I miss high school debate. Getting assigned a topic, researching the hell out of it, putting together a convincing speech. We talked about serious issues, but to me, it was always fun. Looking back on it, I now see that as privilege. It was never anything that affected me personally, so I could look at it from a safe distance. I remember debating against affirmative action, and now I marvel at the absurdity of having a bunch of white kids, many of whom went to all-white schools, debate affirmative action as though it was something we actually understood anything about.
I find myself losing my cool more often in Facebook and Twitter debates, and I’m realizing that things that are deeply and intensely personal to me are just thought exercises for other people.
I haven’t been able to convey the extent to which the 2016 election broke something inside me. I’ve been grieving for a year and a half, and everything feels irredeemable. And yet, I see so many people acting as though everything’s fine.
My friendships with conservative-leaning people have been more than a little strained. I’m okay losing the person who tells me that “well, *actually,* Donald Trump is an ally to the LGBT community” and then, predictably, doesn’t say, “wait, shit, I was wrong,” when he bans trans people from the military. But for the people who haven’t actively been hateful to me, there’s this chasm between us that I don’t think can be bridged.
I want to scream, “You voted for someone who literally does not think I’m a person” in their faces, but they’d just argue about how *clearly* Trump doesn’t hate women because look how proud he is of his daughter. Or that I’m unfairly accusing them of misogyny.
Because the sexism isn’t personal to them. For the guys, they can just ignore it. It wasn’t said about them, or women they like, so it doesn’t affect them. For the women, I honestly don’t know. I don’t get how you can vote for someone who very clearly doesn’t see you as a person, unless you’ve been so beaten down by abusive theology or just plain abuse that you don’t see yourself as a person either.
But to me, it’s personal. I remember being out at a concert, right after the election and wondering if I was safe. The rash of hate crimes and sexual assaults was going on, and I sure as hell didn’t feel safe.
When someone has hurt you deeply, and they can’t even conceptualize the idea that you could or should be hurt by what they did, what the hell do you do with that? The civility police would tell me that I’m supposed to let it go, and be extra nice to them in order to convince them that maybe voting for a brazenly racist authoritarian is a bad thing to do, but there’s no way to communicate the extent of the badness when civility means pretending that everything is fine, and *of course* their guy can’t be a misogynist, because that means I think they’re misogynist, and they totally voted for a woman that one time. (I literally had someone say to me that they don’t know whether they’ve ever voted for a woman or not, because gender is so completely irrelevant and they focus on *policy.* Ri-ight. I’m sure you couldn’t tell me the gender of your current senator or representatives, but you could totally explain their policies in depth.)
I’m tired of the idea that I should be nice to people who don’t view me as fully human. But the thing that makes it hard is they’re convinced that they do, because they’ve turned politics into this abstraction that doesn’t matter in real life.