I’m voting for peace

I’ve spent most of this campaign cycle trying to understand.

Trying to understand the hatred that fuels the rhetoric.

Trying to understand the rhetoric that masks the real problems.

Trying to understand the root of the real problems in our society.

It’s been over a year and I still don’t understand.

But I think I know why I’m struggling with this so much. It’s because I thought I lived in a different place. I thought the world I lived in was kinder, or at least wanted to be. My dismay at not understanding has been replaced by my dismay at accepting that I do understand the problem.

Hate.

Hate is what allows a society to collectively agree that’s it’s okay to treat women as objects.

Hate is what allows a society to collectively perpetuate racial stereotypes.

Hate is what allows a society to collectively dismiss the contributions of anyone from a diverse ethnic background.

Hate breeds fear. Fear is a controlling mechanism. Control leads to submission.

I am afraid for the future of our country. Weeks and months ago, this was because I was afraid of a particular candidate being elected. Now I’m just afraid. It no longer matters who the president is. The cat is out of the bag. Hate in this country is acceptable. Hate is a power position.

Racism is tolerated

Misogyny is championed

Discrimination is modeled

If the right is elected, we will have allowed a bully his pulpit. He will embarrass us on the world stage. The American dream so many skilled and talented immigrants have sought will be replaced by other elsewhere. We will lose status, stature, and so many beautiful human resources who could have contributed to the greatness of our society. Because don’t we tell our kids to ignore the bully and go elsewhere on the playground? Sure, we may tell them to stand up to the bully, but how does one “stand up” to the United States of America. I don’t even want to begin to know how this could turn out.

If the left is elected, she will publicly suffer the hatred born of hundreds of years of oppression in a paternalistic society. We only thought we were making progress. As it turns out, we were being ‘tokened’. We were being allowed to advance so the other could say they were treating us equally. Because all this time, the attitudes towards women, as a whole, apparently never changed. Sure, you can point to a friend, a husband, or maybe a brother and say, “but he’s NOT that way” and you are probably right. But it has become apparent that some are. Enough are. And now it’s acceptable. Those hateful attitudes towards women are casually dismissed as less important.

Just look at “race relations” now compared to eight years ago. I was among the hopeful then that we, as a society, had finally crossed a threshold, that we were enlightened enough to see that everyone truly is equal. But President Obama is just another token. He was elected, so that was enough to prove racial diversity, right? Society no longer had to always point to that one co-worker/friend and say, “See, I have black friends!” because we had a black president, right? Somehow it became okay, even acceptable, to denigrate an entire population publicly. This was acceptable. It started during the election, and now, almost nine years later it’s manifested in violence and death. Sure, we are talking about race and equality. The discussion isn’t a peaceful one. The work is more difficult because the chasm has widened.

I’m no fool. I know the hate has been there all along, an undercurrent of polite society. A political correctness had blanketed us and made us feel somewhat safe. Politeness and positivity are contagious. It’s like the school bully. Teachers have seen students collectively defeat bullying by promoting diversity and not rewarding the bullying behavior. Eventually, the bully realizes he’s lost his power. But if he has a cheering section, his resolve is bolstered, he’s emboldened, he’s not alone and neither are his fans. It becomes a feeding frenzy. The polite and positive voices are silenced out of fear.

This is where we are now. It no longer matters who is president, because hate has an audience and a pulpit. It will take years to recover the progress made over the last 100 years. I’m just fearful of how much further we will slide down into the darkness. I fear how horribly me and my sisters in humanity will be treated. I’m sad that our mothers’ and grandmother’s sacrifices will have been for nothing. I’m sad that the prevailing thought in our society is that violence toward women isn’t as important as economic stability. I’m pretty sure that the two are not mutually exclusive.

My fear isn’t just a word I’m using for emphasis. I was alarmed this weekend when I realized the physical discomfort I felt in two different situations was due to my personal experiences with sexual assault and the recent headlines.

Twice, once as I walked on the beach and once in the grocery aisle, I was passed by a man walking the other way. Both times, all I could think was “is he one of those men that indulges in that disgusting ‘locker-room banter’”? I could not look up and exchange a friendly greeting or a smile — not even on the peaceful beach where such a thing would have been expected. I could not do anything except wonder if he was like those men.

Excusing hateful language for any reason makes it acceptable. It dismisses it as nothing important — or at the very least, less important than the safety of our fellow humans. Excusing the language as “just words” ignores the scary fact that those words reflect attitudes which can, if emboldened enough, manifest into actions. Actions that hurt and destroy and demean and degrade…not just an individual, but an entire demographic.

It no longer matters who wins this election. The bully has his cheering section and they are emboldened to express their hate and perpetuate misogyny. I can’t even imagine what that looks like four years from now.

So here’s what I know. I know that money doesn’t buy happiness. Violence is not the answer. Hate gets us nowhere. And the only path to peace is tolerance, respect, and compassion.

I’m voting for peace.

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