Friday, November 18, 2016

No, I Am Not Going to Shut Up

I have no desire to live in an echo chamber, or to alienate Trump voters wholesale, both of which many of us are being accused of. But here's the thing: It's impossible to confront fascism (and the racism and other isms that come with it) without naming it. I tried the other night in an email to my father and by the time I got done editing it there was nothing left.

And we cannot pretend that this race was not about fascism and the racism that is part and parcel of it. How white were his rallies? Look at the way the vote split along racial lines! The KKK endorsed him, for God's sake. And so forth and so on, along each -ism you care to use to measure by.

If the vote were about jobs for the working class, killing TPP and rebuilding infrastructure, why didn't the white working class all vote for Bernie in the primaries? How could they not see all the jobs Mr. Obama has brought back and vote accordingly? The insurance he provided some 20 million of them with that they did not have before, ditto? The one-year extension to unemployment voted through by Democrats? and so forth.

If it was really about "draining the swamp," how do you explain that nobody saw (or cared) that he wouldn't release his own tax filings and that he surrounded himself with insiders and lobbyists?

If it was really about being heard, about bringing about change, don't you think they would have wanted someone with a track record of concern for the working class (Bernie, for example), someone with experience who understood how the system works (almost anybody else running, for example)?

If it weren't about race and gender and sexual identity or orientation and immigrant status and disability and religion, then why do you think members of all these non-WASP groups are so terrified right now? Are we all delusional?

Nope, I'm not buyin' it.

Sure, a lot of perfectly nice people probably held their noses and voted for him anyway because he was the Republican nominee. And they probably don't consider themselves racists, and probably they are not terribly comfortable with a lot of his other -isms either.

But here's the thing. I, too, know many Trump voters who seem(ed) "perfectly nice", as one editorial put it this week, but scratch the surface and the -isms are all there, every one. Maybe they follow the rules--they grant mortgages fairly, their churches admit Black families. But is it not racist to perpetuate the myth among themselves and their children that (mostly brown) illegal immigrants are taking their jobs, to sincerely believe in their heart of hearts and to teach their students that all (mostly brown) Muslims are terrorists, to behave as if Black people account for most of welfare recipients when debating entitlement programs? How do you define "racism"? To me, merely harboring bias qualifies. Expressing prejudice is over the line for sure.

In Buddhist thinking, many values are expressed as negatives--it is, as I understand it, simply the nature of the Pali language that this is so but it also has profound implications for how you think about a thing. Take the First Precept, for example, which says, "I shall endeavor not to harm any sentient being." We could have 1000 rules about what to do (I shall endeavor to obey the speed limit, eat vegetarian, wear cotton not wool, catch bugs and put them outside alive and well, etc.) and they would never manage to cover every exigency. But if you express it as not-harm, well then. It covers every conceivable base as we try to put it into play in our daily lives.

So. How about explicitly not-racist acts? The ethical question each Trump voter faces is, "What is the not-racist thing to do here?" Ask yourself: Are they calling upon their candidate to walk back his campaign promise to register Muslims? Have they asked him for some kind of statement about his old policy of not renting to Blacks? Have they confronted him about his followers' Jew-S-A chanting? Did they demand that he forcefully repudiate the Klan endorsement? Are they asking him now to please not give Brannon a White House job? No? Then where's the not-racism you speak of?

Buddhism is big on restraint as an ethic. Most precepts as originally formulated specify that not only do we refrain, but also we don't cause anyone else to do those things (steal, lie, etc.) either. We might ask, then, are Trump voters not-racist? Is it not-racist behavior when they say, "I am not a racist, but. . . ?" Are they not-racist when they give that man a pass on all this, when they not only overlook it but actively reward it with their votes?

I'm not seeing it. Are you?

And so I would argue that Trump voters are overwhelmingly not not-racist, at the very least, and that we would not be in this pickle right now if that were not so. We could use the terms fascism and not-fascism and have exactly the same conversation about NATO and the wall and the registry and on down the list and come to exactly the same conclusion. And I believe that this not-fascism is going to be the death of this country if we don't deal with it directly and forcefully.

It scares and saddens me to see so many thinkers and writers asking us to hunker down and fight what is to come one symptom at a time as if this were politics as normal. Medicare "reform"? Tamp it down. A registry for Muslims? Tamp that down. It's like my physician telling me, "Never mind the virus, that's not important (and it's your imagination running away with you anyway). Let's just focus on getting your fever down! You'll be fine. And here's some salve for those blisters." While my heart is damaged and my kidneys are threatening to shut down and.

So, no. I am not going to stop participating in discussions about why/how this happened, about what the real causes are. I am not going to stop calling out racism or any other -ism when I see it. And hard pass on the request that we all stop already with the Hitler metaphors (which isn't metaphorical anyway--look it up). This is not conservative politics as usual: This was a vote for the very soul of our country and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can redeem it from purgatory.

As the t-shirt says: You thought I was a nasty woman before? Buckle up, Buttercup.