I was thinking this morning about how much space there is in our society for hate — and fear and bigotry and misogyny and racism, among many other things. Why is there so much room, I want to know. Why can’t we inhabit that space with love, and compassion, joy and even humor? How do we fill up our psychic spaces with good and push out all that is not?
As jaded as I am, I find myself amazed that people are still traveling to Washington, DC, to support the so-called president. (And if he was not so-called before then surely the fact that he has abandoned ship since he lost the presidential election should cement that moniker). There are people hanging out at the White House with signs that suggest they have no clue how elections work and what desperate liars actually look like. As he drives by in his presidential caravan these people rush the car like it’s Elton John in there. The Proud Boys are front and center at these events, and they are officially a hate group, at least according to the Southern Poverty Law Center who probably knows hate when it sees it.
Fear? Well, it brings destruction. And violence. It’s why police officers are terrorizing unarmed peaceful protestors in New Jersey right now, as just one example in a sea of many. Last night anti-ICE protestors outside of the Bergen County Jail — there to support the hunger strikers inside the facility — were pepper-sprayed, thrown against barricades and arrested. For what? Protest is legal in this country last time I checked. A few nights before that, another contingent of protestors stood outside the home of the Hudson County Executive in Jersey City. Hudson County had initially announced that they would cancel their money-making scheme with ICE but then reneged — even after an hours-long public comment session where their constituents all spoke out against the contract. So there in Jersey City, as the protestors were moving away from the scene after cops insisted there was some some sort of injunction against them, people started getting arrested. Violently. My son was thrown against a car hood, had his bag ransacked and was then tossed into the police van with three other innocent people. Here is an Op-Ed he wrote the next day: https://www.nj.com/opinion/2020/12/we-protest-at-homes-because-ice-is-terrorizing-people-opinion.html The cops have developed trigger-fingers from living in constant fear of losing their power and autonomy. They are angry at all the questions people seem to ask these days. Those fingers press triggers and kill people on a daily basis.
Bigotry. Religious bigotry is alive and well in this country, from travel bans to clothing regulations. “They” need to be more like “us,” is the message. Who is us? Attacks on mosques and synagogues continue. Jersey City just honored the victims of those killed at the Kosher Market there one year ago. Jews are being assaulted on the street in broad daylight when their clothing shows them to be observers of their religion. And a few days ago, the Utah State University Football team refused to play their next game in support of their interim coach, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Apparently the president and athletic director at USU questioned his merits based upon that religious background. What does religion have to do with coaching football?
Misogyny? Oh boy, where do I begin? I am always surprised by how many of my female-identifying students believe there is no such thing as discrimination against women anymore. As a female academic I can testify otherwise. And so can all sorts of women in all sorts of other professions and industries. Let’s look no further than yesterday when a man wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal exhorting the incoming first lady to get rid of her title of Dr. Most of you have probably already read this article that the Journal editors apparently saw no problem in publishing. Here’s the link just in case you want to read it again, just in case you haven’t experienced enough blood-boiling yet today: https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-there-a-doctor-in-the-white-house-not-if-you-need-an-m-d-11607727380
Entitled, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” the article begins, “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice…” I mean, are we for real here?! I won’t give the author, Joseph Epstein, any more play than he is already receiving. No such thing as bad publicity and all that. I’ll just say that the hashtag #damnrightimadoctor is trending. But you see, we cannot get too focused on this particular case. Just like with all the other hate, and the violence based on fear and bigotry, if we focus too hard on just one thing we run the risk of treating it as an isolated incident. Instead we have to ask, what kind of system is in place that allows, for example, a man — who has written a bunch of books but has no advanced degree nor is tenured at any university– the authority to tear down a woman who has achieved said advanced degree and is doing the good work with it? I think it starts out with a deep-seated privilege that would move a person to reach out to editors of a national publication and say, “Hey, I feel the need to take Jill Biden down a notch or two. You game?” And the men (please, God, don’t let a woman have been a part of this decision-making process!) in charge of the publication say, “Hey, great idea. Go for it.” That’s where we have to start, I think, all the way back there at the entitlement.
Racism. It’s everywhere, and intertwined with all above-mentioned evils. We don’t even have to look outside our homes to spot racism. Who is on your television, doing what? What reports did you hear about Black people in your community today? Who wrote the books in your bookshelves, and the music in your CD collection? What businesses did you purchase food and clothing from recently, and who owns them? Who gave up their homes for the land those businesses stand upon — or gave up their health (or that of their loved ones) so they could work at these businesses during a pandemic?
In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter and allied social justice groups are protesting at the home of Mayor Garcetti. They want to call attention to his inadequate handling of housing and transportation issues in the city, issues that markedly affect the Black and brown residents. I mean I have a home — and a car; I’m all set. A lot of folks are not. These activists want to disabuse Joe Biden of the notion that hiring the Mayor to run the federal Housing or Transportation Authority is a good idea. Last week these folks were violently attacked as they held a brunch vigil outside the Mayor’s home. Kids were there. I saw the videos. You know how the event was described in the news? “Police cleared the area of protestors.” Like they were just softly ushered out, police tipping their caps to them as they departed. Racism + fear = violence & continued inequity.
So yeah. This is a somewhat socio-political rant today, not my usual (?!) thoughtful considerations on life. But I am just super-worked up by the inequities in this world right now and I’m trying to figure out how we starve them, while feed goodness and compassion. Some of us are continuing to provide oxygen to the darkness, and that’s got to stop. It’s not that we should ignore all the wrongdoing and selfishness and immorality, but that we shine a light on it and then go forward with love, the agape kind of love that Diane Nash and her fellow civil rights leaders organized around. I’m not saying anything new here. “What the world needs now is love sweet love…” and all that. It just seems like a good time to raise our consciousness, to focus our intentions, to create a collective burst of goodness that will not only eliminate the haters but maybe even help some of them come around. It seems to me that the ultimate goal is to conquer the fear that is behind each and every racist slur and violent response. I haven’t quite figured out how to fuel this reversal yet, but it seems we might be headed slowly in that direction already. So maybe we just do what the O’Jays suggest and, “join hands… start a love train–love train!” I mean we’ve got to do something.