31-insiders-donald-trump-silhouette-600

What I Realized

As the numbers piled up in favor of a monster, I realized that I’d fallen in love with the idea of a country, not the country I’m now loathe to call home.

I realized that the racism I’ve always safely compartmentalized as pockets unrepresentative of the country as a whole were, in fact, quite accurately representative, that while most of that tide might not visit violence upon minorities with fists and lynches, they were all too willing to wield the sword of public institutions without care (or understanding?) of the blade’s lethal edge.

I realized that my parents had lied to me growing up, or at least omitted a few things. Because while it might be true that women can do anything men can do, they will also be held to a very different standard as they do it, be harassed and threatened as they try. And in the end, though women can, there is a terrifyingly large chunk of the American population that will say they may not. 

I realized, looking at the numbers for white women voters, that patriarchal values are so very widely socialized and deeply internalized by far too many women in this country, and that this condition, paired with internalized notions of white supremacy, cost us dearly not just last night, but every other day of the year.

I realized that, for all the gains made by the LGBTQ community over the past decade, this is what it looked like when a group of privileged people told a marginalized people to “know their place.” It was white patriarchy rebelling against what they call “political correctness” — what we call progress and, at times, justice for the disenfranchised.

I realized that American Christians — who I have tried, so hard, to give the benefit of the doubt — bear no resemblance to the “compassionate Christ” they aspire to emulate. When 81% of those voters cast their lot with a man who sexually assaults women, plans to tear immigrant families apart, wants to ban adherents of a specific religion from entering the country, encourages violence against dissidents, aims to legalize discrimination against people who look and love differently, and hopes to gut the first amendment, they made it quite clear that they are not worried about human suffering. They are worried about their own cultural dominance.

I realized that this is what happens when you defund education for decades, when you reshape history lessons through the lens of (white) American exceptionalism, when you prioritize test scores over critical thinking.

I realized that for all the potential good offered by social media and the internet, it has facilitated the most effective, widespread leverage of anti-intellectual propaganda in our history, definitely more so than it has exposed it — a trend facilitated by our educational deficiencies.

I realized, as I watched the markets spasm and dive, echoes of 2008 filling my mind, that things would likely get much worse, much faster for folks on both sides of the aisle than we imagined, and that the Fed is in no position to make a difference on that note.

I realized that many, many, many privileged progressives have no qualms with pointing the finger at minority voter splits with blame and ire when, in reality, it was white folks who brought this on.

I realized that there is no greater proof that our two party system is broken than the results we now face, and the way those results have turned Democrats rabid over the third party votes cast yesterday. It doesn’t matter that those Johnson votes probably wouldn’t have gone blue. It doesn’t matter that the Democrats still lost in meaningful ways in other important categories.

I realized that maybe none of these thoughts were real revelations, if I’m being honest, but inconvenient truths I’d tucked away, wanting so badly to believe that we were better than all this.

I realized, as I spent hours researching immigration policies in different countries around the world, that I am not as brave as I had hoped. I panicked thinking about the lease I’d planned on signing today. Did I really want to promise another year of my life to this country under these circumstances? Did I really want to raise my daughter here, knowing what’s about to happen to the Supreme Court?

I realized, as the morning light danced across my daughter’s face over breakfast, as she grimaced but nodded upon hearing the bad news, as I thought of different children in different homes in different circumstances, that this cowardice is not what I want to teach my kid, not the right way to love the people who matter to me, not the right thing to do for those most vulnerable now.

I realized that this isn’t about me, or my fears, or whether or not I can comfortably say I love this country or that I have hope. It’s not about politics. It’s about people. And right now, there are a lot of people who are going to need someone in their corner, because much of the incoming government is decidedly not. There is work to be done, and bailing in this moment would be the height of privilege.

I realized that I am not proud to be an American today, but I am damned and determined to shape a tomorrow where I am.

We Need a Landslide, Not Just a Win

If you’d told me when this election cycle started that I’d be silent for so long before one of the most momentous elections in decades, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am, having gone radio silent for more than six months. Why?

This election has broken my heart into a million pieces.

I started out open-minded, but it quickly became clear that Bernie Sanders would be my choice in the primaries. The GOP was an overflowing clown car of bigotry and nonsense, so none of them were ever really in the running. And though I admired Clinton’s tenacity and many of her accomplishments, I found more in common with Sanders’ progressive platform than her more centrist positions.

Sanders lost. We can quibble over whether there was interference from biased DNC leadership until we’re blue in the face, but he lost. That’s reality.

I was never a “Bernie or Bust” gal. Not only do I think it’s probably pretty counterproductive to take my ball and go home when my guy loses, but I’m a pragmatist beneath all the lofty language and idealistic notions. Given state laws about viable candidates, I knew that no amount of write-ins would ever get Sanders into the White House.

