Monday, November 21, 2016

So, my mom is a better person than me

It has been nearly two weeks since the United States held an election, which resulted in President-Elect...I don't need to say his name. You know.

I have rolled through all of the emotions over the past 11 days. I went to bed on Monday night, assured that when the time comes, I will be able to get married, legally, to my girlfriend. I woke on Tuesday, donned my pantsuit, and bubbled with excitement of hearing the words "President-Elect Hillary Clinton."

I went to bed Tuesday night stunned and terrified that when I woke the legality of my love would be in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, the sun did indeed rise. President-Elect, ugh, was not a bad dream. He is my reality.

And, some of you may be thinking, "What's the big deal? You can still have a ceremony." To that I respond, "I don't care about a ceremony. I care about parental rights. I care about family insurance coverage. I care about next of kin. I care about my wife being able to see me when I am in the hospital getting ready to go. It isn't about flowers and a white dress. It is about my rights as a human being to love and be loved, to have our love protected by the law."

As the dust settles, I have stepped back from my egocentric response and instead focused on how many people will be affected--how many people have been affected. Hate crimes have sky rocketed. This is a fact.

And, this, this is where things get sticky. I lost sight of how much hate there was in this world. I hid behind my liberal elitism and posited and postulated without shutting the hell up and listening. I tried to reason and to debate with those who shared different views from me. I didn't listen to their undertones of fear, of hatred sugared by, "Oh, no. I don't agree with what he says about ______ group. But economics? But Supreme Court?" (Fill in the blank with literally any minority group. And, like, literal literally not the fake literally OED added two years ago.)

So, when the polls rolled on in, that wave of hatred washed over me, and pulled me into the undertow. And, there I sputtered, drowning trying to find footing in anything solid. But, everything kept slipping from under  me.

I swallowed their hate. It filled me up. I angry. And, in one of my soapbox demonstrations (held in the cozy atmosphere of my living room to a single other person), I ranted, "I mean, I can't even. I have been going high and going high and going high for the past 6 months. I just want to dig in and really go to town on how this man has bullied, mocked, and flip-flopped his way onto this ticket. I am so damn sick of going high. Where has it gotten me? What do I have?"

And, my mother, ever wise, hugged me and whispered, "You have your dignity. You. Have. Your. Dignity."

And, I breathed for the first time in what felt like forever.

This is not to say that I will shrug my shoulders and watch this train wreck of an administration collapse. But, my mom refocused me. She reminded me that love always trumps hate. Love will always, always win.

So, what comes next. Now is the time when artists get to work. We are the voice of the people. And, the time is now. So, with neither pomp nor circumstance, an open letter to American citizens aged 18-really old:

People who voted for Trump but "didn't agree with his hate speech,"
You need to go to work. Right now. You need to stop hate crimes when you see them. This man has normalised racism. This man has normalised fear of the other. This man has normalised bullying on an astronomic scale. This man has incited the words of Richard B. Spencer, "America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity...It is our creation. It is our inheritance, and it belongs to us" (video of Richard B. Spencer's address to the Alt-Right party, The Atlantic). You gotta step up and say that this blatant racism cannot and will not be accepted by the Republican party. This Alt-Right movement has scary, scary resemblances to Nazi Germany. I have refrained from making that comparison, because it makes me want to vomit. But, when Spencer opened his statements with "Hail, Trump," I can stand neither idly nor quietly. And, neither should you.

Conservatives who did not vote for Trump,
We may not agree on a whole lot of social policies, but I recognise your economic platform as a reasonable approach to government funds (though I may disagree with them). But, take back your party. Let this man know that he doesn't speak for you or your party. This man is not a Republican. He jumped on a bandwagon driven by fear. You know this. Let your elected state officials know it. They must govern according to their constituents. Call up Paul Ryan and tell him that this man does not align with you. Tell him, or else he will continue to support this man's policies. He won't listen to me, but he might listen to you.

