Indie Memphis Film Festival 2020: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE

If there is one thing in history that is set to be examined from multiple perspectives it will be the 2016 election. The ramifications have rippled out over the last four years, its effects touching every element of democracy and fight for equality. But how did it happen? When it came time to cast the ballot, how did so many compartmentalize?

What Do You Have To Lose, from director Trimiko Melancon, takes a deep look into how the results of the 2016 election came to be from the viewpoint of racial discrimination that still plagues this nation. It was not just the charismatic nature that boosted Trump’s success but combined with the weaponized tactics of warping and manipulating racism for his own agenda and the agenda of a party.

The Promise of White Supremacy

The use of racial discrimination for political gain and passive white supremacy has always been there, with these refreshed tactics, Trump was able to bring a vast majority of the white community into the daylight, no longer under hoods and no longer quietly keeping tabs on what they said and what they did, promising them freedom and security. In one of the national polling of various topics around the nation, during the Obama era, there was a belief amongst many in the white community that they were the disadvantaged populous –  a belief that has never held up by the actual statistics it measured up to. It had no basis in reality.

Indie Memphis Film Festival 2020: WHAT DO YOU HAVE LOOSE
source: Indie Memphis Film Festival

Yet, no matter how truthful it was or not, Trump found a foothold in the white community. He took this belief and he fueled it. And not only did he fuel it, but he also gave it a face, he gave the white community someone to blame. And he has continued to do so through his entire presidency. Crime in inner cities, immigrants, liberals, women, and the Black Lives Matter Movement – just to name a few – are all faces thrown into the fire as a perception of a privileged community was weaponized for success.

And whether directly or not, he built upon this, promising white people superiority. Revalidating that they were superior and deserved to live their lives as such. And when this couldn’t be achieved, when this was challenged, he would once again bring up the faces of blame – immigrants, women, crime, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and even the news. With his promise of “Make America Great Again”, his words invoked a sense that the white community could return to the 1950s, a time when the Ford Movement’s factories were expanding job opportunities (“I’m going to bring jobs back”), individuals could afford to go to college, women were still domestic and there was no civil rights movement (it was still a time of severe racial depression). This is the model he promised the white community could return to.

#FakeNews and dependency

What is important too is to remember that much of what he said, these faces and communities he would place blame on, much of his “promises” were accompanied by lies. One of his claims was that crime and homicide were higher than it had ever been, that he would protect the nation from the gangs that riddle the streets and domestic threats that are imposed on his supporters. In actuality, at the time this comment was made, crime and homicide had been on the decline for 20 years, with 2016 being its lowest on record.

Indie Memphis Film Festival 2020: WHAT DO YOU HAVE LOOSE
source: Indie Memphis Film Festival

Yet he preyed on this primal fear, telling what can be seen as “hard truths”. And if he tells the hard truths, then he must be the better candidate, right? Yet, this is where the news comes into play. A villain at times in its own story, the news has been forced to turn to entertainment beyond information as many of their viewers turn to computers and social media – information and interaction in the palm of their hand. In their attempt to stay vital, they handed Trump the next play in his political game.

While they chased down his lies and brought the truth to the public, many times they catered to his obscene and discriminatory displays, making them central news. And while that in itself can be debated as a truth the news is showcasing, Trump fed on this need to entertain and to stay relevant. He capitalized on the media’s shock value.

Yet it is not just the news that needs Trump however, an almost symbiotic relationship developing between them. As Trump claims #FakeNews for stories that contradict or call him out, he needs the news to take his divisive messages of hate to the public, to fuel his supporters and further drive the divide. As he boasts viewing numbers and ratings, there is a sense that his success solely lies in the eye of the camera.

We are in a moment

As we stare down the barrel of authoritarianism, there is a feeling. We are in a moment. This, as the documentary states, is a fascist moment for the citizens of the United States. As the documentary alines speeches and addresses of Nixon with Trump, and continually goes back to imagery and video of Mussolini and Hitler, the documentary is eager to inculcate the level of fascism this country is truly facing. And as they are quick to remind the audience, Hitler was democratically elected.

And people have been trying to warn us for years.

Indie Memphis Film Festival 2020: WHAT DO YOU HAVE LOOSE
source: Indie Memphis Film Festival

Though it is not only the straight idea that we are on the precipice of fascism, it is the understanding that a quiet racism has been brewing beneath the surface – a bottle contained whose cork has been recently popped. As the talking heads in the film look over the hate, violence and the discrimination over the last four years, you see the police brutality that has been allowed to continue, and you see those who would never have stood previously stand with the KKK, joining forces, and you see trained militia’s rising to meet protestors. This is what we face today, and we need to stop our ideas of the stereotypical white supremest. It’s is not just the hooded individuals from the Deep South. White supremacy is everywhere, even if we believe to be exempt, and it is no longer afraid to hide its face.

Final Thoughts

What Do You Have To Lose is a strong and vital film that would make a great double feature with #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump. The deeply rooted racism that rules our country is still as real as it ever was. There has been progress, and the progress that has been continually met with challenges. Of the white woman who voted in the 2016 election, 54% of them voted for Donald Trump – sorry ladies, this is definitely a white woman problem. As the documentary points out, the average white woman would rather leave solidarity with a fellow female behind and vote for Donald Trump.

Yet, where What Do You Have To Lose further succeeds is in its collective and cool nature. There is a resolve to continue to fight for change. The talking heads look tired, yet they are resolute in informing a nation and helping to push progress forward. And that, if anything, can be truly taken away and put to use now, in our current climate and in the future, is the unrelenting will to fight. To fight for freedom, to fight for equality. This is a country, people, and ideology worth fighting for, and we have won in the past and will continue to win going forward.

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