Tuesday night Donald Trump won the Republican primary in Indiana and became the GOP’s nominee for the presidential election in November 2016. Donald Trump, long-term media caricature, has tapped into a rage felt by many in the United States, the fruits of an economy and a cultural moment in which like 65% of citizens feel like we are on the wrong track. Whereas failed candidates like Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have also attempted to woo these angry men, Trump seized on what the others wouldn’t or couldn’t do: he tapped into the racism simmering below the surface and he gave voice to it. People who used to have to speak in codes like “thugs,” and “the War of Northern Aggression,” and “state’s rights,” have now been empowered to speak their mind, “political correctness” be damned.


A lot of those people are using their newfound agency to spread the word about the cause most dear to them: white supremacy. And that’s a problem.


Four years ago, during the last GOP primary, I vividly remember sitting down at a GP players’ meeting to see sitting across from me a youth, somewhere between 17-21, who then proudly and deliberately rolled out a playmat graced with the smiling visage of Ron Paul. It left an impression, despite the fact that a) I’m a fairly affluent white person, and b) Ron Paul was keeping his racism and sexism on the down low.


Donald Trump doesn’t even know the meaning of “down low.”


I bring this up now because, even before Trump won the nomination, we have been seeing people weaponizing his slogans and symbols in the competitive context. This is something that’s happening, and it’s something competitive Magic is at risk of seeing. With demographics that skew heavily white male and an international community of Magic players, there is a potential volatility that can do a fair amount of damage to the game in the coming months.


But let me be explicit at what I am not calling for. I am not calling for censorship; people should retain the legal right to wear and say everything up to hate speech (though I’d probably define that category broadly). I am not calling for Wizards of the Coast to take action; what action could they even take that wouldn’t backfire massively? What I am calling for, though, is for people who are not directly affected by these things to stand up all the same, and use their powers of persuasion and influence to make it clear that empathy is valuable and throwing an opponent off by invoking an avatar of oppression is a shitty thing to do.


What a lot of people seem stubbornly unwilling to grasp is that “political correctness,” as a concept, is incredibly simple. It basically boils down to “don’t be an asshole.” Maintaining a basic level of respect, independent of your own personal views, is the type of base social lubricant that societies require to function. As soon as you privilege your beliefs over someone else’s lived experience, you are being offensive. When you rely on stereotypes, you are failing to see the other person as fully human.


“But Jess,” one might exclaim. “I do not think this other person’s life, or circumstances, or moral fiber is acceptable within my worldview. Are you asking me to change my beliefs?” And the answer to that question is a resounding “no!” The great thing about being respectful of other people is that all it requires is keeping your opinions to yourself and treating the people with whom you are interacting in the manner they wish to be treated.


Everyone ~can~ do that. If you choose not to, that’s a decision that reflects on you.


So if you see a friend packing up his red “Make America Great” hat or a “Build the Wall” playmat, take that person aside and explain to them the way that image is going to be seen by women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and basically everyone who thinks that the problems facing our country and our world are complex in their causes and solutions. Explain to them that this is like giving the middle finger to your fellow Magic players.


And if they say “that’s the point,” well, maybe it’s time to make better friends.
Jess Stirba is worried about parallels between pre-fascist political climates and the 2016 election.

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