Friday, December 9, 2016

It's Not Me, It's You

Friends. Just a little heads up. Facebook and I are taking a break, indefinitely. Because I get about 97% of my blog traffic from Facebook, this is akin to social media suicide. But I have determined that, in the interest of preserving a tenuous hold on my mental health, my efforts, passions, and anxieties can be channeled in more productive ways. I may still blog, periodically. I mean, we all know I love to hear/read myself talk/write. Though to be honest, while the words are still swirling like tiny tornadoes in my head, I've lost the will to put it down.

It's been a month since the election and I'm still in mourning. I actually feel like I am forced to relive the horror every time I read about Trump's latest, inexplicable, mind-boggling, terrifying cabinet pick. I am not allowed to begin to heal, because the wound is reopened every single day. I can honestly say I have never felt like this before. I think I'm still partly in denial. It feels like I'm in some awful alternate reality, a parody, a perversion, of what America is supposed to be. And then I remember this is actually happening and that realization hits me like a punch to the gut. Every time.

I understand some (many?) have tired of my incessant shouty caps complaints as of late. People say things like "Quit your white liberal whining," "Get over it," "It's not that bad," etc. But in my mind, if you are not consumed with a near-constant feeling of dread and despair, then you are not paying attention. This is not a drill, people. This is the real deal.
While I initially found solace in the pantsuit pity-party of like-minded individuals on Facebook, I've been recently repelled by the particular brand of vapid toxicity found there. From the hateful, fact-resistant sewage spewed on one-side, to the (justified) hostility of marginalized communities, to the fragile, defensive, self-congratulatory, and yes, whiney white liberals - it literally makes my eyes twitch and my skin crawl. I feel like my soul is slowly seeping out through my fingertips, and I can't take it anymore.

Please do not take this to mean that I am going to check out and go bury my head in the sunny, San Diego sand. I'm just tired of talking about it. Yes, discourse has it's place in social change, but that alone is not enough. I've worked with a lot of non-profits over the years, and I would always get so frustrated because there was so much touchy-feelyness. We had to have meetings and meetings and more meetings and talk about our feelings and our dreams for the future and yet the agenda every week was the same because we were so busy talking about what we would do in a perfect world, we didn't have time to get shit done in the real world, in all its completely jacked-up glory. I am ready to DO.

I encourage you to DO, too. As I wrote a week or two ago, my day to day life will probably not be terribly impacted by Trump and his band of terrible misfits. I'm white. I live in California. I won't need an abortion. I won't be deported. I won't be wrongfully targeted, accused, jailed, or shot by the police. Nobody is going to question my right to be in this country. To be married. To use which bathroom makes me feel safe and comfortable. Nobody is going to threaten my children, tell them to go back to Mexico, Africa, or I-Ran (because, as previously noted, though they are half Persian, they look like So-Cal surfer kids through and through). I don't know if they'll be gay or straight, but hopefully by the time that comes up, this nightmare will be behind us. My husband and I are lawyers. We're marketable and employable. We own our home and so won't fall prey to the next mortgage crisis that will most certainly occur if Trump and his swamp rat cronies repeal Dodd Frank and embolden Wall Street. We're not 1%-ers, but we're at the top of the champagne glass, so to speak.

I know a lot of you are in the same demographic space. And it's easy to feel fatigued and overwhelmed, to want to just gather your family close, and curl up into your turtle shell, and wait it out. And I get that. I totally do. As Mother Theresa said, if you want world peace, go home and hug your family. Charity starts at home, and all that. And loving families that look out for one-another are certainly an imperative piece of the puzzle for a well-functioning society. But I'm here to tell you that that is simply not enough. Think about it. To draw on an analogy used to explain Black Lives Matter, if your neighbor's house was burning, would you just stand there and shrug and say, "At least it's not my house?"

Because, you guys, our neighbors' homes are burning. In America, a cop can shoot a black man in the back while he is running away, or face-down on the ground, or standing with his hands in the air, and not be convicted of murder. The KKK and other white supremacy groups are openly cheering President-elect Donald Trump and each terrifying cabinet appointment he makes. Black people, brown people, Muslims, Jews, gay, lesbian and transgender Americans are being threatened and assaulted in record numbers. Hate crimes have spiked across the country, particularly at our nation's schools. This is not normal. This is not okay. And sticking our fingers in our ears, squeezing our eyes tight, and singing LALALALA isn't going to make it go away.

