What Does It Mean To Be A “Friend” In 2019?

“People talk about politics as if it’s this isolated, abstract concept that only matters at election time. Somebody’s politics is their world view. It’s whether they think certain human beings deserve rights. It’s how they think the world should be. And if somebody thinks that the world should be colder, meaner, less accepting and downright hostile to people that are different to them, then sure as f*ck is the friendship over.”

litanyofexcuses, 2016

I saw this on Twitter the other day and, though harsh, was struck by it’s accuracy for how I’m feeling at this point in our national nightmare AND with potus at an 88% approval rating (Gallup) from fellow republicans.
Let me explain why.

I’ve been told by some of my conservative friends that my political views are extreme, and maybe even a bit confrontational. I’ve also been told that I don’t sound willing to compromise in a way that might lead to a civil conversation with ANY republican, friend or foe.

My views aren’t particularly extreme. They are, however, a reflection of my desire to live a full life with my civil rights intact; as both a Black man and a Gay man. I’m also a 55 year-old man for whom healthcare coverage is a must, not a convenience. And ever since the ACA was passed into law, I’ve watched republicans gleefully applaud efforts to strip away my healthcare. So you’ll have to excuse me if my fight for survival gets in the way of a ‘civil’ conversation.

But I digress. This essay is about the above quote. In particular, it’s about the final line about friendships. Would I let my political views affect, or end, friendships?

Before President Obama, I probably would have said, “No.” Everything changed dramatically, however, as the election of our first African-American president gave rise to some of the most overt racism we’d seen in years. Some on my timeline vigorously minimized examples of racism towards Obama with their own examples of “reverse racism”. The “Both Sides” argument. My patience grew thin with a few of them, and friendships were indeed terminated.

Fast forward to 2019… My ‘extreme’ views, if they are such, are borne out of survival. republicans have become a party for legislative bigotry and cruelty. They are the party who want Black men to be silent and not question them on why they support our deaths at the hands of law enforcement. They are the party who want the LGBTQ community to suck it up when fired or denied goods/services because we make someone uncomfortable due to their religious views.

And as mentioned above, they are the party that gleefully tried to strip healthcare from myself and millions of other people like me, with nothing in its’ place.

So if those republican politics are your politics, I am in agreement with the author that they likely reflect your world view. If they don’t yet you still support politicians who take these actions, then you are complicit and just as culpable.

(NOTE: I haven’t even scratched the surface of the other political atrocities of the day like family separations, camps for separated immigrant children, white nationalists working at the highest levels of the government, and an inability to pass common sense gun legislation just to name a few.)

More importantly, if my demise is your world view, then our ‘friendship’ never really existed, or maybe only on a cursory level. Maybe. To be clear, I would never applaud or defend the loss of civil rights and liberty for anyone I refer to as “my friend”. I’d be mad, and would do something – anything – to help right the wrong. I wouldn’t turn to them and say, “Your views are extreme, and maybe you should tone it down a bit” as they fight for survival and a place at the table.

My hope is that people who consider themselves ‘my friend’ will look inside themselves, and ask the tough questions that need to be asked before we get to an irreversible reckoning. I’m not asking anyone to not be a republican. By all means, feel free to be a conservative if you can do so in today’s environment while also supporting the friends in your life.

If you are unable, or unwilling to ask those questions and come out the other side, then we’ll have our answer as to whether or not “sure as f*ck is the friendship over”. The choice is yours. Not mine.

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The Silent Cowardice of the Trump Voter

[Disclaimer: This post is neither agreeable or conciliatory. If you’re a Trump voter, Trump sympathizer, or GOP voter who stuck your head in the sand, you may want to go elsewhere.]

A few weeks ago, I posted ‘I Want an Honest Discussion with a Trump Voter!‘ with the sincere hope that such a discussion would help me move beyond my disdain for those who helped him win over Clinton. Any calls for my acceptance of this national nightmare must be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the racism and bigotry upon which the Trump campaign was built.

I’m sad to report that not a single Trump voter took me up on my offer. I had one nibble through an intermediary, but that went south after they read my post and objected to my reference of Trump as a Cheeto-colored race-baiting narcissist. They didn’t like the “name-calling”. (If anyone can prove to me which of these is untrue, I’ll post a retraction.)

Since Trump did nothing but call people names, to great applause and cheers, at his rallies, I’m at a loss to understand the ironically fragile constitution of Trump voters. Moving on…

I was warned by many that there would be no takers. Still, I remained hopeful that at least one Trump voter would finally tell me the truth behind their vote. That, while acknowledging some would be hurt, they hoped that the promised change to DC’s “business as usual” culture might be good for all of us in the long run.

