Last week the President of the United States of America openly defended a hate crime and refused (still refuses) to sincerely denounce or blame the hate groups that are responsible for the crime. From the moment I heard about the events in Charlottesville, the death of Heather Heyer and the flurry of incoherent rhetoric that has transpired since, I have been reeling. As I mentioned in my last post, I tend to keep my political and social commentary off of the internet but I feel strongly that I need to raise my voice.
There have been a lot of times when I’ve felt that because I am a middle class, white, millennial that my thoughts on many of the social issues that plague our country and our world are not valid. My goal here isn’t to pretend that I understand or empathize. My goal is to express my solidarity to everyone who is out there fighting tirelessly against injustice. I stand with you. While there are countless things going on in this country and in the world that I don’t agree with and that I am just plain angry about, I am focusing my energy in this post on the most recent events.
Donald Trump, the President of the United States, has over and over again shown that he is a racist and a bigot. He again has made his stance clear this time by defending the Alt-Right which is made up of extremist white supremacist groups including the KKK and neo-Nazis. NAZIS, as in people alive today who idolize Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. People who overtly spread hate to others because of their race, religion and viewpoints.
These groups are not only dangerous in what the preach but even more so in that that outwardly promote physical violence.Their hatred is so rabid that they actively work towards the realization of a modern day ethnic cleansing i.e. they believe in mass murdering of a group of people because they don’t like them. As most recently evidenced by the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and the Alt-Right’s response to it.
A lot of news outlets have been referencing this VICE Special Report on Race and Terror and I implore you to go watch it. Albeit short, this look at some of the key people involved in the Alt-Right movement is terrifying. “I think a lot more people are going to die here,” says white nationalist, Christopher Cantwell, in the footage.
Donald Trump’s response and continued discussion about the events in Charlottesville is reprehensible. His campaign platform and his behavior thus far in office has emboldened extremists in and, let’s call it what it is, terrorism, worldwide.
How does someone even become a white supremacist? At what point does a person decide that hate and negativity are admirable ideals? Surprisingly to me, although maybe it shouldn’t be, a lot of the Alt-Righters are young – they are my age.
I grew up in a town where racism was rampant. The school that I attended from K-12 had zero minority representation both among students and faculty. There were confederate flag vanity plates on the pick up trucks in the parking lot. It would take more fingers and toes than you have to count the number of cut off t-shirts that could be seen on a daily basis claiming that the wearer was a “Redneck”.
When I was a Freshman, there were kids in my high school that were openly members of the KKK. Go ahead, read it again…you read it right.
As solid an upbringing that had, I was misunderstood at times. I once had a kid grab me by the throat and call me a “freak” in the stairwell at school. I am the girl that got called into the principal’s office for wearing an anti-Nazi pin on my purse, a Marilyn Manson patch, a spiked collar… Everyone shuddered at my hand written t-shirt that said “Oppressors be warned, all dreams come true someday”(The Unseen, thank you very much). Let’s be honest, though, I was a typical angsty teenager.
Here’s the thing. Despite being an honor student, I was denied acceptance to the National Honor Society. Later in high school I wrote a personal essay denouncing the KKK. An essay which was later nominated (by my amazing English teacher) for an award and lost because, from what I understand, the judges “didn’t agree with the subject matter”. Oh that Melissa, always stirring the pot…
TL;DR When I was 15ish my dad took me to a KKK rally that was happening in our town. My parents 100% do not support the KKK, but they wanted me to see it. I didn’t want to go because I didn’t care. It ended up changing my life.
I’m not going to rehash that essay here, although I still read it sometimes and am proud at how my teenage mind decided that hate is fucking terrible and wrong. I was outraged by the fact that these people were allowed to spew their hate on the steps of the county courthouse, that they had children in robes up there, that they were too cowardly to show their faces.
We talked to protesters. Their stories were horrifying. We talked to people who found burning crosses and KKK paraphernalia in their yards. People who lived in fear for their families lives because of the color of their skin. Yet, even though their lives have been threatened they were still there, unmasked, standing up to hate. It was inspiring.
I’ve never really asked my parents why they decided that I should go that day, but I know that I am LUCKY to have parents who exposed me to such harsh realities when I was young. Then gave me the foundation and support to make the right decisions and then allowed me to be strong willed and outspoken about what I believe in.
If it weren’t for my parents (and punk rock) I don’t know if I would have learned it any other way. I am in fact suggesting that love and acceptance vs hate and bigotry are learned behaviors.
At some point, I feel like I kind of gave up on trying to be a force of change. When you’re young, you set out to change the world. As you mature and realize just how many walls stand in your way, especially when you grow up in rural conservative town. You adapt to pick your battles or fight your battles in more subtle ways.
Now is not the time for subtlety.
When Donald Trump was elected President, I was in complete disbelief. There is really so much to say here but I’m going to stay focused. I understand people’s opposition to Hillary Clinton, that’s not what I’m here to discuss. BUT. Donald Trump’s campaign was based on nothing but slander, hate, fucking the system, and fucking all of us.
I have opinions about the system of course. I am a registered Independent. I do not believe that a two party political system is a sustainable path towards progress. The two party system thrives when we as a people are divided. The two party system is the reason that Donald Trump is in office right now.
Dichotomy is in the best interest of politicians as it pits the masses against each other. When there is confusion and adversity among the people, the politicians and their inner circles maintain and strengthen their power while everyone is distracted and looking the other way. Opposing viewpoints on issues such as taxes, foreign trade and the economy are one thing, and all in the spirit of the game I suppose.
Creating opposition where any human is ostracized for their race, nationality, gender, sexuality or any other fundamental attribute is a cruel and dangerous game to play.
Human lives are not wedge issues.
I am not naive enough to think that it’s within the realm of human nature to live in total peace, but when the people in power are driving hateful ideology it is important that we band together. Part of the job of the President of the United States is to be a moral leader. Donald Trump is failing us. He is making this country and the whole world a more dangerous place. That is why I feel compelled to speak up right now.
We should not be a danger to each other. We all have so much to teach each other.
As I am travel overseas for the next couple of weeks I will do my best to exude the kindness, positivity and acceptance that I believe we should all embrace. I hope to see some awesome sights and meet some incredible people and have some stories to share with you when I get back.