My cousin and I were both born in Atlanta, Georgia about a year apart. As kids we wrestled, caught bullfrogs and swung on a rusty tire swing among the peach trees at our grandparents’ house. Ryan and I have some sacred things in common — playful childhood memories together, an unspoken understanding of family secrets and a relationship created from blood — but we don’t see eye to eye on everything, especially politics. In the recent US election, Ryan voted for Trump.
Although the three white men representing a conservative viewpoint in Heineken’s latest ad sport British accents, to me, they are akin to Trump supporters. The views that each of the ad’s right-wing men espouse — climate change denial, transphobia and blatant sexism — eerily echo views I’ve heard millions of Trump voters, including my cousin, voice. A good example: 63 per cent of white men and 52 per cent of white women voted Trump, and only 25 per cent of those Trump supporters believe in human-caused climate change.
The commonality between the men in Heineken’s ad, the millions of Americans who voted Republican and Ryan is an insistence on a world ruled largely by straight white men.
While Heineken’s ad nods to the widening division between the right and left in today’s politics, their depiction of the conversations happening nowadays is laughably wrong. To them, it’s so easy. They say to sit down with someone completely at odds with you — someone who may even think of you as subhuman — and drink a Heineken beer and “engage” (as one of the ad’s actors insists) so that you will reach an understanding of each other’s shared humanity.
But that’s not real.
I’m lucky. When I talk to Ryan about politics, he says, “Trump will make America great again!” at an ever-increasing volume and calls me a snowflake. Other people — many of them trans, queer, and people of colour — have lost their lives from this kind of “engaging.”
In my own conversations and the ones I’ve observed swallowing up my home country and Canada alike, I notice two basic tenets of the conservative viewpoint: delusion and desperation.
The insistence on whiteness, maleness and straightness is not only violent and intolerant, but delusional. As pro-fascist and nationalistic movements sweep across much of the western world, they are met with incredible resistance, led by the very people they aim to oppress. Turnout for #BlackLivesMatter and the Women’s March is astounding, numbering in the millions. Studies show that by the year 2045 whiteness will be a minority in the US and that, as of today, only 48 per cent of youth ages 13 to 20 identify as strictly heterosexual. Young people today are rejecting the white, straight male status quo.
It is delusional to expect a beer and some shallow questions to fix anything. It’s delusional to think that viewpoints like climate change denial and an urgency to save our warming planet are on equal footing and deserve equal respect and consideration. And worse, it’s delusional to expect a marginalized person to patiently and happily listen to opposing viewpoints while their life and wellbeing is threatened.
Finding common humanity with your oppressor isn’t the cure. Ryan and I are from the same family, look similar and have spent years of our lives very close, but his politics still threaten my own existence and the existence of people I care about. It’s not so simple.
There’s a lot of desperation going around, too. Right-wing desperation to retain power is eerily similar to the current siege of social-justice minded ad campaigns from the likes of Pepsi and Heineken. In a time when 51 per cent of youth ages 18 to 29 no longer support the system of capitalism, Heineken’s push to repackage their crummy beer as an agent for social change speaks to the desperation of corporations to stay relevant and afloat.
But in my mind, it’s too late. As infuriating as it is to observe global politics today – to watch ads and to listen to closed-minded people shout their opinions — the machine of history is grinding, swallowing up and making irrelevant right wing ideology, my cousin’s hateful beliefs and the conservative white men in Heineken’s ridiculous ad.