After I finish writing this final post I am going to spend the rest of this Saturday doing laundry and cleaning. I’ve always found cleaning my surroundings to be a ceremonial end to a painful situation.
What I am observing right now is our country moving into a far too familiar pattern of finding monsters to be afraid of and others to blame for a situation. It’s a dangerous and disheartening pattern in America – the fearful victim.
The monster under the bed right now is Donald Trump. I am sixty-five years of age and have spent fifty-six of those years as a New Yorker. I spent many of those years commuting from the outer borough of the Bronx into New York City daily for work. I was commuting into the city and worked in the neighborhood of the first Trump Tower and watched it being built and after it was completed was a citizen who enjoyed the open lobby of that building.
Most New Yorkers knew back then that the newspaper we were “supposed” to read for intelligent news was the New York Times and many of us would read that venerable paper. However, many like myself, also read the Daily News even if we didn’t always admit it. Papers like the Daily News is how most of us took a peek at the lives of the big-wigs of our city. Donald Trump was,of course, someone who was featured on a regular basis in both the news and gossip pages. He was known as a colorful figure who had no particular interest in causes we all knew that his motivation was money and fame. Having no interest in causes he was not known for caring about racial equality nor particularly looking to destroy people of color. He was brought up on charges of keeping black people out of his rental properties but if we are going to be honest that is the way the real estate business was conducted and The Donald was following the policies of the banks and real estate business along with thousands of others. “Yes, Virginia institutional racism does exist.”
As an opportunist Donald Trump also worked with all types of people, especially in the entertainment world, if it suited his purpose. I am not privy to Donald’s real estate holdings but I would bet that in his higher price properties there are plenty of people of color as well as gay people owning or renting apartments. Green is Donald’s favorite color. There is an ice skating rink in Central Park known as the Wollman Rink. It had fallen into disrepair and was shut down in 1980. The city planned on renovating it for $9.1 million and the job was expected to take four years to complete. Six years later the rink was still closed and Trump decided to get involved he worked with then Mayor Koch and in four months at a cost of $2 million New York City’s Wollman Rink reopened. Of course, it now shares its name with Trump but it is open and affordable to all New Yorkers. This doesn’t, of course, make Donald a saint but he also could have chosen to ignore the situation or to make the ice skating rink as exclusive as one of his golf/country clubs.
The point I’m trying to make is that the President-Elect is a wild card who has allegiance to no group. He is an opportunistic man who seems to be driven by money, fame and an inflated opinion of himself. He likes to make deals and will deal with anyone if it suits his purpose. Our Senate minority leader will be Chuck Schummer a fellow New Yorker whom most likely has already had many dealings with The Donald. One loyalty we know The Donald has is a loyalty to his family and while it is his lack of foreign experience which is of the most concern to me I take comfort in the fact that he doesn’t want to die and certainly wants a world to exist for his children and grandchildren. Donald is also not someone who wants to live his life in a protected bunker or on some protected island built in international waters. I think the chances are high that our current “monster under the bed” will find a way to not press the nuclear codes. I also believe that given his opportunistic nature and that he is a die-hard New Yorker who has lived his entire life in a liberal multi-cultural city that the GOP has plenty to fear from the wild-card Trump. We can, perhaps, turn on the lights and see the “monster under the bed” is a pile of dirty socks.
My work and lifestyle has given me the privilege of knowing and loving many people of color and members of the gay community. On a personal level it has been so painful to hear the fear in their voices as they anticipate the hateful racists thinking they have a new found right to express their ignorance and hatred to whomever they want in however a manner they choose to express their hatred. I believe that the most awful thing about this election is that Donald Trump played the role of an opportunistic carnival barker and brought the bigots out of their hole and into a position of perceived power. They voted based on anger and hatred – they voted on the ignorant belief that their problems have been caused by people of a different skin color, religion or sexual orientation.
The question we must ask ourselves is how did the ignorant among us get the power to vote on hatred? We are not victims here and the outcome is not the fault of Donald Trump or the DNC or the Bernie supporters or the Hillary supporters. The outcome lies at the feet of the 46% who did not vote at all. Just like the outcome of the hatred that we allowed to stop the Obama Presidency from truly changing our lives lies with all of the citizens who turned the congress over to the GOP by not voting in the election of 2010. We are not the victims we are the cause of this situation – there are no monsters under the bed.
From everything that I’ve read and have been reading the active racists and bigots are about 30% of the population and yet they seem to be the ones with the loudest voices and who have gained the most political power. How can that be when 70% of the population is not that ignorant and bigoted? No, we are not victims here – we are not taking our responsibilities as citizens seriously. Too busy or uninformed to vote? Well The Donald is the consequence.
I sometimes have a unique position in our society because I truly do look like someone who could be the mother of a racist cop. I am someone who is often looked at with suspicion by my fellow citizens of color – from the outside they don’t know that I am part of a mixed family – they don’t know that I have life-long friends who are outside that box of whiteness and hetero-sexuality. They don’t know that I look at a young Muslim mother with her beautiful young children with sadness as they won’t even look at me so that I have the opportunity to smile at them. The young Mexican or African American teen doesn’t know if I’m one who hates him for the way that he looks and it is not up to him to prove anything to me but I have found that the overwhelmingly majority will smile back and greet me if I reach out first. We who do not support the hatred that fueled this election have the responsibility to take a damn moment and smile at a stranger. We have the responsibility to not look the other way when we are in the unfortunate position of observing racism in action. Standing up for what we truly believe is important and that means stepping out of our comfort zone whether in a supermarket, speaking to a neighbor who is a bigot, on Facebook with a “supposed” friend (the unfriend button exists for a reason) or even at a family function when ignorant Uncle Charlie takes over the conversation. You never know if by speaking up you help others sitting at a dinner table who simply need a nudge to go from silently thinking “shut the hell up you old fool” into actually supporting your words.
On the positive side of this election there is the fact that more of our citizens voted against Trump and the blue states held strong on many of their progressive initiatives. The power of those who run today’s Republican Party comes from their understanding and use of the 10th amendment. They built their repressive movement from the ground up via the 10th amendment. The blue states are standing strong in their 10th amendment power. It takes a bit of involvement and a trip to a local election once a year to push towards the communities we actually want. Who says that the racist who is your county sheriff has to stay in power – he can be voted out by your vote. Who says that local school boards have to be run by religious zealots who want to teach children about Adam and Eve playing with the dinosaurs or that slavery was no big deal? They can be voted out by our votes. They can be put in check by us being aware of what is going on a local level.
We are not victims of anyone but ourselves. It is our fault that for the past three decades we have allowed the voices of the loud and ignorant haters to gain such power. I have watched for three decades decent people keep their heads in the sand and it is encouraging to see the push back that is finally happening. The question is do we join in or do we continue to cling to the borders of our own sandboxes and tsk, tsk as we run to the mall or turn on the television to shut out the voice of our own responsibilities to our fellow citizens.
End of my spiel and I promise my next blog will be about the movements of the planets and yoga. Now, I’m off to do some housecleaning and listen to some loud music while doing so!