I was deliberate in my choice of socks when I marched in the Women’s March on Washington. I wore a pair knitted by a conservative woman. She probably voted for Trump. So did a lot of other people, and I have neither the inclination nor the energy to hate them all, and it wouldn’t help a thing if I did. It’s important – vital, even – that we fight. But let’s remember who the real enemy is, and who they are not.
The Women’s March on Washington was organized around the principle of supporting those who would be most vulnerable in the upcoming administration. It was never intended to be anti-Trump, but, of course, many went there with that intent, nonetheless. My intention was to join with others and make the statement that bigotry does not have a mandate in the U.S.
Despite everything that has happened in the last few months, I still believe this to be true. Some 25% of the population voted for this demagogue, many, admittedly out of bigotry inflamed by a vicious autocrat. Many, however, voted for him for other reasons, be they economic or otherwise.
I do believe that anyone who voted for Trump needs to own up to his bigotry, and the fact that they voted for a bigot. If you voted for Trump, and don’t like his bigotry, now is the time to stand up and speak out. Many of you are decent people, honorable people. I won’t question your vote or humiliate you, but if you are silent in the face of the bigotry unleashed, you are complicit. It’s time to own up and do better. I do not want to be enemies with you, but I feel very comfortable calling you out on this. I want us all to do better.
Just as the ‘New Democrats’ need to own up to their elitism – yes, the right is valid in this criticism. The courting of Wall Street money and the supporting of Wall Street policies must end. I don’t care for one second about “That’s how the game is played,” or any other rationalization. You are hurting the country. It’s time to own up and do better. I do not want to be enemies with you, either, but I also feel very comfortable calling you out, as well. I want us all to do better.
The enemy is bigotry. The enemy is cronyism. The enemy is authoritarianism in all forms. The enemy is The Great Wall which divides us all, by race, by income, by religion or absence of religion, by cultural difference we do not even try to reconcile. The enemies are those, on either side of the aisle, who promote these policies, who validate a worldview of dominance and extreme hierarchy.
The enemy is NOT the lovely conservative woman who knitted my socks.
Bigotry is not just a conservative problem
I came out as a transsexual and transitioned to living my authentic self while working in an elementary school in a fairly liberal town, in a state with protections. We did everything right, and with the support of the principal. We had conversations. We attended a training. Reactions were varied, as might be expected.
Numerous people turned their back on me and scarcely spoke to me again. Letters of recommendation dried up. Letters which had once been glowing, came back with my new name, but with a tepid endorsement, which in the teaching profession equates to “Do not hire.” Others were nominally supportive but kept their distance.
I have had many liberal friends choke on my new name and quietly distance themselves from me. It’s not uncommon, I’m afraid.
For the record, I am talking about the reactions of the adults. The kids, almost to a one, were absolutely nonchalant about the whole thing. They knew I was essentially the same person, and that was good enough for them.
So did the lovely conservative woman who knitted my socks. I had always suspected this would be the case. Before I transitioned, I would lie awake, imagining reactions and conversations with people I knew. When it came to her, it was always short and easy. “I know she’s conservative, but she’s also very down to earth. She will be fine.”
Despite all the head-spinning and hand wringing beforehand, I was right about some people’s reactions, and surprised by others. With this conservative woman, however, I was spot on.
A few days after I started living authentically, we met in the hall and chatted briefly. She shrugged, and said, “Well, it’s not like it’s a choice.” And that was it. Nothing more was needed. More than any other single person, nothing, NOTHING at all changed between us. And she treated me as if nothing had changed at all. Exactly the same as she always had, which was decent, polite and friendly, all without the forced friendliness I’ve seen so many times with some of my more liberal friends.
Would that it had worked that simply with everyone.
I’m not saying we are besties or anything like that. She was an acquaintance, not a close friend. That does change things. But, still. It was nice to feel normal.
That’s right, as much as anyone, this conservative woman gave me what I craved more than anything else in my transition: a sense of normality, a sense that yes, I actually was the same person. A sense that I was valued as a human as much as any other human.
Too many times I have seen memes and comments deriding the ‘stupid conservatives’ who voted for Trump and are now being deported, losing health insurance, etc. Laughing at the regretters, finding some need to grind them down and humiliate them.
I get it. I know the feelings of anger and righteousness, the fear, all of it. I’m a transsexual, remember? Few people have more reason to feel afraid and angry than someone like me. We have been on the front lines of the culture war for some time now, and the change of administration has put us right in the gun sights. Truly, it sucks to be me right now.
But none of that helps anything. Humiliating people who are on the verge of reconsidering their choices does not bring them to our side. It does not make them step back on their bigotry, if they are doing that. It does not bring them into some sane middle ground. It entrenches them in their hatred of us. It reinforces their stereotypes of liberals as elitists. It makes things worse.
Please stop it. All of it.
Work instead towards something positive. Working for change actually helps bring change. Vilifying those who oppose us boosts your ego for five minutes. Think about that, and think about what we are actually fighting for. Think about who the real enemies are, and who they are not. It matters.
Oh, by the way: I also brought a change of socks. Seriously, if you’re going to be on your feet all day protesting, with a six hour bus ride home at the end, you’ll be MUCH happier with clean, dry socks. Little comforts matter, too.