Monday, November 14, 2016

The Unfriend Zone

Many tensions are high right now, and like many out there I felt a need to unfriend people who voted for Trump.  This does not mean I don’t love these people or don’t wish them well.  I’m just as afraid for many of them and the safety of their families as I am for my own and putting them in the unfriend zone hurt me more than I can express.  So if it hurt me to do so, why did I do it? Well, put simply, I did not unfriend you because you voted for Trump, but to protect myself and other loved ones.

Let’s start off with the number one presumption and accusation.  “All Trump supporters are, racist, xenophobic, bigoted, evil, (insert the negative adjective here.)”  No. Some are, some aren’t. To overgeneralize everyone who voted for Trump as (any one of) these things is the same as thinking all Mexicans are thieves and rapists, or all Muslims are terrorists.  This irony has not been lost on me.  No, I do not think all Trump supporters are (again insert discordant adjective,) just like I can’t think all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, leading up to the election I even went around making sure people understood this about Trump supporters. My ENTIRE family voted for the man and that gave me some insights and opportunities to sit down with people and find out why they would vote for him if they aren’t racist etc.? There are reasons, if we haven’t had the chance to talk about that yet I apologize as this is not the time. This post is about why I would defend Trump supporters one day and unfriend them the next.
Trump is the adult version of the prom King. The high school leader of the In-Crowd, who not only sits at the cool kids’ table but is seen as the one running the show.  Is he a bully?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  You’ve never seen him do any physical harm to another personally. And maybe the only reason he says some of the outlandish things he says is because, for whatever reason, he feels a need to impress some of the people who sit at his table. That’s just business. He needs those votes for prom king after all, and you’re okay with that because you understand this political move. And hey, as long as you’re sitting at his table, he may let you have some of the pizza he ordered and invite you to his kegger that weekend. Good times are in store for you personally, and that’s what you need to focus on during these tough times. You’re just doing what’s right for you.  Yeah, yeah, you know he egged on a couple of the others at the table to not let that “homo” from glee club get to his locker after 5th period, but that’s not your business.  You personally don’t have anything against gay people. In fact, you secretly can’t stand those two that gave that kid a swirly. But who are you to say anything to the prom king about reeling in those others at the table?  The prom king is your friend. Your compadre.  He’s still got your vote and are those other lackeys really his problem?  Nah.

But they are. And for many, that’s exactly what those protests are about. They aren’t just people whining that they didn’t get their way. (And before you argue realize that if you want the benefit of the doubt given to you, you must extend it as well. Don’t condemn others and then whine about being condemned as a racist yourself.) Silence is a form of approval. If you don’t speak up and say “hey, you’re my friend, but that’s not okay. Please stop, it bothers me when you say racist stuff,” you’re going to be seen as someone who is perfectly in alignment with those views. Those “friends” of yours are never going to have a reason to stop giving swirlies to the gay kids, or throwing spit wads at the kids who are black, or chanting about deportation at the kids with parents from Mexico, or tripping the kids with disabilities. You KNOW this. This is the same reason why so many of you have been shouting from the rooftops that all the Muslim leaders and communities have to publicly chastise those who are doing violence in the world.

Problem is, most of you haven’t even been saying, “Okay that’s far enough. Reel it in, Trump.”  Most of you have not been telling Trump, now that it’s over, to start turning things around. And that is scary, not only for myself, but for MANY that I love. So yes, it’s likely that you were unfriended to protect myself and my other loved ones, because honestly I’m not sure I know who you are anymore or that I can really trust you. I have reason to question it.  As someone who works with students with disabilities. As someone who has many friends who are either black, Muslim, Latino, or gay or trans. Not only do I feel I’m at risk, but that my friends are. This is a very slippery slope we are on as a nation. And I am not required to give you access to my facebook, my friends list, and other information, that could potentially lead others to myself or my friends to be a victim of a hate crime.  Because yes, you may not be a bigot, but I don’t know who is sitting at your table and can overhear things. If that bully can see me post something they don’t agree with because you “liked,” “reacted” to, or commented on it… now they can identify me.  Now they can raise a stink about me working in a school with their kids.  Now a racist or xenophobe may be able to know where all my friends who practice Wicca are, or when I’m planning to meet a friend who happens to be black for drinks.  I will not put myself or others in jeopardy like that.

Now I have gotten a lot of interesting reactions to this.  People think I’m being childish, or overreacting, or that I’m unfriending people because I don’t like that they don’t agree with me 100%. That’s not the case anymore than it’s the case that 100% of Trump supporters are racists.

