No Matter the Election Results, We Already Lost as a Species
It’s still Election night as I’m writing this post and I’m already feeling a deep sense of disappointment and existential dread. Results from the election are too close to call and we may not know until the end of the week what they are, but what I do know is that it shouldn’t have been this close — period.
Unprecedented early voting results signaled the likelihood that we would have historic, record-breaking numbers of voters engaged in civic participation. That’s positive; I’ll give you that. However, early results from battleground states, local elections, and the clear absence of a Democratic landslide across the country reveals that our sickness runs deeper and wider than I had originally thought.
How we have failed ourselves, our children, and future generations
Kentucky helped bring Mitch McConnell to victory, South Carolina endorsed Linsday Graham for his fourth term, Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Senate seat in Georgia three to one against her opponent, and Tommy Tuberville, a football coach, defeated incumbent Doug Jones in Alabama.
McConnell has been described as a “real evil” “apex predator” who “sold America.” Not too far behind him is Lindsay Graham whose flip flopping on issues of moral gravity has earned him the title of the most “shameless man” in America — in my words, a “sycophant.”
Amongst just this group, we have a toxic mix of active complicity, endorsement, or engagement in corruption, hypocrisy, conspiracy-theory peddling, and/or supremely consequential and dangerous inexperience.
Meanwhile, Trump won most of the Southern states — Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virgina, Tennessee, and Louisiana. Virgina was the only holdout amongst its peers who remained blue. Apparently, GOP attack ads comparing voting for Biden to voting for a socialist or “communist” — very different categories, by the way — was successful in convincing Hispanic immigrants in Florida that they were on a precipice towards returning to the dangers associated with their native countries, from which they worked so hard to escape.
No matter to Southern states whose coronavirus rates have been skyrocketing under incompetent, science-denying leaders whose blind allegiance to Trump, has been, apparently, a positive, rather than, negative factor. Wow.
What the results, so far, reiterates, is that white Americans — especially those in Rust Belt and Southern states — are so deeply trauma-bonded with our Abuser-in-Chief that they are no longer just a threat to themselves, they are also a threat to all of humanity. The costs of such support doesn’t just come in lives lost, but also in the social, economic, and environmental costs of sexism, racism, bigotry of all kinds, corruption and grift, double-standards, science-denial, and fact-ignoring as a cultural norm that will literally take generations to undo.
Who and what I blame
It’s everyone’s fault. No matter how many text or calls you’ve sent or made for this election, your sudden “wokeness” has likely been insufficient to counter our collective relinquishing of power to heterosexual white men for hundreds of years over every aspect of our life — from our bodies, to our relationships, to our children, to our livelihood itself.
If we are sticking to this most recent century, I blame everyone alive from Reconstruction onwards, who allowed the south to reframe their loss as a cause for collective pride instead of collective shame — leading to generations of bigotry and systemic discrimination that has been normalized, masked as “culture,” and hidden to those of us who care(d) to know the difference. How the Confederate flag, monuments to slave owners and Southern Civil War traitors, and “Daughters of the American Revolution”-type organizations was not uniformly blasted as racist, shameful, sore-losing behavior is beyond me.
I blame white Christian Evangelical culture for being predatory and preying on people who were already weak and frightened, terrorized by a capitalist culture which puts profit over lives and human well-being, who were too lazy, fragile or both to do the work to disabuse themselves of their own indoctrination into our white male capitalist patriarchal kyriarchy. Democracy and our democratic institutions and principles are not a static state of being but a process we strive towards and each of us must all commit to protecting — everyday — in our choices and acts.
I blame all of us who are complicit in equating “American” culture with white culture, gun culture, sports culture, and material culture. This starts with our failure for far too long to include diverse representation of the richness of American faces in film, on television, and in the books we read to our children. It continues with our glorification of athletes and reality television stars as role models for our children who can do no wrong, even when they are credibly accused of doing much harm to a whole lot of people.
Activist Bree Newsome Bass puts it best when she summarizes how the NFL exploits bodies for profit, writing that “The Superbowl is the high-holy day of white-supremacist capitalism in America” and calling out the NFL as the “modern day gladiator sport” where Black players are recruited for display and public consumption and play until physical and mental injury or debilitation, offering young Black boys the illusion that they too can become wealthy and revered. What Newsome Bass failed to include was the intersectional nature of such performative inclusion — namely how sports culture, especially college sports, is linked to, the cause or enabler of rape culture, sexism and misogyny. Once again, harm to women is ignored, minimized or rendered invisible.
