Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Political Climate, Going Viral and Coming Together

In case you didn't notice, there was an election in the US last week. And all hell has broken loose. And anything I can say will barely skirt all the issues, but I feel like it is important for the piece I really DO have something to say about, as background, if you will.

The candidate who won said a number of horrible things during the election about Mexican immigrants (and even about a few US born Mexican Americans—for instance a judge he said was not trustworthy on an issue because of his heritage). He said some horrible things about Muslim Americans and Muslim immigrants. He made some aspersions about Black Americans, unable to go to any subject from bringing up black people except “inner city problems”. As if black people are not more diverse and their problems and issues more varied than that. He made a lot of derogatory remarks about women, suggesting they were worthless unless they were pretty. He said some of the women accusing him of sexual assault “were not pretty enough” to sexually assault—as if if they were pretty he would have, but less attractive women were not worth even that. He bragged about sexually assaulting women, claimed he gets away with it because he's a celebrity.

So there have been protests about his winning from the people who did not want him. Some of them have included violence and vandalism, though I have also heard there have been some paid people in there committing the violence with a goal of de-legitimizing peaceful protests.

But on the other side there have been many many incidents of people emboldened by the hateful rhetoric doing hateful things. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented hundreds of cases, some of them in elementary and middle schools, causing children to fear their parents would be deported, or direct hateful acts or speech to the kids. My own story falls in this category but is just one of HUNDREDS if not thousands.

If you have an incident to report, go here.

Last Thursday

A post about this went viral Thursday (more about that shortly) so you may have seen this previously, though I am giving a bit more detail here, as I know more than the brief text from my daughter which was the basis of my original Facebook post. Plus there has been followup.

On Thursday at noon, my daughter, age 21, was at her boyfriend's apartment (he was at class) and decided to walk the two blocks to the store to get something. On her way she passed a house with four men, just a little older than her on the porch. They called the typical “flirty” taunts to her and she ignored them. Then one came off the porch, came at her, grabbed her butt and said, “this will be mine. I've seen you around before. This is a free country now, bitch."

She ran. She was worried she would be dragged into that house with the four of them so she ran back to her boyfriend's apartment and when he got home from class they went to the police station. She was warned it would be her word against the four boys, so it was likely all that would happen was a warning, but it would be on record and they would be warned.

And I shared how traumatized she was, and me, by extension, on Facebook and proceeded to have the very bizarre experience of going viral.

Going Viral

When I shared I had a couple friends ask if they could share, and I said they could. I felt like hearing the story of a friend would be more real to some people, so I said they could... but it ended up shared and shared and shared... Almost 700 times.

At first people were very supportive. They sent love, and were compassionate. A few people were ruffled because I did call for conservative friends to try to police their own, and they said this was not conservative behavior... I get it. It isn't. But it IS behavior directly reflective of the conservative candidate saying “I just grab em by the pussy”. I was calling on people to make it clear that this behavior is not acceptable from that side and to ask their candidate to condemn it in sharp terms.

But anyway... Overnight strangers began to show up. And BOY HOWDY, do I now know what Internet trolls are about. The most common response was “this didn't happen”, but I even got accused of trying a ploy for my 15 minutes of fame. I was lectured about not going to the police (she did), told she needed to fight back (statistics show running is safer if it is a possibility). But it was frankly exhausting. Total life of its own

Coming Together

We are in desperate need of some unity... of supporting each other in spite of differences. Of making a stand to stand up for people being mistreated. Of defending peaceful processes and condemning violence. I don't believe I am alone here. I think we can disagree on politics and still commit to caring for each other—for ALL others.

In that vein, I think many of you have seen the safety pin movement... I know it has gotten a bit of scoffing and a bit of poo pooing. But I think it shows some promise if it is done right.

Here is some history on something similar done during World War II.
For the record, here is a really good link on what “doing it right” means.

