Now, it's not like that laundry list of heinous human behaviors has ever not been in existence. None of those things have ever truly gone away. They just get beaten into submission from time to time and decent society manages to make strides forward. The reality is that all of this just sits beneath the surface, roiling, festering, the heat of a resentment born of not being allowed to express the ugliness in the open, building and building.
We have all known these people in our lives. Their caustic comments about "the other," their suspicious side eye to anyone who doesn't look like them. Growing up, my grandparents, products of their generation and upbringing were openly racist. I can remember recoiling at the casual way the n-word was thrown around in their conversations.
I was 10.
Ten years old and I instinctively knew it was ugly and wrong. Much the way I began to call bullshit on organized religion, recognizing the glaring hypocrisy and openly encouraged separation that filled the pews, my home.
I was 10 then, too.
Ten years old and I understood that something was broken in these people, something was missing or dead. I did not know the word for what I sensed was lacking, but as I grew older, the word empathy filled that blank.
Empathy, n: the ability to understand and share the feelings/experience of another
Over the past eight years this country, despite constant and childish obstruction by politicians, was making strides forward. We were forcing our founding fathers' words to fulfill their meaning. We were insuring liberties and rights for ALL, not just some. We were welcoming into the light those constantly marginalized and kept in the shadows. We were celebrating love in all its forms and fashions.
We watched as our first black President was constantly belittled, as effigies swung in trees, as his skin color was all it took to make people lose their fragile minds. (I have always wondered - as President Obama is also half white - what the years would have been like had his mother's skin color been dominant in his appearance.)
Year after year we pushed forward, making it clear that the time had come to allow marriage for all, seeing that protections for those who do not fit the binary were needed, that decent society was ready and encouraging these changes. Open hearts and open minds were finally making this country live up to the words that we are all "created equal."
Yet, under the advances, that resentment, that irrational hatred was reaching a boiling point. The scar tissue holding it in was weakening and with the election season, it broke open, the poison slithering, oozing, festering in the sunlight.
Crowds gathered to cheer on a morally and fiscally bankrupt (multiple times) carnival barker who not only embraced their bigotry and biases, but emboldened it, stoking their fears, feeding them conspiracy theories and lies made up on the spot. He disparaged Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, refugees. He reTweeted Nazi propaganda. He got into 140 character fistfights with former beauty queens. Waking up each morning, it was anybody's guess who he would have in his Twitter crosshairs.
And 61 million people loved it. 61 million people threw off the shackles of polite society, elevated themselves above anyone unlike them, and took a sawed off shotgun to any shred of empathy that may have ever tried to exist in their cesspool-like hearts. 61 million people stood shoulder to shoulder with racism, ignorance, phobias of all ilk, zealotry, misogyny, and boldfaced, easily called out lies.
And they cheered.
They cheered when he screeched about building a pointless, meaningless, expensive wall. They wet themselves in glee when he bellowed about throwing Hillary in jail. For what? Meh, details. Did not matter that Republicans have tried to go after her for decades and repeatedly come up short. The crowds' violent tendencies were repeatedly directed at the journalists he put in pens. They roared their approval when he castigated an entire religion. They grabbed each other's pussies in solidarity when his own foul words of admitted molestation filled the airwaves. His defense against those women who bravely began coming forward? They were too ugly to grope. That made his throngs cheer louder.
And any hint of sympathy, kindness, support for those people - those women, Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, LGBTQIA - all were met by these kneekJERKs with vitriol, hatred, repugnant comments filling threads.
That has bothered me the most. That the mere mention of acceptance, tolerance, hell, LOVE, sends these reprobates into a violent meltdown. What is so profoundly broken in a person that concepts such as kindness trigger such a hostile response?
Empathy has died as "alternative facts" have been born. Anything that does not reinforce their way of thinking, their hatred, their biases, is instantly tagged "fake." Their orange leader did it this morning when he tweeted:
And they will embrace it because he has given voice to their specious fears, validated their ignorance, and made their hatred of others "cool."
His ill conceived ban on entry into this country by those from 7 countries? Muslim majority, mind you, but none where actual terrorists have come from. (Hint: The Venn diagram of countries left out of his ban and countries where he has business interests are one overlapping circle.) Well, when that hit the airwaves, his cadre of "constitutional scholars" seal clapped in unison as they saw families, refugees, visa holders, green card holders - psst, brown people - stopped and denied entry. His talking empty heads defended handcuffing a five year old, separating a breastfeeding 11 month old from her mother, denying entry to a baby with a heart condition who was coming for life saving surgery. They shrugged when this ban resulted in a family missing the death of a mother, they were denied their last chance to be together.
Syrian refugee families that had been vetted for two years were denied boarding in their country of origin, told that their dream of shelter, promise, hope was flushed by a tyrant who has zero understanding of governance, the Constitution, or checks and balances.
Airports were immediately the site of protests as thousands came out against the ban, thousands marching in support of those being denied.
And online? Trump's flying monkeys were in their glory. Every comment thread that followed an article was filled with ugliness, ignorance, reprehensible, sometimes incomprehensible verbiage, and a complete "Stay the fuck out of MY country" mindset. Did not matter to them that many being denied were card carrying citizens of this country. They dared to be brown, and originally from somewhere else, so they obviously want to blow up the cul-de-sac or trailer park in Middle Of, Nowhere, USA.
