I have been described as being “pathologically optimistic”. I’m the kind of obnoxiously positive guy who gets thrown in a pit of crap and exclaims: “What can we grow with all this fertilizer?!”
I’ve had to be: I came from humble beginnings, and I’ve fought my way to a great job, in a great city, and somewhere along the way found a more wonderful spouse than I deserve.
I’ve been blessed and privileged; I know my fight wasn’t as hard as others. But I have also had personal successes that I have earned, and can be proud of.
I credit most of that success to Faith. Faith in people. Faith that, on balance, people want to do the right thing. Faith that, if given a situation where it doesn’t hurt them, most people will help others. Faith that people aren’t looking out for number 1. We look out for number 1.000001.
So this week was rough, in a rough year. My Faith was shaken. Over and over throughout the year, and last Wednesday I watched with horror as I saw what I viewed as the forces of evil … win.
I saw a force of people tell minorities in no uncertain terms, “My concerns are worth more than your safety.”
But I’ve had some time to think about things, and find my center, and draw some conclusions.
1) There is no They, there is only We.
If you are still calling yourself an American, then you need to know, and internalize, that we are one nation, indivisible. That includes a great many people you may have forgotten about, and more you disagree with.
Many of you are deciding if you are still an American, and I can respect that. But if you do decide to stay, and fight, then fight the ideas, not the people. Because there are only Americans. Every racist, every bigot, even Trump, is “us”, is America.
To change the discussion, we first change ourselves, to change ourselves, we change our language.
This means looking at everything you read and everything you say and deciding if it is driving a wedge between you and the rest of America. Is it creating “them”, is it talking about what “they” want to do? If so, then you are buying into a dividing line that does not, and cannot exist in a United States of America.
How To: Here is a Chrome Extension which highlights certain words. (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/highlight-this/fgmbnmjmbjenlhbefngfibmjkpbcljaj) I added “them”, “they”, “conservatives”, “liberals”, “Republicans”, “Democrats”. If I’m writing or reading something, it’ll be highlighted, and hopefully it will help me notice when the language is divisive.
2) I have been adrift in the sheltered harbor of the blood spilled by martyrs who died for social justice.
I knew we weren’t living in a post-racial US. But from my perch in its most liberal city, it was easy to start to think we were. Everyone I knew and interacted with on a day to day understood and felt their privilege. We knew that BLM was real. We knew that it was obvious and needed to be acted upon.
But … that action meant posting on Facebook, inside my bubble, to people who already agree with me. In a word, to you.
The practical effect was that I didn’t have to *do* anything.
But that veil has been lifted. The overt racism we are seeing crop up, now legitimized by the highest office in the nation, was always there. BLM has been screaming it over and over. Minorities have been screaming it over and over, and now we have to face that it’s real, it always was. It’s real in the trucks we see with skinheads driving around the Castro (the gay district in SF) yelling “You’re gonna die now, we’re coming for you now!!” The bigotry was always there, just under the surface, and now it’s just in the open. Maybe that’s a good thing.
We’d let the racism hide. We were so quick to slap down and unfollow people who said racist things, that it started to look like no one was. Really what we had done was sweep it under the carpet, congratulated ourselves for “taking a stand”, and move on with our lives. But those people were still thinking it; we never engaged with the root causes and ideas that led to the racism, so it just went into hiding. It hid in resume screenings. It hid in arrest statistics. It hid in stop and frisk, racial profiling, and a slew of other words and ways that screened it for what it was. The thinking didn’t change, the ideas didn’t change; the expression of it had simply turned into something more palatable to the rest of us.
And now, we’re Fred from Scooby Doo, rich, white and handsome, pulling off the mask of Undead Hitler, and finding out it was us underneath, all along.
How To: I don’t know. In the words of our President Elect “You tell me.”
3) This is not normal.
Today felt normal. A commute, traffic was bad. My desk was there, I chatted with coworkers. We talked about the changes in America in the abstract. It’s all happening “Over There.”
We, as humans, are a remarkably adaptable species. We live on something called the Hedonistic Treadmill; it means that when good things happen we quickly start to take them for granted. But it works in reverse, bad things, slowly, over time, feel normal from one day to the next.
So tomorrow will feel normal. The day after: Harder, but Normal. There will be a moment, when we look up and say “Holy Hell! How did we get here!?” But it won’t be for a very very long time.
And if you want to make sense of it all: that’s how we got here. That’s what caused votes for Trump. Every person I have talked to who voted for Trump, just wanted a bully. A schoolyard bully to walk in and shake Washington and say, “This is Normal SUCKS! — signed, the people who grow your food!”
But in the days and even a few years to come, every day will feel normal. Remind yourself, daily, this is NOT Normal. Remember where we were on Nov 7th; that was Normal.
4) Lives are in danger today, that were not in danger before the election.
People I know personally have reported being verbally attacked and intimidated. But on certain news circuits, the current running line is that the protestors are all paid operatives. I’m not kidding.
But make no mistake, Americans are going to die. Violently. Rights that were sacrosanct will be stripped away. Freedom of Press, Freedom of Assembly, Roe-v-Wade all of them will be eroded now and in the years to come.
How To: Americans in fear for their lives will be looking for places to run. Help if you can. If you can’t directly help them, put your money where your mouth is. Watchdog agencies are more important now than ever before.
Shut up isn’t an option any more. You get Put Up or Give Up, so Get on it!
5) There is no unbiased Press.
Just as there are no unbiased people, there is no unbiased press. The tools that we built to get truth, have failed us. All of us. And remember, I don’t mean just the liberals, I mean all of US.
We have the largest upwards spike in fake news in history. Near the end I was playing whackamole verifying news sites for my family members. But it wasn’t just the fake news sites that were wrong. It’s the real thing. News agencies are failing left and right. They can’t sell ads, they can’t sell papers, so they are left with one last thing to sell: their credibility.
How To: Every news site is in the business of making money. This is actually okay. It just means that every time you click a link, or see a picture, you can’t ask “What are you saying?” you have to ask “What are you selling?”
I think, I feel, I believe, really, we were in this cesspool all along.
So… America… We’re in the crap, what can we grow?