What the Last Four Years Have Taught Me About Politics
Had you predicted in January 2017 exactly what would happen during Trump's first term in office, I surely wouldn't have believed you. To be fair, I'm generally skeptical of predictions, no matter who they come from. I'm convinced the only predictions to come true are overly broad. But I digress.
I voted for Gary Johnson. It's something that I don't necessarily regret. Living on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, it surely didn't affect the outcome of the election. But I am slightly embarrassed about it. I'm not sure embarrassed is even the right word to describe it. With the world view I currently hold, I surely would have voted for Clinton and never would have even considered Johnson. But I don't think that's necessarily something to find embarrassing, just evidence that I've learned and changed accordingly, as one does in life.
One thing that I am embarrassed about is that I had Gary Johnson magnets on my car the week of the election. I'm surprised it didn't get egged or otherwise vandalized sitting for hours everyday that week on the north side of San Francisco's Potrero Hill in such a state. But then again, the thought of a Trump victory was still unfathomable at that point, at least in my social circles. But, be assured, despite the fact that I voted for a conservative in 2016, when Trump won, I was scared nearly shitless. The fact that many of my fellow American libertarians weren't was very telling to me.
The beginnings of my political transformation can be portrayed in two blog posts I wrote that year: An Open Letter to Senator Rand Paul and Libertarian No More. The latter was received with praise among my immediate groups of friends. I was even urged to join the Democratic Socialists of America. At the time, I was still uncomfortable with that idea because “socialism” was still the misunderstood monster under the bed that I wasn't supposed to talk about.
The day after the election, many of my co-workers at the small San Franciso startup did not come into work. At the time, I regret to say that I nearly found that laughable. I was in the thick of my faith transition. I grew up in one of the reddest states in the country. I had family members who voted for Trump, and surely they weren't terrible people, or at least would condemn the terrible actions many were predicting would happen. While I was scared of a Trump presidency, I think I just suspected four to eight years of comments condemning Kaepernick and other giants with no consequence. I did not understand the history of racism or the depth of the oppression in this country.
Co-workers held sessions to vent and express fears and frustrations. In these sessions, I was viewed as somewhat of a “conservative whisperer” because I said I could sympathize with those that voted for Trump, and I could. Though, I'm not sure that was the best thing in our situation. In effort to span the chasm of misunderstanding between liberals and conservatives which we viewed gave way to the rise of Trump, I was encouraged to share those conservative views. Absolutely no harm in that. However, I believe that such efforts soon were taken too far and led to an environment where the fallacy of “both sides” was present, at least in my head and in conversations I participated in.
I remember the topic of climate change coming up and someone expressing frustration in climate change deniers. I claimed that the majority of conservatives, or at least the reasonable ones I had interacted with, don't deny climate change but simply think that it's not as imminent as the left claims. This was entirely based in my own uneducated understanding of the topic. A co-worker rightly pointed out that it doesn't matter whether they don't believe it's happening or if they don't believe it's as imminent, the effect is the same. In this case, the insistence to see both sides has cost the population of the earth precious time.
In the case of the oppression of racism, the “both sides” argument has cost Black and Brown lives. In the case of the value and contribution of women, the “both sides” argument has cost the human population an immeasurable amount of innovation and progress. In the case of sexuality and gender, the “both sides” argument has led to the suicide of countless LGBTQ+ individuals. If a side denies the humanity, justice, and dignity of any community, it's not worth it. It's a burning pile of shit. Period.
Perhaps the greatest thing that I learned in the past four years that informs my current political views more than anything else is the seemingly unpopular mantra that “all politics are identity politics.” Even the frustrated refute of that statement is rooted in identity. Every policy written without the presence or approval of a certain demographic has a high likelihood of affecting that demographic in an unforeseen way, often negatively. White, straight, cisgendered, able males have grown so accustomed to all the rules being written by our demographic that we don't realize those rules are rooted in identity themselves. We deny any such possibility because without the privilege those rules uphold, we subconsciously fear our identity would crumble in fragility.
And so, to the privileged, equality feels like oppression. Similarly, the advancement of the privileged results in oppression of the under-privileged.
Putting cops in schools was viewed as a good idea to stop school shootings and other crime. All it has done is increase the number of non-white students arrested and even killed in their own school's hallways. The PATRIOT Act was passed to ramp up surveillance and protect us from another 9/11. All it has done is led to racial profiling, particularly in the Muslim community causing mass xenophobia and a literal Muslim travel ban. It has also led to mass deportation of undocumented immigrants in our country, the overwhelming majority of which have never committed violent acts within the US.[^1] Tough on crime bills have led to the US having the largest prison population in the world, the majority of which is Black. Many are innocent but cannot vote, furthering a disgusting history of the disenfranchisement of Black voters in our country.
This is precisely why representation matters. This is why everyone needs a say in policies. This is why those of us who have benefit from these terrible laws need to use that privilege to lift up and support those whom the same laws have kicked in the teeth. You may not think you're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, ableist, or enabling white supremacy, but the policies you support and who you vote for say otherwise.
[^1]: The Homeland Insecurity Podcast by RAICES does a wonderful job diving into this topic. I highly recommend it.
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