Monday, December 14, 2020

Tolerance Cap


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I read her post again.

What the f*ck?

She didn't specify the dreaded name, but it was pretty clear what she was saying. In the moment, I realized the pounding in my chest and agape expression was probably a bit over the top, but it was an honest reaction. 

We had met a couple of years earlier after our daughters became fast friends at daycare. My daughter's first playdate was at her house. The whole playdate thing was a new, and frankly horrifying, concept for me. I wasn't ready to tolerate little toddler friends and... gulp... their parents, too.  Well, the first one was as pleasant an experience I could have hoped for. As our daughters played in a playroom, she and I enjoyed a fun conversation while snacking on Trader Joe's apps and iced tea she had so thoughtfully laid out on her back patio.  Eventually her husband joined us and he was just as friendly and warm.

Whew. They are cool and normal. 

Now, serveral months and numerous hangouts later, my eyes kept reading and re-reading a Facebook post that horrified me. Never in a million years would I have guessed this could even be a possibility. I mean, I suppose we had never broached certain topics - the conversation always floating on the shallow end of the mom-chat pool, but given what we had in common with values and morals as women and mothers, I really thought I knew her better. But... there it was... no doubt about it...

She was a Trump supporter. 

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 Over the last 5-ish years (campaign and presidency), I've grappled with my intolerance of Trump supporters. Aren't I being a hypocrite if I am not tolerant of their beliefs when I consider myself to be a very tolerant person? Shouldn't I just chalk it up to differences of opinions and move on? What does it say about me if I cannot get along with someone because they are on the opposite side of the political spectrum? Can I not disagree with someone and still respect them? 

Well, there are people with whom I disagree... and then there are Trump supporters. 

It All Started With Sarah Palin

GOTCHA! Oh that Katie Couric with her evil journalism asking a person who could be a heartbeat away from the presidency about her reading habits! The NERVE! 

Man, what a simpler time. 

Back in 2008 when Sarah Palin burst onto the scene after John McCain chose her as his running mate, we got our first taste of how low some Americans were willing to drop their standards for those in power. To me, it was the litmus test of friends with whom I really had to question their judgement. Now, I know there had been plenty of other elected officials to be horrified by before Sarah Palin, but as a casual observer of politics, it was the first time I had seen someone so obviously inept on the precipice of one of the highest posts of our government. 

My in-laws happened to be visiting when Palin made her appearance on Saturday Night Live days before the election. After she danced awkwardly next to a hugely pregnant and rapping Amy Poehler, my father-in-law said, "Oh, she's so cute, I'm ready for her to be President!" 

Sigh. That's when I realized how delicate the American psyche can be and the ease at which it can be swayed. "She's cute so who cares how uninformed she is!" Of course we all know she didn't become our Vice President but instead forged on to get lost in a sea of conservative pundits on Fox News and I think there was a reality show... honestly, I don't really know or care what Sarah Palin is doing and for that, I'm very glad. 

The Big(ot) Reveal

I knew racism wasn't over just because the country elected a Black president twice. But I didn't realize so many of my friends and acquaintances were either racist themselves or super chill about racism. 

As I wrote about in another post, racism has always been an absolute dealbreaker for me and should be a dealbreaker for any decent person. Among the ocean of reasons to disqualify him, one of the most horrifying is that Donald Trump is endorsed by the KKK. The f*cking Ku Klux Klan... a domestic terrorist organization founded on the principle that white supremacy should be the law of the land... endorses Donald Trump. Pretty sure they exclusively endorse filthy racists. Oh, and Trump has never condemned their (and many other hate groups') endorsement because the man has no standards for whoever supports him. 

The friend from the opening story would often share memes on social media touting that the cancellation of friendships based on political disagreements is the highest form of intolerance. In fact, she'd puff her chest as "the most tolerant" person since she would NEVER cut someone loose because of differences of political opinion. She'd act all high and mighty, all the while supporting a KKK-endorsed man who was enacting regulations which rolled back years of progressive policies made possible by tolerance

This woman could certainly quote Rachel McAdams from Mean Girls to me with the line, "Whyyyy are you so obsessed with me? " considering how much I've thought about her over the last few years, but I'm okay with that. I'm an analytical person who is fascinated by human behavior, hell, that is pretty much why I started this blog. 

I'd wonder how the woman I knew to be compassionate and sensible would respond to all the abhorrent things the president would do or say. I'd wonder how she'd respond to one of her 3 daughters asking, "Mom, why do you support a man who says he can grab women by the pussy?" or, "Mom, why do you like a guy who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault?" or, "Mom, why are you on the same side as Neo-Nazis?" It didn't compute that this same woman who I knew to be a very clear feminist from our many conversations, who championed women ascending the ranks in business and sports, who was disgusted when I told her of a mother at the daycare telling me, "Oh, I don't bother explaining different races to my daughter, if someone isn't white she just assumes they are black," after said daughter had asked me why I was black and my daughter was white.... it did not compute that this friend could have displayed those beliefs and then justify her support of Donald Trump. 

On occasion, usually when I was so tired of being pissed off all the time, I'd revisit her high horse claims about being so tolerant with her friends who disagreed with her, and admittedly, I'd reevaluate my feelings and entertain the possibility that I was being too hard on her. 

