When you keep writing to make sense of things...
I think I may have written about this experience in the past but it sits present in my mind, especially now.
If you're familiar with my writing, or me, you probably know that I was raised in a conservative, Christian, republican household. My parents are good people... the sort of people who always have the door open. The house that all the kids came to after school. Even now, my friends and I often bbq at my parents' house. My father is an engineer - a very, very smart man. Growing up, when I had questions about politics, he answered in such a way that made sense to me, I think probably because back then I wasn't asking the right questions, at least to form my own opinions. And so, I held staunchly to my beliefs tied to the right party. I whole-heartedly believed we were the party of morals. Truly, in every way. I was against abortion - I even made a speech about it in my high school speech class that made someone who had had an abortion cry. I was pro pro pro the death penalty. I "supported" gay people, and wanted them to have rights... just as long as they didn't married. That wasn't their right. I had antiquated beliefs and judgements about women and sexuality. I could go on.
I remember sitting in class one day, when a classmate found out that I was a republican. His response: "I'm sorry. I thought you cared about people." It stung. Big time. I was offended and angry. Instead of pressing, I rolled my eyes, told myself I was way too classy to need to insult someone for their politics, and bunkered down even tighter on my conservative views and party loyalty.
It wasn't until later in life, when I started traveling the country for work, and meeting and interviewing a variety of different people with all sorts of upbringings and backgrounds, that I realized that there was a whole world outside of my white, conservative conejo valley bubble. It was sobering. And embarrassing.
Why did I care who had sex with who? Honestly though. It's not my decision what anyone else should do with their body. Ever. I became overtly aware of how damaging the words "slut" and "whore" are. They make me cringe to this day when I hear them being used in a derogatory, judgmental way.
Why did I care so much about determining who got to get married? It's a concept not even "owned" by the bible. Who am I to tell two people who love each other that they don't get to enjoy the same rights I do, because of my own set of personal beliefs?
Is it worth it to have the death penalty if even ONE innocent person dies as a result of it, my husband asked me once. I had never thought about it that way. It's not foolproof and it never will be. And I realized I wasn't willing to sacrifice an innocent life for vengeance.
Anyway, these are the questions I started to ask myself and the more people I interviewed -- kids raised by single moms, raised by two moms or two dads, kids who had been sexually assaulted, kids who had been beat up for their race or culture, kids who raised their siblings while their parents worked four jobs, kids who didn't have food to eat or electricity, etc, the more my views started to shift. It really opened my eyes and despite how anyone else feels about reality television, nothing has been a bigger lesson, or influence on the person I am today and the things I value first and foremost: social causes and human rights.
My point in writing all this is that when I was in high school and that classmate said what he did, it didn't encourage me to hear what he had to say, it turned me away. And I vowed to never be that person who jabbed instead of listened.
And somewhere along the way, I think that's exactly what I've been doing recently. I've jabbed instead of listened. In all seriousness I truly can't fathom how we're here today with a Donald Trump as president, based on the campaign he ran. But something tells me, that all the "me's" didn't help our cause as much as we'd like to believe. Sure, we're steadfast and passionate in our views, and we obviously feel we are right in every sense of the word on this particular matter. That's probably not going to change. I think sexism is wrong. I think bigotry is wrong. I think racism is wrong. I think mocking handicapped people is wrong. I think mocking cultures and promoting discrimination is wrong. I think enabling this is ANY way, shape or form is wrong. Soooooo, we're probably going to be at impasse if you support someone who boasts these views.
But, with that being said, almost half the population felt it was possible to support a man who ran a campaign based on these ideals, while stating that they didn't support those ideals. So, that leaves us asking why? How? And what message did we not convey that would reach these voters and allow them to embrace humans and make humanity and equal rights an actual priority?
I look back at that high school incident and ask myself now, what could he have said that would have led me to have an open and productive conversation with him at that time? And honestly I don't know. I don't think he could have said anything differently. I think he said exactly what I needed to hear, but I was too defensive and too stubborn to hear it if I'm being quite honest. I needed to go and live my life and have life experiences to come to the perspective I have today.
But clearly, however conversations are happening...they aren't working for anyone. Now, I'll never pretend that I'm going to "understand" how one can enable and support a candidate who preaches hate, but not take responsibility for that support, but I have to get better about listening and attempting to understand how to have a conversation with the other half of this country. I'm not sure how, or when I'll get to that point where I can be a better listener, without conveying that I think it's in any way acceptable to turn a blind eye to the hatred that's (always existed) but has now become popularized, but I'm going to work hard to work to inform, and provide a space for open dialogue, so that maybe one day, others will join me in supporting equal rights for everyone. I'll hope that one day, this will be a priority for more people. Until then, it's time to get to work.