I refuse to feel bad about my ballot

I voted and I feel excited!

That’s right I said, excited. Everyone is posting about how dirty they feel casting their ballot. How they don’t like anybody, but really hate somebody. Well, screw that! I’m stoked. I just cast my ballot for the first female president. Someone who has faced constant scrutiny and personal attack and risen above it. Someone who has been raked over the coals too many times to count but each time she gets back up and keeps plugging away at policy.

Do I agree with her about everything, of course not? But that is what democracy is and how it works. It’s about consensus, trust, and reason above emotion. I refuse to hate my ballot. I researched every candidate and voted for those that I thought had the skills and the vision to do what is best. I voted for candidates in three different political parties and all of whom possess views that don’t match my perfect picture of the United Sates of Jo. But I am not the only citizen of this country, and in the grand scheme of things my druthers should not impede our perseverance. We are in this together. We are stronger together.

I refuse to feel ashamed of my vote. I am proud to live in a country of consensus, of reason, and of hope. The worst thing that this election has done is cause us to lose sight of how wonderful it is to vote and to have a voice. I also refuse to believe that those who voted differently than me, did so because they’re mean, or stupid, or evil.  Different visions coming together to find one unified ideal, that is democracy and it is wonderful and I feel good about it.

No more talk of the devil or the end times. This election is about what every election ever has always been about. A society built on cooperation. The peaceful transfer of power from one individual to the next is the greatest display of that cooperation. We all want the same thing, a country that thrives. Though we all have different ideas of what that country looks like and how to get there, we shouldn’t exchange our greatest attribute for petulance.

I voted. I loved it. I’m excited for the future. You can’t bring me down.

 

Just words…

These are my belated two cents;

Dear Mr. Trump,

It’s not “just words” to talk about another person’s body like it belongs to you, like someone doesn’t have the autonomy to decide who touches them because they’re a woman and being a woman is invitation enough. The fact that you can joke about that kind of violation is because you have power, that is the definition of privilege.

And the reason people are reacting to it the way they are is not because they’re distracted it’s because they are disgusted. You have never been instructed to wear something else, walk somewhere else, keep your guard up, and your head down so that nobody picks you to rape. You have absolutely no concept of what that violation feels like or what it feels like to bear the sole responsibility of protecting yourself from being the victim of a crime that you will be blamed for.

Society tells women over and over again that their bodies don’t belong to them, they have to look the way you want, act the way you want, and smile when you tell them to. Now we have someone actually so close to so much power, so many people in this country are willing to trust this embodiment of rape culture with our highest office, with the duty of protecting our fragile democracy. When someone in power no longer even pretends to believe that women are full-fledged human beings we are no longer allowed to act like there’s no such thing as patriarchy.

I guess the real point is, you can say it’s “just words” because you are not capable of empathizing with the people on the other end of those words. And why would you empathize? They’re not people. They’re just fodder for your ‘locker room talk’ and your tiny disgusting hands.

What I Just Heard…

I listened to about 10 minutes of the presidential debate and it was intensely uncomfortable. But also incredibly disturbing to hear a candidate tell his opponent that if he becomes president he will make sure his opponent is put in jail. He will “instruct” his justice department to make sure she’s found guilty. This is after she was investigated and cleared. This is not only, not how our justice system works, but it’s not good practice in a democracy to start threatening the opposition. That’s how dictators work.

Fight No More Forever

Wednesday was the anniversary of the surrender of the Nez Perce at Bear Paw which brought an end to the Nez Perce War. I didn’t want to let the day pass too far by me without remembering what Chief Joseph said on that day 139 years ago;

“Tell General Howard I know his Heart. What He told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting, Looking Glass is dead. too-Hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are–perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

This speech is both haunting and incredibly beautiful, but I’ll try not to focus too hard on the beauty. Often in American culture, when we do acknowledge indigenous people, it is with a kind of orientalism. New agey myths surround the “wisdom” of the first Americans as if they only existed as shaman proffering a fun spirituality that we can pick-up in our twenties and decorate our facebooks with, then just as easily toss aside for the next culture we want to fetishize. In remembering Chief Joseph’s words, I want to remember that this was a human man who suffered great loss.

