I am just one man. Deeply flawed, full of personal conflicts and often wayward in life. I am in constant danger of sinking into an abyss of my own making. Each day is a task filled with other tasks that often overwhelm me. I also enjoy the privilege of pigmentation and genetics. I may be bald, overweight, mentally ill and have hair in places it shouldn’t be, but I’m also a white, cis, heterosexual male in rural Pennsylvania. And here, I am a king among kings.
My daily reality doesn’t involve being denied promotion because I’m a woman or minority. I’m not overtly afraid when confronted by a police officer. I do not have people casting glances my way, as sure as the sky is blue that I am a terrorist. My life, my entire existence, is safe. At least, that’s how it appears from the outside.
On the outside, I look like a Trump voter. I fit the demographic. Middle class. Disenfranchised with the current system. Pissed about Citizens United. Angry at the abuses we suffer at the hands of Father Government. Distraught at the future my kids will have. Unsure of my own future. Stuck in a job I do well at but can’t begin to enjoy.
Fuck all of that though. What you don’t see is what makes me who I am.
I have a mental illness. It stung when Trump made comments mocking the disabled. I took it to heart when he said I wasn’t mentally strong. I am someone with the potential to be marginalized.
I’m also an atheist. Truth be told, I prefer to be called a Humanist, but that doesn’t matter to many. I’m still evil. I’m still part of the secular PC squad ruining this country. Never mind that the constitution explicitly rejects religious tests and the freedom to worship (or not) as we choose is one of the great principles upon which this country was founded. That may not matter under and administration pandering to the extreme right. We are One Fucking Nation Under God!
I’m a little afraid of what that may mean in the coming months. Fear can be conquered. It can be harnessed. It can spur us to action. It can also drive us into darkness, hiding our true selves to avoid conflict and danger.
I am still one of the kings, and so my fear is minimal. I wield a power in society many do not. A statement from me carries with it weight. I didn’t come by that position because of my intellect, leadership qualities or hard won respect. It was granted to me simply because of my genitals and the color of my skin. It’s not fair. It isn’t right. It just is. I cannot continue to live under the comfortable illusion that if I don’t participate in oppression I am free from it.
That’s why this election left me reeling.
We voted to continue a formula that meant oppression and marginalization. In choosing this particular candidate, who promised to drain the swamp of corruption in DC, we also voted to enable white supremacists, religiously intolerant bigots, and more like them to speak louder, to intimidate, to harass and to abuse. We told them their voices mattered more than those of anyone else.
To many women, we elected their abuser. We heard their stories, rejected their pain and opened fresh wounds.
People of color once again saw their oppressor elevated above them. During the campaign, our non-white friends and families were called murderers, rapists, thieves and thugs. There were no apologies for such incendiary rhetoric.
Muslims were told to shut up. Assimilate. Get with the program or get out. Go hang yourself with your hijab.
LBGT people were shoved mercilessly back into the closet. Convert. Choose to be straight or be criminalized.
The hate filled groups that make up our newly empowered Alt Right movement have seen their voices amplified. They have crept from the shadows where they had been banished and now revel in their new found acceptance. They spew their rhetoric with confidence. They divide, oppress and marginalize.
I understand. You voted your conscience. You chose your candidate based upon your own research and values. That’s what we do in this country. We make choices, sometimes impossible ones, to serve the greater good.
I’m not convinced your decision was a good one, but that isn’t for me to decide. History will look at this election with a clear lens and we will be judged accordingly.
You’ve got what you wanted though. A Trump White House, GOP Congress, GOP Senate and a soon to be conservative judiciary. The challenge is on you and your elected representatives to prove us Left Wing Liberal Elites wrong. I don’t have hope really, but I wish you would.
Let us get back to privilege though, because that’s what this comes down to. I have the privilege of knowing I’m likely to be just fine. They’ve got bigger fish to fry before going after the atheist pigs.
Here’s the hard part. Most of you want us to believe you aren’t racist. You aren’t prejudiced against non hetero-normative people. You don’t care what religion someone belongs to. We should all love each other. Truth be told, I’m struggling with that right now. I’m finding it hard to believe you when, just days after the election, thousands of alleged hate crimes have already been committed and you are silent.
But you chose policy over people. Minorities of all types tried to tell us how afraid they were and we didn’t listen. Yes. We. Many of us democrats carried on with our lives as though this shitshow of an election would be over and things would return to a lousy but normal equilibrium. We were wrong, all of us.
As the stories come out these past few days since the election, we are beginning to see just how enabled hatred has become. You voted on policy but accepted the consequences of a hate filled campaign.
It’s time to show you care. Stand against hate. Condemn it. March against it. Rattle cages. Write letters. Teach your kids that being gay isn’t a choice, it is biology. That being Muslim doesn’t make a person dangerous. Show them that people of color aren’t bottom feeders and criminals.
Rage against the machine that oppresses so many. Allow yourselves to feel empathy for those who are afraid. Take the time to understand why that fear is so real, so visceral. Understand how they feel facing down overt hatred each day.
A friend of my daughter, who is not heterosexual, feels unsafe.
Other minority friends wonder when and if they’ll be attacked for no reason.
Women have been and will continue to be attacked with no repercussions.
Those were the consequences of this election cycle. It’s up to you to prove you stand with all of them, because to people here and across the world this looked like a referendum on equality and inclusion. To them, your revolution wasn’t just against an oligarchy under the guise of capitalism. It was a revolt against diversity.
What am I doing about it? I’m doubling down on my values. I won’t tolerate people in my presence being cast asunder, treated as less than equals or pushed to the fringes. I will speak up. I will write and teach. I will question the status quo and I will engage in uncomfortable conversations. Most of all though, I’ll look inward to be sure I’m modeling the behavior I expect. It starts with me.
If I don’t push back against my own privilege, I’m just a hypocrite with a pen.
There are no simple solutions. We face a myriad of problems in this country. Racism, Classism, Sexism, Homophobia. Gun violence, opioid addiction, rape culture and anti-intellectualism are issues we can’t just ignore, sticking our heads in the sand until a safer time appears. We must combat climate change and still create good jobs. Pay a living wage without bankrupting small businesses. None of those issues can be fixed with a sound bite strategy or infomercial pitch man.
The world is complex. A simple solution in a complex world is just pretty wrapping paper on a box full of shit.
What I’m saying is this: We need to work together to find solutions to these problems. No marginalizing. No hate. Ask questions. Listen. Propose solutions. Above all? Fight for the people around us whose voices don’t get heard.
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