Yes, We Are Snowflakes. And We Are Proud.
Once again, a Facebook troll called me a snowflake and suggested I should head over to Walmart for a safety pin.
I responded: “I don’t believe you.”
I told him, it’s not that I don’t believe that he’s hateful and ignorant. I just don’t believe he would have the courage and cruelty to call me those things to my face. Makes the insult like fake news.
But I suppose the label also has a kernel of truth. There are times when I feel fragile. When I feel like I can melt under the heat of cruelty and oppression. Plenty of my friends share that. They feel overwhelmed by a country that has suddenly turned hostile. Hostile to “the other” — blacks, women, Mexicans, Muslims, gays and transgendered.
So many of us snowflakes. Life was hard enough, but now to wake every day in Trump’s America. Getting out of bed can feel like an act of courage.
The insult is telling, though, because it turns weakness into a blight. If that sounds familiar, maybe that’s because it carries more than a whiff of fascism. I used to consider WWII comparisons intellectually lazy. But, in our time, in America, it’s the only decent frame of reference for fascism.
In modern times, fascism is seen as a broad, vague insult, like racist, and those who stand against the snowflakes and safe spaces reject it. (“I’m not a fascist! You’re a fascist!”) I think, they’d embrace it if they understood its meaning. (It could mean that they get to win even more!) Not only does it embrace authoritarianism (as in, society is a total mess and only one person can save it — sound familiar?), it also supports social Darwinism, the idea that those on top deserve their stations in life and those on the bottom deserve theirs.
How did we get here?
Many on the right would see it as an obsession with the victim. As America began growing a conscience in the past two centuries, realizing that stealing this country from our indigenous people was wrong, that kidnapping and enslaving people from Africa to build our agriculture was evil, we wrestled with the idea of how to right this crooked vessel. Our path to social justice has been a rough one, a revolution that often pit our fear of outsiders against this ambitious American experiment of freedom and multi-culturalism.
In our struggles to right the wrongs of our history, we have worked to create a place that really does offer justice and opportunity for all. But it’s been messy. It took us through the civil war and civil rights movement. And many in power saw something that looked like the rise of victimhood. If you’re oppressed, suddenly it’s unfair that our country is trying to bend over backward (with such tools as affirmative action) to help you go to school or get a job.
I worked as a journalist in Colorado Springs during the rise of the anti-gay rights movement by the Christian right. In 1992, Colorado voters passed Amendment 2, which gave people the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
But that’s not how the amendment’s proponents sold it. It was about “special rights.” Proponents talked about how minorities enjoyed these special rights based on their “protected status.” But homosexuality was a behavior and shouldn’t be protected in that way. The Colorado Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.
A short time later, when Obama rose to become America’s first black president, the anti special-rights-affirmative-action camp galvanized in anger and spread as never before, and they found support on conservative radio and TV stations. Their ultimate champion was the white reality show billionaire who got into politics by questioning the legitimacy of the first black president. Obama had to be a mistake. Maybe he was from Kenya. It just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like America anymore.
Trump would take America back.
So, here we are, with the outsiders and the snowflakes taking to the streets, calling our congressional representatives — forming The Resistance.
We must call out fascism whenever and wherever we see it. That is not who we are as Americans. We are a people made stronger by our differences and even our weaknesses.
I understand that if you look at President Trump in the right light and squint your eyes, bravado can look a lot like strength. It can embolden followers who find self-affirmation in bullying those insane libtards and maybe even a few Jews and Muslims.
A friend of mine who’s the editorial page editor at our city’s conservative Phil Anschutz-owned newspaper sees this Trump revolution as payback. He feels like he’s been called a racist for the past eight years simply for speaking out against Obama’s economic policies.
Now, my friend feels empowered. Those who called him racist will now face his taunt of being “snowflakes,” because they’re just too fragile and melty to handle frank talk about the flaws of Obama’s presidency, reverse racism and white man’s burden.
Behind this new empowerment lies a legitimate question: How long must white men must pay for the sins of their ancestors? I don’t know the answer to that, but those who believe we’re there, that we’re now in a post-racial society and it’s time to just operate as if we’re color blind, ignore the institutional (and personal) racism that continues to prevent equal opportunity for all. Breaking from the narratives of victim and oppressor could take centuries, and although I see this swing to the right as a move in the wrong direction, the march of civil rights has never been a straight line. Nor has it been easy.
So here we snowflakes sit, lying in the hot sun, not just melting but boiling, the day-to-day injustices burning and hissing. In that transformation, the climate is changing. The Resistance is gathering like streams to a raging river. The current we feel may not be simply the vagaries of politics.
It could be the movement of something much more powerful.
Warren Epstein was a longtime journalist at The Tampa Tribune and the Colorado Springs Gazette.