But I do think it’s important to remember these words because they, like all beautiful things, reach a place in ourselves that would otherwise be unreachable. They are a visceral reminder that this nation was built on a genocide. (And if you now want to stop reading this now because you don’t like that last statement you’re actually exactly who I want to talk to (hopefully not lecture, but talk to)). I don’t think we love our country any better by pretending history never happened. I don’t think blindness is good patriotism.

We pick and chose and borrow and steal from those parts of this nation’s history that are beautiful, affirming, and encourage us to think of ourselves as the hero of history. We get very, very angry at anyone pointing out that firebombs killed civilians in WWII, internment camps imprisoned law abiding US citizens and stole their property, slavery was an evil that made America rich (North and South), the wounds of Jim Crow have NOT healed. We get very, very, very angry when a man uses his very public stage to say that justice is not available to everyone in this country.

The outcry is “How dare you not love this country!” But if that’s how you love your country, I don’t think you and your country have a very healthy relationship. Total and unquestioning acceptance is not love. It is not loving to sit in silence while your loved one hurts herself. It is not patriotism to make standing for a song, repeating a pledge, and never ever criticizing, the hallmarks of good citizenry. Especially in a democracy where it is our duty to be vigilant protectors of this fragile experiment.

Love for America is not contingent on the belief that America is without sin. Rather, the ability for democracy to grow, and learn, and change, depends on people challenging the complacency of believing we’re perfect. That is what we should take pride in, protestors are patriots. I believe that we are strong enough to challenge ourselves and overcome, to acknowledge the sins of our past and from them learn to do better and be better. That is how I love my country. So from time to time, I remind myself of the worst parts of history so that I can find ways to make us better.

Quick thought on hate speech

Please read this article to know what I’m talking about (tldr; the number of hate crimes against the Muslim American community is on the rise.

This violence is a direct result of hate speech. It is not a coincidence. It is not just some people taking it too far. Continual statements from public figures that demonize all of Islam, that spread fear about people who think and look differently, that propose that an American citizen who practices Islam is anything other than an American citizen. Those statements create a hateful cloud of misinformation from which acts of violence are the lightning strikes.

Those that commit hate crimes don’t do so because they are ‘lone wolves’ and they don’t do so because they are misunderstanding what a politician is saying when he’s “telling it like it is.” Picking out a group as ‘unamerican,’ repeatedly making statements about the danger of this group, makes that group into an ‘other.’ (An ‘other’ is a nameless, faceless, straw-man diametrically opposed against everything that you are.) A group, once othered, is subhuman. They are not worthy of empathy, their lives mean less.

For example, look at the discourse surrounding the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust. The victims of those crimes were likened to vermin. They were said to be the enemies of the ‘true’ people. Nurturing the othering of any human is the first step in every terrible act that the human race is capable of.

That is why I say that hate speech is the direct cause of hate crimes, not the unfortunate misunderstanding of a misguided few. It is true that not everyone who spreads hate speech commits hate crimes, but everyone that commits hate crimes believes in the hate speech. Those that perpetrate violence do so because they are acting on the necessary extension of the logic laid down by hate speech, “these people are not my people”, “these people don’t belong here”, “these people are my enemy.” They feel that their actions are legitimate because those in authority repeatedly tell them that they are under attack.The repeated message “All practicers of Islam are the same. America is at war with Islam. To be Muslim is to be against ‘true’ America*.” sinks in, people believe it is true and act as if it were true. Without hate speech constructing that dichotomy of the other and the “true American” violence would have no narrative through which to legitimize itself.

Words have power. It is with words that people create their understanding of the word  and their understanding of themselves. There is no such thing as an innocuous statement, particularly from a person with power and privilege. Perhaps if we were living in a culture that valued substance over sound bites we might be better equipped to critically pull apart all that is entailed in a public statement. But until then we should recognize hate speech for what it is, a threat to peace.

* “True American” can be interpreted as “White Christian”