My conservative father and I had an argument the other night.
This is not an uncommon occurrence--we haven't seen eye to eye on politics for years. But something about this particular argument disturbed me more than all the others. My father has always claimed to be a strictly fiscal conservative. He believes that the federal government should only fix the roads and provide a strong military. He hates taxes with a fiery passion. However, our recent argument suggests that his opinions have changed.
I can't remember how we got on the subject, but we were discussing the LGBTQIA community. He dismissively called them a "special interest group." (Though he won't admit that his tone was dismissive.) When I asked what he meant by that, he said that they were organizing to try to achieve legitimacy, to be perceived as normal. I agreed. Then I asked why he seemed to think that was a problem.
He replied that it's not a problem, per se. It's just that he's "a Christian" and he doesn't believe that LGBTQIA people are normal.
I was dumbfounded, for multiple reasons. First, my father has never expressed a strong interest in Christianity, and he never goes to church, so his sudden declaration of faith was surprising. But whatever--he can be a Christian if he wants. More importantly, I was dumbfounded by his sudden homophobia. (Though he would never admit his statement was homophobic.) He's never been an active supporter of LGBTQIA people, but at the same time, he never taught us to be bigoted or cruel. In fact, the babysitter my sister and I had from the time we were born to the time we were old enough to stay at home alone is a lesbian. He didn't seem concerned that a queer person was helping to raise his daughters.
What's more, the majority of my close friends are members of the LGBTQIA community. What's more-more, I'm a member of the LGBTQIA community. I identify as demisexual, which is on the asexual spectrum. To be fair, I've never told him that. I've hardly told anyone that, aside from a few friends. So, um...surprise!
My point is: he's known tons of LGBTQIA people throughout the years, at the very least through me and my sister, but I never had an inkling that he considered any of them "abnormal."
Of course, there have been signs that his opinions have been moving in this unfortunate direction for quite some time. He's always been a Fox News guy, but the conservative talk shows he listens to on the radio have become increasingly vitriolic--the types of shows where the hosts refer to President Obama as a "virus." He's always owned guns, but his enthusiasm for the second amendment has noticeably grown. So has his anger over illegal immigration, and unions, and other socially conservative viewpoints.
I have a theory about why he's changed.
My father owned a small business, and during the recession, it did not fare well. He was forced to sell it to a larger firm, and now, at 63, he's working three separate jobs in order to make ends meet. He was a strong believer in capitalism and the American Dream--he thought if he worked hard, he'd be retired by now.
And I get that. He deserves to be retired by now. My father has one of the strongest work ethics I've ever seen, and I know I can never repay him for all he's given me. I'm so grateful for everything he's done for our family. I love him very much.
The problem is that now he's looking for someone to blame. He should be blaming the banks that destroyed our economy, the politicians who let them, and capitalism itself. After all, it was the invisible hand of the market which dictated that his particular industry was nonessential during the recession. But like a religious zealot, he's blindly believed in capitalism and the American Dream for far too long. He can't bring himself to admit he was duped by the very institutions he thought would save him, so instead, he's blaming other people--namely, minority groups. They're coming to take our jobs, they're changing everything. He's afraid, and upset, and he's looking for a scapegoat.
There are too many people in this country like my father. Too many people are afraid, too many people are looking for a scapegoat--and that's precisely why Donald Trump is our President-Elect. He pandered to their fears so that he could have power and status. Now he has that power and status, and he's not going to do a thing for the people that elected him. He won't do anything for the people that didn't elect him, either. He's a demagogue, plain and simple.
I can't help but feel that people like me are to blame for Trump's success. I certainly didn't vote for him, and I shared plenty of articles online explaining why he'd make a terrible president. I donated a little money to the Clinton campaign. But I didn't actively campaign against him, nor did I actively campaign for Hillary. I didn't volunteer for organizations that support the causes I believe in, and I only wrote to my representatives sparingly. I haven't attended a public protest in ages.
Well, that's going to change. I've learned the hard way what happens when people like me sit idly by and bask in our privilege, and I'm not going to let it happen again. I'm not going to let people of color, the LGBTQIA community, and disabled people fight this fight alone.
I'm probably going to screw up from time to time. I'm probably going to fail in many ways. But I'm going to try my best.
I hate to be that white girl who quotes Martin Luther King Jr., but hear me out. I was reading his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" the other day, and one passage in particular jumped out at me:
"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.' Was not Amos an extremist for justice: 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.' Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.' Was not Martin Luther an extremist: 'Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.' And John Bunyan: 'I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.' And Abraham Lincoln: 'This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.' And Thomas Jefferson: 'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .' So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."
My new goal is to be a creative extremist. That's why I'm going to Washington D.C. tomorrow night--to support the rights of all women, loudly and actively.
That is why I march.
Here are some resources I recommend for those who are also trying to be more proactive:
It's Time to Fight (form letters and call scripts so you can easily contact your representatives about progressive issues)
NPR's Code Switch blog (news from the perspective of POC)
Black Girl Dangerous (posts by queer & trans POC)
My parents want to watch TV, so I'll add more later. Let me know if there are any you'd like me to add!