I am a bleeding heart liberal. Yep, I said it and I am not ashamed. I tend to be an empathetic person. On any given day you might find me giving money to the homeless, saving spiders from my bathtub drain and crying during hallmark commercials.
So it is a Tuesday and I am ranting to my children about the lack of empathy in this country and my son, who is more republican than I would like to admit, shuts me down, just when I was in the middle of a “when I was a kid,” statements that adults like to throw around.
“People haven’t changed” he says with the certainty that only a 16 year old chess playing, math loving white boy can have. “They just have a forum to speak their minds.”
He is talking about Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms where an email account and a keyboard gives anyone the ability to state their opinion no matter how offense it is. This is where I read the horrible comments that my fellow human beings hurl like poison covered spears at each other on most days. Neighbors, acquaintances, and friends of friends, on the opposite sides of an invisible line drawn in the sand. On one side are the liberals; the soft hearted, the give everyone a chance, the everyone deserves help, bunch. On the other side is the conservatives; the no handouts, you better get a job, take care of yourself, get off my lawn, crew.
He might have a point. Were people always this divided on the spectrum of what we stand for as a country and I just didn’t know it? Did I romanticize Americans over the last few decades not taking the time to really look at our core beliefs and if they divided us?
Growing up in the 70’s there was an unspoken rule that you didn’t talk about politics or religion with people, especially friends. We tried to stay civil. As the racism, homophobia, and misogyny bubbled just under the surface of our culture, we smiled and talked about the weather.
Fast forward 50 years and our country apparently has been seething with hatred and bigotry. Enter Trump. Trump has released a hate among people that had been sent into the collective subconscious of our society. Half of our country was ripe for Trump to turn the key and open Pandora’s box. I have seen more hate seethe from the cauldron of loathing in the past two years than I ever realized could even be possible. Neighbors, friends, family arguing about the most basic rights of humanity is something that I did not expect, I did not foresee, I did not predict.
I wonder out loud to my son, if the hate was always there and just did not have an outlet. He rolled his eyes at me and said, “You are so clueless.”
And I guess I am. I have been living in a world where basic human rights were just a gimme in the year 2018. I had to take a good look at our country and I sadly have realized that hate, bigotry and racism has always been in our country. It just has existed quietly for the past 50 years. It existed in racist jokes shared in a hushed tone at the bar, in a woman earning less on their paychecks and not being able to speak up, in the Don’t ask, Don’t Tell policy in our armed forces concerning the LGBT community.
What I call the Trump Factor has brought all of the hate out of the shadows and into the light. We can see it clearly now; the twisted, mangled, disgusting hate which is flowing from the pores of our country. We are seeing rhetoric and actions from our president, that would not be tolerated from a 13 year old bully on the playground, being met with cheers of delight from misguided and inane spectators.
This group thinks mocking a woman who came forward to tell her story of sexual abuse, making fun of a handicapped journalist, calling people vile, racist names that objectify their sex, race or color is something to celebrate, a way to prove that they are taking back America. All I see is a whittling away of society norms that has taken generations to instill. And the underbelly of our society has taken this cue from him like a siren calling the wolves to feast. This dog whistle of hate has been heard by all who have been waiting to unleash their venom on our society.
So what do we do as the majority of Americans who still believe that human progress, respecting humanity and the rights of all members of our society matter? We need to speak up. We need to be heard. We need to fight for the dignity and respect of all human beings regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. We need to vote, get involved, be active in the discussion. We need our collective voices to be heard. The only place for hate, racism, prejudice and inequality in our beloved country, is in the past.