Your Silence is a Privilege

Your Silence is a Privilege

I’ve never considered myself a political person. I don’t watch the news or read the papers. When people start talking politics, like sports, I tune out. Until I had a family, quite honestly, if it didn’t make Facebook or my husband’s twitter feed, I probably had very little idea of what was going on.

I was fortunate to have that privilege. Yes, I said it. Privilege to not care about politics, because they didn’t affect me.

I first learned about the fiasco that is the Presidential Elections in when I started high school ‘92, watching Clinton and Bush Sr. battle it out against the Perdue Chicken man. I remember the feeling of voters at the time, like it was some big spectacle. My parents let us watch every debate with them, and later, the SNL skits mocking them. We laughed. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

I’ll admit, I didn’t vote in ’96. I felt relatively certain that Clinton would win, I was 18 and busy with my first semester of a private college. Memories of Perot and the carnival of candidates had turned me off to politics in general. My new collegiate (white, privileged) friends weren’t voting. They were artsy and deep (and privileged and white). And I desperately wanted to fit in, so I didn’t vote either.

And in ’00, I was 22 and dating a (privileged white) boy who scoffed at the idea of getting involved in something as frivolous as a presidential election. An election in which our individual vote made no difference and a politician who was only out for his own interests would win. We came up with a much better system, a random presidential lottery, in which some John Doe (always white, always male, always straight, always Christian) was drawn by lottery from all eligible US born citizens above a certain age. And for a year or four, he would live in the White House and cameras would follow him 24/7 and we’d get to see all the crazy, stupid, insane things a president actually did, on a daily basis. (In hindsight, now, I wonder if that wouldn’t make for a better candidate than Trump or Cruz)

By ’04, I was over voting. I didn’t like either candidate. I didn’t know much about either candidate. I didn’t watch the presidential debates. I didn’t watch the SNL debates. Whoever won, it made no difference to me. No President could make much difference in four or 8 years. I figured that the president was just a figurehead, that he (never she or they) couldn’t make any real change. That the entire United States could survive even the worst of presidents for four or eight years, without feeling any real impact.

I figured that the world would keep on turning, because my world would keep on turning. It didn’t matter to me, and so, therefore, it didn’t matter.

That, folks, is privilege.

Because a President can affect change. A lot of change. When Obama came into office in ’08, we were suffering. Suffering from decades of bad decisions by the US Government. In a short 7 years, he reformed healthcare, ended the War in Iraq, repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the US Military, signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and legalized same sex marriage, among many other changes.

And I’m proud to say I voted for him, both terms. Because by the time Obama came onto the scene, my worldview had shifted. I had a full time job and a family and a home. I had concerns and responsibilities and priorities. Suddenly, the idea of living under a regime that I hadn’t even bothered to have a voice in concerned me. Concerned me deeply.

Then my child transitioned. My child became a part of a very small, small minority in a (white dominated, cisgender, heterosexual) country that doesn’t accept differences. Being forced to defend and protect my child made me expand my view of the world.

My concerns about the future went from important to ALL ENCOMPASSING. I started reading articles, doing research, following the laws being brought up at the state and federal levels. And as I became a more informed advocate for my child, I became aware of a lot of discrimination.

Against people of color. Against homosexual people. Against women. Against immigrants. Against poor people.

And the more I learned, the angrier I became. And the more afraid.

Because in past two elections, I thought (naively, whitely, privileged-ly) that if some other candidate won besides Obama, it wouldn’t have made that big of a difference. I could survive four years or eight.

But my son can’t. Any person of gender nonconformity can’t. People of color can’t. Women can’t. Gay and lesbian and bisexual people can’t. Immigrants can’t. Poor people can’t.

This election means everything to so many people. Who becomes president can change entire lives. End marriages. Revoke citizenships. Cost jobs or rate of pay or the ability to afford a home and a family.

I had a recent conversation with a friend from New York, a photographer working on a project about being authentic. She said that too many minority groups can’t survive four years under Trump or Cruz. Not can’t, won’t. And too many Bernie Bros are crying, that if their candidate isn’t in the running, they won’t vote.  Too many Democrats are claiming, they would never vote for a woman, so they’ll either vote for Trump or no one at all.

They have the privilege to not vote. It doesn’t matter to them and four years under a (racist, transphobic, homophobic, bigoted, misogynistic, hate-mongering) dictator won’t matter to them, and so therefore, it doesn’t matter.

It matters more than anything. It matters more than EVERYTHING. It matters because candidates like Trump and Cruz can undo everything, can make this country a hostile, hateful, horrible place to live. Candidates like Trump and Cruz are frightening, terrifying, and doing nothing to oppose them is as bad as supporting them.

If you’re thinking of not voting, YOU ARE SUPPORTING HATE.

If you’re thinking of not voting for a woman, YOU ARE SUPPORTING HATE.

If you’re thinking of not voting for a Jew, YOU ARE SUPPORTING HATE.

If you’re thinking of voting for Trump, YOU ARE SUPPORTING HATE.

Not voting shouldn’t be a choice that any citizen has the right to make. Without your voices, your votes, your support, ignorant hatred will be permitted to dominate our country. Discrimination and violence will be allowed, without cause or justification, as we have seen at nearly every Trump rally.

NOT VOTING IS NOT A CHOICE.

When it comes time for presidential elections in November, I hope to see each and every American waiting in line to raise their voice.  Because it matters to all of us, if it matters to one of us.

Get out today and vote for the primaries. Get out in November and vote for your next (hopefully Democratic) President. Get out and make a difference, for yourself, for my son, for all minority groups, for women, for immigrants, for the whole United States.

And however it all turns out, we’ll know we did our best. We’ll know we tried. We’ll know we had a say in the future of our country.

However it all turns out, we’ll have exercised our privilege as citizens of the United States to be a part of the election process.

And if it turns out that Trump or Cruz wins, please use your privilege to protect those of us who will be the target of their regimes.

Photo Credit: Matthew Lombardo

 Don’t miss my video on Listen to Your Mother  where I share my story of Jake’s transition.

 Interested in learning more about my son? Read Portrait of a Transgender Child.  You can read my latest post here: Donna Day 2016: What it means to mourn a child

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Cropped Photo: Courtesy MGN / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

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