Take a hard look at how you've engaged in discourse. Was it respectful of others' ideas? Look around your world, your reality. Make sure that you are truly living according to the democratic idea. Are you helping those in need? Are you standing up for what is right even when it is awkward or uncomfortable? Liberal Elites forgot a huge section of people in this campaign. We forgot the blue collar workers who feel disenfranchised. Now is the time to push for real policies that will help even the playing field for them (not the pipe-dream promises this man has given them).

The 46 million people who didn't vote,
You live in a country that let's you have a voice, a say in who becomes the leader? This is not a universal right. Is the two-party system messed up? Yes. But, that does not mean that you abandon the system. Work to change it.

To the people who really and truly believe that this man is the best fit for president,
Please, look at the people around you. Look at the people in our nation. We are hurting. The aftermath of this man's election has raised hate crimes against people of color, against Muslims, against LGBTQ people, against women. We love. We fear. We bleed. We are humans. Please, please see us that way.


Friday, November 4, 2016

So, I threw away my shot.

Let's just get one thing out in the open: I neither believe in violence as an answer nor condone it as a means to an end.

However, Mama wants to get in a bar fight. That being said, I would never throw the first punch, but I would definitely throw words that would warrant a punch to which I would obviously retaliate.

As a nearing-30 pacifist who believes that most misunderstandings can be sorted out with words much more effectively than violence, my window of opportunity is coming to a close. The excuse of "Oh, I was dumb and in my 20s" is waning, so when I threw away my shot on Monday evening, I came to the conclusion that this weird bucket list item may not be crossed off in this lifetime.

Let me just set the scene for you.

Every Monday, my trivia team Tequila Mockingbirds (don't steal my team name; you're better than that) plays at a local catch-all pool hall/poker table/dart board having bar in suburbia. On Mondays, we share the space with a big poker game and general wayward travelers the wind blows in.

My mom, arguably the smartest lady-person as well as non-lady-person (not to suggest lady-persons aren't as smart as non-lady-persons, but gender is important here) I have ever met, just finished telling a real-life story of a Traveling Insurance Salesman who had the audacity to say to her, "blah blah blah, insurance, blah blah, numbers, numbers...Oh, don't worry about the numbers, honey, I can explain them more later." 

My mom, bubbling with Midwest Nice, decisively shows him the door and with a saccharine smile says, "I don't think we'll be purchasing your insurance, sir. Have a good day, now."

After her retelling, she wondered, "I just don't understand how someone can be so condescending as they're selling you something. What was his game plan? I wonder what he's doing now?"

I piped up, "I bet that jackass is voting for Donald Trump.*"

A guy at the bar snapped his head toward me, "Oh," and promptly dropped his glass.

I chuckled and said, "Oh, are you also voting for Trump."

Now, yes, that was rude of me. I know this. I just didn't realize that Trump supporters or people who  can believe or support a man who has campaigned on fear and hate were in my midst. I live in a privileged reality in which most of my close friends have similar political views as me. My mom, that smart lady-person from before, and I have some differing views on things, however we always approach conversations with respect, openness, and love. But, I haven't really had to go head to head with anyone politically in a while. Anyway, my big mouth opened and words fell out, for which I take full responsibility.

As I got up to help the man clean up the glass and apologize for being flippant, he said, "No, this is my fuck-up. I clean up my own messes, and you can just sit right on down, and I will be over in a minute."

I didn't like being told what to do, but I also didn't really want to pick up glass, so I sat down. I ran through the talking points I planned to address.

-I do not want Donald Trump because he has already sworn to elect a Supreme Court Justice (touchy subject: I just can't even) who could jeopardize the way in which my love is legally recognized or my rights as a uterus-having person.

I could list a hyperbolic amount more, but those are the two about which I feel most passionately.

So, Brotimes pulled a chair over, ushered his drunkdrunk friend to the nearest table and sat down. As he lowered himself down, he muttered a comment to the man sitting next to him (spoiler alert: my dad), "No easier thing to do than offend a feminist, am I right?"

My dad didn't respond.