It didn’t happen.
Not a single individual, either on Facebook or in person, admitted to voting for Trump. Needless to say, it’s extremely difficult to have a two-sided conversation with only myself. The silence has been deafening, and also somewhat shocking.

Hate crimes, particularly against Muslims and Jews, are on the rise. Racist public rants by Trump supporters, shared on social media, have become more common. We’ve even started to jeopardize long-standing international diplomatic protocols, putting us at odds with the likes of China (which owns much of our debt). Yet we hear no criticism from those more interested in having “won” than they are in the welfare of the country and their fellow citizens.

It’s either indifference or, more likely, cowardice. If it’s not indifference to this troubling turn of events, then it’s cowardice.

If you voted for Trump, own it. It wasn’t magic. People voted for him. Even if it was simply a feel-good MAGA vote, YOU voted for him. Please note, however, that along with that vote for a Donna Reed past that wasn’t great for many of us, you also own the post-election shit that’s come – and will be coming – with it i.e. more hate crimes, more emboldened racists and white supremacists, more international tensions, etc.

Even if you won’t own your vote, you’re still a coward if you don’t speak up when you see the president-elect and his supporters taking actions that hurt your fellow private citizens, private companies, or our standing in the world. For God’s sake, if you claim to love America, then stand up for shared American values and not just your self-serving ideology.

I’m fully aware that my tone is off-putting. Some might even call it offensive. I could potentially even lose friends over this. I’m okay with this, and I’ll tell you why. Most elections are ideological battles: Democrat v Republican, Left v Right, Liberal v Conservative. This election was different. Ideology was replaced by human decency, with battles based upon supporters definitions (and acceptance) of decency v indecency.

Pussy-grabbing (sexual assault) became acceptable behavior. White supremacy became white supremacy. A private email server became grounds for treason and locking up political opponents. Female journalists were targeted and abused as part of a candidate’s stump speech. It was horrifying.

The worst part, however, was not about ideology or decency. It was the fear-filled reality of campaign promises that would definitively hurt tens of millions of Americans.

Trump vowed  to repeal the Affordable Care Act, stripping health insurance from 20-30 million people. He vowed  to sign a federal Religious Freedom act that would allow legal discrimination of the LGBTQ community. He vowed to ban Muslim entry into the US, and to create a registry for Muslim citizens. He vowed to deport all illegals, including Dream-ers. And he expressed a desire to institute a national Stop-and-Frisk, criminally profiling Blacks and Latinos.

These are facts. If you’re a Trump voter, you can assuage your guilt by repeating any one of a number of ridiculous assertions about Hillary Clinton. But it would simply be deflection. Your vote for Trump was, for all practical purposes, a vote for his campaign promises.

I am directly targeted by three of these promises(ACA repeal, Religious Freedom, and Stop-and-Frisk). So if you voted for Trump and are offended by this piece, I don’t care. I’m offended by your duplicity. If “All Lives Matter”, then all lives must matter: not just white, Christian lives.

This election will go down in history as a real-life version of ‘The Space Traders’. In this short story by Derrick Bell, aliens (in the form of Ronald Reagan) come to the US with a promise to relieve all of its’ woes in exchange for the country’s entire African-American population. Ultimately, the white majority votes to give the African-Americans to the aliens. They’re gathered up, and loaded onto the alien ships. The end.

The parallels are undeniable. Republicans and Trump supporters, in their quest to make America great again, have essentially done the same thing without alien intervention.

So I repeat: if you are offended, I don’t care. The real pain I’m going to be facing for the next four years, and that of millions of other Americans, is way more important to me than your offense.

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A Few Idealistic Thoughts on this Particular Martin Luther King Day

Photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto, nobelprize.org

A few thoughts swirled in my head as our nation celebrated the life of this great Civil Rights icon while in preparation for the inauguration of the most divisive president-elect in my lifetime. (The term ‘bitter irony’ comes to mind.)

The first, shared by many on Twitter as well, was that there’s no way on God’s green Earth that we could ever pass another holiday for a Black man in this racial climate. If we can’t get proper justice for the brazen killings of Black men even with damning video evidence, a federal holiday is pretty much out of the question.

The second was imagining the horror, and immense frustration, that he might feel seeing our nation regress so badly with respect to race relations: with the election of our first Black president as the catalyst .