Sanders encouraged us all to whole-heartedly embrace Clinton, but I demurred. It wasn’t because I was, as some have suggested of former Berners, buying into right wing conspiracy theories. It wasn’t because I, as some have suggested of former Berners, have deep rooted issues with misogyny. It was because I took issue with how hawkish Clinton has been in the past and continues to be. Realistically, her track record depicts a woman far more aggressive than Obama, whose military policy I disagree with even if I admire many of his other qualities. And her track record was troubling. She was saying all the “right” things to strike a note with progressives, but this was a woman who had a more than tattered history when it came to race and robust, if typical, relationships with Wall Street.

So I looked for another option. Don’t get me wrong — I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that any third party candidate would topple Clinton or Trump, but in my mind, all I could think was that maybe, just maybe, we’d be able to send a message this year. We’d be able to grant Clinton her win, but by a slim margin, with the remainder of the vote split between Trump and third party candidates. Such a result would tell everyone that third parties were no joke. They were a force to be reckoned with, goddamit. And such a result might encourage more folks to run third party in the midterms and next presidential cycle. Such surges would be key to making third party candidacies legitimate on the federal level.

But the primary third party candidates were… less than impressive.

Gary Johnson talks a good talk and would probably be fun person with whom to share a blunt. In a perfect world, his ideas might work. But back here on planet earth, eliminating governmental regulation would result in mass discrimination of those in protected classes. That discrimination is barely held at bay as it is.

Jill Stein held more promise… until I took a closer look. As the mother of a daughter of a child on the autism spectrum, her pandering to anti-vaxxers turned my stomach. Though I appreciate some of her activism, her policies are broadly implausible. Her desire to bring political satirists to heel was the height of absurdity. She is incapable of leadership.

I found myself in a place where I was seriously planning on writing in my 8 year old daughter’s name for the presidency. It didn’t really matter, I rationalized. I live in Illinois. It’s a deep blue state. It’s not like my vote was going to give Trump an edge.

Still, over the past several months, my horror over a potential Trump candidacy has swelled. We knew he was a joke when he came down that escalator, but the joke turned cruel and twisted and the primary wins mounted and his rhetoric (and supporters) grew more and more violent.

He was racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic, misogynist, and dangerously incompetent. He was an unabashed sexual assailant. Even more terrifying? There were millions of people across the country who were cool with a man like him taking up the mantle of leader of the free world.

But, again, I was in a deep blue state. It didn’t matter if I didn’t vote for Clinton. She was going to get the electoral votes anyway. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself. It became a mantra wearing thinner by the day.

Two nights ago, though, while perusing my Twitter feed, I came across a series of tweets from Feminista Jones that changed things for me. She’s a fearless activist who I have a lot of respect for, so her words were always going to pack more of a punch. But the way she framed the discussion about voting for Clinton just made sense.

 

 

Her point was simple: if you’re voting in a predominantly white nation, there is no such thing as a candidate who does not prop up a white supremacist system – yes, including President Obama. We can argue about who is least likely to do harm, but there cannot be a perfect candidate because every single candidate participates in systems of oppression.

Under a Trump presidency, there are so many other issues at stake, much of them rooted in vacancies on the Supreme Court. The lives of immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community quite literally hang in the balance. With him at the helm, we are one Twitter spat away from another war. And this man is intractable. He can be confronted with video of him saying something, and insist it never happened.

At a bare minimum, Clinton is susceptible to public pressure. That alone should put her ahead of this man.

This is about more than policy, though. It’s about who we are as a people. I don’t want to believe that our country is so cruel and mindless that Trump would actually be elected president. It’s given both me and my daughter actual nightmares. I cannot even fathom what it must be like for others more directly targeted by Trump’s vitriol.

To be clear: I still think he’s going to lose. But I am no longer content to see Clinton win by a small margin. That will only embolden the trash Trump brought out of the woodwork.

I want to see a full-throated repudiation of Trump and all he stands for. I want to see the GOP lose in spectacular fashion, to see them shamed for their obstructionist, bigoted grandstanding. I want us to send a message to all future candidates and the rest of the world: he is not who we are. The American people are done with this nonsense.

So today I will take my daughter with me to vote for the first woman president in U.S. history. We will talk about the significance of this milestone. We will talk about how important it was to strike this blow today. And we will talk about the work ahead, because there is much to be done. It starts tomorrow.

But today, I’m with her. And I hope you are too.

Marina Lanina

We Did It For The Likes

“She got caught up in the likes,” he said.

We all know that sentiment in some capacity or another: the ego boost of a well received profile picture, the righteousness of an applauded political sentiment, the satisfaction derived from giggles surrounding a clever meme.

But that’s not how Marina Lonina got her social high back in February. No, she got that buzz from broadcasting the rape of her friend on the social platform Periscope. As the New York Times reports:

The teenager, Marina Lonina, 18, faces a spate of charges as severe as those facing the accused attacker, Raymond Gates, 29. Both have been charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery and pandering sexual matter involving a minor.