By day I work in an office dedicated to inclusion, which by definition connects to “climate”. It is my goal that enough people wear these that people who fear victimization look around and feel a little safer, and that people who might victimize others look around and know they will not get away with it.

There are also unity rallies, all over.

Please commit to not letting hate stand. To defending our fellow human beings and to calming what could end up really ugly if it continues to escalate.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hart ... I feel for your daughter, her boyfriend and you - so so unsettling and so so unthoughtful - all the best - and take care - Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was terrible that happened to your daughter. She was smart to run and later go to the police. Sorry about the trolls. Unfortunately, mentioning politics from either side will get you flamed. But that behavior is not acceptable, ever. Hope your daughter stays safe and only visits her boyfriend when he is home. (And kudos to him for going with her to the police - I would've gone down and tried to beat the crap out of that guy.)

Crystal Collier said...

Some men are completely despicable. Too bad we don't live in an age where fathers, brothers, etc could challenge the men for their lack of honor and get some justice. I digress... We definitely need unity, and it's not just on a political front. Our nation has shifted. Attitudes have shifted. Entitlement is all the rage, and that's when you find this kind of behavior. Where does it come from? A break down in the family. Yes, you still have people doing stupid things for stupid reasons when strong families exist, but when you have solid parenting, many of societies problems go away.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

The world is full of predators, sexual and other. Sigh. The internet is no longer the safe place it once was to share our hearts. Blood always attracts sharks. :-( I am so sorry for your daughter and her boy friend.

Arlee Bird said...

AS you know I've begun a series on my blog about the current issues and some of my thoughts about what is going on starting with this one: and going on as long as readers stay with me or until I lose my interest in talking about it. My feelings might be different than yours or some others, but they are equally valid.

I truly think that "hate" and other terminology that is being thrown around often carelessly is not productive and I certainly don't agree with any of the bad things that anyone might be doing on either side of the opinion fence. This didn't start with the election results, with Donald Trump's campaign, or anything to do with any of this--it has only been brought into a sharper focus. The anger, distrust, boorishness, and meanness is coming from all sides so I think we are all responsible to some degree.

Look at our culture as a whole. A few years back I was ridiculed from many sides because I was railing against profanity in blogs, writing, films, and so on. There's a relation to what is going on now to the way we see a lot of things in our society. I plan to address many of the issues in upcoming posts as long as readers are there and responding in a productive and civil manner.

It's unlikely that we will ever stop hate in our world, but the effort starts with a long intense look within each of us. If people march carrying signs that are provocative and chanting profanity laden slogans then they are trying to confront hate with hate. If anyone is calling another "ignorant" or "racist" or some other negative term because one voted different from the other then they are stirring negativity which could be translated into hate.

The way I've come to see it is disagreement does not equal hate. At least not until some sort of reactionary negative behavior starts brewing the hatred. Then, at that point, our disagreement can be an impetus to do hateful things to each other and those things might not necessarily be violent, obtuse, or even overtly discernible.

Everyone needs to consider the other side as well as their own hearts before they start casting aspersions upon one another.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Andrew Leon said...

Just to say it:
Strong racist (and sexist) families produce strong racist (and sexist) offspring. "Family" is not the answer.

I'm glad you shared this.

People need to own up for their actions in supporting this kind of behavior, and, it doesn't matter how you defend yourself, if you voted for Trump, you cast a vote supporting this kind of behavior.

Hart Johnson said...

I guess I see power in words and I define hate speech as speech that is about group membership rather than about an individual or interaction, so I am not willing to not call a lot of this hate speech--it is what it is. If we don't name it as such, we water it down and so some people begin to ignore it.

And Andrew, good point about a lot of this running in families. I mean I know exceptions. I am part of several groups where people have been disowned over politics. But if we are looking to families as the solution, we have to understand not ALL families are against the bullying. In fact some parents are far worse than their kids.

Deniz Bevan said...

