On Personal Politics and Complicit SIlence

I wrote this on Facebook. If you know me from the SFF community, Twitter, or if you’re read my books, none of this should come as a surprise. However, Facebook has always existed as a weird space for me… a crossroads of my life. Old church friends, high school friends, colleagues, family, writers…

But I’m tired of editing myself. It isn’t time for silence. It never has been, truly.

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Here We Go

Progressives are being asked right now to listen. To give a chance to those who followed Trump, enthusiastically or not, and try and understand.

Here’s the thing. We have been listening. I can’t tell you how painful it is to know there are people in my family, those I considered friends, to either be completely silent in the face of the atrocities of the last four years, or laugh it off or say it’s just poiltics. Minitories have seen unprecedented spikes in hate crimes, my fellow LGBTQIAs have experienced discrimination and the stripping away of rights, white supremacy has risen and celebrated the 45th president, anti-Semitic language and rhetoric and downright vandalism and visibility has risen.

I was going to put a list out of all of this with citations. But that’s the other thing. Statistics don’t matter if you believe that all media or journalism is fake. So whatever. You can Google it.

I sat down and watched the last debate, even though I knew it wasn’t going to change my mind. I wanted to wait to hear that 45 would say that no matter what, he would work with the American people in mind. That he would show even a glimmer of understanding for people who don’t worship at his altar. That he would demonstrate an iota of what I grew up to see as the hallmarks of a Christian man: love, compassion, forgiveness. Because so many of the Christians I grew up with still cling to him, in spite of it. I wanted to see if, for a moment, he would truly lead.

He had plenty of chances.

It’s not just what he has said. It is so often what he has not said. Thousands of Americans dying every day from this pandemic and all he does is speak about himself. Black people rising up, desperate and in pain, and nothing. Police corruption on every corner, and nothing. This is not about Blue and Red: it’s about democracy vs nationalism.

It’s his silence that is killing us, as Americans, as much as his poison rhetoric. It’s his inability to recognize the many, diverse, complex, beautiful differences that make people Americans.

I can show you the statistics on abortion rates and try and discuss how warped the understanding of women’s healthcare has become.

I can share my own experience, as a bisexual-identifying woman, and what it’s felt like to “pass” as straight for years while my queer, trans, nonbinary siblings have suffered in unimaginable fear.

I can share, and have shared, the deep despair my husband and I have endured in NC because of horrific practices for mental health care for children, gleefully pushed through by our GOP legislature. Our son’s life hangs in the balance. And we are just one family among millions, and many have lost the fight.

I can tell you that of all the hundreds, if not thousands, of protests around the country in the last four years, only 5% were violent — and often they were police-aggravated. I am a writer and a historian, and a natural skeptic. 

I can also tell you that I’m scrutinizing every step the Democrats make because we’ve got a lot of work to do, and I know our entire system is fraught with immense challenges.

But it doesn’t matter. If you no longer believe in truth, I can’t help you see. Narrative is powerful, and Trump’s narrative has given voice to millions and millions of people. 55% of white women voted for him, y’all. 55%. 

This week is not the same for me as it was four years ago for those who have bought into the nationalism of our current president. You saw the world rise up and celebrate with us. Weeping openly after living in such fear for so long. I’ve driven through my state, seen open carry fans of the president waving flags, personalizing their trucks with “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS: TRUMP 2020”.

I grew up in a complicated Christian church. I know many of you on this list from my years there. I walked away from the hypocrisy, the vicious and poisonous judgment, the people who failed me and my friends who did not fit the mold. I know the arguments. I know the rhetoric. It doesn’t hold up. “Love is Love.” No matter what. No matter who. 

I believe in love. I believe in hope. And I believe in faith. But sometimes, love isn’t gentle. Love doesn’t have to forget.

We had a self-styled dictator. The world celebrated this change of regime like they did the falling of the Berlin Wall. He isn’t “just a loudmouth” — he’s the leader of the free world, and he should have been held to higher standards. This is not Romney vs. Obama. This is unlike any election we’ve ever seen.

My daughter and son rode through Chapel Hill with us on Saturday, a pride flag in their hands, smiling and cheering. They have the freedom to be who they will be, for now. My daughter watched the first female vice president-elect walk across the stage, a brown woman first-generation daughter of immigrants. I am white, but a hundred years ago my ancestors were living in other countries — in Canada, in Sweden, in the ghettos of Lithuania and Ukraine. My mother came to the US at 15, not speaking a word of English. I am so, so proud to have grown up in a bilingual home.

I don’t know where we go from here. I don’t have answers. But there is deep, deep hurt, and it’s going to take a lot of time. The things Christians I know have said to my father, and many others, in the last few years, for seeing Trump for the monster he is, has cast into stark contrast just how far we’ve strayed. And there is a point, even so, where it isn’t worth the effort.

We are on the cusp of a horrific pandemic. If you’ve made it this far, know this: I believe in the power of love and human ingenuity. I believe in science. We can get through this. But, as so many of us have already learned, it can be too late. We will miss the chance.

What about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? There is so much in the way between that aspiration, for millions and millions of people. And if you can’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you.

And if you have been silent this whole time, realize your silence is, in fact, resounding. There is a price.

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