If you’re finding yourself shouting that we’ve read about this in history books, we’ve seen how this plays out based on the past, we know where we are heading because we’ve watched other countries march into their future to the same vicious drum beat, then know you aren’t alone.
I often find myself too frustrated for words, which says something as I’m paid to do it for a living. This frustration then turns into fear. Fear of not being able to accurately express myself. Fear of remaining relatable enough to both those who feel similarly so they know they aren’t alone and those who may disagree but will continue to read.
Then that other fear rears its ugly head. The one where I add to the often misused and now politicized word: divisiveness.
So I don’t write.
I avoid putting the words down.
I tell myself that the actions I take, whether that’s donating to causes, marching the streets, encouraging people to vote are important–and they are–so that should be enough.
But, truth be told, for me, living my truth means putting it down into words.
A declaration in times like these is too crucial to be avoided.
It’s imperative that people know where you stand.
And if you’re murking in the shadows, feeling that it isn’t right or the best time or your voice is just one amongst many or that you may offend people you love, I’d like to pause for a moment.
Perhaps sharing a personal story can show us that we are more alike than different right now.
I wasn’t always declaring my Not Your Average Gal-ness. I desperately wanted to be “normal” and fit in during school, simultaneously embracing my quirks but also just wanting to be asked to the dance so I could feel like everyone else it seemed. (Key word being seemed.) I dealt with the blow back of saying what was right and wrong enough that I became somewhat of an outcast on one side of my family. That sort of rejection is painful, especially given it’s family. It gave me pause for years as to what I should or shouldn’t say in front of people in order to remain affable.
But the hard reality is, the truth exposes itself eventually. Whether that’s from lies and secrets uncovering themselves, a product of ruthless erosion that time relentlessly provides. Or from enough people waving the white flag of exhaustion, their conscience unable to stomach the ugly bile of knowing what’s right, what’s true.
What happened was I found out quite quickly while telling my truths, that I wasn’t alone. Sharing my thoughts only uncovered that shroud of secrecy in our similarities.
I’d hate to think I left someone feeling alone because I wasn’t willing to say something out loud.
So here we are.
Founded, substantiated, not an opinion, not up for debate, not simply a preference, not simply a difference of opinion.
Science is real.
Black lives matter.
Rural America isn’t stupid.
Women’s rights are human rights.
The pandemic isn’t a hoax.
Climate change is happening.
My ER doc husband and his hospital aren’t getting kickbacks for COVID.
I watch too much reality TV.
None of these statements are political in nature. None. If you’ve been convinced otherwise—on either side—you’ve been conned. Hard stop.
Okay, I’ll carry on…
On a fundamental level, people want to be heard, to be valued, to know their life matters.
Whether that manifests itself amongst often-forgotten rural America that idolizes a guy with a relatable no-holds-barred-approach, that sneers at the political elite and jeers at fellow Americans who don’t look or talk like them. Or reveals itself through country-wide marches decrying the lack of value for black lives, systemic struggles amongst minorities, all while we watch another Black American murdered in broad daylight in our streets.
Scared about the loss of jobs, about a deadly disease, scared for the lives of our fellow citizens.
So it’s the perfect moment for fear. It’s the perfect moment to play into the worst amongst us, stroking it with a consoling hand that it isn’t anyone else’s fault, but that other guy’s.
What happens when fear reigns supreme, is a blow-hard dives in and points to fellow citizens as the problem. It’s the immigrants. It’s China. It’s the government red-tape. It’s women who are asking for it. It’s not raking your leaves properly to prevent wide-spread, catastrophic wildfires. It’s 200,000 lives lost because…it is what it is.
That’s exactly what Donald Trump is doing. Playing into our worst fears. Giving it a voice.
So, I’m using mine.
This isn’t the America I know. Frankly though, I didn’t know it well enough before.
I love my country. Each time my flight descends and the squeaky wheels hit the runway announcing my arrival back into America, I feel a sense of calm and pride. Conservatives and republicans may tell you the liberal mob hates America, but the hard truth is, they do not own patriotism. (Oh, and I’m not in a liberal mob.) I may have serious issues with our American past, I may not like certain bills that are passed, I may fundamentally disagree with lots of politicians, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’m not grateful to be born here. Proud to put my hand over my heart and sing the national anthem or take a knee silently asking for change. I didn’t understand Making America Great Again because it was already great in my mind. It’s certainly been a harder stance to take as of late.
But, that shroud of my privileged, cushy life revealed itself as fellow Americans painfully decried this isn’t the place they liked or the life they wanted for their children. On both sides, mind you.
(For what it’s worth, the catchphrase Make America Great Again quite simply, by the words itself, means America isn’t great.)
What we’re witnessing now is slow descent away from democracy and the normalization of crude, compassion-less hate for fellow Americans. Political scientists are often left struggling to find another time in modern history where political decency has left the building and calling women nasty or Mexicans rapists is acceptable.
So we’re left with an election and a political call to arms: putting country over party.
Conservative family and friends have confided in me their regret for voting for Trump in 2016. That he does not represent the Republican party they joined decades ago. That his lack of political knowledge and all-out disdain for foreign policy scares them.
