Irony is building up in America’s collective joints. The ache is unbearable. An iron fist threatens to follow. Inside, we’re sick and weary of it all.
I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s disease. It’s a serious thing, both in reality and metaphor. It’s painful. It’s damaging. It’s breaking life down. It’s why I left America, and why I’m never going back. Toxic ironies left me with no good side left to join. No heroes left. No option I could stomach. No vote I could cast.
“They’re racists! They’re oppressive! They’re religious extremists! They’re fascists! They’re sexist! They’re ignorant! They don’t respect the rule of law! They’re violent and dangerously out of control! They think they ought to rule the world! They want to ruin America!”
Think you know which side that describes? Do you really?
You know those people who say, “I don’t see color” so they can pretend they weren’t being racists? I’m not one of those people. I genuinely don’t notice race unless it’s somehow relevant, as in someone sharing stories of their background or being particularly striking in appearance and exemplifying a region. Barely even then. I’m not saying I’m more evolved or anything. Far from it. It’s likely something to do with my general face blindness issues, which are mild— if I make a conscious effort I can somewhat gather things from faces, though I won’t recognize them after a while apart.
Yet because I’m weirdly pale for my ancestry, so much lighter than my sister as a child that people didn’t realize we were related sometimes, I have been accused of racism over and over. Always by strangers. Mostly, I’m told, by white strangers. It’s not because of my behavior. Growing up in Hawai’i, my normal is a world of color in which I was amongst the palest and oddest. My first crush was a Samoan (ticks both the striking and cultural boxes!) and the only thing that mattered about that was that the whole family loved to sing and smile, and that was cultural I’m told. Most of my introduction to white society was going to the mainland for college where angry white people told me how privileged I was. Getting bullied over being a withdrawn haole girl didn’t feel that privileged, nor did constant evictions and food bank Christmas. I was working my way through school in food service and dressing at Goodwill, so what made them think I was privileged?
Only my skin.
Bigots always have a way to justify their bias, though. They redefine words so their bias doesn’t “count”. They reclassify the other that they’re biased against as the villain. They attribute evil motives and cartoonish stereotype and yes, privilege too, to remove the other’s validity. Jews get depicted as scheming puppet masters. Islamic people all get rolled together with terrorists who mostly prey on peaceful Islamic nations. Black people get treated like the worst stereotypes of any criminal that vaguely resembles them in skin tone. Latinos get treated like the very people they moved to get away from, in places like Central America, or like people they have as much in common with as I do with an Australian. Mentally ill people get treated as dangerous criminals, even though they’re more likely to be victims than aggressors. It’s not different to lump every white person into the KKK ideal. It’s just more popular.
As long as we carve out permission to treat anybody differently because of race, we are fueling racism, not fighting it. Anyone, regardless of skin tone, is going to feel angry and helpless when they’re raised under pressure to feel like the villain because of something they have no control over, like their origins or their skin. I’m not justifying the things they do with that anger. Plenty of people rise above that anger under the worst conditions. I’m just acknowledging it, which most of America’s self-declared “mainstream” refuses to do. The mainstream makes a joke out of silencing these people. It makes a joke out of silencing a lot of people.
Bona fide white supremacists, on the other hand, are pretty quick to pick out my almond eyes and other little signs of mixed blood. I’ve seen that ugliness too. Evil exists on all sides of this argument, which is why I don’t think we should be having it at all. Aren’t we tired of this backward way of viewing people? Can’t we just reject the idea that anyone should be treated differently at all?
The basis of Christianity is so inclusive. It’s so generous, and being non-judgmental is right there in the texts. Yet some people insist on using it to judge, oppress, and exclude others. Islam is so peaceful. It’s accepting of others in the texts. It’s capable of remarkable kindness. It condemns violence. Yet some use it for such cruelty, and such violence! Judaism is about law, family, right and fair treatment, good works and responsibility. Yet some use it to sanctify unbelievable racism and cruelty. It’s sad and it’s terrible. On and on, there is nearly no way to have a faith in this world that someone won’t abuse.
But the real irony? The one that’s harder to stomach than any of these? Atheist zealotry. In its purest form, atheism is just a personal choice not to believe in a theology. Perfectly good choice, like any other choice of faith. Then there are extremists who feel the need to mock and tear down religion. If anyone has the least excuse for oppressive proselytizing, it’s got to be atheists. They pretend not to have dogma — when the inferiority of faith is put forward as immutable truth, sorry, that’s dogma.
