I've been doing some soul searching and sorting. The Sunday before the election, I tried to write something here. I wanted to say something about humanity and the earth, about our inescapable connectedness, about kindness and hope. I thought writing would ground me, give me clarity, give me back the desire to be welcoming of and curious about folks who see things differently than I do.
See, there was this persistent pest of a question marching around in my mind—what if the people of the United States actually elected Donald Trump? What if nearly half of the vocal, voting population was willing to cast their ballot for a man who proudly declared that he moved on a woman "like a bitch," who believes that his power and money mean he can "grab 'em by the pussy?" What if they were willing to stand behind a man who openly mocks the differently abled, who spews prejudice, whose xenophobia echoes that of a leader and movement who perpetrated genocide, who has said enough and left enough unsaid that he has directly and indirectly validated white nationalist ideology and inspired the growth of white power groups. What if they elected a man who denies climate change? What if?
Well, we'll find out, won't we?
At this point, some of you have stiffened. Your defenses are up, you're rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath, poised to argue. Let me say this right now—I'm not writing this to reconcile with you. For once in my life, I'm overriding my incessant need for unity and peace in favor of saying some things that will likely divide us, that will make our relationship (if we know each other personally) uncomfortable.
That Sunday, I realized I can't make peace with the ideologies espoused by Trump and I can't make peace with those who refuse to acknowledge that their willingness to submit to the leadership of a misogynist, racist, xenophobic bigot serves to validate those perspectives. Yes, I can love you and I can marvel at the many beautiful and unique things that make you you. I can and will still be your friend, but I cannot respect your defense of this man or your decision to support him.
Here's the thing. If you're one of the people who is already offended by my words, it's likely that you're among a group of (white!) people with more privilege, power, and wealth than most humans in the history of the world. As a privately-educated white person who has a salaried job with benefits living in a lovely little house in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in a city with an incredibly high cost of living, I undeniably inhabit this privileged space.
We who are among this privileged group are accustomed to being able to speak our minds and have our opinions heard. (Yes, even those who align ideologically with Christian right and believe that there is a culture war being waged against their beliefs and way of life.) We believe our voices are valuable, that our perspectives matter, that we have the right to speak freely and are entitled to make decisions that protect us and our families. We've worked hard, right? We deserve what we have—we want to maintain our standard of living. Is that a crime, a sin?
Therein, for me, lies the rub.
We all want to believe that our way of life is justified. We all want to believe that we can have it all without inflicting suffering upon other people or the earth. But in reality, the maintenance of the status quo requires that we oppress and enslave, marginalize and disenfranchise, withhold and plunder.
I intended to list here some examples of the ways white people and the systems our Founding Fathers (in their "infinite wisdom") established have defined, oppressed, and destroyed minority communities. But, as Jordan said, "a comprehensive list is impossible to construct without grant funding." If, though, you don't know/believe that something like the mass incarceration of Black men can be attributed to a culture of white supremacy, let's talk.
Look, I know many of the people who cast a vote for Trump are "good" folks. I know many of you personally. I know that you have opened your home to refugees, funded the college education of a child who grew up in poverty, befriended and mentored kids who look very different than your own. I know that you smile at everyone you pass by, you pray for those who are suffering, you sponsor a child.
And yet. If you aren't using your voice to condemn the rampant, insidious -isms that explicitly or implicitly proclaim one people's superiority over another, if you aren't using your power to dismantle the systems of injustice that subjugate those who, like you, are created in the image of God, you make clear the path for love's greatest enemies—fear and hate.
Let me be clear—I am not a person who has great trust in or respect for our system or the people who run it. I am also very aware that my tax dollars, my votes, my nationality make me complicit in many, many wrongs against the world's poor and marginalized. On election Tuesday, I held Ruby in my lap as I marked a ballot and cast a vote for the woman I believed would be named the first woman President. The moment's significance weighed heavily on me, but so did the reality—the reality that I had just voted for a person who has allowed corporate interest to dictate public policy, who has in the past championed the prison industrial complex, who has traded human lives for oil.
And, yet. I am ashamed to call Donald Trump President of the United States. I am terrified by the list of rapacious, self-interested, corporation-possessed villains taking their seats at his table. I am horrified by the apathy, the greed, the refusal to believe that the same kind of evil that has infiltrated kingdoms and nations time and time again and has perpetrated the enslavement and extermination of one people group after another is still at work. It is. This is not funny. This is not normal. This WILL mean harm—to People of Color, to LGBTQ folks, to immigrants, to the world's poorest, to Earth itself. It already has.
I know this is divisive language. Listen. I'm here to admit to my own fault in this. I am only a minuscule piece of this damaged puzzle, but I am connected to many other pieces. Far too often, I have sat quietly when ignorant, damaging words have been spoken. I have, in word and action, placed more value on one's right to have a differing opinion than on the right of other human beings to have their right to marriage, housing, education, clean water. I have shirked confrontation and disagreement, often thereby placing the burden of response and education on the most vulnerable—the victim.
I am not here to condemn, but I am here to ask that those of us with privilege own up to our responsibility to our sisters and brothers who struggle beneath the weight of our perceived right to safety, wealth, and respect. What does that mean exactly? Well, that's not for me to say. We have to start by listening. And then, we act in partnership with those who know exactly who the people and policies and practices are that are holding them back from claiming and exercising those precious, inalienable rights so many of us take for granted.