I’m left wondering, is that enough? Is that fear enough to get them to vote outside their typical party?
The fact is this is more than party-politics too. It’s about the security of our nation, the fundamentals of democracy crumbling. Nearly 500 national security officials formally backed Biden this week, with some saying the announcement was political. They would be right. To publicly politically align with a candidate, when in the past that move would be considered a faux pas, is saying this goes beyond politics now.
It’s about our country.
I’m not naive enough to think this small corner of the interwebs would do anything to change the all hail Trump crowd. As they’ve been told, either by political talking heads or Trump himself, you and me are the reason this country sucks so much. Anyone not a part of their crowd is somehow part of the liberal elite, the mainstream media and certainly isn’t a proper Republican if they don’t vote for Trump.
The two-party system leaves much to be desired. So much so that even when a man with the Presidential crest shrugs when questioned about hundreds of thousands of Americans dying, they are still left wondering if they can vote for the other party.
Biden certainly isn’t my ideal candidate, but this election is about more than just me.
What I found as I marched in Washington in 2017, rallied to get out the vote in 2018, sat through hours-long Women’s March, Moms Demand Action and Black Lives Matter meetings listening to women and men tell their experiences which profoundly altered my worldview and then marched alongside my black community for their lives in 2020—is that we all love our country and citizens enough to want better.
Wrapped in that nugget of love is the complexity of a modern revolution demanding to take place.
Your vote is part of that.
Your voice is part of that.
Your actions are part of that.
Silence can be deceiving. Especially on social media. As people have reminded me, their silence on social media shouldn’t be mistaken for condoning the current administration. Their actions of joining anti-racism groups, advocating for voting access and making sure nursing homes are registered to vote in real life are far more effective. Performative allyship, placing that black box in your feed and forgetting the daily struggle, is certainly much worse.
Which leads me to my job.
I may find it easier to share exactly how I feel, exactly how horrified I am, than others do. But I know others are feeling similarly.
It’s critically important that your friends and family know who you are voting for so they do not feel so alone when going to the voting booth or mailing in ballots.
Be sure the people you love know it and know why it’s important to you that they know. There is power in numbers. Power in knowing you have an army of people hoping decency reigns again.
So I share these words, so you can too.
In the last episode of Challenger: The Final Flight on Netflix, in which they recount the tragedy of the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986, then Vice President George Bush is caught off-guard while walking down a hall and asked what he thinks of the explosion.
It was a simple response. One in which he said he doesn’t have the full details yet. One where he said he was sad and his heart goes out to the families of the astronauts on the space shuttle and for what they must be going through right now.
It was such an unremarkable response then. And yet, here in 2020, my husband and I both reached for the remote to hit pause so we could revel in the dignity.
It was a profound moment because we’d forgotten.
We’ve forgotten that sort of compassion that is critical to hold the office.
Compassion that is necessary when representing all of us.
When I vote in this election it is not just for me, for my party, for my taxes, for my stocks, for my family—it’s for freakin’ all of us.
Well written and well researched. In the end, I don’t like either of them. I didn’t vote for Trump and I loathe to do so now. But Biden? Are these really the best two we could come up with? I might write in Michele Obama.
Lots to think about.
Please don’t. The third party vote is why Trump will be re-elected and what will allow the dumpster fire that has been the last four years to continue. Campaign for Michelle 2024 (love that idea), but do not, under any circumstances sit this one out. The most vulnerable people in our community are counting on it.
Caroline Peterson says
I will campaign with you for Michelle! I understand the feeling that Biden isn’t the ideal candidate. I have a hard time swallowing that he is somehow the lesser of two evils (which I know you didn’t say), when he’s standing next to a man who mocks POC, people with disabilities, women and on top of it, lies so much that we now question everything that is reported out of the highest office in our country. I worry what another 4 years will look like with that sort of disgust for fellow Americans. I really appreciate you reaching out and saying something though, even taking the time to think about it and say as much.
At this point – in this moment – silence implies complicity and being complicity right now suggests that you are comfortable with the privilege you enjoy and are not worried about the folks who do not have the same privilege. It’s time to call it like we see it and create the cognitive dissonance for those Republicans claiming this isn’t the party they joined years ago – and they’re going to have to take a stand against this admin and every candidate the condones white supremacy in all its forms. Voting for the tax cut (or any other single issue) is a vote against the humanity of other people. Full stop. This admin has shown us exactly who they are. No more pretending that it might not be that bad. It is and it will be. The only acceptable answer is to vote him out.
Caroline Peterson says
Feel you so much on this! I had a few friends reach out to show me that their silence (on social media) is only one portion: the other being their actions. I had to hold some space for that. They are actively phone banking, texting, canvassing, going to anti-racism groups, talking to their children and while I may not see is on the iterwebs, and assume their silence means complicity, it isn’t the full picture. All that said, I do find it chilling how non-phased some people seem by all of this. “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” comes to mind. I find it easier to write and speak about it that way, some may not. But I urge them, as you’ve said, to reconsider. This is too important of a time in our lives.