Lahren v. Noah

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Disclaimer: I’ve already spoken at length about what I think about Tomi Lahren. I don’t believe she’s all that smart, I don’t agree with her logic, and I don’t agree with her politics. I’m a Bay Area native, an Asian, and I’ve never voted for a single Republican candidate for President, Senator, Representative, or any elected office. I’ll do my best to be fair to both Tomi Lahren and Trevor Noah, but I feel like it’s only fair that I underline my politics to truly legitimize what I’m trying to say.

Trevor Noah’s had a tough run as Jon Stewart’s replacement. Most of the Daily Show’s audience thought he was too timid. Samantha Bee and John Oliver have taken the hilarious outrage of their former boss and distilled in their own styles, but Noah has taken a more measured approach from the outset. As a consequence, Noah was seen as “boring” even though he espoused the same politics as Oliver and Bee.

But neither Oliver nor Bee mirrored their former boss’ willingness to interview the other side (at least not yet). Noah took from the old O’Reilly-Stewart faceoffs and invited his conservative counterpart to The Daily Show, in what is hopefully the start of an ongoing dialogue between the two new symbols of our left and right wings.

Of course, this wasn’t some magical panacaea where we can all join hands and be Kumbaya about things. Lahren’s buttresses her own righteousness with Glenn Beck’s postmortem of the interview, which is to be expected once she returned home to like-minded people. Noah, of course, went back to dressing down the same conservative news and acolytes that make up the brunt of Lahren’s argumentative spine. There are no illusions that either side compelled the other to convert in the slightest.

But at least the dialogue is happening, which I find more important now than ever(1).

I’ve written before on the outrage that defines political discourse now, and how toxic I think it is. What both sides need to realize is that this whole victimization complex – where it feels like everyone is coming at you for your beliefs – is getting old for either side. No conservative will ever believe a liberal is a legitimate victim, in the same way a liberal will scoff at the idea of a conservative being victimized by mainstream media. Politics has always been confrontational, ugly, and messy. But I feel like we’ve reached a point where we won’t even humanize the other side, which I find terribly dangerous.

As much as some of you can’t stand either Lahren or Noah respectively, hopefully most of you will understand the value of two sides working together to achieve something. A common complaint I hear from both sides is that one will not stop demonizing the other. Well, no shit. I think we’ve proven that we the people respond more to fervent anger and outrage than to nuanced disagreement.

This is why I want Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren to continue talking, even if Lahren and Noah are imperfect avatars of their representative bases. I don’t believe that Tomi Lahren represents all young conservatives the way I don’t believe Noah represents me and people who think similarly to me. But hell, they’re the best we’ve got so far, and it’s encouraging to see both of them willing to talk with civility and respect to each other.

And of course, this meeting will be dissected, pored over, filtered, and refried to the palettes of the half-thinking base on both sides. But if you’ve made it this far into reading, I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have. Neither side really “won,” since neither side was really convinced of the others’ points. It just seemed like a rehash of talking points both hosts use with great regularity on their shows. There was not, and probably will never be, a come-to-Jesus moment for either side, mostly because the real gospel most likely lives in between the poles that these two represent.

But at least the dialogue is happening.

We don’t have to be so wrapped up emotionally in our politics that we forget to treat each other as equals and with respect. By painting the other side with broad brushes, we accomplish nothing but furthering this poisonous polemic that Donald Trump(2) was able to leverage into the presidency. These aren’t sisterfucking hicks who want to cleanse America of all dirty Godless immigrants (though some of them are, which is fair). We’re not an overly-coddled generation of pussies who’s insistent on calling everyone to the right of us a bigot or a caveman (though some of us are, which is fair).

I will not be defined by the worst representation of whatever group I belong to. Seung-Hui Cho is not representative of me or any of my Korean friends. But if I assert that, then as a man, I have to extend that same courtesy to people I may strongly disagree with. Sure, there are a ton of froth-at-the-mouth-breathing motherfuckers who would love nothing but to revive white supremacy and push out all non-white minorities from the country. But to say they’re representative of roughly half the country is just as false as saying the Dallas cop killer is representative of all Black Lives Matter proponents(3).

No, the world was not fixed that day. We did not come together as a country and put aside our past differences. Both Breitbart and HuffPost raised the hands of their respective champions and declared them the true winners. Look at how they won! Look at the facts he didn’t respond to! Look at the questions that she dodged! Blahgaosghaewouhgargh!

But at least the dialogue is happening. That’s progress. I’ll take it for now.

(1) Which might also be because I’m older and more aware of politics now.^

(2) The most ridiculous thing is that I will one day have to explain to my niece why roughly half of the country thought it would be an amazing idea to elect a reality TV star and overhyped real estate mogul to the most powerful office in the world.^

(3) Point, Trevor Noah.^

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