Divided We Stand

It’s taken me about a week since Election Day to even start to process my thoughts, or figure out how to put everything together in some sort of comprehensible way. Like many others, I’ve basically been in a state of shock since I watched the Electoral College count get closer and closer to 270. How did this happen? This wasn’t possible! Many of us have had these thoughts over the past few days. However, I’m not going to get into a discussion about how the Electoral College has failed us, or anything like that. My thoughts are more about how divided we really are, and how much healing really needs to happen.

I suppose the first place to start is the national message we are getting not only from the media — but from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump themselves. We are a divided nation. It’s time to come together as Americans and heal. That’s all well and good, but the rifts run much deeper than that. I don’t even need to point out the number of hate crimes on people of color, the LGBT community, women, and members of other religions; you’ve seen those shared over and over again. It’s horrifying, but what is more horrifying is that we let it get to this place. This hateful rhetoric didn’t just come out of nowhere; it’s been bubbling under the surface all this time. So this isn’t a return to the conservative times of the 80s, or the 50s, or the 30s…this hatred went away.

They tell us to work together, and yes — we need to work together. The left is not going to accomplish anything with hate; like Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high!” However, it’s also unfair to think that both sides are completely in the wrong here. When members of the right are telling people of color to go back to their home countries using racial slurs, harassing women and threatening to “grab them by the pussy,” or committing homophobic hate crimes in the name of Making America Great Again, it is absolutely ridiculous to expect us marginalized folks to sit calmly and say, “We need to work together as Americans.” If I say somebody is a hateful, closed-minded bigot because they spew this hateful rhetoric, it is completely unacceptable to suggest I am being just as bad as the other side. Do you expect me to stay calm when these people are clearly in the wrong? Tone policing is not only putting minorities further at risk, but it also normalizes the behavior of those committing the atrocities.

So yes, I think we need to work together to heal our nation — but I have a right to be angry and call out those who voted for Trump. I have a right to get frustrated when votes for third party candidates could have decided the electoral votes in swing states. I’ve seen a lot of people get defensive about this, but my frustration and anger does not mean I am further dividing our nation. Perhaps it was hot-headed of me to ask that anyone who didn’t vote my way should just unfriend me, but do not tell me that I do not have the right as a gay man to be upset with how things turned out.

I think one of the most divisive groups in this election was us Democrats ourselves. I am open about the fact that I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I continue to have a tremendous amount of respect for Bernie Sanders — but honestly, at the time, I thought that his supporters’ cries for revolution were a bit extreme. Even in the wake of the election, as I saw things being shared on social media from Bernie Sander’s Dank Meme Stash basically suggesting that Bernie could have won the election and that this all could have been prevented, my initial response was that this was not the time for that. It felt a lot like, “I told you so.” However, in the wake of this historical upset, I realize that maybe I was wrong. It’s clear now that we do need to dismantle the system and fight for a progressive agenda. The amount of support Trump received in this election makes it clear that, although I believe Hillary Clinton would have protected the rights of all Americans, that it would have been Obama Part 2. The GOP would work against her and try to stall her from making progress. Do not misunderstand me; my blame is not on Hillary. I think our future would have been a lot brighter with her as our next president. However, I now see what Bernie Sanders was saying. Could he have won? At this point there’s no use in dwelling on that, because what’s done is done. I mean, none of us thought a Trump presidency was even possible before it happened right before our eyes.

One thing that is very clear is that we need to be more responsible with the way that we handle the media. Too many people fall victim to clicking Share on a Facebook article or hitting that Retweet button without even looking at the content or thinking critically about what has been written. I’ve seen a great article making the rounds from Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders Could Replace President Trump With Little-Known Loophole. The title is, of course, clickbait and the article is meant to prove the point that we need to be smarter about the way that we read and share news in an era where information spreads so rapidly. However, I’ve seen a lot of people who felt betrayed by this article or those who shared it. Honestly, I have to say that I feel these people are reacting from a place of feeling ashamed, and rather than taking ownership of not reading carefully — which is something we all are guilty of once in a while, don’t get me wrong — they instead are looking for somewhere else to place the blame. Again, further dividing us even amongst those we generally agree with.

I think my greatest point of contention lately has been with white people. Okay, so I am a white person — I’m super white and aside from being a gay man, have a lot of privilege that I own up to. I was raised in a middle class family when the middle class was still a thing, I had a full scholarship to a four-year college and parents who helped pay for my housing so I could get a degree, and I managed to get a full-time job with health coverage as the economy started to recover. Hell, I am even able to afford living in the San Francisco Bay Area, though it does take up a majority of my paycheck. But this isn’t about my success or my privilege.

It’s about how as white people, we do NOT get to say that we are uncomfortable with being associated with the bigots who elected Donald Trump into office. I don’t care how many LGBT or PoC friends you have, if you are white, you need to take ownership of your whiteness. I’m not sorry that you’re uncomfortable — too bad. You should be embarrassed by white people and enraged by white supremacy. This is not the time to say, “It’s not me.” That is so dangerously close to #AllLivesMatter that you might as well be saying #NotAllWhitePeople, and at that point you are normalizing the behavior of the right. This is NOT about you, white people.

I’m talking to you, too, white gays. Just because Trump said he won’t touch gay marriage, you think you can retreat to your safe white gay bubble and keep having your white gay brunch and live your white gay married life? You are part of the problem if this is you. The fight is not over. Do NOT forget the T in LGBT; even if Trump does not touch gay marriage, and Pence doesn’t do anything with conversion therapy, our trans* brothers and sisters still need us.

White people, it is time to learn about intersectionality. If you’re straight and white, the concept probably never really crossed your mind. Accept that it’s part of what you get for not being in a marginalized group in society and educate yourself. This is not the time to take offense at being grouped in with the closed-minded white folks. If you fall into that #NotAllWhitePeople trap you are just as bad as them. Prove you are better. Learn about how you can use your position of privilege to help those of us in need. Intersectionality means that you need to use your privilege to help those being systematically oppressed. The more privilege you have, the more we need you to help. Straight white folks, lift up your LGBT and PoC friends. Gay white folks, lift up your trans* and PoC friends. Straight PoC folks, lift up your LGBT friends. Physically abled people, lift up your differently abled friends.

If you are someone who is coming from a place of privilege and you sincerely want to help, or want to better educate yourself — I am happy to help anyone with an honest desire to grow more aware of how systematic oppression works. I am by no means an expert. If you want to donate your time or money, I am again not an expert, but I can try to point you in the right direction (for example, the Human Rights Campaign has historically made trans* folks feel excluded).

I am exhausted. I am tired. I want things to start feeling normal again. I think many of us are in that place right now. The day after the election, I felt defeated. I felt like I couldn’t even muster the power to fight. My friends who were feeling more empowered said they would fight for me. Each day, more and more friends started to feel that strength. I still don’t know how ready I am to stand up at fight, but the fact that I am putting this out there means that every day I am slowly getting there. We cannot sit by and hope things will be better in 2020. We need to start enacting change NOW. If you think you can ride 4 years of a Trump presidency, and that it’s “not so bad,” then you might as well just own up to caring more about yourself than you care about marginalized people.

At this point, we have two choices. We can either accept that the world has gone to shit, and that life is just one big joke where we can write in Harambe for president for the lulz, or we can decide that we are going to rise up from this. Please tell me that we are better than this. It’s time to prove it — or else we are fucked beyond belief, and Trump is the least of our worries.