Try to engage these people and explain the actual plight of Syrian refugees. You get nowhere. Nothing but hate, wishes for their deaths, not a drop of sympathy, no attempt at empathy.
That inability, or complete unwillingness, to even imagine what someone else may be suffering is their hallmark.
It is there when they laugh at dead children washed up on the beach in Turkey.
It is there when they mock those with disabilities.
It is there when they say those who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting deserved it because they were gay.
It is there when they physically threaten or actually assault a woman wearing a hijab.
It is there in every bullshit, bogus bathroom bill targeting transgender citizens.
It is there when they burn down mosques, call in bomb threats to synagogues.
And it was there again last night during the Super Bowl.
As those expensive ads filled the airwaves, they lost their collective shit. Adding to their current boycott of Starbucks for daring to state they will be hiring refugees, they are now boycotting 84 Lumber for displaying empathy and hope, and boycotting Budweiser for creating an ad about their founder - himself an immigrant, and how he came here to find a better life.
This one, from 84 Lumber, taglined - "The will to succeed is always welcomed here" threw them into spasms of hate and vitriol. Simply because the company tried to HUMANIZE the plight of so many who risk their lives to pick our tomatoes and cut our grass.
They became apopletic that Budweiser would dare create an ad of this type. Now, nowhere in the ad does it openly indict a specific group of people in contemporary American society, yet these cretins with filth in their hearts intuited it as a blow against them and their beloved leader's desire to keep everyone out.
Seems to me they need to take a better look in the mirror and ask themselves why they kneejerk so hard at depictions of hope, kindness, and promise winning over hate, bigotry, and ignorance.
It stymies me how they cannot see the hypocrisy in their actions, the brutality in their words, the violence in their souls. How they completely ignore their own history. We all came from somewhere else.
Take the ban. So it seeks to hide behind many showy words that all Muslims are bad and must be kept out for fear of a bad one getting in. Even one of Trump's sons callously and proudly compared refugees to a bowl of Skittles during the campaign. Basically saying that if there were three poison ones in the bowl would you still grab a handful. OK, 1 - he is an entitled, spoiled little boy whose biggest suffering in this life has been a penchant for getting shitfaced in college and peeing himself while passed out. And 2 - Refugees are not Skittles. They are flesh and blood human beings trying to protect their families. Oh, and 3? - Idiot.
So we take a massive paintbrush and use it to paint ALL refugees and ALL Muslims as terrorists out to do us harm.
Fine. By that same logic then, other countries need to close their borders to every white male in this one. Want to travel to Ireland? Vacation in the Caribbean? Fulfill a dream to see the Eiffel Tower? The Great Wall? Machu Pichu? Sorry, all they know is that white men in the United States repeatedly blow shit up and kill people. STAY. OUT. YOU. POISON. SKITTLES.
Last night, Lady Gaga was mesmerizing in her half-time show. She sang live (take notes, Mariah), danced, and provided balm to millions of badly bruised hearts. Of course, those 61 million who chafe at accepting anyone different took to the comment boards before the show had even ended. How dare she sing her hit song Born This Way - you know, the one that is an anthem of acceptance, and pride in being exactly who you know yourself to be?
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I'm on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I'm on the right track baby
I was born to be brave
In reading their hatred as it froths forth, it is very easy to see that messages like Gaga's literally cause these people pain. Empathy, showing compassion, extending a hand, helping someone up, defending someone who is different - all instantly cause them to lash out.
It is shameful behavior. It is the behavior of profoundly broken people with nothing but ugliness inside them.
As my son Toby said while we were discussing this current state of affairs, "It's just sad that being a decent human being is somehow a political thing now." And he's right. Being kind, being caring, considerate, decent should be the most apolitical things possible, yet somehow Trump's coven wants to make these into some sort of character flaws. Whatever - if that is how they want to roll, then consider my politics to be those of inclusion, compassion, LOVE.
Personally, I'l take being called a cuck, a libtard, a bleeding heart, and their current favorite - snowflake. They all mean I am willing to break my heart to help mend other people's. Those monikers indicate that I do not hold myself above someone who sits somewhere else on life's spectrum. My heart does bleed and my eyes fill with tears when I see a refugee child in shock, covered in ash. Yes, it means I am open and friendly with people who are adherents of Islam, I support women who wear hijabs, I happily greet people of every color, not instantly wondering how they got here, why they are here, are they legal.
I see human beings. And a true human being understands suffering. A true human being sees it, and wants to help, wants to make it stop.
So, enjoy your wretched cesspool of hate and intolerance. Your empathy drowning in the hot poisonous lava of your irrational anger, fear, and repulsive behavior. And yet even as it bubbles up and seeps out, threatening to destroy everything it touches, bear this in mind...
It was not acceptable then when I was 10. It is not acceptable now when I am 50. It was Voltaire who said, "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." Well, we snowflakes are building into an avalanche and will be proudly responsible for smothering your hate and shoving you back into your sewers where you and your venom belong.
Winter IS Coming.