What I would like people to know and remember about me is, when I was in school I was kind of the leader of the misfits.  I had friends who were in wheelchairs, or socially awkward, or who was the only outed gay kid on the playground.  I tried my very best to rise up and defend them whenever I could. And what did it get me? Relentless teasing. Books thrown at my head from the second story stairwell. And when my mother found out that her favorite of my friends, whom she even called “son,” was gay, he was suddenly no longer welcome in our home.  People stood by and let it all happen, when it could have been stopped with just a little speaking up for kindness. Now tell me how I’m overreacting when my life experience and history identifies all of this as happening again.

So, no, you are not the one throwing the books at my head. Not yet. But you aren’t stepping up to stop it from happening either. Not yet, and honestly I have very little reason to trust you to do so at this point. Here’s why:

1. A great deal of trust has been betrayed.  Most of my friends have claimed to want to be defenders of the environment, and rights of all people, not just themselves. But have voted for someone who is appointing a climate change skeptic as leader of the EPA and have promised to sign an act that will allow people discriminate against others based on their religious views. That’s right, in case it escaped your attention, Trump has promised to make it legal to be prejudiced against a person based on a religious view and make it so that the government can’t punish someone for telling me that because I’m divorced (and they don’t believe in divorce) that I can’t work for them, or live in an apartment I apply for, etc. (  And the fact that the words in this legislation are “or ACTS in accordance with beliefs,” How long will it be before women are stoned because the old testament says she cannot divorce her husband but has slept with another man?  Or a man is beaten in the street for loving another man.  Or “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” (Exodus 22:18) remember that classic? Please, tell me again how I’m overreacting and shouldn’t be afraid.

2.  All of Trump’s talk about the “media” lying and urging people to cancel subscriptions to anything that says anything REMOTELY negative or critical about him (whether true or not.) He has banned newspapers from covering his campaign simply for having a headline he didn’t like. I’m a writer. You are supporting censorship, and that scares me more than anything I can possibly express.  One day very soon I could face some very serious consequences for writing things people don’t agree with if our first amendment continues to be demolished this way.

3.  One of the reasons the polls so inaccurately predicted Trumps victory is because so many felt they had to hide who they supported out of shame. Don't you feel that should say something about who you supported. The fact that you’ve only come out about it now that you feel validated by others who also feel like you should say even more. And now you may understand why those who were so vocal about hate may feel validated enough to actually act on it now.  It's what you're feeling but ten fold. So, no, just telling everyone you aren’t racist or a bigot isn’t going to convince people when you are sitting at the same table as them and doing nothing about it.  People now have reason to suspect that you merely have the decency to still feel some shame there in hiding at least that much.

In summation of that, many of my “unfriends” have claimed to be against abortion themselves, but told me that they think it’s every individual’s very personal decision that should be left between her and her doctor. I was okay that with that.  Many said even though they personally feel it’s a sin, they support the LGBTQ community and think they should be protected and feel safe as American citizens as that’s their right. I was okay with that too.  They said they are all for protecting the environment.  They said they respect women and would never tolerate listening to a person disrespect a woman so vulgarly because chivalry isn’t dead… But no matter how you want to spin it, at the end of the day, they voted in a way that proved the opposite of these things they said to me, and I feel like I don’t even know them anymore.  And if after years of friendship these people couldn’t be honest with me, why would I want to continue that toxic of a relationship?

If you’re standing up for your religious and ethical beliefs or principles by voting for Trump, that’s fine.  So am I by removing you from my friends list.  And I’m sorry to say.  You don’t get to criticize me for doing the same thing you’re doing.  Because the thing is, after all that, how can I believe you?  How can I trust you?  How can I feel like when people like the KKK come for me because they don’t view me as a “real” Christian, and I have friends who are black, gay, have had to have an abortion, or because I own a tarot deck… How can I trust that you’ll help me and not just say, “well, that sucks for you but I can’t get involved because I have to think of the safety of my family.”  And yes, of course you do. But can I even trust you to not say, “hey, I know where you can find her” to really assure your own safety?

So no.  I haven’t unfriended you because I don’t agree with your politics.  I just unfortunately feel a need to protect myself from everything you voted against—everything that makes me… well, me. Against my home, my job, my health, my well-being.  You voted for a person who has put those things at risk because it meant it was what was best for you. I forgive you for doing that, but understand that unfriending you now is what is best for me and the rest of my friends who I feel compelled to protect. You have an entire government sworn to protect you now (at a cost to me.)  I simply must take that action upon myself by refusing access. By making my voice heard that this is not okay. And I know you feel like I am the one that is making us enemies here, but that's where we must simply agree to disagree.

Be well, be safe, be happy, my "unfriends."  I'm just as worried for you in these coming days.

UPDATE:  I have already encountered "I'm paranoid" responses.  Well, as someone who has already lost jobs for sticking up for coworkers of various ethnicities, been blackmailed by a pastor, and had family shun me and give me an entire collection of Bibles in hopes to "reach" me...  forgive me if I'm of the persuasion that it is better to hopefully just be paranoid and safe, than it is to be foolishly trusting and sorry.