Just because I'm not worried about my son getting shot in the back, or my home being foreclosed on, or someone attacking me because my version of "love" doesn't comport with their limited understanding, doesn't mean I can just say, "Eh, not my problem." That's not how a democratic society is supposed to work. Or rather, when that is our approach to "democracy," Donald Trump happens.

On a related and perhaps overly bossy and meddling tangent: I have been involved in multiple conversations recently with friends and acquaintances whom I have always thought of as conscious, thoughtful, forward-thinking people. And then they say things like, "Yeah I'll explain _________ [black history/LGBTQ issues/women's rights/civil rights] to my kids when they're old enough to understand." Um, they're old enough to understand right now. I'm not saying you need to sit your four-year-old down and have her watch Twelve Years a Slave or anything, but you are handicapping your children, not to mention perpetuating your white privilege, by keeping them in the dark about issues that one quarter of our society has to face literally from the moment of their birth. Not only are you handicapping your children's ability to be fully functioning members of society, you are handicapping our society, and it's ability to change and heal and grow. Also, if they don't know/examine/question these concepts until they're ten or fifteen or whatever age you deem "old enough to understand," they're automatically going to come at it as a foreign concept, just because they've been shielded from it for so long.

I can tell you from experience, you (and they) are a lot better off telling them now. The conversation will go something like this: Kid: "Uncle T is a boy, and he loves boys?" Adult: "Yep." Kid: "Cool. Can I have a popsicle?" Or, Adult: "Did you know that fifty years ago, it was illegal in many states for black people and white people to marry each other?" Kid: "So Auntie B and Uncle E wouldn't have been allowed to get married?" Adult: "Nope." Kid: "That's awful." Adult: "Yep." Kid: "Wanna play catch?" Even if you're uncomfortable with the way certain people live their lives, you can teach your children that, in America, adults can choose to live their lives as they please, and so long as they aren't hurting anyone else, it's none of our gosh darn business. Even if your religion dictates a certain position - can't you just say "We believe X, they believe Y, but guess what, we're not God, and we'll leave God's business and judgments to the him (or her)." For example, I despise cigarettes. I think they are filthy nasty death sticks and it is beyond my comprehension why so many people still smoke. My kids know I feel this way. They also know their uncle smokes cigarettes. When they ask about the contradiction, I tell them he's an adult and he's entitled to make decisions about his own life whether or not I agree with them, and I love and support him anyway.  I normally try not to "should" on people a la my BFF Claire. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Food for thought, maybe?

Anyway, I'll catch you guys on the flip side, wherever and whenever that may be. Feel free to subscribe to the blog or check back in periodically. You know where to find me!

In the meantime, be kind to each other. Listen before you speak. Educate yourselves. Think critically. Keep informed. Stay outraged. Show up. BE the change.

(Did you guys ever sign your yearbooks with "Peace in the Middle East?" No? Yeah. Me neither. ;) But I'd settle for "Peace in America," for now. Baby steps.)

Side note, I've been thinking/talking a lot lately about white privilege, and engaging with non-white people on the subject. If you think "white privilege" doesn't exist, I invite you to consider the Black Santa outrage and get back to me. I've definitely been knocked down a few notches by black and brown women and men, which in turn forces introspection and examination of my privilege vis-a-vis my role in the fight for racial equality. The Great White Butt Hurt is alive and well, and we - white people - are the ones who need to find the cure. It's an uncomfortable and necessary and (I assume) never-ending evolution. Join me?

Suggested Reading:

Engaging Children in Difficult Conversations about Gender Identity, Race, and Justice - Human Rights Campaign

Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism - Psychology Today (Aka - When you say you "don't see color," you sound like an asshole.)

White Privilege, Explained in One Simple Comic - Everyday Feminism

Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person - Huffington Post

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack - Peggy McIntosh

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism - Dr. Robin DiAngelo, Good Men Project

Working Assumptions - Cultural Bridges to Justice

Community Policing - The Police Foundation

Toolbox for Education and Social Action: "What To Do Instead of Calling the Police" is a Must Read

Hey does anyone want to start a virtual book club?? These are on my list to read/re-read. Normally I am a novel girl all the way, but in the name of enlightenment, I'm changing tacks for a bit:

The Stop Trump Reading List: ReMezcla

Race, Class and Gender in the United States 

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J. D. Vance

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America - Nancy Isenberg

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russel Rothschild

We Should All be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Theory of Justice: John Rawls

1984: George Orwell

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? - Thomas Frank

(I know this list is underrepresenting LGBTQ, Latinx and Native American authors/issues, among others. Please do recommend any additions!)

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