Whew. It’s been brutal out there these past few weeks.
Fires that have burned for centuries have exploded across social media, whisking so many of us further and further out into the churning waters of our American shadow.
After 523 days of President Trump, we didn’t think it could get worse.
But it did.
And it will. Get worse still. hat’s the horrifying medicine and, if we allow it, eventually the transformative gift of the shadow: You go further into your darkness than thought possible. And then further still.
Yet, here we are. Living to fight another day. As each of us stare in the mirror of our day and decide which reflection to put on, I wanted to offer four “please”s for your consideration.
Please don’t say things have never been worse. While we’ve had some real rogues as president and a few petulant men, too, it certainly is arguable than no president has exhibited more appalling behavior than Donald Trump. But from a policy standpoint, from the arena of government action, well there things certainly have been worse. Yes, it is reprehensible to forcibly separate immigrant children from their parents, but have you looked at America’s foster care system lately? Have you forgotten how we have treated African Americans…from day one….or how we used to steal Native American children from their families…in the 20th Century? Do you remember the days of back alley abortions? If you’re gay, do you remember when we couldn’t even get the New York Times to talk about AIDS or when the American Psychiatric Association thought our sexual orientation was a mental illness? So, yes, things are bad, but please don’t say they’ve never been worse. Not only does it ignore those who have fought before, worse, it ignores those who are fighting still.
In ways that most of us could never imagine.
Please do use facts as your weapon. You don’t need a political consultant or a brilliant talking head to help you make an argument for what is wrong with America. The facts speak for themselves. When 2.5 million children are homeless in America each year, when women have outpaced men for the past twenty years in earning college degrees…yet still are paid less, when 115 Americans will die today from an opiod overdose, and when black men serve prison sentences that are 19% longer than white men who create the same crime…when all of this is happening in America, you don’t need spin. You need action. And, while emotion can be a great incentive to action, I can’t think of a single political fight that I’ve seen won by emotion.
Especially in times such as these when folks are so polarized, so angry.
If you truly want to turn things around in America, if for example, you want to put Democrats back in charge of the House, the Senate, or White House, then your target audience is very narrow. It is the undecided voter. The one who looks doesn’t really like what she sees in either party and can’t decide which lever to pull as she holds her nose. Now, perhaps your experience has been different than mine, but when I’m trying to reach someone who is turned off by vitriolic, divisive rhetoric, I usually don’t persuade them by being vitriolic and divisive.
Plus, truly, when it comes to the immature “fu%K yous” and “Permit Patty” shaming that’s sweeping America, all I can think is, “Where is you people’s mother?”
Please don’t say all is lost. We’ve been here before and, if you haven’t, let me give you the number of my aunt who’s been fighting misogyny for seventy years or my New Orleans friend whose daughter murdered her children because she could not get the treatment she needed. Let me summon the ghosts of my friends, our brothers, who died of AIDS in hospital beds where nurses would not even touch them. Or let me tell you stories of having rocks thrown at me when I worked for the first openly gay Member of Congress.
All wasn’t lost then…and all isn’t lost now. Even though the current administration’s behavior is terrifying. Even though, at least for some of us, we thought some of these battles were won.
Besides when you say you care, when you say “my voice will not be silenced” and, yet, you use that voice to talk only of despair or say all is lost, you are taking hope away from the very people you profess to care about. I doubt that’s what you intend.
There’s not much I like about Bill Clinton, but I do still agree with him: I still believe in a place called hope.
Please do be kind. After a brutal few days on Facebook last week, I decided to make a daily point of saying something nice to someone I don’t know…on Facebook and out in the real world. To say “congrats” in response to a job announcement or “that’s a great color on you” to someone I see leaving the grocery store.
We’ll see how long it lasts, but even if it ends tomorrow, I put a little more kindness out in the world than was there.
Which, in the end is really all of us can do. There’s not a person alive who’s going to truly fix what is wrong with America’s immigration policies or create full equality for women or provide true justice for African Americans.
And least not yet. Not today.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t try. That doesn’t mean we don’t have hope and kindness. Perspective and action.
That doesn’t mean we stop trying, in the words of Robert Baden-Powell, ” to leave this world a little better than we found it.”
Thanks for reading. I hope you and life’s blessings meet up at least once today.