It’s not just rape culture but sexism and misogyny that is pervasive in sports. Athletes in all professional leagues — too many to name — have been credibly accused and proven to be domestic abusers. And rather than hold these individuals accountable — just like police and law enforcement culture where domestic abuse is ubiquitous — we allow league owners to dispense sanctions on violating players for hurting their wives and partners that are more lenient than if they drove drunk or took performance-enhancing drugs.
The above excerpt is taken from an NPR interview with Deborah Epstein, a former consultant to the NFL and member of their Players’ Commission on violence. She resigned in 2018 after serving four years and attributed her decision to their inaction to rape culture and violence against women, ignoring her recommendations and those of other members of the commission. Epstein shares a story of the Leagues’s active promotion of sexist and misogynistic views and behavior in the following example: A female league representative reminded the wives at a luncheon that they should submit to sex without consent — e.g., marital rape — because of their implicit deal through their marriage to receive material security and well-being, in exchange for sex on demand by their husbands. Is it any wonder that college students are chanting “No means yes!” in college fraternities across the country?
What we can still do
Women’s rights, human rights, public health, the economy, democracy iself, the planet — these are all at stake in the 2020 US elections. Already, in Facebook groups, people are making implicit and explicit demands on me to soften my tone around the immense disappointment I have in our human race, not recognizing those demands as part of the problem that has contributed to where we are today. To help us stay on track with what we need to do and focus on, regardless of the election outcome, I’ve come up with a list of things we need to consider doing, NOW, in order to stem the tide of our impending doom.
Stop promoting sexism, racism, bigotry of any kind as “culture” or “religion.” Humans constructed those institutions and can make any excuse for bad behavior and cultural norms in order to serve individual, corporate or powerful interests. There is usually some underlying connection with hoarding and maintaining power over that entails sacrificing values of equality, justice, and freedom from violence and oppression that is at stake when artificial categories are used to delineate, limit access or opportunity.
Stop equating intellectualism, critical thinking skills, and respect for science and expert knowledge with “elistism.” Parents should be encouraging all children to build these “future of work” skills which require social-emotional learning to be placed front and center, along with academics. Children and adults who can’t use their minds to differentiate fact from propaganda because they don’t have a pulse on their own implicit bias can be just as dangerous as those who choose violence explicitly to dominate.
Stop gender policing our boys and telling them their worth, masculinity, and status is a function of how effectively they can use domination or violence over others to maintain power over others whom society deems weak, less than, less deserving, or feminine. This “power over” framework is the root of patriarchy, militarism, and our culture of hegemonic masculinity.
Stop telling boys athleticism is a worthy pursuit, outside of its ability to provide skills to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. Sports involvement should not be construed as desirable for sexual prowess status, wealth-attainment, or easy access to get “girls” or engage in sexual exploitation or violence. Athletes should be celebrated for their athletic accomplishments — without artificial interventions — not purely because they are rich and famous. If they happen to have additional qualifying traits — like using their voice to uplift the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society — we can and should celebrate that too.
Stop equating “inclusion and “inclusiveness” with blind acceptance into groups of people with no moral backbone or whose views and beliefs are direct threats to the safety and well-being of other members in the group. Tolerating hate is not a form of tolerance but enablement of harm.
Stop sending message to our girls and women that our worth and value is tied to our femininity, reproductive abilities, youth, attractiveness, or anything external and superficial that is not related to health and well-being. No — Kim Kardashian — or any member of her family — should not be our role model, and we shouldn’t be further enriching any individual or institution whose values and behavior are not consistent with promoting authentic equality for women, BIPOC, immigrants, and any group we have artifically deemed marginal and disenfranchised through socially-constructed definitions of hierarchal positioning.
Our planet has been telling us that our ways of being is harmful to our health, our homes, our communities, and to the long-term sustainability of human life on earth itself. We have chosen not to listen to her messages. What will it take to finally wake us all up to the fact that we can no longer ignore its call to action? I hope for all of our sakes, the disappointingly close results so far in our Presidential elections will be enough.