The third was a bit more reflective.

I proudly identify as a Black & Gay man. But there are significant problems within each of those communities. With each death of a Black man or woman at the hands of authorities, we must look at the deaths of Black men and women by our own. Where are WE remiss? Do we treat each other with respect? Do we value our own lives? Do we treat each other as we demand of the white majority?

I’d like to believe ‘mostly yes’, but wouldn’t bet my savings on it.

It’s easy to protest against a race-baiting fascist, backed by a racially tone-deaf House and Senate in a criminal & judicial system that was built on racism, and demand our due rights. The hard part is making sure that, within our community, we are treating one another with the same standard that we’re demanding.

The same is true of the LGBTQ community. Racism, ageism, and ‘fatism’ are rampant. However, since they’re all masked under the guise of ‘sexual preference’, they’re often excused and sometimes even encouraged.

I can’t speak for the lesbian community, but I’ve heard many gay men state a racial preference for dating while vigorously feigning victimhood when called a racist. In fact, I had someone once tell me that I was a cute… for a Black guy. And I’m sure that he saw nothing wrong with saying so. He likely meant it as a compliment. Therein lies the racist rub.

Don’t get me wrong. Gay men don’t own any exclusive rights to sexual racism (see John Mayer). But this is an ongoing issue within the community, and a huge one for gay and bisexual men of color. So as I see gay men celebrating the life and ideas of Martin Luther King, and using those words and ideas to fight legislative attacks on LGBTQ civil rights, do they also think about applying those same ideas to their treatment of each other? Again I’ll say, I’d like to believe ‘mostly yes’, but still wouldn’t bet my savings on it.

I may be an idealist, but I’m also not naive. I know that these aren’t easy issues to dissect within these communities. They are complex and multi-layered. The question, however, still needs to be asked. As minorities, are we willing to give the same consideration to our fellow community members that we’re asking from the majority?

If the answer is NO, we need to some soul searching… and perhaps re-read our history books. Maybe then we’ll finally and truly understand Dr. King’s “dream”.

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I Want an Honest Discussion with a Trump Voter!

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and, honestly, I’ve struggled as to what to do next; both personally as well as publicly in my attempts to join the Resistance against the president-elect.

Initially, I felt an overwhelming need to vent my frustration and anger at those voters who, defiant in their ignorance, chose a race-baiting narcissist to be our next president. Admittedly, I cast a very wide net in railing against many of them as bigots, sexists, and racists.

After that, I felt an overwhelming need to vent my anger directly toward the Cheeto-colored race-baiting narcissist, and his entire support staff of enablers. In fact, I’m still doing that as part of an ongoing presence on social media and IRT. (The resistance will not be silent!)

Even though doing these actions was satisfying in the short-term basis, they ultimately weren’t going to help in terms of truly coming to grips with the real question of how this travesty occurred. Nor would it help the greater question of figuring out how to prevent similar democratic lapses from happening in the future.

Though much has been made of “white, working-class angst”, it turns out that a myriad of factors played into the November horror show. Race, gender, class, economics, and Russian propagation of fake news against Clinton all had a hand in the outcome.

When you eliminate the extreme voting blocs (racist, die-hard sexists & rabid Clinton haters), what’s left is a core of voters – typically white – who view themselves as normal, average Americans. But I’m hard-pressed to believe that the “average” American would have made the choice to vote for all that he represented. That they would make the choice to accept widespread injury to others in exchange for a potentially small personal gain.

However, if that assumption is incorrect, I’d like to know why. To that end, I’ve realized that I need to have a brutally honest discussion with a Trump voter. This wouldn’t be a broad discussion of left versus right or Republican vs Democrat, because we know that these previously-important identities meant nothing to the typical Trump voter. It would just be focused on the “why” of their vote in spite of knowing that others might be harmed in doing so.

I promise that this won’t be an exercise in antagonism. I’m not here to solicit an online fight with anyone. And if it looks like it’s going down that path, I’ll end the interaction. I’m simply trying to find  a way to understand and comprehend something which is incomprehensible to myself and many others.

If you are interested in doing this (or know anyone who might be open to this brutally honest level of sharing), please contact me via the form and we’ll go from there. At the end of the process, I’ll use our interaction as the basis for a subsequent post. For anyone with privacy concerns, absolutely no personal information from this interaction will be used in the piece.

If we all genuinely want to get beyond the current bitterness, it’s going to take a helluva lot of work. Let’s start the process now.

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