If You Think We’re Sore Losers, Read This

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ~Elie Wisel

I have engaged in several contentious, election-related conversations recently. While silence and neutrality are traps I am careful to avoid, so are callousness and animosity. This has been challenging in a post-election climate that is both hostile and unforgiving. A wise and loving friend suggests that empathy, like a balm of reconciliation, could be used to subdue the tension. You may not see where a person has been hurt, but that doesn’t mean they are not in pain.

Many Americans are struck by fears and anxieties related to the eroding middle class, rising health premiums, debt, failing schools, terrorism and a stagnant political system in which politicians are bought and sold at our expense. Let’s talk about the fears that a majority of Americans don’t share. Were you born in this country but fear your parents could be deported? Are you anxious because even though you were brought here as a child, and this is the only home you’ve ever known, you could be expelled to a foreign country? Do you fear that your marriage could be annulled? Do you worry about being forced to use the men’s bathroom when you identify and look like a girl? When someone that looks like you or claims to be practicing your religion commits a crime, are you viewed as suspect? Imagine if every Dylan Roof or Timothy McVeigh meant that white people, as a group, were viewed as potential threats to society. Are you nervous that you will be stopped on the streets, asked for your ID, frisked and humiliated, that you could be given a ticket if you don’t happen to have your ID? Do you ask God in your prayers to protect your son from the police?

Donald Trump is not just a poor leader with serious character flaws and a potty mouth. He objectifies and demeans women and currently has several sexual assault charges against him.[i] When a person of power and influence mocks a person with disabilities it isn’t just a bad joke. Donald Trump received the official endorsement of the KKK. The President Elect’s choice for senior strategist, Stephen Bannon, also runs Breitbart News — a self-described platform for the Alt. Right — a white nationalist movement that doesn’t believe in mixing the races. The Alt. Right targeted the family of a prominent blogger (she hosts an adoption and parenting related blog) because the parents are white and they adopted black children. They harassed the family, even ridiculed and threatened the children.[ii] According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, incidents of hateful intimidation and harassment against minority groups have been on the rise since the election.[iii]

This is why we protest.

Donald Trump chose as his VP an elected official with perhaps the strongest political stance against gay people. Mike Pence believes in conversion therapy, a practice that has for decades been viewed as unhealthy. It was proven to lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide, and has since been outlawed in many states. [iv] Pence has allowed laws to remain in place that make it a felony for gay couples to apply for marriage certificates in the State of Indiana, even though it is a right upheld by the Supreme Court. [v] He also tried to pass a law giving businesses the right to refuse services to LGBT people. [vi] Pence’s policies uphold the right to treat gay people as an abomination while overriding anti-discrimination laws.

This is why we protest.

No social or economic plan that scapegoats minorities, let alone the most vulnerable among us, will ever be the solution to a nation’s problems. Trump made broad and sweeping statements about groups of people, increasing suspicion and resentment toward anyone perceived as a member of that group. He did this by calling immigrants from Mexico and Central America rapists and criminals, and by running a campaign that tirelessly vilified undocumented people in this country. The people under attack have been victimized by the world economy, deprived of power and resources, and forced to live in the shadows working low-end jobs just to feed their family and keep a roof over their heads. This is a country of immigrants, people who throughout our nation’s history have risked everything in pursuit of the American dream. Now all you can see when you look at a person escaping unimaginable poverty, in search of a better life and desperate to provide for their children, is the face of your enemy. Trump’s proposals would be devastating to immigrant people and their communities. Mass deportation would literally tear families apart. Repealing DACA would displace people from the only home they’ve ever known and ruthlessly upend their lives.

This is why we protest.

Trump campaigned on the idea that no Muslim is without suspicion, and that refugees, people who have experienced unthinkable trauma, must be treated as enemies. Then he called for banning Muslims from entering the country. He proposed that Muslims be forced to register with the government and their places of worship be put under surveillance. Trump’s platform discriminates and suspends human rights based on religious affiliation and not individual actions.

This is why we protest.

Even if you’re not a racial-slurring, white nationalist who is afraid of Mexicans and Muslims, your vote for Trump was a show of indifference. You condoned bigotry and voted without regard for the experiences of immigrants, refugees, LGBT people, Muslims, women, people with disabilities, or people of color… This country elected to abate the fears of certain people by ignoring and exasperating the fears of others. So if you can, see the person, their fears and anxieties, the history of oppression in this country, and see why Donald Trump signifies a major set back in a very personal and painful battle for safety, dignity and freedom. Now, if only you could see yourself in their shoes. — Until then, this is why we protest.

If you want to read up on some points made in this post, follow the links be

[i] http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-and-the-truth-the-sexual-assault-allegations

[ii] http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2016/11/the-alt-right-movement-harassed-my.html

[iii] https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/11/15/update-more-400-incidents-hateful-harassment-and-intimidation-election

[iv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/11/19/gays-can-be-reformed-just-like-arsonists-trumps-new-domestic-policy-adviser-has-said/

[v] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h7fcE_Tw8E

[vi] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mike-pence-religious-freedom-law-indiana_us_57c839b9e4b0a22de09446d8