Blinded by the dumpster fire, we lost sight of everyone pouring the gas

People are quick to point out political distractions inside the parallel narratives of politics. “But her emails!” “Fake news!” “We had a very good meeting” all allegedly serve a greater purpose: to draw our attention away from the card trick.

And that may be so, but one thing’s for certain. All of that activity, all of it, draws our attention from perhaps the most terrifying truth:

There are people, normal everyday citizens, who are super into this administration, who firmly believe these magicians will make their jobs reappear, a $20 billion wall makes sense, a Muslim database is a solid idea, the immigration ban was fine.

There are real people in the real world, not billionaires and friends of billionaires, people you pass on the street and sit next to at restaurants, who see absolutely nothing wrong with the way things are going and, in fact, defend this administration against those who “won’t give it a chance.”

That is both depressing and terrifying. Because I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, Christian or Atheist, man or woman, the issues we’re facing now, the reason people are taking to the streets and calling their representatives, boil down to humans wanting to be treated like humans. It has nothing to do with flags or books or slogans.

People. Pure and simple. Wanting the same respect you want and, perhaps, have taken for granted your entire life.

If we’re unwilling to have that conversation, openly and objectively, we deserve whatever nuclear dystopian Twilight Zone nightmare we may find ourselves living in further down the timeline of our still brief existence.

And I know what you’re thinking. I grew up with you. I sat next to you in school and worked next to you at a variety of jobs from the time I was sixteen. I know you. You’re thinking “Nuh uh. It ain’t that simple.”

No, really. It is.

Gay people don’t want more rights than straight people, they want the same rights as straight people.

Muslims don’t want special treatment, they want to not be harassed and lumped in with terrorists who happen to be Muslim.

For even just a minute, walk a hypothetical mile (or at least the rest of this article) in their shoes. Make your religion suspect. Pretend you overheard a presidential candidate propose we put all Christians in a database because Christian kids shot up some schools and theaters, so certainly we need to keep an eye on all Christians.

I know, I know, that’s outrageous. The Christian god blesses America.

I’m saying, please, for the love of that god, pretend.

Pretend for one minute your son or daughter gets side-eyed on trains and airplanes because of his or her skin color and/or dress. Pretend people change seats to not have to sit next to them. Pretend they’re younger than that, at school, being ignored or worse, coming home to you every day asking why nobody wants to sit with or play with them.

Pretend.

Pretend, for whatever kooky reason, you aren’t allowed to marry the person you love. You aren’t allowed to reap the benefits of being in a relationship recognized by the government.

Pretend you’re looked down upon and ridiculed by both children and adults simply for being born a way they weren’t.

I know it’s tough, but I have to believe, even as you’ve grown and had to endure the confusing beauty and brutality of life itself, that you’ve maintained at least a semblance of imagination, so, please … pretend.

Pretend you’re under a microscope walking home alone at night in your own neighborhood. Pretend absolute strangers wonder if you’re up to no good.

Pretend you moved here from another country, legally, and people loudly criticize you for “coming over here and taking our jobs.”

Pretend you wake up every morning feeling unwelcome in a land that you support physically and financially.

“But some of them are here illegally!”

Yeah, you’re right. That’s another article for another day. I’m talking about legal, tax paying American citizens being treated like they are less than other Americans simply because of who they are. That’s a real thing. Can we start there?

Pretend you’re that. Really pretend. Get way down deep in the feeling of being cast aside and isolated, or outright abused verbally and physically, for simply BEING A CERTAIN WAY.

Not for being a bad person. Not for hurting anyone or stealing anything. For BEING A CERTAIN WAY.

For simply existing.

I know you don’t want to hear it because [A] you think I’m making it up and/or [B] I’m not giving them a chance, but it’s really [C] often times the truth is a hard pill to swallow:

This administration is oppressive. This president ran on a campaign that didn’t pull punches when it came to beating down whomever he thought might rally his troops louder.

If he thought you wanted to hear abortion was bad, well then women should be punished for getting abortions. If he thought you wanted to hear your jobs were coming back, well then fuck you, China.

He didn’t care who was being thrown under the bus, so long as their bodies paved the way to victory.

Here’s the fact of the matter, not the alternative fact of the matter, the straight-up fact of the matter:

If you want to make America great at all, it’s going to take empathy. It’s going to take looking beyond the crosses and hijabs, flags and accents. It’s going to take appreciating that, if you are an American citizen, you deserve, above everything else, to be treated like every other American citizen. Your space should be respected. Your beliefs should be respected. Your life should be respected, first and foremost as a human being.

That is the only way to make America great, period. Literally every other avenue will lead to a dead end of division, fear, intolerance, and violence.

Again, I know how this sounds. I grew up with you. I studied with you and worked with you. I know you. I know, to you, this sounds impossible. It goes against everything you’ve been taught or accidentally learned. I’m assuring you that those lessons are weak because they’re rooted in fear. The foundation of that thinking is the simple idea that a scapegoat makes it easier to feel good about ourselves.

That’s it.

If we have someone to blame for our problems, our problems aren’t really ours, they’re theirs.

They’re taking our jobs, they’re a bad influence, they’re dragging us to hell in a handbasket.

No. They’re just trying to get by, same as you.

But I get it. If you always convince yourself the bad guy’s someone else, you never have to be the bad guy.

That is a foolish way to live. Not because the bad guy should be you, but because nobody has to be the bad guy.

When I was a kid, I was taught three things that made so much sense, even then:

  1. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
  2. “Don’t worry about what the other kids are doing, you worry about you.”
  3. “Treat others as you’d want to be treated.”

Did they not mean it? Was it all just something to say to get us through school and then we were supposed to throw it out?

Because I’ve been an adult for nineteen years now and, I gotta tell ya, a lot of times it feels that way. Like all along it was “Do as I say, don’t do as we do.” Like over time The Golden Rule ages and expires and isn’t real gold at all, just a wrapper, and the worms get to the chocolate before it even has time to melt.

Maybe we need to hit the books again. Maybe night classes are in order. Maybe it’s time to brush up on the basics.

Maybe then we could work towards paving a lasting road to victory, for all of us, on bridges of understanding and compassion, rather than the broken bodies of phantom enemies and invented bogeymen.