Stein or whomever it is you hold up as the ideal. Living a 100% ethically pure existence is literally impossible. We can pick apart any effort to do the right thing, but it's not helpful. I don't talk about my progressive values in some cynical way because it sells. I talk about those values because they are dear to me and they are values I try my hardest to live up to every day. I felt this way before I started Boredwalk and I have no doubt I will always feel this way. I am doing my best, and I try to see that in other people wherever it is remotely reasonable to see that.

Some people, like Donald Trump, aren't trying to be their best; they're selfish and narcissistic and don't care how their choices affect other people. They lack empathy and they don't use the position they have to do anything to try to make things better for anyone but themselves. Those are the people I have a problem with.

If you share my belief that human rights matter, that people having their basic needs met matters, that taking care of our planet matters, and that compassion is a virtue, then I celebrate you trying to do everything in your power from where you are in life to try to work towards those ideals and I hope you'll do the same for everyone around you — even if they aren't perfect. If you don't share those values I do hope you'll change, but in the meantime I'm not here to cater to you with my creative content.

Peace, love, and fighting the good fight,

- Meredith