[…]

On the evening of Feb. 27, all three were gathered at a residence in Columbus where Mr. Gates pinned the 17-year-old down and raped her as Ms. Lonina used Periscope, an app owned by Twitter, to live-stream the attack, the authorities said.

A friend of Ms. Lonina’s in another state saw the video and contacted the authorities.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty on Friday.

The defense is arguing that Marina is just as much a victim as her friend. She’s only 18 years old, after all. He was ten years their senior, after all. He had plied them with vodka, after all. And as she told the police, she was simply trying to preserve evidence.

Bullshit.

Was Marina herself being exploited by an older man? Arguably yes. But was she an innocent bystander as her boyfriend raped someone she called a friend? Not remotely.

You don’t live stream an assault to stop it. You have a phone that’s capable of live streaming in your possession? Good. Then you’re probably also in possession of a phone capable of calling 911 or texting someone in search of immediate help. You don’t broadcast the assault to an audience in no position to intervene. It took the actions of someone in another state for the authorities to become involved. That the police were eventually contacted doesn’t matter. It certainly didn’t matter to the young girl being raped at that moment. It didn’t stop a thing.

Is the recording now being used as evidence against the assailant? Yes. And in a world where rapists are rarely convicted, that’s a potential silver lining here. But if you have a phone that’s capable of live streaming, you also have a phone that’s capable of collecting such evidence without broadcasting it for public consumption. It is, believe it or not, entirely possible to record something without sharing it with the world. To be fair, her SD card could have been full from all the nude photos she’d snapped of her vulnerable friend the night before. Was that about evidence, too?

Marina wasn’t trying to stop the rape. She wasn’t trying to collect evidence. She did it for the likes.

There is no denying that social media has become a force to be reckoned with over the past decade, shrinking the world through connection and information dissemination. It can educate and inspire and entertain. It can provide support and solace. When used by a collective, it has the power to do a lot of good, as evidenced by associated movements like #BlackLivesMatter.

But in the never ending quest for attention, it can also be a dangerous drug. Marina is just one very obvious cautionary tale.

Too often, we become obsessed with projecting the “right” image, losing ourselves in the process, losing sight of our self-worth along the way. We do it for the likes.

So frequently, we bypass meaningful conversation on important topics, leaning on one liners and gifs and emoji, losing an opportunity for understanding, losing hope that things can improve. We do it for the likes.

More and more, we collectively shrug at the offensive and ignorant and vile, clicking hide and unfollow instead of calling it out, losing our shot at making the world a better place, losing our chance to do our part. We just can’t sacrifice those likes.

I get it. I’m guilty of it too. It’s a one-click affirmation world. We’re just living in it. And we’re not like Marina, so it’s all good. Right?

But listen: even if you believe Marina was trying to stop the assault, even if you applaud her attempt to gather proof of the attack for an eventual prosecution, you cannot ignore the power of the almighty like in this story. You cannot look past the views and the hearts and the chats that frame this crime. So even if you’re uninterested in discussing Marina’s culpability, let’s talk for a minute about our own, because maybe, just maybe, we’ve been doing it for the likes for so long that we’re missing the forest for the trees.

Face facts. A young woman’s assault was turned into a social experience with an eager audience. A video of a young girl begging the man on top of her to stop and crying out in pain still might not be enough to convict her rapist. It’s an ugly reality, an ugly world. But none of this should surprise you.

After all, it’s a world where our fond memories of a television character outweigh the voices of dozens of women.

It’s a world where our admiration of an athlete’s performance has us dismissing the pain they inflicted.

It’s a world where our love of a man’s musical contributions has us propping up conspiracy theories so we don’t have to face the suffering they’ve created.

It’s a world where our religious institutions are fighting legal reform that would offer justice to traumatized victims because they know it will hurt the Church.

It’s a world where our partisan priorities have given way to a leading presidential candidate who can openly degrade women and still soar in the polls.

It’s a world where our cultural icons advance the idea that young women should be taught to assume their attire, their bodies, and their existence is to blame for the criminal behavior of helpless men.

It’s a world where our media uses sex and rape interchangeably while discussing allegations of assault.

It’s a world where any attempt to discuss these problems, to really expose the depth and breadth of rape culture in our society, is met with derision and laments of political correctness run amok.

Though the headlines might be fresh, none of this is really new. It is, however, made more dangerous by the connective power of modern technology and how we use it. In this sense, Marina was inevitable: the product of a digital era desperate for validation and comfortable with the normalization of sexual violence.

It’s our world. We created it. We live in it. We consume and deflect and accept and tolerate and laugh and promote and share and retweet and reblog and like and like and like and then act surprised when Marina is more interested in entertaining a perverse audience than the safety of her friend.

She did it for the likes. But from where I’m sitting, there’s not much likable about the world in which she did.