In the absence of traditional TV access I’ve learned to get news and information from other sources. I listen to NPR every day, listen to a news podcast four or five days a week, read a variety of news sources via Apple News, and have a network of friends who all link information to one another via Facebook and in-person conversations. All things considered I’m better informed now than at almost any other time in my life.
My mother recently commented about wanting to step away from being involved and enjoy some peace and quiet. I cannot and do not fault her for this. I go through phases of the same thing. After the 2008 and 2012 elections I felt like I had the attitude to do so. In the aftermath of 2016, though, I knew this wasn’t an option. What’s happening in our country is without precedent in so many ways (and a retreading of the past in so many others). My parents raised me well, when it comes to believing in doing what is right, and I know it is right to know everything I can know and stand against evil.
What became obvious during the campaign, and has only become more obvious in the last twelve months, is that the racism and bigotry we thought were shrinking were merely slumbering, waiting for the right demagogue to give them license to flare into full-blown conflagration once again. 100 years ago the Ku Klux Klan was so politically powerful that they could not only elect local officials across the nation, they came within a hairs breadth of choosing the Democratic nominee for the Presidency, but they would not show their faces in public. 50 years ago Civil Rights was a battle being fought in the streets, the court rooms, and the halls of government, but they masked their intentions in euphemisms. Today they have demonstrated far less power than they did in the past, but they speak openly of their beliefs, they are not afraid to let their identities be known, and they have something between a champion and a sympathizer residing in the White House. It frightens me to imagine where they might go in the coming years, starting from this point.
It would be easier if this crisis had never come into being. It would be happier if we could all treat each other with compassion and respect. It would be more fulfilling to live a life focused on achieving good than defending against evil. Unfortunately the times call for something different. Perhaps this is the last gasp of a dying ideology. Perhaps ten years from now we will look back on these times and say that this was the season when we defeated hatred. Perhaps hatred and fear are an integral part of what it means to be human and will forever be with us. I don’t know. What I do know—what I believe to be vitally true—is that my position of privilege and safety in society requires that I be one of the voices declaiming against those who look like me and hate like I do not.
As a white male in America I bear particular responsibility to say that I have been privileged and that I am not threatened by the idea that my privilege has been at the expense of others. I must stand forth and say that black lives do matter, not at the expense of any other lives, but because for too long they have not. I must link arms with everyone who has ever been made to stand apart because of who they love or how they identify, calmly asserting the pure truth that someone else’s love in no way threatens me. I must be one of many who align ourselves with the oppressed and against the oppressor, even when they oppressor looks like us, and especially when the oppressors hold titles like President and Attorney General.
As often quoted as it is, these words are as true now as they ever were:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.