So now what?
What do we do now that the Alt-White has gained legitimacy in America? What do we do now that those people who want to divide us all have their hero in an incompetent xenophobe?
It has been said that “May you live in interesting times” is a diabolical curse.
I watched last night as futures trading on the Dollar and the Peso plummeted around the world and I followed several white nationalist websites as the racists started celebrating their new ability to walk in the light like vampires who have discovered sun block. I followed several “mainstream” religious groups who are already making plans to take advantage of their new respectability. These are the same “mainstream” groups that also find themselves on various lists of hate groups.
I was in shock.
But then I started thinking.
There is an old military joke that has become a modern meme. You are not “surrounded”, you are instead in a “Target Rich Environment”.
Do you remember what happened in 2008 when Proposition 8 passed in California? It won with 52.2% of the vote. Trump won with 47% of the popular vote last night. (Clinton lost with 48% of the popular vote due to the way our electoral college works.)
Losing Proposition 8 galvanized the LGBT community and their supporters. It led to efforts to challenge the Proposition and eventually overturn it at the Federal level.
It led to research into how it is possible to change deeply held beliefs, and why confronting a deeply held belief with logic or facts will too often backfire, causing the person who holds that belief to further entrench themselves in that false belief in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
But we do have the tools to change minds. And we now find ourselves in a target rich environment. We can’t change everyone’s minds – some people are just too invested in a faulty belief, especially if they have risen to a level of wealth or power or gained some sort of social respect for their adherence to their unfounded or poorly founded belief.
You can read about these tools on the CVAAS website, with links to other places where you can learn more.
I started thinking about those of my friends who fear this new America. Friends and acquaintances who are brown or black or gay, or transgender, or non-Christian, or the wrong kind of Christian.
What can WE do for them? What can I do for them?
First, as a white guy I can amplify their voices. This means speaking up when those who are marginalized are shouted down. This means correcting those people who feel they have the right to interrupt others or take credit for their work merely because they are not white and male. This can be as simple as saying, “Hey, I want to hear what Kim is saying.”
Next I can provide sanctuary. I can be a safe person to speak to. Non-judgmental, accepting. If necessary I can provide physical shelter for a time, to the best of my ability.
I can encourage community. A safe space where people can go and enjoy a reduced worry of attack. A place where they get a say on how that community grows and develops.
And last, I can work to change minds. Using those tools I’ve already mentioned in order to listen closely and learn from every encounter.
How am I going to do this?
First, I’m going to become much more open in my actions and my words. If you’re reading this, it is because you came here from one of my social media feeds. I’ve been writing online for a long time – and have recently updated my website.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m an atheist. I’m also a feminist. And I believe that all Americans deserve social equality under our government in accordance to our constitution, including the sons and daughters of all immigrants, regardless of race or religion or gender or sexual preference.
I believe in our Constitution, and I swore an unending oath to our country to protect it against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.
I won’t be continuing any of my religious or political observations on my Facebook feed. Instead I’ll do them here, from my blog, or in my Facebook page, where you can comment on them. If you don’t want to read politics or religion, then you’ll be safe on my Facebook page, where I’ll talk about gardening, or my pets, or butterflies and rainbows. We can stay friends, and you won’t get upset with me.
Many of you didn’t realize it, but I segregated my speech on my Facebook page. Some of you found the things that I said to be so compelling that you wanted to share it with your own friends – and found that you couldn’t because I’d locked that feature down. Those who weren’t on that list never saw those bits of my brain droppings that you dropped in your Facebook timeline.
The things that I post here can be shared with everyone, with no restrictions. And I’ll have no filters. You can share it from my Facebook feed, my Twitter feed, or my website – if you find my words compelling.
Last, I’m going to be working on the group that I preside over – the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics (CVAAS). We will go nonprofit. And I have some serious ideas for the direction that this group can take. I’ll be talking about these ideas at our next planning meeting that we are calling the “Next Step”. I plan to introduce ideas for our community, for sanctuary, and for cooperation.
I truly believe that we have entered the new land of the “Target Rich Environment”, and while there is a time to mourn what could have been, I also see opportunity for CVAAS, and opportunities for CVAAS to build community and aid and assist those who are being dehumanized.
One last thought.
Some of you may want to explain what is “really” happening in today’s politics or in your religion and how I’ve got it all wrong. Stop. Don’t bother. Your response will be removed. It’s not that I don’t understand – because I most definitely do understand. Here and now is not the place or time. Send me an email instead. firstname.lastname@example.org
I know there are atheists who don’t like the label, “feminist”. That is just too fucking bad.
The definition that I work by is, “Advocating for the rights of women on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.” And as far as I’m concerned that definition could be applied equally to everyone who is not a white male in America.
You want to discuss biology? Do it at an .edu top level domain.
To my friends, to my supporters, to those who are feeling lost and bewildered, I just want to say:
Don’t lose heart. There is opportunity here for progressive organizations to grow stronger and to grow larger. There is opportunity to turn things around.
If you live in the California San Joaquin Valley, CVAAS is starting an online list of how and where you can get the resources you need. Check back often, because CVAAS will add to that list as we partner with other organizations or create those resources.