Now wait just a second. You haven’t even read the entire post yet. So before you start commenting or blocking me, take some time to hear me out.
I’ve avoided the current American political embarrassment as often as possible. Rarely do I willingly turn on the news in the morning with my regular cup of coffee. My social media feeds are too stressful, so I find myself turning my phone off if I don’t anticipate needing it. More of a protective measure for me than anything. For now, it’s as close as I can get to living in a cabin in the woods, alone, free from this debacle that will continue to rock the United States of America for the next several years.
It’s ridiculous. The wildest accusations from any political candidate I’ve seen in my life-time are carelessly tossed away from a podium like candy in an Independence Day parade. There is no concern for the meaning of the words he uses, no consideration given to the acts they inspire. A man who’s ego is so desperate for validation he’ll say whatever he must, so long as people will cheer and clap for him. Just last week, three men were arrested in Kansas for conspiring to blow up an apartment complex full of Somalis, and home to a mosque. Phrases like “the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim” and statements about murdering children, only because they’re affiliated with a particular religion, were among the recordings and documents uncovered by the FBI.
This morning, in one of those rare moments I kept the “news” on past the weather forecast, disappointment found me unprepared. A Republican campaign headquarters in North Carolina was firebombed overnight. I’m brought to tears just writing about it. The incident marks a terrible turn in the social climate that is our country. The bar is no longer being raised, it’s been lowered to match the child-like stomping of feet unwilling to walk toward a better future, together. It’s horrifying to see that some have chosen to give in to the hatred that is spreading like wildfire across neighborhoods and dinner tables. I shared my personal struggle with this recently. To see that tolerance and respect have been tossed out the window through retaliation only makes it harder.
The weight of it all is crushing. I grew up in a rural community, raised by parents that encouraged acceptance. “You don’t have to agree,” my dad would say, “or even like the other person. But you do have to respect the fact they see the world in a different way. It’s your job to let them see it can get better.” For innumerable reasons I won’t get into, most of which you can probably discern, that lesson is the hardest one I’ve had to learn. How do you show someone waving a gun at you that the world is not out to get them? Sometimes hugs just won’t do.
I’m fortunate to live my life in a bubble that is relatively safe. Surrounded by friends and family that care, are supportive, encouraging, willing to help, and willing to aid if necessary. We organize fundraisers, attend charity events, volunteer when we’re called; despite being so heavily involved we are still able to enjoy a line of separation because at the end of the day we get to go home to our cable TV and full refrigerators. We don’t go home to parents that sell heroine and cocaine in the back bedroom. We don’t question where our next meal will come from. Hell I’ve had friends that joked regularly about how much fun it is to snort coke, never giving a second thought as to where it came from or how it came to be in their possession. Those hungry, wanting eyes never cross their minds. It’s easier to point the finger to blame than it is to accept responsibility for society as a whole. We’re all in this. We’re all responsible. It’s our obligation to try to make our world, in the collective sense, better.
That’s how we end up here. Apathy and separation. Fear we don’t want to feel tamped down with empty dismissals like “that can’t happen here” and shrugs of “it’s a sad situation for them.” It’s overwhelming to realize the suffering that happens one street over. Decades of lost jobs and generational frustrations are poured into a vat and melted down. They’re compacted with pressure and time to form crystals that focus all of that social angst into a laser beam relentlessly scorching everything it can reach. That’s how so much hatred can breed so quickly. All it takes is a spark to start the fire, to burn hot and bright.
The 2016 Presidential Election has given me reason to pause. Well, more than usual, I guess. To wonder if this is what my parents experienced in the ’60s when civil rights protesters were pinned against walls with fire hoses. Is it that bad now? Is it worse? Then I shake my head and realize, it doesn’t matter! It makes no difference which is worse, the struggle is still here! And there is a figurehead fueling that fire now with rhetoric so dangerous it threatens to quite literally burn the house down.
So, for my part, I’d like to say, thank you, Donald Trump. Thank you for shaking me out of my protective bubble of separation. Thank you for helping us realize just how much work is left to do. Thank you for showing us how a select, small group of people, for better or for worse, can come together to make an impact. Thank you for reminding me that our time still calls for Dr. King’s “fierce urgency of now”. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to step up and prevent history from repeating itself. The need to face the temper-tantrum of hatred has never been so important. The strength of constant vigilance of love never so required.
Most importantly, thank you for reminding me that if the world weren’t moving toward a better way, if we weren’t so close to reaching a new level of unity, your hysterical vomiting of words would not be so important. This magniloquent fear-mongering gives me hope that yours is the last dying gasp of a way of life I look forward to leaving behind.