Egad. It sounds like something out of a dystopian novel but it's real and so frightening. I wish I wish that people held themselves to a higher standard. {{hugs}}

Yolanda Renée said...

If my parents are the example then we are in for a world of hurt. Family is not the answer, especially not mine!

I am so sorry for your daughter's experience. The cry went up for 'political correctness' to go away. The candidate that wanted it gone is now President Elect. I've never understood what was wrong with being polite. Speaking ones mind has a place, rudeness, crassness, and sexual assault, never does!

mshatch said...

Great post Hart. Sadly, Trump's words and actions made too many awful people think that they can now act the way they want, with no repercussions. Many of those who voted for him will say that is not acceptable behavior, but if so, then why vote for a candidate who's words and actions make it seem so? I am heartbroken over this election and its results thus far. And he hasn't even been inaugurated. God help all of us who aren't white and male.

Jan Morrison said...

You know how I feel about this. I think it is easier for all sides to take if we understand that a leader when elected no longer serves the party - he or she serves the country. Because of that, no matter what party they belong to, they must be sure to clear up any virtues that have gotten tarnished. Otherwise people who long to have the permission to act upon their baser desires will do so, and they will do so with the implicit blessing of their leader. It doesn't matter who the young man voted for - I doubt he even did vote - what matters is that a leader of a major country has still not stood up and taken back things that were uttered on record. Things that showed how he, at least at one time, considered women and male privilege. That is a matter of record and if folks that voted for him don't want others to think he is in some way responsible for this kind of behavior than he will have to come out and say more than foolish excuses.
I think of you and my other friends in the States often. I think of the disenfranchised people I work for here - the indigenous families that have been torn apart by the trauma that accompanies colonization - like a shadow of greed that continues generation after generation. We must be careful what is sown in this garden. These divisive and hateful ideas have such a long life. Much love to you and your family as you work through these issues.

Helena said...

First off, my apologies for not stopping by your blog sooner, Hart. I'm afraid I've been in a dark, deep funk since the election and am just now getting around to being sociable again.

I am so sorry about what happened to your daughter. With four animals present, she was wise to run and under the circumstances could not have done anything more. But I hope she memorized his face and could point him out in case, say, a hot-headed writer with some self-defense training (yours truly) wants to track him down and beat the holy crap out of him. Or torch his house. Or... or... Okay, now I'm fantasizing.

Seriously, while I very much respect your rejection of violence, I myself have studied far too much history and lived far too long a life (gad, but I'm old) to deny that a violent response sometimes can be necessary.

Okay, so I have a bleak, cynical view of humanity these days. But my ready-to-knife-any-attacker attitude helped keep me safe back when I was eighteen and hitchhiking through Europe and later when traveling alone through Third World countries. So sad that I'll likely have to amp up the attitude in my own country.

BTW, several months ago I came to the aid of a scared young woman on the bus who was being harassed and leaned on by a drunk. He was so plastered she couldn't reason with him, and he wouldn't get out of her way when the bus came to her stop. I confronted him and would have collared and dragged him off the seat had the bus driver not come back and physically forced him off the bus. No one else came to her aid (not so much apathy as young millennials who seemed gobsmacked), and the drunk was so inebriated and small of stature a nine-year-old could have decked him. Yet his victim reacted with the helplessness of a chained-up puppy.

What I wanted to tell that young woman before she vanished into the night was that as soon as that man started disrespecting and touching her, she had the right to defend herself, to punch him out if necessary, and to get very loud and ask for help if she needed it.

Bea said...

Thank you for posting the link to the SPLC hate crime reporting site. I experienced a wee incident involving a neo-Nazi brat this past Sunday/Monday that rattled me a bit, and, other than writing a blog post about it, didn't know what to do with the vitrolic rant(s) directed my way. SPLC now has a record of it.

The 'this is our country now' rhetoric is awful, and, in the case of your daughter, quite scary & potentially dangerous. May she be well, considering the circumstances.