My intention for my first blog had been to acquaint whoever may read my musings about my pre-election life and my journey to Twitter and “The Resistance” after the elections. Sadly, this alternate universe that we find ourselves living in had other plans for me.
Yesterday, I read in my local paper about nervousness regarding a scheduled protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, who were against the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. The concern was with possible conflicts with counter demonstrators from the clergy and students at UVA. This morning I awoke to scenes on television of violent clashes between each side.
In my forty-seven years, I’ve seen the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain, the first woman Supreme Court Justice, women entering the workforce in non-traditional jobs, the Berlin Wall torn down, the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., the end of apartheid in South Africa, the reality of climate change and the renewable energy movement, and the acceptance of the LGBTQ community and the legalization of gay marriage.
Naturally, after seeing such momentous change, I found myself pondering at what point did some white people begin a journey backwards in time? Was it the election of the first black president of the United States? Was it the immigration of more non-Christian people into the U.S.? Was it the acceptance that the LGBTQ community has civil rights and were allowed to legally marry? Was it African Americans saying, “Black Lives Matter,” to push our law enforcement officials to confront hard truths about unjustified killings of black people? Or was it too much change that did not involve them?
Growing up in a rural area located within a northern “blue state,” I have no memories of hatred against minorities from kindergarten through high school. Granted, it was a primarily white Catholic town, but because of a state college being located there, we did have families from different religions and ethnicities living in the community because a parent worked at the school. We weren’t as diverse as the town next to us, but everyone intermingled and there were no racial or religious barriers to friendships.
I loved learning about the cultures that my friends’ families came from and their life experiences. One female friend told me of writing to Amy Carter when she lived in Kenya and her joy when she received a personal letter back. A male friend confided in me of his mother’s distress over his grandmother’s death in South Korea and not being able to be there to say goodbye. Indeed, they hadn’t returned to South Korea since emigrating in the seventies.
My high school was by no means idyllic, but I never saw or heard hateful statements based on a person’s race or ethnicity. What we did have was a deep divide in popularity, in terms of a families’ net worth, what clothes one wore, and what your house looked like. Basically, think of the movie, Pretty in Pink, and that is my high school on a small-town scale. Sadly, in the non-PC eighties era there were many homophobic jokes thoughtlessly thrown around.
Several years after graduating from the state university located in my hometown, I was horrified to learn of someone burning a cross on campus grounds and racially hateful words being scrawled on an African American student’s door. Upon speaking with a local state trooper, the burning cross was attributed to local white supremacists located within the county where my town was located.
My shock, horror, disgust, and anger was palpable that these groups existed in my county and dared encroach their vile attitudes on a place of higher learning that accepted and embraced all students. I questioned everything that I thought I’d know about the people and community where I’d grown up. Were these hate groups always there, but I’d been too sheltered to see them or did I just not
want to see them because it would destroy the bucolic image I had of my hometown and county?
In the early nineties, I saw the rise of Neo-Nazi (a.k.a. skinheads) groups, but they seemed to become an increasingly dwindling minority as we moved toward the twenty-first century. But, maybe, it wasn’t that they weren’t there and reported on, but I didn’t want to see them because that would make me question my reality and how far we’d come as a nation in achieving integration and inclusivity?
So, sadly, the answer to my questions is that racism has never left America. It may not have been overt in some parts of the country, but just went underground for a while waiting for it’s time to rise and seize control once again.
The establishment of Breitbart News and it eventually being helmed by Steve Bannon was the perfect opening for these hate groups to seize their outlet and embrace one another in their mutual hatred of all people or things non-white Christian. Not only did they slither above ground, but they renamed themselves with the benign term, “alt-right.” In using this non-threatening term, they sought to insinuate themselves into mainstream society as an acceptable political movement. Using innocuous language, such as, “alt-right” is less frightening rather than saying what you really are, a fascist.
They insinuated themselves into becoming part of the Republican party, but the delicate sensibilities of some Republicans weren’t offended because they weren’t Neo-Nazis or White Supremacists. No, their ideology is to the right of the right-wing portion of the party, so they’re acceptable. Personally, I don’t care how you dress up “Pepe the Frog,” he still stands for the very worst parts of human nature.
Some Republicans have recently come out against this faction of their party that’s “trying to take it over” and excoriate what these groups say or do, and advocate ridding the GOP of this element. I’m not sure what to make of these people, do I applaud them or do I groan at their lack of self-awareness? After all, this is the party Jeff Sessions and Strom Thurmond, notorious racists, so other than a name change what makes this group any different? There was only going to be a marriage between the Republicans and the “alt-righters” because their ideology goes against everything that Democrats stand for, yet historically is aligned with the post-civil war Republican party. So, to all the Republicans who call Democrats, “snowflakes” or “libtards,” I say, “thank you.” I wear that label with pride!
In the obvious culmination of this “alt-right movement,” a When Harry Met Sally moment occurred when Donald J. Trump met Steve Bannon. Trump wanted the “alt-right” votes, played to their hatred, and dove into the Neo-Nazi pool and swam around with glee. Any chance that this was going to be a short-lived love affair was over when Trump made room for Breitbart News in the White House press briefings and installed Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka as White House staffers.
Racism and hate never went away in America, but Trump gave it legitimacy and made people believe that it was socially and morally acceptable to act out the very worst parts of themselves. He even encouraged it at a pre-election rally. In the wake of his election, he did tell people to “stop it” when hate crimes rose after his elections. But, there were no public statements or tweets when nooses were found hanging around the Washington D.C. area, but he has managed to tweet about various individuals who criticized him. As of this writing, no tweet or public statement has been issued condemning the violence and urging calm as other presidents have done even while they were on vacation. As much as I disliked Pres. George W. Bush (I call him Bush II or Bush the Sequel) even he would have acted more presidential after these incidents.
So, you might be asking yourself, “How does this all relate U2, the rock band?” Good Question.
During my teens, I gravitated toward U2 because at that time they were a different type of rock band. They had something to say, a message, they stood for something, and they weren’t afraid to voice how they felt.
When I write, I like to listen to music for inspiration and I found myself returning to an old love, U2. As I’ve written this piece, I found myself listening to “Van Diemen’s Land,” “Silver and Gold,” “Pride,” and “God Part II” that I haven’t listened to in years. I find these lyrics inspiring: “One man he resists,” “They cannot take your pride,” and “It’s a bitter pill I swallow here…We fought for justice and not for gain.” In these songs, I’ve rediscovered part of myself and I realize that they are just as meaningful today as they were in my teens.
After all, aren’t we “fighting for justice and not for gain” in these tumultuous times? Doesn’t everyone have to draw a line in the sand and fight for each other’s rights? I know, I have.