I don’t make it a secret that I’m a very socially awkward person, or that I’ve come a long way since I’ve started to interact on FB. One thing I’ve been trying to do for a while is make eye contact with people and smile. It’s harder than it sounds, at least for me, but I see the response.
Today, I went to a Mexican restaurant, and I kept wondering if the staff is experiencing the sort of thing we are. It made me try just a little harder to be a little more attentive, to be a little more present, and to engage in ways that quite frankly scare the hell out of me. I’m not saying that to pat myself on the back, though I am proud of myself. I’m saying it because this is something I’ve never done before, and it’s scary, but I’m seeing a difference.
We tipped extra well, and I just wrote ‘thank you’ on the receipt. Nothing special. Just… simple things. My husband and I got into a conversation about it, because I mentioned what was running through my head, and he’s blunt about the fact that he’s only going to be nice to people who deserve it. That’s how he’s always been. And I just keep thinking.
I want to be the bigger person, the better person, but I’m honestly not sure this is the time for that. Like I’ve seen going around the Internet, this isn’t about what kind of coffee or chocolate you like. This is about human rights. I’ve done a lot of reading — and honestly, it makes my stomach turn — about why people voted for Trump. I’m trying to understand. And I just can’t.
I honestly don’t like the person I’ve become since this election started, but at the same time, I can’t understand. I just can’t. I’ve spent hours deliberating, reading, listening, crying, raging, lashing out, comforting, agreeing, disagreeing… and right now, I just don’t know if being a better person in the traditional sense — “respecting” others’ opinions, “agreeing to disagree,” and what have you — is the right response.
I don’t know. I think now, more than ever, is the time to say, “no, this isn’t okay, and I’m not going to agree to disagree.” Because to do that is to say that they have a right to hatred and prejudice. Who am I to say they’re wrong? Who am I to say that my opinion is more valid? It seems like common sense to me, but obviously it really isn’t. So… what then? What now?
Trump said he’d make America great again, and the message many people got was that he’d take us back in time — that he’d reverse rights and guide us to a more conservative-friendly nation where people could stick their heads in the sand about racism and rape culture (to say the least). That he’d return jobs. That he would put religion and conservative ‘values’ forward in a country that supposedly embraces freedom of religion.
Hillary said she’d move us forward, that we’d see progress, that we wouldn’t accept this state of things. And that’s scary to a lot of people. That’s unknown. The consequences and benefits aren’t always obvious. But to a lot of us, it represented hope — for a greater, more inclusive America rather than a greater, more divided America.
I had another conversation today about our tendency (at least in the United States) to put ourselves above the greater good. Maybe it’s true; maybe it’s European bias. 😉 Either way, I think that’s what happened in this election. People were so focused on one issue, or hell, even a few, and they didn’t think about the repercussions for other people.
They didn’t care.
This doesn’t make sense to me. Those who accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior seem to forget that a common view of him is that he promotes love, forgiveness, avoiding judging, considering wealth and poverty, hypocrisy, prayer… And yet the loudest Christians are those who focus on isolated verses, primarily in the Old Testament, in a book that’s undergone translations and cultural bias as well as different representations of certain ideals.
Homosexuality is (in theory) a sin. So is divorce. So is eating shrimp. Judging others is a no-no, and yet many feel the need to judge others and impose their own values on them. Many are pro-life, but how many of them adopt children who have no homes? How many accept the murder of doctors who perform abortions? How many are willing to sacrifice the mother — whether it’s her life or her quality of life? I saw someone not long ago say that she was thinking of the babies. What about adults? Yes, children need our protection, but we don’t lose value because we become adults. We don’t become less deserving of love and respect.
Some worry about trans folks raping others (or people masquerading as trans folks to get into places where they can), but we have a man accused of rape about to enter the White House. Those who are supposedly representatives of God have gotten away with rape on many occasions.
These are the ‘traditional’ values I hear about a lot. And no matter how many times I think through it and deliberate and go through my early life as a Roman Catholic, I can’t figure it out. Honestly? I’m not sure I want to. I’m really not sure I want to understand how people can justify seeing some people as lesser, or less deserving of love and compassion. I’m not really sure I want to understand how people can attack others based on who they love.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, yet casting that stone means that judgment has been done. Judge not. That’s not our place. Yes, the real meaning of this is often debated and deliberated and discussed, but so much of the Bible and faith are.
We’re willing to sacrifice the livelihood, the well-being, the *lives* of those who don’t believe as we do. And I suppose what it comes down to for me is the willingness of some to impose their beliefs upon others. I don’t like or accept their prejudices, and yet… I can’t change that. All I can do is resist their efforts to force me to believe as they do or suffer the consequences.
Someone once told me that I lack faith because I’ve been failed by so many people in my life — that if tangible people can’t earn my trust, how can a concept? I’m not sure if she was right, but it’s never quite left me. Now, in particular, I think about it a lot, because my belief in the basic goodness of people was shattered in this election. Yet here I am, pushing myself to smile and make eye contact, to work towards being able to put myself out there and push to demand positive change, to demand that love and compassion hold more value than hatred. If I didn’t believe that people were essentially good, I wouldn’t bother.
Right now, I’m quick to cut someone out of my life who supported Trump, because they’ve shown me that even if they support human rights, it’s not the most important thing to them. The act of supporting this man is the act of telling me that you’re willing to accept him despite (or because of!) the hate and terror he perpetuated.
I won’t support a president who represents hatred.
I won’t support a vice president whose flawed religious views dictate his denigration of others.
The world is watching, and one way or another, we’re going to be held accountable for how we handle this. As I was reminded during a particularly low episode last night, though, we aren’t alone in this. As strange as it is for me to think about needing the intervention of global human rights organizations, it’s comforting to know they’re there. We may not be ‘as bad off’ as other countries, but it’s our responsibility to ensure that we don’t start down that slippery slope.
American values tell us that if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want, you can do anything you want. Right now, we’re seeing how that’s true for those who would push us down, but I have to remember the flip side, too — that if we work hard enough, we can make a difference, initiate change, and ensure our quality of life is what it should be.