Dear Liberal Friends
Dear liberal (not that the qualifier is really necessary) friends,
Did being singled out for being liberal put you on your guard? Well, you’re still reading this, so that’s a good sign. This message is for you, my open-minded fellow liberals.
I originally didn’t want to write this because I struggle to understand politics and, even more so, people: how emotions drive us to act out and how groupthink creeps upon even the best of us.
However, my many friends and acquaintances have been sharing Dina Leygerman’s recent post (“You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.”) in droves, so I write this to share a different perspective on current American politics — one from a quiet girl who awkwardly smiles and tries to change the subject when you start hate-bashing the person who doesn’t share your indisputably correct opinion. This is my explanation for not being the political activist Facebook friend you wanted.
My problem with the recent discussions (Latin: “a shaking,” from discutere “strike asunder, break up,” from dis- “apart” + quatere “to shake.” English: “a talking over, debating”) on the Women’s March and the results of the presidential election is with the level of antagonism present. “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” We’ll listen to each other to find the weak points of the other person’s argument and break them apart, but we’ll listen only enough just to do so.
Excuse me for being somewhat of a hypocrite, but here are my thoughts on Leygerman’s recent post: Yes, I agree that women don’t yet have rights equal to those of men. Yes, you are entitled to your own opinions on what equality looks like. But no, attacking someone is not the best way to make them listen to what you’re trying to say.
“You can make your own choices, speak and be heard, vote, work, control your body, defend yourself, defend your family, because of the women who marched. You did nothing to earn those rights. You were born into those rights. You did nothing, but you reap the benefits of women, strong women, women who fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy and fought for you. And you sit on your pedestal, a pedestal you are fortunate enough to have, and type. A keyboard warrior. A fighter for complacency. An acceptor of what you were given. A denier of facts. Wrapped up in your delusion of equality.”
Leygerman, who are you to tell someone you’ve never met that they “did nothing” and then hypocritically attack them for being “a keyboard warrior”? How can you so easily assume that everyone was born into these rights without having to fight to see these rights attended to? The strong women you’ve mentioned have made our lives significantly better, but unfortunately no one is born into these rights. We fight for our rights every day through our actions, and many women have to fight much harder for them than both you and I do.
“I get it. You want to feel empowered. You don’t want to believe you’re oppressed. Because that would mean you are indeed a “second-class citizen.” You don’t want to feel like one. I get it. But don’t worry. I will walk for you… Because women who actually care and support other women don’t care what you think about them. They care about their future and the future of the women who come after them.”
And how can you so easily write off someone who doesn’t support this particular march as someone who doesn’t care about or support other women? If you were clearly reading Brandi Atkinson’s post on why she doesn’t support the Women’s March, you’d find this gem:
“If you want to impress me, especially in regards to women, then speak on the real injustices and tragedies that affect women in foreign countries that do not [have] the opportunity or means to have their voices heard. Saudi Arabia, women can’t drive, no rights and must always be covered. China and India, infantcide of baby girls. Afghanistan, unequal education rights… And that’s just a few examples.”
What resonated with me the most from both women’s posts was said by Atkinson:
“If you have beliefs, and you speak to me in a kind [manner], I will listen. But do not expect for me to change my beliefs to suit yours. Respect goes both ways.”
This is what we as a nation need to work on these next several months and years if we want to achieve anything together: respect, kindness, and acceptance. Enough with the toxic hate-fueled vitriol. This may have been what got Trump elected, but this won’t be what solves our nation’s problems moving forward.
Regardless of my opinions on any publications or the media, I respect everyone who marched last weekend — no matter who or what you identify as. You found a cause to be ardently passionate about and (literally) stood up to the patriarchy. I’ve never felt at home in crowds, but I truly believe in the heart of what you’re protesting for. And even if I didn’t believe in your cause, I’d still respect your courage, passion, and capacity to come together to spread love and sustain dialogue.
Now that our America has seen how a common cause can bring together a massive community, let’s show them day-by-day what love, respect, and teamwork can achieve. Not just for “your people” who you can personally empathize with, but especially for those who you’ve been trained to judge at a first glance for so long.
A nation divided
I don’t know about you, but I am so done with this eye-for-an-eye hate-fueled mentality that is dominating modern American politics.
My 4th grade student at weekly volunteer tutoring tells me she won’t read the latest Time for Kids magazine because she sees Trump’s face on the corner of the cover, and she hates Trump. And she has the right to. And it might even be acceptable at that age as a socioeconomically-disadvantaged, African-American Chicagoan. But as adults, we can’t just keep single-mindedly attacking and closing our minds against the things we don’t like.
When has anyone ever really listened when an angry person attacked them — let alone an angry woman? (Angry mothers don’t count.) I’ve found that people are much more open to discussion and criticism when they are given some semblance of respect: when you’ve really heard what they are saying and thought about where they’re coming from.
Yes, Trump’s morals leave a lot to be desired. Yes, Trump’s administration is proving to be a laughingstock with a fragile ego. But #NotMyPresident? Face it, unless you’re actually moving out of the country (and not just joking about moving to Canada), he’s the new leader of our country — whether you like it or not.
To conclude, I borrow a line from another American president: A nation divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this country cannot endure, permanently half anti-Trump and half complacent.
Dialogue to explore our unconscious assumptions, generate deeper understanding, and move America forward cannot happen until we open our ears, minds, and hearts to those who do not share our worldview. Try to be the bigger person, and don’t respond to close-mindedness with more intolerance. We cannot stoop down to their level if we want to raise our country up.