Deification of science is fine, but people should actually make an effort to know what science IS first. This preaching about facts and the observable world that demands proof is about as backwards as believing bad air causes tuberculosis. It’s kind of right but mostly wrong. The first thing science teaches us is that nothing can really be proven. Real academics I’ve known talk about “the parking lots full of paper”, when a new discovery causes all the old proofs to get chucked out the windows. “Proof” is our best reasoning at the time. And guess what? The deeper science probes, the more they discover that an objective, observable world does not exist. The surfaces you stand on aren’t solid at all. You’re not even really touching what you’re touching! What you see and I see are probably wildly different. That’s what science keeps telling us. We have an agreed-upon best guess built out of very subjective perception. That’s okay. It works in practice. It’s not a reason to tear anything else apart.
Putting people down for their devotion, mocking their gods as “imaginary friends”, trying to make it illegal for them to worship in public spaces, this is no less religious oppression than any other sermon delivered to condemn any other “heathen”. Everyone who does it thinks they’re the ones with objective truth to back it up. They all deem themselves the only worthy judges.
I am so sick to death of other women telling me how to think. I hate the guilt trip put forward by people trying to make HRC the first woman President.
I hated the laws she stumped for when she was First Lady. Those laws put so many black youths in jail in order to “bring them to heel.” That did not come out of nowhere. Nor did “super predators”. She and Bill act like they have a benevolent plantation owner’s delusion of saintliness. She was onboard with a segregationist when Sanders was getting arrested fighting for civil rights. Don’t tell me she’s more qualified. What she did in Libya and Central America wouldn’t qualify anybody in my eyes.
I’ve been told over and over to ignore all of that because we both have a uterus. Plenty of awful people have one of those. So did all the women she shamed and maligned when they came forward about her husband. A uterus is no more a qualification than a penis is. It shouldn’t matter. And guess what? Most women weren’t as easily manipulated as they were expected to be. Most of us didn’t buy into it, no matter how many smug celebrities told us to. We weren’t treated as though we could think for ourselves, but we did. Some thinking people chose her, and some didn’t, and that’s how it should work.
I’d elect any true stateswoman in a heartbeat. Michelle Obama would be an amazing President. I love Angela Merkel, I’m heartbroken she’s lost support. I want someone who will lead somewhere I actually want to go. I will not elect a corrupt, manipulative, hate-slinging, condescending jerk to office— which is why I had no good choice this year once Bernie dropped out. I have a brain that guides my choices, not just chromosomes.
You know what else? I’m tired of women depicting the rest of us as sexist, too. I care about men’s rights as much as women’s. I feel for the male victims of rape and abuse who are treated as though they don’t exist — if they’re lucky. How is it okay to treat female molestors like the guy brought it on himself? Like it’s awesome to be introduced to sex by a female teacher? It’s not. Nobody deserves or brings on abuse. Nobody. It’s not all right to get violent with men. It’s not all right to treat them as automatically guilty when accused. It’s not all right to treat anyone as automatically guilty unless they’ve given you good reason to or the evidence is clear to all.
Freedom is becoming less free by the day. Freedom is only the freedom to agree with right-thinking people. You know what that’s called? Fascism. The Italian movement that established it set the concept apart by trying to legislate and enforce morality. There is no faction in American government that is not trying to do that right now.
We have gotten to such a granular state with “microaggression” that feeling discomfort is often called out as an oppressive act. Having personal tastes and preferences is somehow proof of an established aggression. It’s insane and intrusive and it’s just a need to control others. The values being foisted on us are actually held by so few people. They’re just loud, demanding, and good at being victims.
Their extremism makes a good excuse for people on the other side, who make straw men out of that hay and leverage it so they can be offensive. Do you realize how much less tolerance for their bullshit they’d find if there were fewer people fed up with oppressive correction? Painting them all with the same brush just makes the reasonable person feel less alienated from the unreasonable. It starts to feel more plausible that the assholes are getting an unfair depiction too.
People are not free in America. They’re crushed by poverty, by social alienation, by political pressure they can do almost nothing about. Texas changes their schoolbooks and riddles them with errors. The DOE changes their curriculum into something they don’t understand, and screws with their teachers. Unions alienate portions of their communities. Taxes drain their towns to build roads and utilities in cities they’ll never visit, while thousands of dams and bridges crumble around them. Flint lives on bottled water while the rest of us go on like everything is peachy. Their lives are in the hands of people in cities who have nothing better to do than bicker over whether it’s okay to see a transsexual as a transsexual or a person of color as scary. Who the hell cares how someone sees someone as long as they leave each other in peace? Can we care a little more about kids who can’t shower without breathing toxic fumes?
