I was five when I was first told I was going to Hell. A friend’s mom said it to me. A grown woman said that to my five year old self because my parents had recently explained atheism and that they were atheists to me. Let’s just say, I was completely unprepared for the vehemence and hatred with which people would respond when I answered their questions about my belief system.
For the past 4 years I have been angry. Raising a child who is disabled has forced me to confront a lot of the traumas I faced growing up while disabled, and then if that wasn’t enough, the 2016 elections happened, which were triggering for me on a whole different level. I was bullied in elementary school, and some people who worked in the schools told my parents it was the worse case of school bullying they had ever seen. Because of this, I never thought of Trump as a joke, I found him triggering and terrifying. And that anyone could vote for him, let alone millions, has brought a lot of trauma to the surface. Basically the message everyone who voted for him sent was that it was okay for him to bully and degrade people, and that so many people in the United States believe that and that I walk among those people has been disillusioning. For the past 4 years I have been angrier than I have ever been, and I’ve had good reasons to be angry. But it is not a natural or a normal state for me, and it’s not how I like to live.
They say write from a scar rather than a wound. And I’ve been writing from wounds until the point where I couldn’t anymore, especially as I don’t think I am terribly effective when writing from a wound, and also because doing so is so painful. Still, time goes on, scars form. I’m still attending protests, voting, and calling my representatives, doing what I can to fight the most dangerous administration I have seen rise to power in my life time. But the anger I feel is no longer as strong. It’s faded to a grim resolve. On the one hand I am horrified that I am no longer furious, because it means that something atrocious has become normalized. On the other hand, anger was consuming me.
I’m a long way from wanting to build bridges, especially as harmful people are in power, people who only care about the rights of rich, white, evangelical men. When people in power want to take away the rights of people who don’t have it, bridge building isn’t going to happen. There are still a lot of fights coming up. I am marching next week against gun violence. I will be voting for leaders who reign in a dangerous despot rather than enable him. And I’m at the point where I can write from a scar.
Yesterday morning the local UU hosted a discussion on how to reach out to people warped by intolerance and help them to become tolerant. It is a vital discussion, especially given the current climate, but the whole time I was there I felt a critical component was missing. While the information was good and vital, such as don’t mock people’s beliefs, try to find the common ground, etc, several people talked about how they just couldn’t have these conversations without them deteriorating. As I was driving home it hit me. It’s easy to talk about calmly having these discussions with people who hold intolerant viewpoints in a safe setting filled with people who agree with you. It’s another thing to hold them when you hear someone spout hatred, especially if you are, like I am in the southern US, surrounded by people who hold these views.
There’s a lot going on this week that is alarming. The news that Trump is planning to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented workers is one of them. As someone with a background in psychology, let me explain.
You know how flying an airplane is the safest way to travel but people think it’s dangerous or get nervous flying? Well, the reason is because of the availability heuristic. We think airplanes crashes are common because when they happen, we hear them about them on the news, when in actually, airplanes crashes are rare, which is why they make the news. Meanwhile, car crashes which are extremely common and happen everyday, don’t make the news and people don’t worry about getting into a car, even though it is the most dangerous thing each of us will do on a daily basis.
When I was teaching psychology I would have my students raise their hand if they’d ever been in a car accident versus a plane crash. Most would raise their hand for car crash, but no one had ever been in a plane crash. Even with this, my students would still have a hard time accepting that planes were safe because they could all remember hearing about plane crashes on the news, and not car crashes.
Now, the data tells us that undocumented workers are no more likely to commit crimes than other people, and that they don’t bring waves of crime into the US. Yet if Trump publishes a weekly list singling out undocumented workers, well, think about this in the context of the availability heuristic and put two and two together.
Here it is spelled out. The list goes out, people here about it on a weekly basis, so contrary to what statistics and other evidence tells us, people think undocumented workers cause more crime than they do, and you basically build a scapegoat. Undocumented workers don’t cause crime. The causes of crime are complex and stem from multiple sources. Creating scapegoats will not do anything about crime, but it will create a vulnerable group of people for others to target their anger at.
Bottom line, this is wrong, and the consequences are horrendous to contemplate on.
One of the multiple problematic things happening in our government is Trump appointing Robert F. Kennedy Jr, an anti-vaxxer who believes there is a conspiracy to hide the effects of thimerosal on children, to chair a panel on vaccine safety and to revive the “debate” on vaccine safety. As the parent of an autistic child, this angers and worries me.
So I understand I’m in the same boat as a lot of people when it comes to Thanksgiving plans. This election was grueling, triggering, and disheartening. For people who are against Trump, many of us are scared of losing hard won rights and the legitimization of racism. Trump also managed to insult a lot of groups of people. For instance, he said immigration from the Philippines should be stopped because Filipinos are terrorists and animals.
I know a lot of evangelicals who voted for Trump even though they despised him. Why? So he would protect Christian values. So essentially they voted for a man who has been twice divorced, had affairs during all three of his marriages, dragged his first wife through the tabloids, was set to go on trial for the rape of a teenager, bragged about grabbing women by the “pussy”, etc, to protect their moral values.