Good People Doing Nothing

Seeing too many people focusing on Trump, as if he’s the only problem. He’s terrifying, yes, but the scarier part is the already-existing framework that allowed him to win in the first place–and which will allow him to stay in office. Our only chance at saving the country requires dismantling that framework, and that means we have to do some unpleasant work on a personal level.

The GOP has spent decades cultivating a xenophobic, conspiracy-believing voter base that no longer sees reality and distrusts any legitimate source of fact. Upon winning those voters, they then quietly enacted voter-suppression laws, and gerrymandered districts to ensure that they’ll keep winning, even though their voters are well outnumbered by the rest of us. Almost all of the semi-reasonable Republican office-holders have been primaried out or retired at this point. All that’s left is Tea Party darlings who are willing to destroy the country if it means there’s a chance cishet white Christians, particularly men, will return to having virtually all political and economic power.

Even scarier: It’s not just older generations or the rural or working class doing this. Every single white demographic voted for Trump, including millennials and people with college degrees. The only white group that didn’t is registered Democrats. If you ask many of these people, they’ll claim they’re not racist or weren’t voting for racist reasons, but that’s effectively a dodge: That abject bigotry wasn’t a deal-breaker for them, or that they refuse to see that abject bigotry for what it is, IS bigotry in itself.

It may be too late for us to save things at this point, but we have one shot left: The mid-terms. Winning those, however, is going to require a lot of us to do things we’ve previously been too chicken shit or too “nice” to do: Confront the friends and relatives who either voted for Trump or didn’t bother voting at all. We can’t fix the system until we fix the voters, and that means all of us have a responsibility to light a fire under the people we personally know.

If you’d be in genuine danger by doing this, fair enough. Keep yourself safe. But otherwise? Have the guts to do this. Don’t let the peacemaking tendencies of being a soft-hearted liberal allow you to be a coward. Working for actual peace and justice requires engaging in some personal battles now and then. Change the minds you think can be changed. Ditch the people too stubborn, too unapologetically bigoted, or too brainwashed by propaganda to see reason. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that remaining in contact with these people will give you a chance to change them. If they haven’t changed with years of you already trying, they’re not going to. Continuing to personally support them means they feel increasingly confident that there will be no personal consequences for their awful beliefs and behavior. Remember that while diplomacy is always the first or even second or third step, you have to be willing to back it up with something more tangible, or there’s no incentive for people to change. As long as people think they’re going to get more benefits from an abjectly fascist regime, they’ll keep letting it happen. Your job is to make them feel the bite of that decision when they otherwise wouldn’t face one.

Remember the thing about evil flourishing when good people do nothing. Don’t do nothing. Yes, donate, call your reps, make a stink. But also stop sending Christmas cards to your racist uncle (and make sure he knows why), and stop letting your pothead high school friends argue that all politicians are inherently corrupt and therefore it’s OK to be lazy and not vote (or vote for some fringe third party.)

If you’re cishet and white, or happen to live in a blue bubble, you’re not on the front lines and therefore may not realize we’re already in the middle of a war. You can choose to pretend it’s not happening, but sooner or later, that war will end up on your own doorstep. Have the courage and honor to do something about it–to help the people already on those front lines–NOW, while you still can.

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About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
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2 Responses to Good People Doing Nothing

  1. alisonc700 says:

    You may or may not remember the song by Special AKA circa 1984 that goes “If you have a racist friend/Now is the time, now is the time/For that friendship to end.” Helped to end Apartheid in SA actually, but didn’t do squat in Reagan’s USA. I agree completely with your urgency, but I also want to urge music/film/tv/writers/”content providers” to help by providing that kind of direct advocacy in, well, a feel-good frame (that’s one catchy song, it is!).

    • I totally agree. I’ve been so delighted with some of the shows and movies out lately that have been not just inclusive, but noting when bigotry is a factor. The DC CW shows have been really good about this, and I’m enjoying Timeless doing well on this, too.

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