Rather than pat ourselves on the back for electing a black President, can we do something about laws being abused to target black people? Can we try to stop cops from gunning down people with no consequences? It’s shocking how casually we treat those deaths, can anyone really blame them for demanding we treat their lives like they matter too? I’m not talking about one side here either. People are clearly being gunned down for being black, arab, latino, etc. There are huge swaths of the country where cops shoot those “methhead rednecks” without even reporting it. They want to matter too. Part of the backlash is that they really don’t matter to the mainstream. They barely get noticed when they die. Nobody should die because we refuse to hold police accountable. Nobody.
So when you say someone will take what little freedom remains to any American — freedom to think what they think, love what they love, defend themselves in places where the law has forgotten them or even exploits them, freedom to worship or not to worship, freedom to do what they want with their bodies (which they barely have), freedom to associate with people they like and avoid people they don’t, freedom to even be who they are without being shamed and condemned for it, freedom to choose what they eat and wear, how they travel, how they spend what they earn— people get scared. They get angry. They want to fight back. They’re not necessarily evil. They’re vulnerable to evil because evil is there waiting to take advantage.
The establishment calls them ignorant, but does anyone who pushed for HRC really understand what is going on outside the cities? Do they get how much those places are hurting? If so, why did they skip even visiting so many of these places? It was regions HRC took for granted that really brought her down. I predicted Wisconsin and PA over a year ago. I knew they were hurting. I knew they were looking for a way out. I knew so much of the country was.
The way the self-important crusaders of America have behaved in the wake of this election demonstrates exactly what and who they are. After screaming bloody murder about how dangerous it was for Trump not to accept the result of the election, they are out in force not accepting the results of the election.
Don’t get me wrong — I also left because I knew no matter which side won, there was going to be hell to pay. I don’t think an HRC victory would have been more peaceful. Too much of the country feels disenfranchised. Nobody was ready to take this quietly.
There’s a huge contingent to any self-styled good guy faction in America that tends to think whatever they do is justified because they’re the good guys. It’s something we’re aware of but rarely fully appreciate. Anyone surprised at this huge national tantrum was not paying attention during the Occupy movement. Plenty of people only want the rule of law when it rules their way. Occupy hurt the lowest wage earners in DC— waitstaff who earn literally nothing, who had to clean up ridiculously mistreated bathrooms while the disruption and reek from ODC destroyed any hope of earning. Because of horrible, unfair laws, DC waitstaff can and do get $0.00 paychecks. Way to go, 99%.
Dangerous and out of control describes people on both sides who want to tear America down. Both sides think they’ll “fix” it and the other side will “ruin” it.
They’re both wrong.
Trump is scary. He was undoubtedly a terrible choice. But for some, he was a terrible choice that at least offered them a chance to get out from a two-party machine that treated them as irrelevant, and ground them to dust in the process. All those Republicans concentrated on the “important” voters and so did the Democratic ones. Trump was the choice of those who wanted out of that endless cycle of representatives that didn’t represent them. He threatened that unstoppable machine. In the end he’s just going to be folded into it, and the people who elected him will suffer alongside the people that didn’t.
Instead of hating and vilifying them for their choice, we should be trying to understand it.
As for me, I wrote volume seven years ago. You’ll see my attempt by Feb 2018. I knew in 2001 that we were on the road to horrifying populist nationalism. I knew in Feb 2016 that this had gone too far and I didn’t belong in America any more. I begged everyone I could reach for fifteen years and the answer I got back ranged from “artists shouldn’t get political” to “stop being alarmist and negative”. Now we’ve elected the populist, hate-mongering, anti-free-speech narcissist I predicted would eventually ride the crest of this wave. I’m done.
I didn’t leave out of pique. I left because I couldn’t stay and be a part of what comes next. I left because my family is more important to me than fighting for a nation that’s willfully repeating a horror that people living amongst them have already seen and suffered from before. I left for the same reason the German/Greek branch of my ancestry fled Europe. Because there comes a point where you’re so far from the values of your country that it’s just not your country anymore.
Good luck, America. I hope you turn back from this insanity, but I just don’t think you will.