My boyfriend was born and raised and still lives in the near north suburbs of Chicago. He is still friends with people he went to high school with. I don’t mean Facebook friends – I mean actual hanging-out type friends….when he has free time….which is pretty rare as he also works in the family business which is retail and can mean 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. And if we both happen to have free time that is simultaneous, he’s mine. Still, it is a very different world he travels in.
However, one of the things we have in common is our ability to get along with pretty much everyone. The first time I met his friends, the conversation with the guy across from me went like this:
Him: Where d’ya live?
Him: Oh, Jesus. You’re a liberal.
Me: (laughing) You have no idea.
Him: (laughing as well) I’m not.
Me: That’s OK.
We ended up getting on extremely well as he was someone I might describe as an “old coot” and he said wildly inappropriate things that amused me– some about politics and some just generally inappropriate upon first meeting someone - and I didn’t bat an eye because I am not easily shocked and I generally like people. And, really, my ass DID look great in those jeans. I picked them out special.
My boyfriend is, it seems, fairly apolitical. Or he just keeps a tight lid on any dissenting comments so he can get in my nice-ass jeans. Not sure. He purports to like Obama when he’s around me – possibly because I LOOOOOOOOOVE our president and that argument would be a deal breaker. He is, I believe, appropriately terrified of a Trump presidency. So that’s good.
He knows what I think and I am fairly vocal about it and he embraces it…or still embraces me.
So we’re good.
I mostly don’t think about politics when I’m with him. It’s a nice break.
But, last night, as we scrolled through our respective Facebook newsfeeds, I saw a glimpse of a very different community than the one I live in. He showed me a meme that one of his friends shared and it was very hateful rhetoric against the anti-Trump protesters from Friday night. It was poorly articulated and sort-of unintentionally vague and my boyfriend and I interpreted differently.
To resolve the disagreement, I asked him look the original guy up. Look at what he puts on his wall and see what he’s thinking. So we did and it was so full of hate and bigotry that we shut it down pretty quickly.
I looked over his shoulder for a moment at other posts and there were some doozies. Stuff I no longer allow to pass through my own newsfeed. Stuff that never would have been in my newsfeed because my circles (and the circles of my circles) are vastly different.
Me: Oh my god…I just can’t with your newsfeed. It makes me….
Me: Depressed. Hopeless.
Him: (scrolling madly) But….but…LOOK! A monkey petting puppies!
That video of a monkey petting puppies WAS super cute, you guys. But I still have a bit of a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach from what I saw.
So let me address some of the stuff I saw really quickly so I can get on with my day:
1) Our right to freedom of speech protects those protesters. That is the purpose of it. It protects Mr. Trump as well. And his freedom of speech was not in any way violated. And the rights of the protesters were upheld on Friday night as well. It was a very successful display of something that sets our country apart from other countries in a really positive way. Our freedom of speech says that the government cannot arrest you or jail you or put you to death for speaking up for what you believe. I am a big proponent of freedom of speech and I have had arguments with conservatives and bleeding heart liberals alike because freedom of speech has to extend to everyone. To EVERYONE. Or else it doesn’t protect us. So I would fight for your freedom of speech and I would fight for the freedom of speech of the KKK as well. Even though that shit is really hard. Because freedom of speech means that you are allowed to assemble and you are allowed to say what you think and you cannot be stopped by the law. But it also means that the other side can assemble as well and they can say what they think and if they are louder…if they are more passionate….if their number exceeds your number….you may choose to disassemble or you may choose to shout louder. You have that right. You have that choice. We all have that right. We all have that choice. It is a beautiful freedom that is not afforded to citizens of every country. It is one of the things that makes America great. It is one of the reasons why people risk life and limb on over-filled rafts to get here. And Mr Trump and his followers should read up on it and understand what it is and why it is important since making America great is, purportedly, a goal.
2) Mr Trump has incited and is allowing his campaign to feed off of some extremely hateful, hurtful stuff. He is using his freedom of speech to incite race wars in a country that is, proudly, a melting pot. It is shameful. And the damage from that hate extends farther than any one election. The wounds he is opening – just as a candidate – will take a long time to heal – regardless of the outcome of the election. And every speech he makes and every follower he incites to nasty words or violence, pitting countryman against countryman in a terrible, dangerous way, digs a deeper, wider, more painful wound in this country. The protesters went out on Friday night with one purpose.
NO MORE WOUNDS. Not in my city. Not on my campus. Not on this night. NO.
3) I am as irritated at everyone who gets on the web and says that the protests only strengthened Trump as I am at Trump himself.
A) The goal was to stop a fresh wound from being torn and possibly apply salve to those he has already opened. They were successful. Well done.
B) Trump can play his game and spin what happened all he wants to. He is repeatedly being proven a liar about the event and there was a road bump in his momentum. He has shown himself to be weak.
C) The claim that the protest inadvertently gave him more media attention and pushed Cruz and Rubio to the background? Good. Trump already has the majority of the media attention. He’s an orange-skinned clown for chrissakes. He’s a circus ringleader and he has tons of money. His supporters were already going to vote for him. Did all the media coverage take some steam from Rubio and Cruz? Maybe. Who cares? The “politically independent historian” I came across on the Facebooks who was so curious about why the protesters would do something that strategically hurt their cause (and let me add that I imagined him sitting there with a pipe in his mouth in a leather high-backed chair, petting the head of a beagle as he wrote it and it was not attractive) should probably understand this:
Strategically, Trump is probably the best person to win the nomination. Because, if you are looking to rid yourself of vermin, it is better to fight rats than bedbugs. None of those guys are good guys. We know that, right? But that loud, obnoxious, ugly, racist orange guy who has no filter is a tough sell to anyone who is on the fence. And a vote for “not Trump” only works for us if Trump is the nominee. If Rubio or Cruz win the nomination, the Republican establishment breathes huge sigh of relief. Neither are as openly repugnant as Trump (though Cruz really tries) and that makes them more easily sold to anyone who isn’t so sure about a woman or a socialist. When the vote is a Democratic woman vs Hitler (but less physically attractive) well, that seems a little more cut and dry.
Is a Trump nomination scary? Oh, it makes my blood run cold. For sure. But I think it has to get worse before it gets better. And while it is getting worse, the opposition needs occasional reminders that we have each others’ backs. That we will fight. That we can shut him down together. Because it will be a long, grueling haul. The protest was the equivalent of the Free America radio transmissions they would listen to in Red Dawn. “The chair is against the wall….the chair is against the wall”. They sent a message. It was for Trump. But, more importantly, it was for anyone who feels that he is already running the show. It was for anyone who feels they can’t be heard so why even bother. Because THOSE are the people who can turn this election.
I don’t think overt hate against what adds up to be the majority of the country is gonna ultimately win you an election. When you add up all the women, minorities, and LGBTQ communities and present them with a man who openly disdains them, I just don’t think he’d get the votes. We need the big, mouth-breathing, hairy orange wolf –not a wolf in sheep's clothing– to run against the Democratic nominee. As scary as it will be, it is easier to galvanize people to fight a true villain. So, no, dude, it was not a strategic mistake. Stick that pipe where the sun don’t shine.
And I think, as I sit here and write this, in the grand scheme of things, even though that newsfeed gave me pause, I have to believe there is more good in this country than there is hate. There are monkeys petting puppies out there, you guys. Keep fighting the good fight.
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