The attempts of justification went like this: 

  • She's a party loyalist and it would be unthinkable to vote for the opposing party. Shit, I couldn't ever imagine voting for a Republican. 
  • She's a single or specific-issues voter. Okay, she may not love his personality, but tax cuts and/or anti-choice policies take top priority. 
So, in my softer moments, I'd give her some leeway. But then I'd see her share a Pride meme or post support about the first African American CEO of some tech company and I'd think... no bitch, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot pick and choose your progressive causes and then vote for someone who will hurt the very people you claim to support. It's like a vegan only eating plant-based foods but then slaughtering cows in her backyard. If you kill cows, you are not a vegan. If you vote for KKK-endorsed Trump, you're not an ally to any marginalized community. 

Long Division

I wish I didn't approach people with such trepidation like I do now. When I meet someone new, I try and size them up as a Trumper or Non-Trumper based on various clues. Hmmm, the thin blue line flag on their car, probably a Trumper. Oh, they shared a post about ways to slow down climate change, probably not a Trumper. I go against my instincts and judge people based on trivial clues like a poor man's Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. It's such a shitty way to be and it enrages me even more since that's exactly the type of division Donald Trump incited and thrives on - to see others as either an ally or an enemy, no in between. 

I saw numerous Trump signs around my neighborhood and Trump support from various friends over the last few months. Yeah, I was disappointed, but I refuse to treat them like my enemies. I still wave and smile at that neighbor, give them a cup of sugar if they need it... I post a heartfelt message to that friend who started her own business... I check in on that mom from school who is struggling with the pandemic. Being true to who I am is not something I can lose, so I will always lead with kindness. Now, will these friends be invited over for a fun movie night and dinner any time soon? Nope.

Their support of this man has forever tainted my view of them and over the last few years, I've learned there is a limit to my tolerance: When you show me a total disregard for fundamental values to protect the sanctity of human rights for all, I'm not going to waste my time and energy to accept your ignorance. I will not attack you or intimidate you for your beliefs, but don't expect me to respect how you vehemently defended behaviors you would never accept from your child, your boss, your partner, a customer service rep, a person in line at the grocery store, your neighbor... and yet, the most powerful person in the world gets a pass in your book. 

I struggle with feeling this way, I have to be honest. And I have been writing and re-writing this section of the post because I am so uncomfortable that I am offending those friends. But then I remind myself of all the inhumane, treasonous and un-American actions they opened the door to and I know my feelings are valid. If my words offend or hurt you, take all of that emotion and multiply it by 1000 and you'll begin to understand how I feel. Your active role in the dismantling of decency and democracy has consequences and losing some friendships is just one of them. When you decide to stand alongside the KKK, I will never unsee that. 

Currently, I am reading A Promised Land by Barack Obama and there was one part that sort of reminded me of this post on a much larger scale. When Obama had to distance himself from his reverend, Jeremiah Wright, due to the incendiary statements he had made during some of his sermons, the conversation to sever ties was torturous for the former president. While he couldn't deny what Wright had said was wrong, he was also hurting a man who had done nothing but show him kindness and support throughout his time in Chicago. When his communications director, Robert Gibbs, checked on him after the chat with Wright, Obama was distraught with guilt. The following sentence really resonated with me. He is speaking of Gibbs here:

But perhaps because he'd grown up in Alabama, he understood better than most the complications of race, religion, and family, and how good and bad, love and hate, might be hopelessly tangled in the same heart.

We are all complicated humans and nothing can be as cut and dry as we'd like sometimes. Emotions are complicated and my struggles with moving on after finding out the beliefs of those friends will probably go on for the rest of my life. If it's not a Trump supporter, it will be something else. But I do know I want to live in a world where we can treat each other with respect and kindness always... and more specifically, I want to surround myself with those who inspire me to evolve into the best version of myself... I don't have time for anyone else. 

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To sum up, I want to thank Donald Trump. Seriously.

Before 2016, my interest in politics was so lukewarm it may as well have been all the take-out food I've ordered during the pandemic. Even though I grew up with a self-admitted "political junkie" father and many family members who were heavily involved with civic awareness, I could never get into it. When conversations would turn to politics, I'd feel like an idiot because I had no idea what anyone was talking about.  I was a goddamn POLITICAL SCIENCE major at Michigan State University and yet... nope. Ironically, I think it was my time studying political science that turned me off to that world. Once I saw how broken the system was and that representation only went so far as a secure re-election bid, I mentally checked out. How could I trust anyone in office?

My lack of awareness wasn't anything I boasted or was proud of, but it wasn't anything I tried to change either.

That is until I saw the very fabric of our country at risk with Donald Trump as the Republican nominee and then saw how many people were totally on board with his possible presidency. Holy shit that woke me up. It roused me not only from my slumber of political laziness, but to how much apathy I had surrounding me. Friends I cherished were turning a blind eye to a very serious threat to our democracy. 

"Oh, I just don't get into politics." 

Then I realized, oh god, I was just like them. Sure, I voted every four years since 1996 (never in a midterm) and watched a debate here and there, but by no means could I count myself as an informed voter. I now know I was basking in the luxe of my privilege. 

Those days are over. I will never again opt for apathy just because my lifestyle will not be affected by a policy. There was a reason I was always a tad embarrassed about my lack of contribution to political discussions. It was the correct emotion because there is no good excuse to be ignorant about what is going on in your own country, state, county, city, town, neighborhood and backyard. 

Today I'm more aware of issues than ever before. I know a hell of a lot more about a myriad of government processes and I am hungry to learn more. I realize now that all politics start locally and that if you want change, you have to get involved. So yes, if it hadn't been for the nightmare of Donald Trump's presidency, I would never have woken my ass up to the world of politics. You cannot change what you do not know - my plan is to know everything

So yeah, thanks Don... BYEEEEEE!

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