Brotimes: Didn't you hear what I said?
Katie: I heard what you said and am choosing not to respond. (pause) First, I would like to apologize if I offended you. It came out as a flippant comment, for which I take full responsibility.
Brotimes: I am not offended. It takes a lot to offend me. But, for argument's sake, what would you do next if I were offended.
Katie: Refer to my apology and encourage an open dialogue about the thought process behind my comments and, perhaps, your perception of them.
Brotimes: Well, I'm not. So, let's talk. Sticks...sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That is a confusing saying. Like, words can hurt, but not in the same way as a guy pounding on you, just getting sucker punched. That hurts. Words are nothing.
Katie: While I do agree with you in that words do not physically hurt others, hateful language, and hate speech are microaggressions that...
Brotimes: (rolls eyes, scoffs, and yawns)
Katie: Your body language tells me that you don't agree with me. 
Brotimes: Microaggressions are bullshit.
Katie: They aren't. They are real ways that...
Brotimes: Microaggressions are just things that you people whine about when your feelings are hurt. They are things that are made up for  when you people can't get it together on your own. They get all the blame for when you people can't handle it.
Katie: (eyes flare,  intakes breath) I wasn't fi...
Brotimes: You weren't finished? Are you mad I am talking over you?
Katie: This is exactly the kind...
Brotimes: The kind of thing that you think is so important?
Katie: Sir. I listened to you. I listened to your speech on...
Brotimes: (intakes breath)
Katie: No, sir. It is my turn to talk. I listened to your words. I invited you here expecting to have an open, respectful, conversation about politics.
Brotimes: Respectful? Why does it have to be respectful?
Katie: If you're not interested in having a respectful conversation of ideas...
Brotimes: (muttered) This is ridiculous.
Katie:..then I have no business talking to you.

Katie exit.

Aside: I blew it! That could have been my moment! I am sure I could have gotten under his skin enough to draw the first punch, but I chose to walk away. I guess I am a Hufflepuff after all. All my grand dreams of maybe pulling through to be a Gryffindor--being real silly in the name of bravery--lost in a flurry of needing to be just out of that toxic situation.

According to my friends and family still at the table, he continued his rhetoric of "What? I just wanted to talk." And, "why did she start a fight if she didn't want to finish it." And, "Imma go find her."

My mom quickly left to make sure I didn't walk home or start any more fights. My friends got up to leave as well, and Brotimes continued, "Hey, what did I say? Why is everyone leaving?"

My dad, a Gryffindor for sure, turned to Brotimes and said something like, "You were out of line, sir. You approached it all wrong. You came in attacking her, which put her on the defensive. You spoke over her and you chose to be utterly disrespectful to her. You were wrong. You, sir, you were in the wrong here. Big time." And, he, too, got up and left.

And, this little scene, this little conversation represents a huge shift in the way in which we discuss politics. A paraphrase of my friend Megan, 'I would love to discuss policies of my candidate, but I have been too busy encouraging people not to vote for a demagogue' who spews hate and presents fiction as fact.

The complete lack of truth in most of his comments and flippancy with which he disregards the real concerns of basically anyone who is non-white or not a straight man is unsettling in any respect, but especially in someone vying for the highest office in our country.

These things have changes how some folks talk about politics. Fact are irrelevant. Respect isn't required. And, memes are credible sources. This era of immediate social media has been both a boon and a bane of this election. Real-time fact checkers source the presidential debates (are you kidding me?!). And, biased media gives a whole lot of uninformed people a platform from which they repeat his rhetoric.

This is not the America I want for me. This is not the America I want for my children. And, this is not  even the America I want for the folks who are voting for this man. It isn't going to look like the white, shiny walled in compound he's promised. It can't.

And, for those Republicans falling in line behind this man because "Well, he isn't Hillary" I want better for you. I want better for your party. I disagree with you on so many social issues, but this is not the Republican party that used to be.

This is a party of fear, of hate, of disrespect, and of fallacies. Stand up for your party. Stand up for yourself. Say this is not right. Republican Elite, your dislike of this man is palpable, and yet you're still voting for him?

You are on the wrong side of history.

*I know very, very good people voting for Donald Trump. But, this misogynistic condescension has been his basic campaign approach during the past 14 months.