I watched the election returns in disbelief. I cried on the night of the election. I drank wine. I tried to avoid all political talk, instead sharing recipes and tips to destroy poison ivy. Then I cried some more. I got drunk because it might have been the last night I wanted to be without all my senses. I sat in a hot tub and talked with friends about an escape plan to Hawaii … because fruit drops from the trees there, not because it’s another country. The next morning I hurt. My heart grieved more than my head ached. I almost called in sick for work, but realized I had to see the world moving forward.
In the last week I have done a lot of reading, learning more about 20th century World History than I ever learned throughout high school and college: because events have made history relevant. I’ve tried to remain calm, not letting emotion get ahead of measured thought. I’ve analyzed my ideas and done some writing. I’ve taken the path of well-educated, liberal, critical thinking thought processes. I’ve seen the “Trump is like Hitler” comments and I’ve even heard myself saying, “This isn’t 1930s Germany. People aren’t acting in desperation.” And that is the crux of the problem.
People are not desperate to the levels of 19% poverty. Instead, people are desperate because there has been so much change. There has been a great social upheaval, an upheaval for the positive direction of equality and civil rights for people of color, LGBT folks, immigrants, women’s reproductive causes, and relaxation of drugs. While many see this upheaval as a positive, it is seen as a direct disruption to the status quo for so many others. Disruption of a culture is terrifying.
We look at history and believe the levels of evil that pushed Africans into slavery, Jews into extermination camps and, very recently, African Americans to be lynched won’t happen again because “we’ve learned to be better.” But guess what, fear and greed motivated those atrocities and fear and greed still exist as part of the human condition. Thus, it is a fact, we can pretend they don’t, but such crimes still happen in America. They are muffled and politely scorned, sometimes the criminals are caught and tried, but often they are not because that would be admitting such terrible things happen in our good land. Even with reports of these murders, people cover up the terrible things with excuses for why shit went sideways. Guess what. Shit goes sideways when people get out of control and let fear override their good sense (giving they had good sense and weren’t seeped in hatred through their upbringing).
It is a week post-election and lists of hate crimes are growing. Trump never said, “Kill and maim those who different than white, Christian folk,” but as the bad things happen, he isn’t saying, “Stop this Now. This is not right. This hatred is not America.” He is not saying, “Shit is going sideways. You will be held responsible for any crimes you commit.” He has barely acknowledged the spike in racially charged incidents, not to mention reports of gender bashing and other hate speech. He is not making an issue of intentionally calling for a stop to the hate so it will continue. Stop analyzing. Get your head out of the past and mobilize into an uncertain future where only an equal and opposite reaction will stop the hate.
Liel Leibovitz’s powerful article and “three commandments” offers a way to intercept this hate.
“Take the haters at their word, assume the worse.”
“Treat people like adults and respect them enough to demand they understand the consequences of their actions.”
“Refuse to accept this is a new normal.”
People’s intentions are powerful. I want to believe we are all good, but if someone declares an intention of hatred, don’t assume they are just a little misled and will ultimately not act on the hatred. There is a principle, Occum’s Razor, that basically says, “The most obvious answer is usually the right answer.” Following that logic, if someone says, “I’m going to do something bad,” they will likely do something bad. Which brings us to the second commandment, if you see or hear that someone has hateful intentions will you have the courage to step forward and try to talk some sense into them or will your fear for your safety and therefore keep your voice hidden in the world of, “maybe nothing bad will happen”? Finally, Do Not Accept the hate. This is not what we have to be as a country. We must stand up for those who are are being intimidated. We must defend those who are being bullied. We must provide strength for those who are infringed upon. Protecting those who are in a weakened position is the price of privilege. It is time we start paying. If we don’t start paying our debt, we do not truly believe in the equality and civil rights we claim to defend.