Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Welcome To Our Perfect, Righteous Movement

Every time the new president does something despicable (every hour or so), I am filled with rage and I lash out - specifically, at those who voted for him. Every time I think about the fact that he “won” the election, I am sickened and horrified and baffled all at the same time. With every stroke of his pen, I am filled with righteous indignation. I rage on social media.  I have imaginary conversations with his voters in my head:

“See?  He was a terrible choice.  He is going to destroy this country and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT.”

With every terrible announcement, I smugly wonder if his supporters are horrified and regretting their decision. Every tweet of his brings me a level of satisfaction as I want his supporters to gnash their teeth, tear out their hair and scream in horror. “WHAT HAVE WE DONE?” they’ll cry, and we, the progressives, will stand with open arms, ready to welcome them to our perfect, righteous movement. We will save the country -- nay, the world.   

At least, that’s how it plays out in my head.

I often wonder what things would be like had Hillary won. My relationship with Hillary - and the Democratic party in general - is complicated. I was a huge supporter of President Obama in 2008 and still felt relieved when he won in 2012, although my excitement over him waned. His message of hope rang hollow and I was pretty sure things weren’t going so well in his administration, but I was still able to lull myself into a numb denial. Healthcare was a constant battle but I wasn’t so afraid, because the president would save the day. Keystone XL pipeline? Nah, he’ll stop it. Unemployment is down! Reproductive health care is safe! Washington D.C. is far away and I have organizing to do locally, so I’ll just ignore what’s happening over there.

Unfortunately, there were things I could no longer ignore. 2.5 million deportations on President Obama’s watch are hard to ignore. Central American refugees being held in detention centers and immigration raids that separated families were not the “hope” and “change” sold during his campaign. Silencing and attempting to shame undocumented Trans* activist Jennicet Gutierrez was not the behavior of a president who so eloquently spoke of unity and compassion. Making Undocumented families wait for the executive order to expand DACA and DAPA until after the mid-term elections in 2014 was not the promise of standing with our people, nor was the “let it play out” strategy with the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) until after the election in 2016.

Sign from Rally Against the Muslim Ban, 01/29/17. Photo by the author
I can’t really be mad that President Obama* didn’t live up to my progressive standards - he was exactly who he always was - a moderate Democrat who was just left of center. I built him up to be much more progressive than he was (although, in my defense, he talked a really good game). President Obama speaks beautifully and I heard what I wanted to hear - I found a progressive message in everything he said. When my disappointment reached a boiling point of anger, I stopped listening to him speak because it would break my heart to hear such brilliance knowing full well that his policies were hurting so many people.

Still, I lived in the comfort of knowing that even if things were bad, I could ignore them, and I had the privilege of not being affected by many of his policies. Sadly, I would have done the same if Hillary had won. I would have lulled myself back into the same coma I’ve been in for the last 8 years. I would have let the Democratic party off the hook because hey, at least we won.

I voted for Hillary because I was afraid of what her opponent would do, and now my greatest fears are being realized everyday. If Hillary had won, I’m not so sure anything would have gotten worse - but would they be better? It's safe to say state violence would still be running rampant, deportations would continue without any hope of comprehensive immigration reform, and the banks and corporations would still have vast influence in every branch of government. Very little would be different, except my righteous rage would probably be a little dulled. I would go along with the status quo and organize on a local level, ignoring D.C. and Congress, as if ignoring what happens “over there” doesn’t affect us over here. The wheeling and dealing would quietly continue, and I could safely ignore it because that was a luxury I could afford. I'm reminded of an episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon refuses to believe her fair trade jeans are really made by Halliburton. Not only does the truth dash her liberal dreams, it means she can't wear her really great jeans anymore.

The new president (and the media circus that he creates) are making sure that each of us is acutely aware of the power and influence he has to mess with our lives and the lives of those we love. I find myself traumatized daily by Steve Bannon's policies, which is surprising, because I’m positive that he isn’t the first white supremacist to advise the president. In a country built on white supremacy and patriarchy, it’s pretty safe to say that while the current president is brash and can’t shut his fat mouth, he is in an office that was built on a foundation of slavery, genocide and colonization, and he isn't the first person to occupy it. It was unfair to expect President Obama or Bernie Sanders to magically undo that system; it’s naive to think Hillary or the sitting president would do anything beyond maintaining the power of the Oval.  

I do not credit this new president with giving our country a wake up call. There have been many voices who have warned us that unless we push for radical change, both parties would continue to be beholden to big banks and corporations, and our communities would continue to break under the weight of their greed. No longer can we afford to lull ourselves into a coma of complacency, and no longer can I rage against supporters of the new president while I was not willing to hold my party accountable.

Okay, maybe a little rage.  They still voted for the guy, and that is inexcusable.

*My disappointment in President Obama doesn’t negate the reverence I have for his historic presidency, as well as the respect I have for his family. His place in history is important, as are the places of the incredible Black women named Michelle, Malia and Sasha. The diversity within his cabinet and staff was unprecedented. He nominated a Latina for Supreme Court. His presidency was necessary, and it also exposed the United States’ big secret: we are still a hot, racist mess.