So, in the last week I have had two exchanges which impacted me in the wake of the Election. The first was an exchange that focused on whether or not people can change. Specifically in the area of racism, homophobia and sexism. Per my last post, I believe in the ability to change. I believe people can turn away from those ideologies.
The other person involved disagreed. They felt these things were so deeply ingrained in people that the only option was to endure them and make their lives miserable and torturous. I found this attitude frightening, and frankly equally evil. The idea of tormenting people is evil, no matter who the target is. This conversation did not go so well, and we were never going to see agreement. I was blocked from social media by that person
The thing is, I know people can change. It is not hard to find people who walked away from the white nationalists and KKK. It is not hard to find stories of men who found themselves ashamed of their attitudes towards women and turning to feminism. It is not hard to find stories of people who changed their attitudes toward the GLBT community.
I know this last one all to well. I grew up heavily religious, and for a very long time, into my thirties believed homosexuality was sinful. Mind you, I did not see gay people as uniquely sinful. I could get along with gay people. I was not violently anti-gay. But I still saw the “gay lifestyle” as wrong. It was a combination of friends and co-workers. But there were three that come to mind specifically. Part of the reason I tend to push the notion of mercy and kindness is because of two co-workers. They were patient and kind. Putting up with a lot of religious talk. They would disagree thoughtfully. It was always gentle correction. And it made a slow but powerful impact. I unlearned those ideologies. As the years went by, I lost touch with both men (and was saddened to find out a few years back that one of them had passed away).
I believe in the possibility of change.
The second exchange was a bit different. It became contentious, though that had not been the goal. And we ended things on a positive note. I do hold to my feelings that avoiding name calling and the like are good things for winning some people away from bad ideology. But this second interaction also challenged me in a way the first did not. This time I was forced to look at what I was saying and how it might impact and hurt people who are looking at the Trump presidency and wondering what this means for their lives and future.
Being “civil” towards people we disagree with is an area of privilege. Let’s face it…as a white Cis heterosexual man? Trump’s proposed policies are not likely to impact me directly. I might even see some benefit from his economic ideas. But I did not vote for Trump, and in particular because I firmly believe he ran on a campaign of fear and hatefulness. Trump has been the name caller in chief. I could not see selling friends and family out for some perceived notion that Trump would end corruption and so on. Trump (or any politician) could never nothing that could cause me to say, “I can ignore how bad he would make it for minority groups for that.” And I am seeing how uncertain people are about what it means for marriages, both for people married to immigrants and gay marriages (as much as I want to believe Trump actually considers it settled Law, he has surrounded himself with people who clearly disagree). Violence is on the uptick (regardless of what is claimed by Reason Magazine) towards minorities.
And the wound of Trump’s win is still raw. We all know we must move forward and fight. We need to make a stand. Rather than decide that only one approach is the necessary one, I can understand why it felt like concern trolling. I may not have intended it, but intent does not absolve one of causing harm. The approach of being carefully civil is a valid approach. I am certain of this. But it is not the only path, and not one I should be demanding of others as we look forward to standing against the administration before us and the dangers to liberty and the lives of Americans everywhere that their goals will more than likely damage. We can stand together without a demand to all use the same tactics.
And I apologize for holding everybody to that single standard.